Joy Harjo–First Native American Poet Laureate

Joy Harjo was named the first Native American Poet Laureate to the Library of Congress on June 19th, by Librarian of Congress Carla Hayden.

Our library has three (3) of her books in our collection, two books of poetry and her memoir.

  • How We Became Human: New and Selected Poems by Joy Harjo – “This collection offers a selection of Joy Harjo’s body of work, including poems from She Had Some Horses and Mad Love and War. Known for her signature blend of storytelling, prayer, and song, her work draws from the American tradition of praising the land and the spirit. She began writing in 1973 in the age marked by the takeover at Wounded Knee and the rejuvenation of world indigenous cultures through poetry and music. Recognized today as one of our foremost American poets, Harjo has created a necessary volume that explores how we became human in poems of sustaining grace.”–Back cover.
  • Conflict Resolution For Holy Beings: Poems by Joy Harjo – “A long-awaited poetry collection by one of our most essential Native American voices. In these poems, the joys and struggles of the everyday are played against the grinding politics of being human. Beginning in a hotel room in the dark of a distant city, we travel through history and follow the memory of the Trail of Tears from the bend in the Tallapoosa River to a place near the Arkansas River. Stomp dance songs, blues, and jazz ballads echo throughout. Lost ancestors are recalled. Resilient songs are born, even as they grieve the loss of their country.”–Publisher description.
  • Crazy Brave: a Memoir by Joy Harjo – “In this transcendent memoir, grounded in tribal myth and ancestry, music and poetry, Joy Harjo details her journey to becoming a poet. Born in Oklahoma, the end place of the Trail of Tears, Harjo grew up learning to dodge an abusive stepfather by finding shelter in her imagination, a deep spiritual life, and connection with the natural world. Narrating the complexities of betrayal and love, Crazy Brave is a haunting, visionary memoir about family and breaking apart necessary in finding a voice.”–Back cover.

So what is a “poet laureate?” The Poet Laureate of the United States is a person appointed annually by the Library of Congress and, “during his or her term, the[y] seek to raise the national consciousness to a greater appreciation of the reading and writing of poetry. The Library keeps to a minimum the specific duties required of the Poet Laureate, who opens the literary season in the fall and closes it in the spring. In recent years, Laureates have initiated poetry projects that broaden the audiences for poetry.” (loc.gov)

To learn more about Joy Harjo, visit her Poet Laureate page at the Library of Congress.

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