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U.S.’ First Native American Poet Laureate

Joy Harjo at the Library of Congress, June 6. SHAWN MILLER / LIBRARY OF CONGRESS

On June 19, the Library of Congress named Joy Harjo, 68, the new poet laureate of the United States.

The Oklahoma-born writer, a member of the Muscogee Creek Nation, is the 23rd national poet and the first Native American to hold the post. Her honors include the PEN Open Book Award and the Wallace Stevens Award for lifetime achievement.

In her fourth volume of poetry, titled The Woman Who Fell From the Sky, storytelling, prayer and song coalesce with her interests in jazz and her native tribal culture. Her next book of poems, An American Sunrise, will be published this fall.

Harjo will take up her duties opening the Library of Congress’ annual literary season on Sept. 19, with a reading of her work in the Coolidge Auditorium in Washington, D.C.

Harjo said in a press release by the Library of Congress: “I share this honor with ancestors and teachers who inspired in me a love of poetry, who taught that words are powerful and can make change when understanding appears impossible, and how time and timelessness can live together within a poem.”

The U.S. poet laureate, officially titled “Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry,” is appointed annually by the Library of Congress and “seeks to raise the national consciousness to a greater appreciation of the reading and writing of poetry.”