Joy Harjo On When She Realized Poetry Has Power (via Vogue)

During her three terms as the 23rd poet laureate of the United States, Indigenous poet Joy Harjo—who hails from Muscogee (Creek) Nation—has not only used her platform to spotlight the beauty of the written word, but has also highlighted the works of contemporary Native poets across the nation. One of her biggest projects as poet laureate was creating “Living Nations, Living Words,” an interactive map that highlights the works of 47 different Indigenous poets throughout the country. “As the first Native US poet laureate, I decided that my signature project should introduce the country to the many Native poets who live in these lands,” Harjo said. “Our communities innately shared and share poetry from before the founding of the United States to the present.”

Throughout her career, Harjo has also written many works of poetry on her own. She’s published nine books of poetry, including 2019’s An American Sunrise, which won the 2020 Oklahoma book award. She has also pub­lished two award-win­n­ing children’s books, sev­er­al screen­plays, and three plays. In honor of her illustrious career, Harjo was awarded the lifetime achievement award at the National Art Awards yesterday, which took place at Guastavino’s in New York City. Shortly before, Vogue took a moment to chat with Harjo about what inspires her work, what she learned from being the poet laureate, and how poetry can be a powerful tool for humanizing her Indigenous people.

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Vogue | Joy Harjo

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