Joy Harjo Profile

Throughout her lengthy career, legendary poet, author, and musician Joy Harjo has broken many barriers to become one of the first female indigenous voices to cross into mainstream literature and arts. The celebrated artist has received hundreds of awards across four decades for her work, which seamlessly weaves her Muskogee Creek heritage and the southwestern American landscape with
social consciousness.

Rejected by her own publisher three times before they finally took her on, her writings and music break several stereotypes regarding Native Americans. Some of Joy’s most well known books include How We Became Human,The Woman Who Fell from the Sky, and her breakthrough She Had Some Horses, the collection that established her as prominent figure in American contemporary poetry. Her struggle and unbroken spirit are chronicled in her 2012 book, a memoir entitled Crazy Brave. Recently, she has released her eighth collection of poetry Conflict Resolution for Holy Beings.

As a saxophonist, flute player, and songwriter, she has toured the world with her band The Arrow Dynamics. A graduate of the Institute of American Indian Arts in Santa Fe, the University of New Mexico, and the Writers Workshop at the University of Iowa, Joy has taught at the University of Arizona, University of New Mexico, UCLA, and the University of Illinois.

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    Native-American Writer & Musician

    Joy Harjo was born in Tulsa, Oklahoma and is a member of the Mvskoke Nation.
    Her seven books of poetry, which includes such well-known titles as
    How We Became Human: New and Selected Poems, The Woman Who Fell From the Sky, and She Had Some Horses have garnered many awards. These include the New Mexico Governor’s Award for Excellence in the Arts, the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Native Writers Circle of the Americas; and the William Carlos Williams Award from the Poetry Society of America. For A Girl Becoming, a young adult/coming of age book, was released in 2009 and is Harjo’s most recent publication. Joy holds an M.F.A. in poetry from the University of Iowa’s famed Iowa Writer’s Workshop.

    She has released four award-winning CD′s of original music and in 2009 won a Native American Music Award (NAMMY) for Best Female Artist of the Year for “Winding Through the Milky Way.” Her most recent CD release is a traditional flute album: “Red Dreams, A Trail Beyond Tears.” She performs nationally and internationally with her band, the Arrow Dynamics. 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 recent performances at the Public Theater in NYC and La Jolla Playhouse as part of the Native Voices at the Autry. She has received a Rasmusson US Artists Fellowship and is a founding board member of the Native Arts and Cultures Foundation. Harjo writes a column “Comings and Goings” for her tribal newspaper, the Muscogee Nation News.

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Joy Harjo's Speech Descriptions

Joy Harjo’s wide-ranging experiences as an award-winning poet, musician, and performer put her in a category all her own. The distinguished artist has been praised by the Academy of American Poets for her “visionary justice-seeking art” and for transforming “bitterness to beauty” and “trauma to healing”.

Through her breathtaking poetry and spoken word program Harjo celebrates the Native American experience and the female spirit. Her words and music are at once personal and worldly, capturing the hardships and joys of what it means to be a Native American and woman at the end of the twentieth century. Harjo is also available for an evening of poetry and music.

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Books by Joy Harjo:

    She Had Some Horses

    First published in 1983 and now considered a classic, She Had Some Horses is a powerful exploration of womanhood′s most intimate moments. Joy Harjo′s poems speak of women′s despair, of their imprisonment and ruin at the hands of men and society, but also of their awakenings, power, and love.

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    How We Became Human: New and Selected Poems 1975-2001 / Edition 1

    This collection gathers poems from throughout Joy Harjo′s twenty-eight-year career, beginning in 1973 in the age marked by the takeover at Wounded Knee and the rejuvenation of indigenous cultures in the world through poetry and music. How We Became Human explores its title question in poems of sustaining grace.

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    A Map to the Next World

    In her fifth book, Joy Harjo, one of our foremost Native American voices, melds memories, dream visions, myths, and stories from America’s brutal history into a poetic whole.

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