For Immediate Release
Sept. 25, 2019
Harjo celebrates laureateship with one-of-a-kind experience
Inaugural reading sold-out event for the first Native American U.S. Poet Laureate
WASHINGTON — The inauguration of Muscogee (Creek) citizen Joy Harjo as the 23rd U.S. Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry was held Sept. 19 in the Coolidge Auditorium at the Library of Congress in Washington D.C. to a sold-out crowd, with two viewing rooms filled with spectators to witness the celebration of the country’s first Native American in the position.
Harjo gifted the audience with an experience unlike anything ever presented by an entering laureate in the position’s 80-year history. Accompanied with the saxophone, flute and her band, the Arrow Dynamics; she delivered works which included “She Had Some Horses,” “Perhaps the World Ends Here/Kitchen Table” and “Equinox.”
Before being named to the role in June, Harjo has attained many accolades in her almost 50-year career as a poet, musician and author like Native American Music Award (NAMMY) for Best Female Artist of the Year, the American Indian Distinguished Achievement in the Arts Award and the Arrell Gibson Lifetime Achievement Award among other accomplishments.
While introducing “Equinox,” Harjo mused about the inspiration behind the poem and addressed her success.
“What if you let all of those aches and hurts go? Let them go with the sun because the sun is letting go,” she said. “I started thinking of all the things I let go. You might hear about the cool awards and things that have happened but it’s followed by a long list of failures…”
Harjo started her poetic journey while attending the University of New Mexico in a time of resurgence for the Native American rights movement.
“There was something that needed to be said, I didn’t want to be the one to say it. I would never speak up,” Harjo said. “I was told I was one of the shyest kids at Indian school, which is pretty shy. Then this poetry started moving about…”
As Harjo closed out the reading with “Bless this Land,” she acknowledged the supporters of poetry.
“It’s important that we pass this on, we’re all here to serve. I was reluctant to serve poetry but it’s blessed me beyond words.”