According to The Guardian there is exciting news for the poetry world. Poet, musician, and author Joy Harjo has been appointed as the Poet Laureate, the first Native American to take the position in years. Harjo has been in the running for a role for a long time, having acted as an advocate and voice for Native Americans in the literary world. Harjo term will last one year, and she will succeed Tracy K. Smith, who served two terms in the position.
Harjo is known for poetry collections like The Woman Who Fell From the Sky and In Mad Love and War. Critics have praised her forceful, intimate writing style that draws upon the natural and spiritual world, always emphasizing and exploring man’s relationship to nature.
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Harjo has expressed her political views through song and metaphor, using her poetry to draw attention to social issues. One of her poems, “Rabbit Is Up to Tricks,” epitomizes her style:
And Rabbit had no place to play.
Rabbit’s trick had backfired.
Rabbit tried to call the clay man back,
but when the clay man wouldn’t listen
Rabbit realized he’d made a clay man with no ears.
Harjo began writing in 1970, according to The New York Times. As a young woman, she attended Native American gatherings in the Southwest, where she heard poetry spoken aloud. Realizing poetry was a vehicle for social change, her art became a way for her to speak about the Native American rights movement. Since then, Harjo has written eight books in total, including poetry, memoir, and YA novels. As for her nomination, Harjo said she was in a “state of shock” and considers her a position a great honor, as well as a position of honor for all Native peoples.
In a statement to the Library of Congress, Carla Hayden, the Librarian of Congress said of Joy Harjo’s work “powerfully connects us to the earth and the spiritual world with direct, inventive lyricism that helps us reimagine who we are.”
In addition to being an author, Harjo is also a musician, composing four albums that speak to not only naturalistic themes but also the current political and social divides across America. She feels that poetry is a way to bridge cultures and hopes to embrace her new position.
Featured Image Via The Guardian.