Library of Congress
Librarian of Congress Carla Hayden has appointed Joy Harjo to serve a second term as the nation’s 23 Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry for 2020-2021. During her second term, Harjo will launch a new Library of Congress collection and online map featuring Native poets and poetry.
“Joy Harjo is such an inspiring and engaging poet laureate,” Hayden said. “I’m thrilled she said yes to a second term to help the Library showcase Native poets from coast-to-coast. Her profound musical and literary talents are a gift to the nation.”
Harjo’s second term will begin September 1 and will focus on her signature laureate project, “Living Nations, Living Words: A Map of First Peoples Poetry.” This digital project, developed in conjunction with the Library’s Geography and Map Division, will be created using ARCGIS StoryMaps, a web mapping application geared toward storytelling, to showcase contemporary Native American poets from across the country.
The project will include Native poets’ biographies and recordings of them reading and discussing one of their poems. It will also help build a new collection in the Library’s American Folklife Center featuring the recordings of the Native poets.
“It is an honor to serve a second term as poet laureate, especially during these times of earth transformation and cultural change,” Harjo, who is the first Native poet to serve in the position, said. “Poetry reminds us that we are connected beyond words, and to communicate through poetry has the potential to expand the conversation into wordless depths, to help us move collectively into fresh cultural vision. To get there in understanding, we begin with the roots. In this country, the roots are found in the poetry of the more than 500 living indigenous nations.”
During the coronavirus pandemic, Harjo’s work was recently featured in The Poetry of Home, a new video series from The Washington Post and the Library featuring four U.S. poets laureate on the theme of “home” at a time when so many people are sheltering in place.
About Joy Harjo
Harjo was born in Tulsa, Oklahoma, on May 9, 1951, and is the author of nine books of poetry — including most recently “An American Sunrise,” (W.W. Norton, 2019). Harjo has also written a memoir, “Crazy Brave” (W.W. Norton, 2012), which won the 2013 PEN Center USA literary prize for creative nonfiction, as well as a children’s book and a young adult book. She is the editor of “When the Light of the World Was Subdued, Our Songs Came Through: A Norton Anthology of Native Nations Poetry,” to be published by W.W. Norton in August 2020.
Harjo’s many literary awards include the PEN Open Book Award, the American Indian Distinguished Achievement in the Arts Award, the New Mexico Governor’s Award for Excellence in the Arts and the Arrell Gibson Lifetime Achievement Award from the Oklahoma Center for the Book, an affiliate of the Library of Congress. Harjo has received fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation, the Witter Bynner Foundation and the National Endowment for the Arts. Her collection “How We Become Human: New and Selected Poems 1975-2001” (W.W. Norton, 2002) was selected by the National Endowment for the Arts for its Big Read program. Her recent honors include the Jackson Prize from Poets & Writers (2019), the Ruth Lilly Poetry Prize from the Poetry Foundation (2017) and the Wallace Stevens Award from the Academy of American Poets (2015). In 2019, she was elected a Chancellor of the Academy of American Poets.
Harjo has taught at UCLA and was until recently a professor and chair of excellence at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville. She has returned to her hometown, where she holds a Tulsa Artist Fellowship.
About the Poet Laureate Position
The Library of Congress Poetry and Literature Center is the home of the Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry, a position that has existed since 1937 when Archer M. Huntington endowed the Chair of Poetry at the Library. Since then, many of the nation’s most eminent poets have served as Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress and, after the passage of Public Law 99-194 (Dec. 20, 1985), as Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry — a position that the law states “is equivalent to that of Poet Laureate of the United States.”
During his or her term, the Poet Laureate seeks to raise the national consciousness to a greater appreciation of the reading and writing of poetry. In recent years, Laureates have initiated poetry projects that broaden the audiences for poetry.
For more information on the Poet Laureate and the Poetry and Literature Center, visit loc.gov/poetry/. Consultants in Poetry and Poets Laureate Consultants in Poetry and their terms of service can be found at loc.gov/poetry/laureate-2011-present.html. To learn more about Poet Laureate projects, visit loc.gov/poetry/laureate-projects.html.
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