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U.S. Poet Laureate Joy Harjo to serve second term

Miss Indian World Cheyenne Kippenberger and U.S. Poet Laureate Joy Harjo, shown here at the Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki-Museum’s lecture series Nov. 22, 2019, will both be back for second terms in their respective roles in 2020-21. (Photo Beverly Bidney)

Joy Harjo (Muscogee (Creek) Nation) will serve a second term as the U.S. Poet Laureate. Librarian of Congress Carla Hayden announced the reappointment April 30. Harjo, who was the guest speaker of the Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki-Museum’s lecture series in November 2019 on the Big Cypress Reservation, will launch a new Library of Congress collection and online map featuring poets and poetry.

“Joy Harjo is such an inspiring and engaging poet laureate,” Hayden said. “I’m thrilled she said yes to a second term to help the Library showcase Native poets from coast-to-coast. Her profound musical and literary talents are a gift to the nation.”

During her upcoming term, which starts Sept. 1, Harjo will work on a digital  project called “Living Nations, Living Words: A Map of First Peoples Poetry.” Harjo and the Library’s geography and map division will use a web mapping application that is focused on storytelling and showcasing Native American poets from across the country.

The project is expected to include Native poets’ biographies and recordings of them reading and discussing one of their poems. The recordings will be part of a new collection in the Library’s American Folklife Center featuring the recordings of the Native poets.

“It is an honor to serve a second term as poet laureate, especially during these times of earth transformation and cultural change,” said Harjo, who is the first Native poet to serve in the position. “Poetry reminds us that we are connected beyond words, and to communicate through poetry has the potential to expand the conversation into wordless depths, to help us move collectively into fresh cultural vision. To get there in understanding, we begin with the roots. In this country, the roots are found in the poetry of the more than 500 living indigenous nations.”

Born in Tulsa, Oklahoma, on May 9, 1951, Harjo is the author of nine books of poetry. She is the editor of “When the Light of the World Was Subdued, Our Songs Came Through: A Norton Anthology of Native Nations Poetry,” to be published by W.W. Norton in August 2020.