Joy Harjo

United States Poet Laureate (2019-2022)
NBCC Lifetime Achievement Award
PEN USA Literary Award for Nonfiction

Readings &
Lecture Topics
  • We Were There When Jazz Was Invented
  • Soul Talk, Song Language
  • Women’s Empowerment
  • Indigenous Poetry & Native Literature
  • An Evening with Joy Harjo


“I turn and return to Harjo’s poetry for her breathtaking complex witness and for her world-remaking language.” —Adrienne Rich

“Throughout her extraordinary career as poet, storyteller, musician, memoirist, playwright and activist, Joy Harjo has worked to expand our American language, culture, and soul.” –Alicia Ostriker, Wallace Stevens Award Judges Citation

“Defining the poet’s role as a ‘journey for truth, for justice,’ Harjo explores the role of the artist in society, the quest for love, the links among the arts, what constitutes family, and what it means to be human.” —Library Journal

“[Joy Harjo’s] work is a thrilling and necessary antidote to false news, the ephemera of digital celebrity, and other derelictions. It pushes vigorously back against forgetfulness, injustice, and negligence at every level of contemporary life. Her work moves us because it is in the continual motion of bringing forward, with grace but also acuity, our collective story, always in progress.” –Don Share

In 2019, Joy Harjo was appointed the 23rd United States Poet Laureate, the first Native American to hold the position, and only the sec­ond poet to be appoint­ed a third term. Born in Tulsa, Oklahoma, Harjo is an internationally renowned performer and writer of the Muscogee (Creek) Nation. She is the author of ten books of poetry, several plays and children’s books, and two memoirs.

In 2019, Jackson Poetry Prize judges Ada Limón, Alicia Ostriker, and D. A. Powell declared her poetry as work that “speaks not only to the world we live in, but to the unseen world that moves through us, the thread that has connected us all from the start. Harjo’s poems embody a rich physicality and movement; they begin in the ear and the eye, they go on to live and hum inside the body. Throughout her luminous and substantial body of work, there is a sense of timelessness, of ongoingness, of history repeating; these are poems that hold us up to the truth and insist we pay attention.” Her poetry collections include An American Sunrise (W.W. Norton, 2019); Conflict Resolution for Holy Beings (W. W. Norton, 2015)—shortlisted for the 2016 Griffin Poetry Prize and added to ALA’s 2016 Notable Books List, this book is hailed by Yusef Komunyakaa as “a marvelous instrument that veins through a dark lode of American history”; How We Became Human: New and Selected Poems (W. W. Norton, 2004); and She Had Some Horses (Thunders Mouth Press, 1997). Most recently, Weaving Sundown in a Scarlet Light: Fifty Poems for Fifty Years (W. W. Norton, 2022) is a magnificent selection of fifty poems to Harjo’s fifty years as a poet.

Her first memoir Crazy Brave (W.W. Norton, 2012) won several awards including the PEN USA Literary Award for Creative Nonfiction and the American Book Award. It was praised by Ms Magazine as, “an unself-conscious mix of autobiography, spiritual rumination, cultural evaluation, history and political analysis told in simple but authoritative and deeply poetic prose.” Harjo’s second memoir, Poet Warrior (W. W. Norton, 2021), invites us to travel along the heartaches, losses, and humble realizations of her “poet-warrior” road. In 2011, Wesleyan University Press published Soul Talk, Song Language (Wesleyan, 2011), a collection of Harjo’s essays and interviews. Harjo delivered the 2021 Windham-Campbell Lecture at Yale, part of the virtual Windham-Campbell Prize Festival that year. That lecture was the basis for Catching the Light, (Yale University Press, 2022), which examines the power of words and how poetry summons us toward justice and healing and was published as part of Yale University Press’ Why I Write series.

She has pub­lished three award-win­n­ing children’s books. In 2000, Harjo debuted The Good Luck Cat (Harcourt, 2000). A few years later, she authored the young adult, coming-of-age book, For A Girl Becoming (University of Arizona Press, 2009), which won a Moonbeam Award and a Silver Medal from the Independent Publishers Awards. Her most recent, Remember (Penguin Random House, 2022), is an illustrated version of her Harjo’s iconic poem “Remember;” the collaboration was a National bestseller, an American Indian Library Association Honor Book, won a Boston Globe–Horn Book Honor Award, and was named one of the best books of the year by School Library Journal, Publishers Weekly, NPR, and Kirkus Reviews.

Harjo 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 fea­tur­ing a sam­pling of work by 47 Native Nations poets through an inter­ac­tive ArcGIS Sto­ry Map and a new­ly devel­oped Library of Con­gress audio collection.

Her many writing awards include the 2024 Frost Medal from the Poet­ry Soci­ety of Amer­i­ca, Yale’s 2023 Bollingen Prize for American Poetry, the 2022 National Book Critics Circle’s Ivan Sandrof Lifetime Achievement Award, the 2019 Jackson Prize from Poets & Writers, the Ruth Lily Prize from the Poetry Foundation, the 2015 Wallace Stevens Award from the Academy of American Poets, and the William Carlos Williams Award from the Poetry Society of America.

As a musician and performer, Harjo has produced seven award-winning music albums including her newest, I Pray for My Enemies. Her album of traditional flute, Red Dreams, A Trail Beyond Tears and Winding Through the Milky Way, won a Native American Music Award (NAMMY) for Best Female Artist of the Year in 2009. She also performs her one-woman show, “Wings of Night Sky, Wings of Morning Light,” which premiered at the Wells Fargo Theater in Los Angeles in 2009 with other performances at the Public Theater in NYC and LaJolla Playhouse as part of the Native Voices at the Autry. She has a commission from the Public Theater of NY to write “We Were There When Jazz Was Invented” — a musical play that will restore southeastern natives to the American story of blues and jazz.

Harjo is the recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship, the New Mexico Governor’s Award for Excellence in the Arts, the Rasmuson United States Artist Fellowship. She is a chancellor of the Academy of American Poets, Board of Directors Chair of the Native Arts & Cultures Foundation, and is the inaugural Artist-in-Residence for the Bob Dylan Center in Tulsa, Oklahoma, where she lives.

Short Bio

Joy Harjo, the 23rd U.S. Poet Laureate and member of the Muscogee Nation, is the author of ten books of poetry, several plays, children’s books, two memoirs, and seven music albums. Her honors include Yale’s 2023 Bollingen Prize for American Poetry, National Book Critics Circle Ivan Sandrof Lifetime Achievement Award, the Ruth Lily Prize from the Poetry Foundation, a Guggenheim Fellowship, and a Tulsa Artist Fellowship. She is a chancellor of the Academy of American Poets and Chair of the Native Arts & Cultures Foundation, and is the inaugural Artist-in-Residence for the Bob Dylan Center in Tulsa, Oklahoma, where she lives.

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