Photo by Paul Abdoo

About Joy Harjo

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Pho­to Cred­it: Shawn Miller

Joy Har­jo, the 23rd Poet Lau­re­ate of the Unit­ed States, is a mem­ber of the Mvskoke Nation and belongs to Oce Vpofv (Hick­o­ry Ground). She is only the sec­ond poet to be appoint­ed a third term as U.S. Poet Laureate. 

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), which was a 2020 Okla­homa Book Award Win­ner; 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; and In Mad Love and War (1990), which received an Amer­i­can Book Award and the Del­more Schwartz Memo­r­i­al Award. Her first mem­oir, Crazy Brave, was award­ed the PEN USA Lit­er­ary Award in Cre­ative Non Fic­tion and the Amer­i­can Book Award, and her sec­ond, Poet War­rior: A Mem­oir, is forth­com­ing from W.W. Nor­ton in Fall 2021.

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 anthol­o­gy When the Light of the World was Sub­dued, Our Songs Came Through — A Nor­ton Anthol­o­gy of Native Nations Poet­ry and the edi­tor of Liv­ing Nations, Liv­ing Words: An Anthol­o­gy of First Peo­ples Poet­ry, the com­pan­ion anthol­o­gy to her sig­na­ture Poet Lau­re­ate project fea­tur­ing a sam­pling of work by 47 Native Nations poets through an inter­ac­tive ArcGIS Sto­ry Map and a new­ly devel­oped Library of Con­gress audio collection.

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, the Poets & Writ­ers Jack­son Poet­ry Prize, a Ras­mu­son US Artist Fel­low­ship, two NEA fel­low­ships, and a Guggen­heim Fel­low­ship. Her poet­ry will be includ­ed on a plaque on LUCY, a NASA space­craft launch­ing in Fall 2021 and the first recon­nais­sance of the Jupiter Trojans.

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 sev­en award-win­ning music albums includ­ing Wind­ing Through the Milky Way, for which she was award­ed a NAM­MY for Best Female Artist of the year, and her newest album, I Pray for My Enemies.

In addi­tion to serv­ing as a three-term 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 and Chair of the Native Arts and Cul­tures Foun­da­tion. She has recent­ly been induct­ed into the Amer­i­can Acad­e­my of Arts and Let­ters, the Amer­i­can Philo­soph­i­cal Soci­ety, the Nation­al Native Amer­i­can Hall of Fame, and the Nation­al Woman’s Hall of Fame. 

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