The Muscogee (Creek) Nation poet, writer, and musician will be the first Native American poet laureate consultant in poetry when she assumes the role September 19.
Joy Harjo, a member of the Muscogee (Creek) Nation, was announced June 19 as the next poet laureate consultant in poetry by Librarian of Congress Carla Hayden. Harjo will be the 23rd poet to fill the role and the first Native American to do so when she succeeds Tracy K. Smith September 19.
“I don’t have a defined project right now, but I want to bring the contribution of poetry of the tribal nations to the forefront and include it in the discussion of poetry,” Harjo told the AP. “This country is in need of deep healing. We’re in a transformational moment in national history and earth history, so whichever way we move is going to absolutely define us.”
Books by Harjo include 1990’s collection In Mad Love and War, winner of an American Book Award, and 1994’s The Woman Who Fell From the Sky. An upcoming collection, An American Sunrise, will be published in August. Harjo is also a saxophonist and has released five albums of original music, with accolades that include the Native American Music Award for best female artist in 2009. She is 68 and lives in her native Tulsa, Oklahoma.
“Communities that normally would not sit with each other, I would love to see ... interchanges with poetry,” Harjo told NPR, suggesting a gathering of “cowboys and Indians” for a poetry summit. “I really believe if people sit together and hear their deepest feelings and thoughts beyond political divisiveness, it makes connections. There’s connections made that can’t be made with politicized language.”
Photography: Shawn Miller/Library of Congress