Middle Georgia State University to Host U.S. Poet Laureate Joy Harjo

Author: News Bureau
Posted: Monday, January 6, 2020 12:00 AM
Categories: Faculty/Staff | Events- Public | School of Arts and Letters | Pressroom

Macon, GA


Note: The location for the event at 11:00 am on Wednesday, Feb. 19, has changed to the Volleyball Gym on MGA's Macon Campus.

Joy Harjo, the 2019-2020 U.S. poet laureate, is coming to Middle Georgia State University.

Harjo, the first Native American to be named U.S. poet laureate, will read from and discuss her poetry at 11 to 11:45 a.m. on Wednesday, Feb. 19, in the Volleyball Gym* on the Macon Campus. She will sign books afterward. Seating is limited.

That same day, at 5:30 p.m., she will give another reading and sign books at Ocmulgee Mounds National Historical Park in Macon.

The public is invited to her Middle Georgia State (MGA) and Ocmulgee Mounds visits. Admission is free.

The Oklahoma-born writer is a member of the Muscogee Creek Nation, which lived across the Southeastern U.S., including what is now Macon, until its forced removal to the Indian Territory west of the Mississippi in the late 1820s, according to the national park’s website. The Creek Nation continues to play a vital role in the protection of Ocmulgee. 

“Joy Harjo’s appearance is a significant event for Middle Georgia State and the region,” said Dr. Mary Wearn, dean of MGA’s School of Arts & Letters, which is co-sponsoring the event along with the Ocmulgee Mounds Association. “We are honored to host America’s current poet laureate, especially given that she is someone with such close ties to the region.”

Harjo is the 23rd United States poet laureate. The Library of Congress appoints a poet laureate each year to promote appreciation of the reading and writing of poetry. Her MGA reading is supported by the University’s Office of Experiential Learning, Honors Program, and the Master Lectures and Conversations Series. 

Born in Tulsa, Harjo is an internationally known award-winning poet, writer, performer, and saxophone player of the Mvskoke/Creek Nation. Grammy award winning saxophonist Paul Winter says, “Joy Harjo is a poet of music just as she is a poet of words.” She is the author of nine books of poetry and a memoir.

Her many writing awards include the 2019 Jackson Prize from the Poetry Society of America, the Ruth Lilly Prize from the Poetry Foundation, the 2015 Wallace Stevens Award from the Academy of American Poets, and the William Carlos Williams Award from the Poetry Society of America.

Harjo’s poetry collections include An American Sunrise (W.W. Norton, 2019); Conflict Resolution for Holy Beings (2015) (shortlisted for the 2016 Griffin Poetry Prize and added to ALA’s 2016 Notable Books List); How We Became Human: New and Selected Poems; and She Had Some Horses.

Her memoir Crazy Brave (W.W. Norton, 2012) won several awards including the PEN USA Literary Award for Creative Non-Fiction and the American Book Award. Harjo is currently working on her next memoir, and she has a commission from the Public Theater of N.Y. to write We Were There When Jazz Was Invented, a musical play that will restore southeastern natives to the American story of blues and jazz.

Soul Talk, Song Language (2011, Wesleyan) is a collection of Harjo’s essays and interviews. She co-edited an anthology of contemporary Native women’s writing: Reinventing the Enemy’s Language: Native Women’s Writing of North America, one of the London Observer’s Best Books of 1997. She wrote the award-winning children’s book The Good Luck Cat (Harcourt), and in 2009 she published a young adult, coming-of-age-book, For A Girl Becoming, which won a Moonbeam Award and a Silver Medal from the Independent Publishers Awards.

A renowned musician, Harjo performs with her saxophone nationally and internationally, solo and with her band, The Arrow Dynamics. She has five CDs of music and poetry, including her most recent award-winning album of traditional flute, Red Dreams, and A Trail Beyond Tears and Winding Through the Milky Way, which won a Native American Music Award (NAMMY) for Best Female Artist of the Year in 2009. She also performs her one-woman show, “Wings of Night Sky, Wings of Morning Light,” which premiered at the Wells Fargo Theater in Los Angeles in 2009 with other performances at the Public Theater in NYC and LaJolla Playhouse as part of the Native Voices at the Autry.

Harjo is the recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship, the New Mexico Governor’s Award for Excellence in the Arts, and the Rasmuson United States Artist Fellowship. In 2014 she was inducted into the Oklahoma Writers Hall of Fame.


*MGA maps and directions are at https://www.mga.edu/about/maps.php. The Volleyball Gym is building #11 on the map, near the tennis courts.