Joy Harjo Becomes First U.S. Native American Poet Laureate

Joy Harjo is the first U.S. Native American poet laureate.

“It’s quite an honor to be carrying,” she said. “I feel like it’s something that I’m carrying and it’s not just me carrying the title, it has to do with my family, my people, this country, all of the poets, all of the people. Poetry belongs to everyone.”

The award-winning poet and musician was announced on June 19 as the 23rd poet laureate. Harjo is an enrolled member of the Muscogee Creek Nation and says she hopes to highlight tribal nations’ contributions to poetry. She is based in Oklahoma and is also the first poet laureate from her state.

The library of Congress received nominations from 90+ nominations in 27 states before the Librarian of Congress Dr. Carla Hayden made her final choice.

“To her [Harjo], poems are ‘carriers of dreams, knowledge and wisdom,’ and through them she tells an American story of tradition and loss, reckoning and myth-making,” Hayden stated. “Her work powerfully connects us to the Earth and spiritual world with direct, inventive lyricism that helps us reimagine who we are.”

Harjo will serve for one year with a stipend of $35,000. She will join a long line of famous poets who served in this position and will succeed Tracy K. Smith who served two terms. On September 19, she will open the LOC literary season with a reading.

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