Tag: native american

Joy Harjo Is Named U.S. Poet Laureate for a Second Term

Joy Harjo has been named the U.S. Poet Laureate for a second term. Harjo is the first Native American to hold the position. As a member of the Muscogee Creek Nation she is an important figure in the second wave of the literary Native American Renaissance. 

‘What is the U.S. Poet Laureate position?’ You may ask. Well a Poet Laureate serves as the official poet of the United States. During their term, the Poet Laureate raises awareness and appreciation for the reading and writing of poetry. 

Joy Harjo brings in big topics into her poems in a seamless way. Tying in native stories, tribal histories, spirituality, and even feminist issues, Harjo presents a striking repertoire of poems that invite the reader to see life in a whole new way. Not only does Harjo use poems to express her story but has written a memoir, a play, essay collections, and even two children’s books. 

In her first term as U.S. Poet Laureate she concentrated on her digital presence in order to connect other Native poets and to bring together music and poetry. For her second term Harjo will focus on developing an interactive map of contemporary Native poets.

This is exciting news not only for the Native community but for literature as well. Native American literature holds one of the biggest gaps in literature, meaning not a lot of Native American stories, especially those written by Native Americans, aren’t published. Out of all the kids books, less than 1% of them are NA (the Cooperative Children’s Book Center at the U of Wisconsin). That is why Harjo’s dedication to promoting Native American stories is so important and inspiring. 

 

image via amazon

Here is one of Joy Harjo’s poems, An American Sunrise. In order to write this poem Harjo drew from a spiritual connection with her ancestors by traveling to the site where her ancestors were forcibly removed in the 1800’s. 

“We were running out of breath, as we ran out to meet ourselves. We

were surfacing the edge of our ancestors’ fights, and ready to strike.

It was difficult to lose days in the Indian bar if you were straight.

Easy if you played pool and drank to remember to forget. We

made plans to be professional — and did. And some of us could sing

so we drummed a fire-lit pathway up to those starry stars. Sin

was invented by the Christians, as was the Devil, we sang. We

were the heathens, but needed to be saved from them — thin

chance. We knew we were all related in this story, a little gin

will clarify the dark and make us all feel like dancing. We

had something to do with the origins of blues and jazz

I argued with a Pueblo as I filled the jukebox with dimes in June,

forty years later and we still want justice. We are still America. We

know the rumors of our demise. We spit them out. They die

Soon.”

Featured image via Poetry Foundation.org

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