Photo by Paul Abdoo

About Joy Harjo

Joy Har­jo, the 23rd Poet Lau­re­ate of the Unit­ed States, is a mem­ber of the Mvskoke Nation and belongs to Oce Vpofv (Hick­o­ry Ground).

Born in Tul­sa, Okla­homa, she left home to attend high school at the inno­v­a­tive Insti­tute of Amer­i­can Indi­an Arts, which was then a Bureau of Indi­an Affairs school. Har­jo began writ­ing poet­ry as a mem­ber of the Uni­ver­si­ty of New Mexico’s Native stu­dent orga­ni­za­tion, the Kiva Club, in response to Native empow­er­ment move­ments. She went on to earn her MFA at the Iowa Writ­ers’ Work­shop and teach Eng­lish, Cre­ative Writ­ing, and Amer­i­can Indi­an Stud­ies at Uni­ver­si­ty of Cal­i­for­nia-Los Ange­les, Uni­ver­si­ty of New Mex­i­co, Uni­ver­si­ty of Ari­zona, Ari­zona State, Uni­ver­si­ty of Illi­nois, Uni­ver­si­ty of Col­orado, Uni­ver­si­ty of Hawai’i, Insti­tute of Amer­i­can Indi­an Arts, and Uni­ver­si­ty of Ten­nessee, while per­form­ing music and poet­ry nation­al­ly and internationally.

Har­jo is the author of nine books of poet­ry, includ­ing her most recent, the high­ly acclaimed An Amer­i­can Sun­rise (2019); Con­flict Res­o­lu­tion for Holy Beings (2015), which was short­list­ed for the Grif­fin Prize and named a Notable Book of the Year by the Amer­i­can Library Asso­ci­a­tion; The Woman Who Fell From the Sky (1994), which received the Okla­homa Book Award; and In Mad Love and War (1990), which received an Amer­i­can Book Award and the Del­more Schwartz Memo­r­i­al Award. Her mem­oir, Crazy Brave, was award­ed the PEN USA Lit­er­ary Award in Cre­ative Non Fic­tion and the Amer­i­can Book Award.

She has pub­lished two award-win­ning children’s books, The Good Luck Cat and For a Girl Becom­ing; a col­lab­o­ra­tion with photographer/​astronomer Stephen Strom; an anthol­o­gy of North Amer­i­can Native women’s writ­ing; sev­er­al screen­plays and col­lec­tions of prose inter­views; and three plays, includ­ing Wings of Night Sky, Wings of Morn­ing Light, A Play, which she toured as a one-woman show and was recent­ly pub­lished by Wes­leyan Press. She is Exec­u­tive Edi­tor of the forth­com­ing anthol­o­gy When the Light of the World was Sub­dued, Our Songs Came Through — A Nor­ton Anthol­o­gy of Native Nations Poet­ry, to be released in 2020.

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Pho­to Cred­it: Shawn Miller

Har­jo per­forms with her sax­o­phone and flutes, solo and with her band, the Arrow Dynam­ics Band, and pre­vi­ous­ly with Joy Har­jo and Poet­ic Jus­tice. She/​they have toured across the U.S. and in Europe, South Amer­i­ca, India, Africa, and Cana­da. Har­jo has pro­duced five award-win­ning music albums includ­ing Wind­ing Through the Milky Way, for which she was award­ed a NAM­MY for Best Female Artist of the year.

She is at work on a musi­cal play, We Were There When Jazz Was Invent­ed, which will change the ori­gin sto­ry of Amer­i­can music to include south­east­ern Native peo­ples. She is also writ­ing her next mem­oir, a his­tor­i­cal mem­oir link­ing her gen­er­a­tion of Native rights activists and work­ers with the sev­enth gen­er­a­tion from which they are descend­ed, a gen­er­a­tion that includes her grand­fa­ther Mon­ah­wee, who with the Red Stick war­riors fought Andrew Jack­son against the unlaw­ful move to Indi­an Ter­ri­to­ry, and her great-uncle Osce­o­la, the Semi­nole warrior.

Harjo’s awards for poet­ry include the Ruth Lily Prize for Life­time Achieve­ment from the Poet­ry Foun­da­tion, the Acad­e­my of Amer­i­can Poets Wal­lace Stevens Award, the New Mex­i­co Governor’s Award for Excel­lence in the Arts, a PEN USA Lit­er­ary Award, Lila Wallace-Reader’s Digest Fund Writ­ers’ Award, a Ras­mu­son US Artist Fel­low­ship, two NEA fel­low­ships, and a Guggen­heim Fellowship.

In addi­tion to serv­ing as U.S. Poet Lau­re­ate, Har­jo is a chan­cel­lor of the Acad­e­my of Amer­i­can Poets, holds a Tul­sa Artist Fel­low­ship, directs For Girls Becom­ing, an arts men­tor­ship pro­gram for young Mvskoke women, and is a found­ing board mem­ber of the Native Arts and Cul­tures Foun­da­tion. She lives in Tul­sa, Oklahoma.

Photos

Photo by Matika Wilbur
Photo by Matika Wilbur
Photo by Shawn Miller
Photo by Shawn Miller
Photo by Paul Abdoo
Photo by Paul Abdoo
Photo by Paul Abdoo
Photo by Paul Abdoo
Photo by Karen Kuehn
Photo by Karen Kuehn
Photo by Shawn Miller
Photo by Shawn Miller
Photo by Shawn Miller
Photo by Shawn Miller
Photo by Shawn Miller
Photo by Shawn Miller