Librarian of Congress Carla Hayden recently announced the appointment of Joy Harjo as the nation’s 23rd Poet Laureate for 2019-2020. As an enrolled member of the Muscogee Creek Nation, Harjo is the first Native American poet to serve in the position. She succeeds Tracy K. Smith, who served two terms as laureate.
“Joy Harjo has championed the art of poetry – ‘soul talk’ as she calls it – for over four decades,” Hayden said. “To her, poems are ‘carriers of dreams, knowledge and wisdom,’ and through them she tells an American story of tradition and loss, reckoning and myth-making. Her work powerfully connects us to the earth and the spiritual world with direct, inventive lyricism that helps us reimagine who we are.”
Harjo was born in Tulsa, Oklahoma, on May 9, 1951, and is the author of eight books of poetry – including Conflict Resolution for Holy Beings, The Woman Who Fell From the Sky, which received the Oklahoma Book Arts Award, and In Mad Love and War, which received an American Book Award and the Delmore Schwartz Memorial Award. Her next book of poems, An American Sunrise, will be published this fall.
Harjo has also written a memoir, Crazy Brave, which won the 2013 PEN Center USA literary prize for creative nonfiction, as well as a children’s book, The Good Luck Cat and a young adult book, For a Girl Becoming.
Harjo joins a long line of distinguished poets who have served in the position, including Juan Felipe Herrera, Charles Wright, Natasha Trethewey, Philip Levine, W.S. Merwin, Kay Ryan, Charles Simic, Donald Hall, Ted Kooser, Louise Glück, Billy Collins, Stanley Kunitz, Robert Pinsky, Robert Hass and Rita Dove.