Poet Joy Harjo: What's your formula for the healing of America?
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
Transcript from her event (PDF format)
"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