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Photo by Don J. Usner

Joy Harjo

Photo by Don J. Usner

Joy Harjo is an internationally renowned poet, writer, performer, and saxophone player and was named the 23rd Poet Laureate of the United States in 2019. She was born in Tulsa, Oklahoma and is a member of the Mvskoke/Creek Nation. She came to New Mexico to attend the Institute of American Indian Arts, where she studied painting and theater. Later she received her undergraduate degree from the University of New Mexico, followed by an MFA from the University of Iowa.

The author of nine books of poetry, several plays, children's books, and a memoir, her many honors include a Ruth Lily Prize for Lifetime Achievement from the Poetry Foundation, the Academy of American Poets Wallace Stevens Award, a PEN USA Literary Award, Lila Wallace-Reader's Digest Fun Writers' Award, a Rasmuson US Artist Fellowship, two NEA fellowships, and a Guggenheim Fellowship. Harjo is a chancellor of the Academy of American Poets and is a founding board member of the Native Arts and Cultures Foundation.

Her books include How We Became Human: New and Selected Poems 1975-2002 and her latest collection, American Sunrise (2019). Her memoir Crazy Brave (2013) is rooted in tribal myth and ancestry. In it she writes, "East is how the plants, animals, and other beings orient themselves for beginnings, to open and blossom. The spirit of the day emerges from the sunrise point. East is also the direction of Oklahoma, where I was born, the direction of the Creek Nation."

In addition to her writing, Harjo has produced musical recordings and has performed internationally, from the Arctic Circle in Norway at the Riddu Riddu Festival to Madras, India, to the Ford Theater in Los Angeles. Harjo is a professor and the Chair of Excellence in the Department of English at the University of Tennessee at Knoxville.