Joy Harjo named first Native American U.S. poet laureate

Credit: Carlo Allegri

Credit: Carlo Allegri

Poet and author Joy Harjo has been named the United States’ 23rd poet laureate -- and is the first Native American to receive the honor.

Harjo's term was announced Wednesday by Librarian of Congress Carla Hayden and will officially begin in the fall, KOKI reported. Harjo, 68, is a member of the Muscogee Creek Nation. In addition to her work in poetry, she is also an author and musician.

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"It's such an honoring for Native people in this country, when we've been so disappeared and disregarded," Harjo told NPR. "And yet we're the root cultures, over 500-something tribes, and I don't know how many at first contact. But it's quite an honor ... I bear that honor on behalf of the people and my ancestors. So that's really exciting for me."

Harjo, of Tulsa, Oklahoma, has authored eight books of poetry, including the American Book Award-winning “In Mad Love and War.” She has also written a memoir and youth literature. She taught at the University of California, Los Angeles, and the University of Tennessee.

KOKI reported that the Library of Congress' annual literary season begins September 19, when Harjo will read her work in the Coolidge Auditorium.

The Library of Congress appoints a poet laureate every year. The position exists "to raise the national consciousness to a greater appreciation of the reading and writing of poetry," through readings, public appearances and lectures, according to the Library of Congress website.

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