Tuesday, March 31, 4:15 p.m., Main Hall Theatre
“Readings from An American Sunrise”
Joy Harjo, Poet Laureate of the United States
Sponsored by the Kaufman Repage Lecture series
Writer, musician, and current Poet Laureate of the United States, Joy Harjo was born in Tulsa, Oklahoma,and is a member of the Muscogee (Creek) Nation. An American Sunrise, her eighth collection of poems, revisits the homeland from which her ancestors were uprooted in 1830 as a result of the Indian Removal Act. It is a “profound, brilliantly conceived song cycle, celebrating ancestors, present and future generations, historic endurance and fresh beginnings,” wrote critic Jane Ciabattari. “Rich and deeply engaging, An American Sunrise creates bridges of understanding while reminding readers to face and remember the past,” says the Washington Post. “To read the poetry of Joy Harjo is to hear the voice of the earth, to see the landscape of time and timelessness, and, most important, to get a glimpse of people who struggle to understand, to know themselves, and to survive,” says the Poetry Foundation. “Joy Harjo is a giant-hearted, gorgeous, and glorious gift to the world,” said author Pam Houston. “Her belief in art, in spirit, is so powerful, it can’t help but spill over to us —lucky readers.” Read more about the book on the National Endowment for the Arts “Big Read” website.
About Joy Harjo
In 2019, Joy Harjo was appointed the 23rd Poet Laureate of the United States, the first Native American to hold the position. Born in Tulsa, Oklahoma, Harjo is an internationally known award-winning poet, writer, performer and saxophone player of the Mvskoke/Creek Nation. Grammy Award-winning saxophonist Paul Winter says, “Joy Harjo is a poet of music just as she is a poet of words.” She is the author of nine books of poetry and a memoir.
Her many writing awards include the 2019 Jackson Prize from the Poetry Society of America, the Ruth Lilly Prize from the Poetry Foundation, the 2015 Wallace Stevens Award from the Academy of American Poets, and the William Carlos Williams Award from the Poetry Society of America.
The judges’ citation of the Jackson Prize declares, “Harjo’s work speaks not only to the world we live in, but to the unseen world that moves through us, the thread that has connected us all from the start. … Harjo’s poems embody a rich physicality and movement; they begin in the ear and the eye, they go on to live and hum inside the body. … Throughout her luminous and substantial body of work, there is a sense of timelessness, of ongoingness, of history repeating; these are poems that hold us up to the truth and insist we pay attention.”
And on behalf of the judges of the Wallace Stevens Award, Alicia Ostriker said: “Throughout her extraordinary career as poet, storyteller, musician, memoirist, playwright and activist, Joy Harjo has worked to expand our American language, culture, and soul.”
Harjo’s poetry collections include “An American Sunrise” (W.W. Norton, 2019) and “Conflict Resolution for Holy Beings” (2015). Shortlisted for the 2016 Griffin Poetry Prize and added to ALA’s 2016 Notable Books List, “Conflict Resolution for Holy Beings” is hailed by Yusef Komunyakaa as “a marvelous instrument that veins through a dark lode of American history.” Other books of poetry by Joy Harjo include “How We Became Human: New and Selected Poems” and “She Had Some Horses.”
Her memoir “Crazy Brave” (W.W. Norton, 2012) won several awards including the PEN USA Literary Award for Creative Non-Fiction and the American Book Award. Ms Magazine called it “the best kind of memoir, an unself-conscious mix of autobiography, spiritual rumination, cultural evaluation, history and political analysis told in simple but authoritative and deeply poetic prose.” Harjo is currently working on her next memoir, and she has a commission from the Public Theater of New York to write “We Were There When Jazz Was Invented,” a musical play that will restore southeastern natives to the American story of blues and jazz.
“Soul Talk, Song Language” (Wesleyan, 2011) is a collection of Harjo’s essays and interviews. She co-edited an anthology of contemporary Native women’s writing, “Reinventing the Enemy’s Language: Native Women’s Writing of North America,” one of the London Observer’s Best Books of 1997. She wrote the award-winning children’s book “The Good Luck Cat” (Harcourt) and, in 2009, she published a young adult coming-of-age-book, “For A Girl Becoming,” which won a Moonbeam Award and a Silver Medal from the Independent Publishers Awards.
A renowned musician, Harjo performs with her saxophone nationally and internationally, solo and with her band, the Arrow Dynamics. She has made five CDs of music and poetry, including her most recent award-winning album of traditional flute, “Red Dreams: A Trail Beyond Tears” and “Winding Through the Milky Way,” which won a Nammy Award for Best Female Artist of the Year in 2009. She also performs her one-woman show, “Wings of Night Sky, Wings of Morning Light,” which premiered at the Wells Fargo Theater in Los Angeles in 2009, with other performances at the Public Theater and the La Jolla Playhouse, as part of the Native Voices at the Autry theater company.
Harjo is the recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship, the New Mexico Governor’s Award for Excellence in the Arts, and the Rasmuson United States Artist Fellowship. In 2014, she was inducted into the Oklahoma Writers Hall of Fame.
For more about Joy Harjo, visit her website.