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Poet Joy Harjo: What's your formula for the healing of America?


Video still from a 2019 interview with Joy Harjo and Oprah Winfrey. Watch video below.

We paid a virtual visit to poet and musician Joy Harjo, who was named the 23rd Poet Laureate of the United States in 2019. She is self-isolating at her home in Tulsa, Oklahoma.

The first Native American Poet Laureate, and a member of the Muscogee (Creek) Nation, Joy visited the Writers Institute in November 2012 with her memoir, Crazy Brave (2012), about her journey from a troubled childhood and teenage motherhood to her accomplishments in the arts.

Born in Tulsa, Harjo grew up learning to dodge an abusive stepfather by finding shelter in her imagination, a deep spiritual life, and connection with the natural world. She attended an Indian arts boarding school, where she nourished an appreciation for painting, music, and poetry; gave birth while still a teenager; and struggled on her own as a single mother, eventually finding her poetic voice.

Q: What are you up to?

A: I am using this time to write. And write and write. I am in the middle of my next memoir due in June, and have songs I am working on. And when the memoir is done then I'll be working on my musical. Like everyone else I am also using this time for introspection, prayer, and imagining. And playing lots of saxophone.

Q: What should we be reading?

A: Uncertainty always leads me to poetry. During National Poetry Month, I encourage you to subscribe to Poem-A-Day through the Academy of American Poets. I was honored to Guest Edit and curate this month's selection of poems. They are a gift to begin each day with.

Q: Is there any action you would like us to take?

A: Take care of the gifts that you carry--feed them, and then share them.

More on Joy Harjo:

Our NYS Writers Institute webpage from her Albany visit, November 1, 2012

"A Q&A with Joy Harjo, poet laureate of the United States" Christian Science Monitor, April 1, 2020

"A Larger Context that Reveals Meaning: An Interview with Poet Laureate Joy Harjo" Library of Congress, March 20, 2020


Oprah asks Joy Harjo: "If you had a formula for the healing of America, it would be?"

Watch the video and then post a comment. What's your formula for the healing of America?


NYS Writers Institute

Science Library 320

University at Albany

1400 Washington Avenue
Albany, NY 12222

(518) 442-5620

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