August 20, 2019 Joy Harjo to Give Opening Reading as Poet Laureate, Sept. 19

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

Awarding-winning poet Joy Harjo will give her inaugural reading as the 23rd Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry at the Library of Congress at 7 p.m. on Thursday, Sept. 19. A member of the Muscogee Creek Nation, Harjo is the first Native American to serve as U.S. Poet Laureate.

The historic reading marks the beginning of Harjo’s laureateship, which traditionally launches the Library’s 2019-2020 literary season. This year, it is also part of the Library’s new National Book Festival Presents series, featuring high-caliber authors, their books and related Library treasures.

The event will take place in the Coolidge Auditorium on the ground floor of the Thomas Jefferson Building, 10 First St. S.E., Washington, D.C. A book signing will follow. 

The program is free and open to the public, but tickets are required and there may be special restrictions. For more information and to secure tickets, visit this event ticketing site: Harjo’s reading also will be livestreamed on the Library’s Facebook page at and its YouTube site (with captions) at

In addition to reading from her repertoire of poems spanning a 40-year career, Harjo, who is an award-winning musician, also will perform with bassist Howard Cloud and keyboardist Robert Muller.

Librarian of Congress Carla Hayden appointed Harjo the Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry in June. Hayden says that Harjo’s poems tell “an American story of tradition and loss, reckoning and myth-making. Her work powerfully connects us to the earth and the spiritual world with direct, inventive lyricism that helps us reimagine who we are.”

Born in Tulsa, Oklahoma, on May 9, 1951, Harjo has written eight books of poetry, including “Conflict Resolution for Holy Beings” (W. W. Norton, 2015); “The Woman Who Fell From the Sky” (W. W. Norton, 1994), winner of the Oklahoma Book Arts Award; and “In Mad Love and War” (Wesleyan University Press, 1990), which received an American Book Award and the Delmore Schwartz Memorial Award. Her most recent book of poetry is “An American Sunrise,” published by W. W. Norton in August 2019.

She has also written a memoir, “Crazy Brave” (W. W. Norton, 2012), which won the 2013 PEN Center USA literary prize for creative nonfiction. In addition, Harjo has written a children’s book, “The Good Luck Cat” (Harcourt, Brace 2000), and a young adult book, “For a Girl Becoming” (University of Arizona Press, 2009).

Harjo’s many literary awards include the PEN Open Book Award, the American Indian Distinguished Achievement in the Arts Award, the New Mexico Governor’s Award for Excellence in the Arts and the Arrell Gibson Lifetime Achievement Award from the Oklahoma Center for the Book. Harjo has received fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation, the Witter Bynner Foundation and the National Endowment for the Arts. Her collection “How We Become Human: New and Selected Poems 1975-2001” (W. W. Norton, 2002) was selected by the National Endowment for the Arts for its Big Read program. Her recent honors include the Jackson Prize from Poets & Writers (2019), the Ruth Lilly Poetry Prize from the Poetry Foundation (2017) and the Wallace Stevens Award from the Academy of American Poets (2015). In 2019, she was elected a Chancellor of the Academy of American Poets.

The Library of Congress Poetry and Literature Center fosters and enhances the public’s appreciation of literature. To this end, the center administers the endowed Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry position, coordinates an annual season of readings, performances, lectures, conferences and symposia; sponsors high-profile prizes and fellowships for literary writers; and offers a range of digital initiatives to further its mission and reach. For more information, visit  
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PR 19-079
ISSN 0731-3527