Joy Harjo Biography
Joy Harjo is a poet, musician, and author. She is also the first Native American United States Poet Laureate. Born in Oklahoma, she took her paternal grandmother’s surname when she enrolled in the Muscogee (Creek) Nation. She is an important figure in the second wave of the literary Native American Renaissance of the late 20th century. She studied at the Institute of American Indian Arts, completed her undergraduate degree at the University of New Mexico in 1976, and earned an M.F.A. at the University of Iowa in its Creative Writing Program.
Poet Joy Harjo — a member of the Muskogee Creek Nation — has become the first Native American U.S. Poet Laureate.
— NPR (@NPR) June 19, 2019
In addition to writing books and other publications, Harjo has taught in numerous United States universities, performed at poetry readings and music events, and released five albums of her original music. Her books include Conflict Resolution for Holy Beings (2015), Crazy Brave (2012), and How We Became Human: New and Selected Poems 1975–2002 (2004). She was a recipient of the Ruth Lilly Poetry Prize. In 2019, she was elected a Chancellor of the Academy of American Poets.
Joy Harjo Age
Joy Harjo is 68 Years old.
Joy Harjo Early Life
Remember you are this universe and this
universe is you.
Remember all is in motion, is growing, is you.
Remember language comes from this.
— Poets.org (@POETSorg) June 19, 2019
Harjo was born in Tulsa, Oklahoma on May 9, 1951, given the name Joy Foster. Her father, Allen W. Foster, a Muscogee Creek and her mother, Wynema Baker Foster, has mixed-race ancestry of Cherokee, French, and Irish. Harjo is the oldest of the four children.
She had a difficult upbringing as a multi-disciplinary artist. Her memoir Crazy Brave discusses her father’s alcoholism, her abusive stepfather, teen motherhood, a failed first marriage and living in poverty, before finding the “spirit of poetry.”
Joy Harjo Personal Life
Harjo married Phil Wilmon, another IAIA student. They had a son whom they named Phil Dayn. Harjo and Wilmon later divorced. After Harjo had poetry readings with Simon Ortiz (Acoma Pueblo), he became a mentor. They developed a close relationship and had a daughter together, Rainy Dawn.
Joy Harjo Poetry
In 1973 Harjo started writing, and in 1975 she published her first volume, titled The Last Song, which consisted of nine of her poems. Harjo, through many readings and performances, shows great passion and emotion for the subjects she writes about. She often mixes both reading and singing her poems during performances, displaying two elements of her works.
Joy Harjo has been named U.S. Poet Laureate, becoming the first Native American person to ever hold the title: “I want to bring the contribution of poetry of the tribal nations to the forefront.” pic.twitter.com/rk5xTJxYkX
— AJ+ (@ajplus) June 19, 2019
A new collection called An American Sunrise will be published in August 2019. Its title poem interpolates and salutes a famous Gwendolyn Brooks poem, but also imbues it with new meaning, about the persistence of Native people: We are still Americans. We know the rumors of our demise. We spit them out. They die soon.
Joy Harjo Music
The memoir discusses the time that she heard Miles Davis on her parents’ car radio and experienced a transcendental moment, which she connected to her mother’s singing and her deep identification with music. Much later in life, nearing age 40, she picked up a saxophone for the first time. She’s now released five albums of original music and won a Native American Music Award in 2009.
Her poetry is a kind of music, like making a fire by slamming two rocks together. You hit words together with rhythm and sound quality and fierce playfulness.
Joy Harjo, First Native American Poet
NEWS: @LibnOfCongress Carla Hayden today appointed Joy Harjo as the 23rd U.S. Poet Laureate, the first Native American to serve in the position. “Words are powerful & can make change when understanding appears impossible.” https://t.co/HbvZGpSrVz pic.twitter.com/iTVD4LgNop
— Library of Congress (@librarycongress) June 19, 2019
Her appointment is an opportunity to continue a role she often seeks ambitiously throughout her career: as an ambassador of poetry. The Library of Congress calls the position the nation’s official poet and assigns a modest minimum of official duties. To enable individual projects designed to raise the national consciousness to a greater appreciation of the reading and writing of poetry.
Joy Harjo Literature and Performance
In an interview with NPR’s Lynn Neary, Harjo says, “I think the culture is bringing me into it with poetry, it’s part of me I don’t think about it. And so it doesn’t necessarily become a self-conscious thing, it’s just there. When you grow up as a person in your culture, you have your culture and you’re in it, but you’re also in this American culture, and that’s another layer.”
Then, you must do this: help the next person find their way through the dark.
—Joy Harjo, the next U.S. poet laureatehttps://t.co/B2mCHeiihq
— Poets.org (@POETSorg) June 19, 2019
But in termsof subject matter, she sees poetry as an immense conversation of the soul. She says she’s driven by justice and healing and transformation. Her work merges the global and the personal, the imagery of the natural world and that of the inner one. She speaks of the diversity of humanity, but also of its unifying story, its oneness.
Joy’s poems are carriers of dreams, knowledge, and wisdom, through them, she tells an American story of tradition and loss, reckoning and myth-making, the Librarian of Congress Carla Hayden said in a statement. Her work powerfully connects us to the earth and the spiritual world with a direct, inventive lyricism that helps us reimagine who we are.
And whom do I call my enemy?
An enemy must be worthy of engagement.
I turn in the direction of the sun and keep walking.
It’s the heart that asks the question, not my furious mind.
The heart is the smaller cousin of the sun.
It sees and knows everything.
It hears the gnashing even as it hears the blessing.
The door to the mind should only open from the heart.
An enemy who gets in, risks the danger of becoming a friend.
The poem appears in Harjo’s 2015 collection Conflict Resolution for Holy Beings. Harjo says that humanizing and healing will be her aims as Poet Laureate.