Michelle Nijhuis

LitWatch Monthly: Joy Harjo and author conversations

March marks another full calendar of author conversations and virtual workshops, including a seminar on the work of United States Poet Laureate Joy Harjo

I came into poetry feeling as though, on some level, these words were not just mine but my grandparents’, their parents’.”
― Joy Harjo

Joy Harjo is America’s first Native American Mvskoke Nation Poet Laureate. Named the 23rd United States Poet Laureate by the Library of Congress in 2019, she is the second-ever poet to serve three terms in this position. Her third term, beginning this Spring 2021, brings forth a new digital signature project, Living Nations, Living Words. This unique project will feature a fully interactive map of First Peoples Poetry, focusing on 47 different Native American poets by mapping their works and locations nationwide.

Harjo first began writing poetry in 1973 at the age of 23. Before becoming one of the country’s most beloved living poets, she attended the University of New Mexico to study medicine. Inspired by her heritage, the company of artists around her, and the beauty of New Mexico’s landscape, Harjo changed her major to art before penning her first book of poems, The Last Song, in 1975.

Joy Harjo has continued to inspire many artists and writers throughout her long and successful career as both a poet and musician, describing her work as “a memory on which to build.” Her latest book of poems, An American Sunrise, is a breathtaking collection about the beauty of her native homeland and the forced displacement of her own ancestors. This new book of poems will be the topic of an upcoming six-session-long seminar presented by Literary Arts and Delve Readers Seminars called Joy Harjo: American Sunrise. Each Thursday from March 25 to April 29, writer and educator Danielle Frandina will lead participants in the reading of Harjo’s 2019 release An American Sunrise and her 2012 memoir Crazy Brave.

23rd United States Poet Laureate Joy Harjo. Photograph by Karen Kuehn.

Open to all poetry lovers, the Joy Harjo: American Sunrise workshop will offer an engaging look into the works and early life of Harjo, examining how themes of ancestry, repetition, and loss exist within her work. On Tuesday, April 20, participants of this course will also be given access to Harjo’s much anticipated live lecture as part of the Portland Arts & Lectures Series.

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