Muskogee Creek Joy Harjo Wins $100,000 Poetry Prize

Joy Harjo (Photo by Karen Kuehn)

Joy Harjo (Photo by Karen Kuehn)

Published September 12, 2015

NEW YORK — American Indian poet and activist Joy Harjo (Muskogee Creek) has been selected to receive the Wallace Stevens Award for “proven mastery” by the Academy of American Poets. The award was announced on Thursday, September 10, 2015. With the award comes a $100,000 stipend.

The prestigious Wallace Stevens Award is given annually “to recognize outstanding and proven mastery in the art of poetry” for lifetime achievement. No applications are accepted; recipients are chosen by the Academy of American Poets Board of Chancellors.

“Throughout her extraordinary career as poet, storyteller, musician, memoirist, playwright and activist, Joy Harjo has worked to expand our American language, culture, and soul,” stated Academy of American Poets Chancellor Alicia Ostiker. “

“Harjo is rooted simultaneously in the natural world, in earth—especially the landscape of the American southwest— and in the spirit world. Aided by these redemptive forces of nature and spirit, incorporating native traditions of prayer and myth into a powerfully contemporary idiom,  her visionary justice-seeking art transforms personal and collective bitterness to beauty, fragmentation to wholeness, and trauma to healing,” continued Ostiker.

Born in Tulsa, Oklahoma, Harjo, 64, received a BA degree from the University of New Mexico before earning an MFA from the Iowa Writers Workshop in 1978.

Her books of poetry include How We Became Human: New and Selected Poems (W.W. Norton & Co., 2002); A Map to the Next World: Poems (W.W. Norton & Co., 2000); The Woman Who Fell From the Sky (W.W. Norton & Co., 1994), which received the Oklahoma Book Arts Award; In Mad Love and War (Wesleyan University Press, 1990), which received an American Book Award and the Delmore Schwartz Memorial Award; Secrets from the Center of the World (University of Arizona Press, 1989); She Had Some Horses (Thunder’s Mouth Press, 1983); and What Moon Drove Me to This? (Reed Books,1979). She has also written a memoir, Crazy Brave (W. W. Norton & Co., 2012), which describes her journey to becoming a poet, and which won the 2013 PEN Center USA literary prize for creative nonfiction.

Also a performer, Harjo has appeared on HBO’s Def Poetry Jam in venues across the U.S. and internationally. She plays saxophone with her band Poetic Justice, and has released four award-winning CD’s of original music. In 2009, she won a Native American Music Award (NAMMY) for Best Female Artist of the Year.

Harjo’s other honors include the PEN Open Book Award, the American Indian Distinguished Achievement in the Arts Award, the Josephine Miles Poetry Award, the Mountains and Plains Booksellers Award, the William Carlos Williams Award from the Poetry Society of America, and fellowships from the Arizona Commission on the Arts, the Witter Bynner Foundation, and the National Endowment for the Arts.

Most recently, she received the 2015 Wallace Stevens Award for proven mastery in the art of poetry by the Academy of American Poets. About Harjo, said: Harjo is Professor of English and American Indian Studies at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. She lives in Tulsa, Oklahoma.


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