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Joy Harjo is first Native American named US poet laureate

Joy Harjo has become the first Native American to be appointed as US poet laureate. 

The Oklahoma-born, Muscogee Creek Nation member’s appointment was announced on 19 June by the librarian of Congress, Carla Hayden, who said that Hargo helped tell an “American story” of traditions both lost and continued, of “reckoning and myth-making”.

The poet, musician and author will serve as US poet laureate for one year, succeeding Tracy K Smith. The post is officially titled Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry, and comes with a $35,000 stipend.

Similar to the UK poet laureate, Harjo will have few official responsibilities but may launch initiatives during her post.

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. 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.
Joy Harjo

Harjo is known for such collections as The Woman Who Fell From the Sky and In Mad Love and War and for a forceful, intimate style that draws upon the natural and spiritual world. Her previous honors include the Pen Open Book Award and the Wallace Stevens Award for lifetime achievement. Earlier this year, she was awarded the Jackson Prize, given by Poets & Writers, for a poet of merit who deserves more attention. She also has a lifetime achievement award from the Native Writers Circle of the Americas and the William Carlos Williams award from the Poetry Society of America. She is currently editing an anthology of Native poets, and a new book of her own poems, An American Sunrise, comes out in August this year.