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National Poetry Month

In the month of April, we reflect on national figures in the poetry field, as well as local poetry connections. Enjoy!

Joy HarjoJoy Harjo

"Librarian of Congress Carla Hayden appointed Joy Harjo as the 23rd Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress on June 19, 2019. Harjo was reappointed to a second term on April 30, 2020, and a third term on Nov. 19, 2020.

Joy Harjo is the first Native American poet to serve in the position—she is an enrolled member of the Muscogee Creek Nation. She was born in Tulsa, Oklahoma, on May 9, 1951, and is the author of nine books of poetry—including An American Sunrise (2019); Conflict Resolution for Holy Beings (2015); The Woman Who Fell From the Sky (1994), which received the Oklahoma Book Arts Award; and In Mad Love and War (1990), which received an American Book Award and the Delmore Schwartz Memorial Award. Harjo has also written a memoir, Crazy Brave (W. W. Norton, 2012), which won the 2013 PEN Center USA literary prize for creative nonfiction..."

--Library of Congress

"Harjo enrolled in the Creek Nation as a member and at the age of sixteen moved to Santa Fe, New Mexico, to attend the Institute of American Indian Arts.

She became increasingly interested in writing, and in 1975, while she was a student at the University of New Mexico, her first book was published. The Last Song includes nine poems set in Oklahoma and New Mexico that articulate her deep connection to the land. Harjo lived in Oklahoma and, as she told Geary Hobson in a 1979 interview, those memories are forever with her. 'When I was a little kid in Oklahoma, I would get up before everyone else and go outside to a place of rich, dark earth next to the foundation of the house. I would dig piles of earth with a stick, smell it, form it. It had sound. Maybe that’s where I learned to write poetry.'

In 1976, she received her B.A. in poetry from the University of New Mexico and in 1978 received her M.F.A. in creative writing from the University of Iowa. That same year, she was awarded a fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts and returned to teach at the Institute of American Indian Arts for a year."

--from Magill's Survey of American Literature

"Commenting on her writing as a means of survival, Harjo told Coltelli: 'I don't believe I would be alive today if it hadn't been for writing. There were times when I was conscious of holding onto a pen and letting the words flow, painful and from the gut, to keep from letting go of it all. Now, this was when I was much younger, and full of self-hatred. Writing helped me give voice to turn around a terrible silence that was killing me. And on a larger level, if we, as Indian people, Indian women, keep silent, then we will disappear, at least in this level of reality.'"

--from Gale Literature: Contemporary Authors

Image of Harjo shared in the Public Domain by the Library of Congress

Joy Harjo reads her poem 'Vision'


Poet Joy Harjo: Ancestral Voices

Watch in library resource: Films on Demand.

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