Joy Harjo Named U.S. Poet Laureate

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Rebecca Hussey

Staff Writer

Rebecca holds a PhD in English and is a professor at Norwalk Community College in Connecticut. She teaches courses in composition, literature, and the arts. When she’s not reading or grading papers, she’s hanging out with her husband and son and/or riding her bike and/or buying books. She can't get enough of reading and writing about books, so she writes the bookish newsletter "Reading Indie," focusing on small press books and translations. Newsletter: Reading Indie Twitter: @ofbooksandbikes

Poet and musician Joy Harjo has been named the U.S.’s 23rd poet laureate. As a member of the Muskogee Creek Nation, she will be the first Native writer to hold the position. She will succeed poet Tracy K. Smith when she officially takes the post this fall. Librarian of Congress Carla Hayden made the announcement today.

How We Became Human Joy Harjo coverHarjo will also be the first Oklahoman to become poet laureate. She was born in Tulsa in 1951 and went on to study at the Institute of American Indian Arts, the University of New Mexico, and the Creative Writing Program at the University of Iowa. She has published eight books of poetry, including How We Became Human: New and Selected Poems and In Mad Love and War, which won an American Book Award. She has written literature for children and young adults, and in 2012 published a memoir, Crazy Brave.

crazy brave coverShe has also released five CDs of original music and won a Native American Music Award in 2009 for Best Female Artist of the Year. She tours with her band, Arrow Dynamics.

She is known for incorporating elements of Native stories and myths into her work. In a quote from NPR about the role her culture plays in her art, she says, “it doesn’t necessarily become a self-conscious thing—it’s just there…when you grow up as a person in your culture: You have your culture and you’re in it, but you’re also in this American culture, and that’s another layer.”

Harjo’s job as poet laureate will be to become an ambassador for poetry to help increase awareness of and appreciation for the art.