On June 19, 2019, Librarian of Congress Carla Hayden announced the appointment of Joy Harjo as the 23rd Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry. On making the appointment, Dr. Hayden said:
Joy Harjo has championed the art of poetry—‘soul talk’ as she calls it—for over four decades. To her, poems are ‘carriers of dreams, knowledge and wisdom,’ and through them she tells an American story of tradition and loss, reckoning and myth-making. Her work powerfully connects us to the earth and the spiritual world with direct, inventive lyricism that helps us reimagine who we are.
Harjo took up her duties in fall 2019, opening the Library’s annual literary season on September 19th at 7 p.m. with a reading of her work in the Coolidge Auditorium.
Harjo was appointed to a second term as poet laureate on April 30, 2020. On November 19, 2020, Dr. Hayden appointed Harjo to a third term as poet laureate, which began September 2021. Harjo is only the second poet, alongside Robert Pinsky, to have been appointed to a third term as U.S. poet laureate.
Harjo's signature poet laureate project is "Living Nations, Living Words," a digital project that features an interactive ArcGIS Story Map, developed with the Library’s Geography and Map Division, which maps 47 contemporary Native American poets across the country — including Joy Harjo, Louise Erdrich, Natalie Diaz, Ray Young Bear, Craig Santos Perez, Sherwin Bitsui and Layli Long Soldier.
The map connects to a new online audio collection developed by Harjo and housed in the Library's American Folklife Center, which features the participating poets reading and discussing an original poem. Each chose their poems based on the theme of place and displacement, and with four focal points in mind: visibility, persistence, resistance, and acknowledgment.
A companion anthology, Living Nations, Living Words: An Anthology of First Peoples Poetry, was published in May 2021 by W. W. Norton & Company in association with the Library of Congress. The anthology features each poem and poet from the "Living Nations, Living Words" project, offering readers a chance to hold the wealth of poetry in their hands.
In November 2021, the Library of Congress released an educator guide to complement “Living Nations, Living Words.” The guide was developed with a committee of educator advisers, including members of the National Council for the Social Studies, the National Council of Teachers of English and the National Indian Education Association.
This guide provides an overview of print and online resources related to Joy Harjo's life and work. To suggest additions to this guide, please contact the Library's poetry and literature reference librarians.