Joy Harjo currently serves as the U.S. Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry at the Library of Congress, having officially begun her term on September 19, 2019. The links below provide more information about Harjo's activities at the Library, including webcasts, blog posts, and related news releases.
On June 19, 2019, Librarian of Congress Carla Hayden announced the appointment of Joy Harjo as the 23rd Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry. Harjo officially began her term as Laureate on September 19, when she opened the Library’s annual literary with a reading and performance of her work in the Coolidge Auditorium External. In addition to reading from her repertoire of poems spanning a 40-year career, Harjo, who is an award-winning musician, also performed with bassist Howard Cloud and keyboardist Robert Muller. View a webcast of the event here:
On April 30, 2020, Librarian of Congress Carla Hayden appointed Harjo to a second term. On making the reappointment, Dr. Hayden said:
Joy Harjo is such an inspiring and engaging poet laureate. 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.
Harjo’s second term began Sept. 1, 2020, and focused on the development of her signature laureate project, “Living Nations, Living Words.” In addition, Harjo shifted her public outreach efforts to the virtual world by participating in programs such as the 2020 Library of Congress National Book Festival—in a video recorded especially for the event and by appearing in the festival’s accompanying broadcast special on PBS—as well as in "The Poetry of Home," a virtual series developed with The Washington Post.
On November 19, 2020, Harjo was appointed to a third term as U.S. poet laureate. On making the appointment, Librarian of Congress Carla Hayden said:
Throughout the pandemic, Joy Harjo has shown how poetry can help steady us and nurture us. I am thankful she is willing to continue this work on behalf of the country. A third term will give Joy the opportunity to develop and extend her signature project.”
Harjo's signature poet laureate initiative, "Living Nations, Living Words," developed during her second term, officially launched the day of her appointment to a third term as laureate. It features a sampling of work by 47 Native Nations poets through an interactive Story Map and a newly developed Library of Congress audio collection.
Harjo embraced the opportunity to focus on her laureate initiative during her third term, stating:
This has been a challenging year for the country, for our earth. Poetry has provided doorways for joy, grief and understanding in the midst of turmoil and pandemic. I welcome the opportunity of a third term to activate my project and visit communities to share Native poetry. The story of America begins with Native presence, thoughts and words. Poetry is made of word threads that weave and connect us.
In addition to her signature project, Harjo has participated in hundreds of virtual and in-person events across the country during her tenure as laureate to celebrate the power of poetry. She also joined the Library of Congress National Book Festival virtually in 2020 and 2021, and her festival presentations were featured on PBS and by The Washington Post.
Traditionally the poet laureate participates in two signature literary events at the Library: an opening reading to launch the Library’s literary season and a lecture or panel to close the season. Harjo’s first- and second-term closing events were cancelled due to the pandemic; however, her third term provided an opportunity to return to the Library to celebrate the conclusion of her laureateship. To this end, Harjo's third term as poet laureate concluded with two public programs at the end of April 2022.
The Poet Laureate Closing Event took place in the Coolidge Auditorium on Thursday, April 28, at 7 p.m. ET, and featured reading and discussing her favorite "ancestor poems." The evening began with a performance by singer-songwriter Jennifer Kreisberg (Tuscarora, North Carolina) and included a reading by poet Portlyn Houghton-Harjo (Mvskoke, Seminole). Harjo ended the night with a performance of her poem "Remember." The event was livestreamed on the Library’s YouTube channel and Facebook page. Watch a recording of the event here External.
On Friday, April 29, at 7 p.m. ET, the Library hosted a dance party for Harjo in the Montpelier Room featuring DJ Tnyce (Haliwa-Saponi) and showcasing songs selected by Harjo as well as recordings of her own work. The event took place outside the Thomas Jefferson building in the Neptune Plaza.
Additionally, from April 25 to 29 Harjo hosted at the Library the first retreat of In-Na-Po, Indigenous Nations Poets, a new organization dedicated to mentoring emerging Native writers for which Harjo is an advisory board member. Harjo offered the following comments on the event:
This has been an incredible moment to serve poetry and to celebrate the historic, ongoing contributions of the original peoples of these lands. I’m thrilled to conclude my laureateship with In-Na-Po’s inaugural retreat, which marks a fresh beginning for emerging generations of Native poets.
A brief Q&A with Joy Harjo during her first-term poet laureate orientation follows below.
Library of Congress press releases about Joy Harjo's poet laureate appointment, activities, and events are listed below.
Joy Harjo has been featured on both the Poetry and Literature Center's blog, From the Catbird Seat, and on the Library's main blog. Those blog posts are linked below:
The Library of Congress features several recordings of Joy Harjo reading and discussing her poetry and the poetry of other poets. These are listed below.