Joy Harjo- poet, musician, and author- has become the first Native American to be named as US poet laureate. Harjo is best known for poetry collections including The Woman Who Fell From the Sky and In Mad Love and War.
The Muscogee Creek Nation member was named as US poet laureate on the 19th of June by Carla Hayden, librarian of Congress. Hayden remarked that Joy Hargo has helped tell an “American story” of traditions both lost and continued, of “reckoning and myth-making”.
Joy’s previous wins include the Jackson Prize, the Pen Open Book Award and the Wallace Stevens Award. She also has a lifetime achievement award from the Native Writers Circle of the Americas and won the William Carlos Williams award from the Poetry Society of America.
Joy Harjo will be US poet laureate for one year, following previous winner Tracy K Smith. The post is officially titled Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry, and comes with a $35,000 prize sum.
During her reign as US poet laureate, Harjo will have few official responsibilities but may use her position to launch initiatives.
Speaking to the media, Joy remarked: “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,”
“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.”
Harjo has a new book of poetry, An American Sunrise, scheduled for release in August, and is currently editing an anthology of Native poets.