Joy Harjo Awarded 2017 Ruth Lilly Poetry Prize and $100,000

The Ruth Lilly Poetry Prize, awarded to Joy Harjo, is one of the most prestigious awards given to American poets and it comes with $100,000 prize.

In recognition of her contributions to poetry, The Poetry Foundation just announced Joy Harjo, a member of the Muscogee (Creek) Nation, is the winner of the 2017 Ruth Lilly Poetry Prize, which honors a living U.S. poet for lifetime achievement. The award comes with a $100,000 cash prize.

Editors Note: It is also worth mentioning that May 9th is also Joy Harjo's birthday. ICMN wishes a sincere and Happy Birthday to Joy Harjo as well as a congratulations on being recognized.

Joy Harjo, (left) who has been awarded the 2017 Ruth Lilly Poetry Prize and $100,000 stands with a fellow respected and award-winning author, Louise Erdrich. Courtesy image.

Joy Harjo, (left) who has been awarded the 2017 Ruth Lilly Poetry Prize and $100,000 stands with a fellow respected and award-winning author, Louise Erdrich.

The Ruth Lilly Poetry Prize is administered by the Poetry Foundation, publisher of Poetry magazine, and is presented annually to a living U.S. poet whose accomplishments warrant singular recognition. This is one of the most prestigious awards given to American poets and with a prize of $100,000, is one of the nation’s largest literary prizes.

It will be presented to Joy Harjo at a ceremony at the Poetry Foundation on Monday, June 12th.

In a release, Don Share, editor of Poetry spoke to the contributions of Joy Harjo.“Her work is a thrilling and necessary antidote to false news, the ephemera of digital celebrity, and other derelictions. It pushes vigorously back against forgetfulness, injustice, and negligence at every level of contemporary life. Her work moves us because it is in the continual motion of bringing forward, with grace but also acuity, our collective story, always in progress.”

Joy Harjo said in the release, “‘History is right here, right now. We are in it; we are making it.’

“We are lucky to be living in a time during which Harjo is making poetry of that history as we live it,” said Share.

Born in Tulsa, Oklahoma, Joy Harjo earned her BA from the University of New Mexico and MFA from the Iowa Writers’ Workshop.

The Poetry Foundation also lauds the efforts of Joy Harjo in the release. “Harjo has emerged as a major figure in contemporary American poetry. Her work draws on Native American storytelling and histories, as well as feminist and social justice poetic traditions, and frequently incorporates indigenous myths, symbols, and values into her writing.


“Her poetry inhabits landscapes—often the Southwest and Southeast regions of the United States, but also Alaska and Hawaii—and centers around the need for remembrance and transcendence.”

“I feel strongly that I have a responsibility to all the sources that I am: to all past and future ancestors, to my home country, to all places that I touch down on and that are myself, to all voices, all women, all of my tribe, all people, all earth, and beyond that to all beginnings and endings,” commented Joy Harjo in the release.

“In a strange kind of sense [writing] frees me to believe in myself, to be able to speak, to have voice, because I have to; it is my survival,” she said.

Joy Harjo is also a teacher, actress, singer and saxophonist. She has toured with her band Poetic Justice and now tours with Arrow Dynamics. She has released four albums with her bands and is a founding board member of the Native Arts and Cultures Foundation.

Harjo’s writings include the young adult book, For a Girl Becoming (2009), the essay collection Soul Talk, Song Language (2011), the memoir Crazy Brave (2012) and the poetry collection Conflict Resolution for Holy Beings (2015), which was on the shortlist for the International Griffin Poetry Prize.

Harjo’s honors and awards include the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Native Writers Circle of the Americas, the Josephine Miles Poetry Award, the Wallace Stevens Award from the Academy of American Poets, the William Carlos Williams Award from the Poetry Society of America, and the American Indian Distinguished Achievement in the Arts Award.

Examples of Harjo’s poetry can be found on the Poetry Foundation’s website. For more information visit

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