Creek citizen becomes first Native American American Poet Laureate

Creek citizen becomes first Native American American Poet Laureate
(Shawn Miller, Library of Congress) Muscogee (Creek) poet, Joy Harjo was named the 2019-2020 Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry June 19.

“It’s such an honoring for Native people in this country, when we’ve been so disappeared and disregarded.” – Poet Laureate Consultant Joy Harjo

By Kevin Barnett/Reporter

OKMULGEE, Oklahoma — The first Native American poet, and Oklahoman, has been named the nation’s 23rd Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry for 2019-2020.

On June 19, Librarian of Congress Carla Hayden announced the appointment of Muscogee (Creek) citizen Joy Harjo to what is effectively ‘the Poet Laureate of the United States,’ according to the written law.

Harjo’s main function as Poet Laureate will be to ‘raise the national consciousness to a greater appreciation of the reading and writing of poetry.’

In an interview with NPRs Lynn Neary, Harjo said she has always thought of herself as an ambassador for poetry.

“Since I started writing in 1973, I’ve almost always been on the road with poetry …for years on behalf of poetry — and the gift that poetry brings to all of us,” Harjo said.

She said she sees her appointment as a continuation of that role she assumed when she began writing in college.

Laureates are assigned minimal duties during their tenure to allow for individual projects in line with the positions official mission.

As of yet, Harjo has not decided what will be her focus or project during her tenure but she said she hopes to ‘remind people that poetry belongs to everyone.’

Harjo will officially take over the new position in the fall.

“It’s such an honoring for Native people in this country, when we’ve been so disappeared and disregarded,” Harjo said. “I bear that honor on behalf of the people and my ancestors.”

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