Joy Harjo

Advisory Board Member, Indigenous Nations Poets

Joy Harjo is an internationally renowned performer and writer of the Muscogee (Creek) Nation. She is serving her third term as the 23rd Poet Laureate of the United States. The author of nine books of poetry, including the highly acclaimed An American Sunrise, several plays and children’s books, and two memoirs, Crazy Brave and Poet Warrior: A Call for Love and Justice, her many honors include the Ruth Lily Prize for Lifetime Achievement from the Poetry Foundation, the Academy of American Poets Wallace Stevens Award, two NEA fellowships, and a Guggenheim Fellowship. As a musician and performer, Harjo has produced six award-winning music albums including her newest, I Pray for My Enemies (Sunyata Records). She is Executive Editor of the anthology When the Light of the World was Subdued, Our Songs Came Through — A Norton Anthology of Native Nations Poetry and the editor of Living Nations, Living Words: An Anthology of First Peoples Poetry, the companion anthology to her signature Poet Laureate project. She is a chancellor of the Academy of American Poets, Board of Directors Chair of the Native Arts & Cultures Foundation, and holds a Tulsa Artist Fellowship. She lives in Tulsa, Oklahoma.

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Publications

An American Sunrise

Genre: Poetry
Publisher: W. W. Norton
Publication Date: August 13, 2019

A stunning new volume from the first Native American Poet Laureate of the United States, informed by her tribal history and connection to the land.

In the early 1800s, the Mvskoke people were forcibly removed from their original lands east of the Mississippi to Indian Territory, which is now part of Oklahoma. Two hundred years later, Joy Harjo returns to her family’s lands and opens a dialogue with history. In An American Sunrise, Harjo finds blessings in the abundance of her homeland and confronts the site where her people, and other indigenous families, essentially disappeared. From her memory of her mother’s death, to her beginnings in the native rights movement, to the fresh road with her beloved, Harjo’s personal life intertwines with tribal histories to create a space for renewed beginnings. Her poems sing of beauty and survival, illuminating a spirituality that connects her to her ancestors and thrums with the quiet anger of living in the ruins of injustice. A descendent of storytellers and “one of our finest―and most complicated―poets” (Los Angeles Review of Books), Joy Harjo continues her legacy with this latest powerful collection.

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Conflict Resolution for Holy Beings

Genre: Poetry
Publisher: W. W. Norton
Publication Date: September 28, 2015

In these poems, the joys and struggles of the everyday are played against the grinding politics of being human. Beginning in a hotel room in the dark of a distant city, we travel through history and follow the memory of the Trail of Tears from the bend in the Tallapoosa River to a place near the Arkansas River. Stomp dance songs, blues, and jazz ballads echo throughout. Lost ancestors are recalled. Resilient songs are born, even as they grieve the loss of their country. Called a “magician and a master” (San Francisco Chronicle), Joy Harjo is at the top of her form in Conflict Resolution for Holy Beings. —Native Peoples Magazine

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She Had Some Horses

Genre: Poetry
Publisher: Thunder's Mouth Press
Publication Date: 1983

First published in 1983 and now considered a classic, She Had Some Horses is a powerful exploration of womanhood's most intimate moments. Joy Harjo's words speak of women's despair, of their imprisonment and ruin at the hands of men and society, but also of their awakenings, power, and love.

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The Woman Who Fell From the Sky

Genre: Poetry
Publisher: W. W. Norton
Publication Date: 1994

Dancing children, the attempt to heal a broken life, rising moons, and blue horses turning into streaks of lightning are the images Harjo uses to spin her yarns, and her words are spellbinding.

Her talent is manifest in "A Postcolonial Tale": "Every day is a reenactment of the creation story. We emerge from dense unspeakable material, through the shimmering power of dreaming stuff."

. . .her writing is infused with a generosity of spirit that accounts for much of her appeal.

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In Mad Love and War

Genre: Poetry
Publisher: Wesleyan University Press
Publication Date: May 21, 1990

Her poems, both sacred and secular, are written with the passions of anger, grief, and love, at once tender and furious. They are rooted in the land; they are one with the deer and the fox, the hawk and the eagle, the sun, moon, and wind, and the seasons - "spring/ was lean and hungry with the hope of children and corn." There are enemies here, also lovers; there are ghost dancers, ancestors old and new, who rise again "to walk in shoes of fire."

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Wings of Night Sky, Wings of Morning Light

Genre: Poetry
Publisher: Wesleyan University Press
Publication Date: February 12, 2019

Joy Harjo's play Wings of Night Sky, Wings of Morning Light is the centerpiece of this collection that includes essays and interviews concerning the roots and the reaches of contemporary Native Theater. Harjo blends storytelling, music, movement, and poetic language in Wings of Night Sky, Wings of Morning Light—a healing ceremony that chronicles the challenges young protagonist Redbird faces on her path to healing and self-determination. This text is accompanied by interviews with Native theater artists Rolland Meinholtz and Randy Reinholz, as well as an interview with Harjo, conducted by Page. The interviews highlight the lives and contributions of Meinholtz, a theater artist and educator who served as the drama instructor at the Institute of American Indian Arts from 1964–70 and a close mentor and friend to Harjo; and Reinholz, producing artistic director of Native Voices at the Autry, the nation's only Equity theater company dedicated exclusively to the development and production of new plays by Native American, First Nations, and Alaska Native playwrights. The new interview with Harjo focuses on her experiences working in theater.

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