Over the past few months, Joy Harjo, the nation’s poet laureate and the first Indigenous person in US history to hold the title, has been receiving a lot more emails and handwritten letters.
She says many people have been writing to thank her for her poetry, share their own, or ask for verses to help them cope with hardship and grief as the country deals with the coronavirus pandemic.
Harjo, a member of the Muscogee (Creek) Nation, has perhaps one of the most interesting jobs: to serve as an ambassador for poetry and a leader in art. Just last week, she was reappointed for a third term to serve as poet laureate for 2021. Appointed by The Library of Congress, the poet laureate serves as the official poet of the United States.
The importance of doing so while the country mourns more than a quarter of a million dead is not lost on her.
“The interest in poetry and the need for poetry as solace and direction has really emerged during this time,” she tells Business Insider. “Poetry can be found during times of grief, times of transformation.”
In addition to helping the country heal, Harjo feels deeply responsible to help raise awareness of the culture, the hardships, and the successes of Native Americans.
“We’re human,” she said.
In the past year, Harjo published a visually mesmerizing online interactive “poetry map” showcasing the poetry of 47 Native Americans’ work, as well as a book of her own poetry, “An American Sunrise,” which highlights the suffering Indigenous peoples endured because of forced relocation in the US.