- By Jenna Kunze
Joy Harjo’s three terms as US poet laureate come to an end at the end of this month. The Library of Congress will host a closing ceremony complete with readings and a free dance party in Washington D.C.
The Library of Congress selects a poet laureate to serve an eight month term from October to May each year; Harjo is the second poet laureate to ever be selected to serve three consecutive terms in the position’s 85 year history. She is the first ever Native American to be appointed to the position, hailing from the Muscogee Creek Nation in Tulsa, Oklahoma.
“For a remarkable three terms as U.S. poet laureate, Joy Harjo has tirelessly promoted Native poets and poetry,” Librarian of Congress, Carla Hayden, said in a statement. “To her, poems are ‘carriers of dreams, knowledge and wisdom,’ and she has been an insightful voice during the difficulties of a pandemic.”
During her laureateship, Harjo’s signature project uplifted the poetry of 47 different Native Nations. She collected audio recordings of Native poets, complete with an interactive map, to live in a collection called “Living Nations, Living World.” She also published a corresponding anthology to the recorded work.
In her 50-year career, Harjo has created nine books of poetry, two memoirs, a children’s book and an adolescence book. She’s also a decorated musician always trying her hand at new skills.
“I’m always learning,” she told an auditorium of high schoolers on Long Island during a keynote address last week. She was responding to a student’s question on how she stays inspired. “I started playing saxophone when I was almost forty. I’m learning bass right now.”
The Poet Laureate Closing Event will take place in the Coolidge Auditorium in Washington, D.C. on April 28, at 7 p.m. The event will include performances from Harjo, singer-songwriter Jennifer Kreisberg (Tuscarora, North Carolina), and poet Portlyn Houghton-Harjo (Mvskoke, Seminole).
The following day at 7 p.m. the Library of Congress will host a dance party for Harjo in the Montpelier Room featuring DJ Tnyce (Haliwa-Saponi) — and showcasing songs selected by Harjo as well as recordings of her own work.
The same week, the Library will host the historic first retreat of In-Na-Po — Indigenous Nations Poets, a new organization mentoring emerging Native writers founded by former Wisconsin Poet Laureate, Kimberly Blaeser (Anishinaabe, White Earth Nation). Harjo is an advisory board member of the organization. Thirty fellows, faculty, and guests will participate in workshops and panel discussions in the Library’s Jefferson Building.
Harjo said that, following the conclusion of her laureateship, she’s going to take time to focus on her art, particularly her painting.
“I was told as poet laureate I have to behave,” Harjo said last week at a reading in Southampton, New York. “My laureateship ends the last Friday of this month.”
More Stories Like ThisHere's What’s Going On in Indian Country Feb. 2 — Feb. 9
Call for Native American Artists to Participate in the 2023 Santa Fe Indian Market
Phoenix Suns Celebrate Native American Culture in Full Colors
Casting Call Out for Netflix's "Rez Ball"
Here’s What’s Going on in Indian Country, Jan. 27 — Feb. 2
12 years of Native News
This month, we celebrate our 12th year of delivering Native News to readers throughout Indian Country and beyond. For the past dozen years, we’ve covered the most important news stories that are usually overlooked by other media. From the protests at Standing Rock and the rise of the American Indian Movement (AIM), to the ongoing epidemic of Murdered and Missing Indigenous People (MMIP) and the past-due reckoning related to assimilation, cultural genocide and Indian Boarding Schools.
Our news is free for everyone to read, but it is not free to produce. That’s why we’re asking you to make a donation this month to help support our efforts. Any contribution — big or small — helps. If you’re in a position to do so, we ask you to consider making a recurring donation of $12 per month to help us remain a force for change in Indian Country and to tell the stories that are so often ignored, erased or overlooked.
Donate to Native News Online today and support independent Indigenous journalism. Thank you.