First Native American U.S. Poet Laureate to Serve Third Term

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Joy Harjo, Poet Laureate of the United States. Photo by Shawn Miller, Library of Congress

Joy Harjo will serve a third, one-year term as the United States Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry or commonly referred to as U.S. poet laureate, the Library of Congress announced on Thursday. 

In 2019, Joy Harjo, who is a member of the Muscogee (Creek) Nation, made history as the first Native American person to be appointed to U.S. poet laureate, making her the 23rd person to serve in the position that was established in 1986. Harjo is the second laureate to serve three terms, which will begin in September 2021.

“This has been a challenging year for the country, for our earth. Poetry has provided doorways for joy, grief and understanding in the midst of turmoil and pandemic,” Harjo to the Associated Press in a statement. “I welcome the opportunity of a third term to activate my project and visit communities to share Native poetry. The story of America begins with Native presence, thoughts and words. Poetry is made of word threads that weave and connect us.”

As poet laureate, Harjo is responsible for raising the country’s awareness and appreciation of poetry. Former laureates have completed the task by creating large-scale poetry projects. Harjo’s signature project titled “Living Nations, Living Words” features sample work from 47 Native Nations poets and utilizes an interactive story map and audio, creating an immersive experience for consumers.

“I want this map to counter damaging false assumptions—that [I]ndigenous peoples of our country are often invisible or are not seen as human. You will not find us fairly represented, if at all, in the cultural storytelling of America, and nearly nonexistent in the American book of poetry,” Harjo states in her project.

To learn more about Harjo’s poetry project, visit the Library of Congress website.