Joy Harjo is now the Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress. A member of the Muscogee Creek nation, she is the first Native American poet to serve in this position.
Harjo told NPR news, “It’s such an honoring for Native people in this country, when we’ve been so disappeared and disregarded. And yet we’re the root cultures, over 500-something tribes and I don’t know how many at first contact. But it’s quite an honor … I bear that honor on behalf of the people and my ancestors. So that’s really exciting for me.”
Harjo is from Tulsa, Oklahoma, where she resides today. She has written eight books of poetry including the American Book Award winner In Mad Love and War (1990). She has won the Ruth Lilly Poetry Prize, the Wallace Stevens Award, and earlier this year she won the $65,000 Jackson Poetry Prize. Harjo’s next collection, An American Sunrise, will debut in August.
The Library of Congress released a statement, saying “Joy Harjo has championed the art of poetry — ‘soul talk’ as she calls it — for over four decades. To her, poems are ‘carriers of dreams, knowledge and wisdom,’ and through them she tells an American story of tradition and loss, reckoning and mythmaking.”
A poet laureate gets an office in the Jefferson Building in the Library of Congress and a stipend, but no official duties. Poet laureates get the freedom to work on personal projects or readings presented at the beginning and ending of their term.
Harjo hopes to use the position to humanize Native Americans in a country that still has so many misconceptions. “We all need humanizing,” she says, “but especially natives because we’ve been so bound and ‘disappeared’ by images that really have nothing to do with us.
This is exciting. It is such a high honor and Harjo most definitely deserves it. Her poetry is eloquent and speaks to your heart and soul. I have admired Joy for some time now and I’m excited to see what she brings to this position. I have no doubt that it won’t be like anything we’ve seen or read before.
You can read Joy Harjo’s poetry on the Poetry Foundation Website.
Congratulations Joy! And Mvto for your work.