First Native American is named US poet laureate

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Joy Harjo has been named the first Native American U.S. poet laureate, Librarian of Congress Carla Hayden announced Wednesday.

Harjo, a member of the Muscogee Creek Nation, will succeed Tracy K. Smith, who served in the role for two terms.

{mosads}Harjo, who will be the 23rd poet laureate, will assume the role on Sept. 19 at the opening of the Library of Congress’s annual literary season, according to the library.

“Joy Harjo has championed the art of poetry — ‘soul talk’ as she calls it — for over four decades,” Hayden said. “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.”

Harjo, in a statement, said that she was honored to be named.

“I share this honor with ancestors and teachers who inspired in me a love of poetry, who taught that words are powerful and can make change when understanding appears impossible, and how time and timelessness can live together within a poem,” Harjo said in a statement.

Harjo, born in Tulsa, Okla., has published eight books of poetry and released four albums of original music. She has received fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation, the National Endowment for the Arts and the Witter Bynner Foundation.

She has also taught at UCLA and served as a professor and chairwoman of excellence at the University of Tennessee, according to the Library.

As poet laureate, “I don’t have a defined project right now, but I want to bring the contribution of poetry of the tribal nations to the forefront and include it in the discussion of poetry,” Harjo told The Associated Press.

“This country is in need of deep healing. We’re in a transformational moment in national history and earth history, so whichever way we move is going to absolutely define us,” she added.

Tags Library of Congress Muscogee Native American Poet Laureate

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