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Joy Harjo appointed for second term as U.S. Poet Laureate

Joy Harjo poses inside the Library of Congress, in Washington, D.C. Harjo has been appointed for a second term as the U.S. Poet Laureate. (Shawn Miller/Library of Congress)

Former New Mexico resident Joy Harjo will continue her role as the U.S. Poet Laureate.

She was appointed for a second term as the nation’s 23rd Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry for 2020-2021 on Thursday by Librarian of Congress Carla Hayden.

The second term will being on Sept. 1.

Harjo will continue to focus on her signature laureate project, “Living Nations, Living Words: A Map of First Peoples Poetry.”

The digital project will be created using ARCGIS StoryMaps, a web mapping application geared toward storytelling, to showcase contemporary Native American poets from across the country.

The project will include Native poets’ biographies and recordings of them reading and discussing one of their poems. It will also help build a new collection in the Library’s American Folklife Center featuring the recordings of the Native poets.

“It is an honor to serve a second term as poet laureate, especially during these times of earth transformation and cultural change,” said Harjo. “Poetry reminds us that we are connected beyond words, and to communicate through poetry has the potential to expand the conversation into wordless depths, to help us move collectively into fresh cultural vision. To get there in understanding, we begin with the roots. In this country, the roots are found in the poetry of the more than 500 living indigenous nations.”

A member of the Muscogee Creek Nation, Harjo is the first Native American ever appointed U.S. poet laureate.

She attended the Institute of American Indian Arts in Santa Fe then began to formally study poetry as an undergraduate at the University of New Mexico. At UNM, she met Native writers/poets Simon Ortiz and Leslie Marmon Silko and took poetry classes from Gene Frumkin and David Johnson.

Hayden finds Harjo’s work as poet laureate inspiring and engaging.

“I’m thrilled she said yes to a second term to help the Library showcase Native poets from coast-to-coast,” Hayden said. “Her profound musical and literary talents are a gift to the nation.”

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