Joy Harjo Becomes the First Native American U.S. Poet Laureate

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| By Laura Avery |

Multifaceted author, artist, and musician Joy Harjo made history in 2019 when it was announced she would become the first Native American U.S. Poet Laureate. A member of the Muscogee Creek Nation, Harjo is also the first Oklahoman to hold the honor. While studying art in school, she attended readings by Native American poets, which triggered her shift in focus to creative writing. Going on to teach poetry, Harjo later published one of her most highly regarded books: She Had Some Horses. Her works frequently incorporate Native American myths, symbols, and values, while also focusing on the Southwest landscape and the need for remembrance and transcendence. While continuing to publish volumes of poetry, Harjo also worked as a scriptwriter and formed a band.

Upon being named to the position, Harjo said, “It’s such an honoring for Native people in this country when we’ve been so disappeared and disregarded. And yet we’re the root cultures, over 500-something tribes and I don’t know how many at first contact. But it’s quite an honor . . . I bear that honor on behalf of the people and my ancestors.” In the position, Harjo said she hopes to represent not only Native voices but all American voices.

You can read more about Joy Harjo and other poets in Biography In Context. Not a Biography In Contextsubscriber? Learn more about this authoritative database >>

You can also find Joy Harjo’s poems, biographies, and more in Gale’s LitFinder.

Meet the Author

A longtime appreciator of words, Laura Avery has worked at Gale for nearly 20 years. A lover of cats, Junior Mints, and her kids (not necessarily in that order), Laura enjoys reading, visiting the Detroit Zoo, and binge-watching cooking shows.

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