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2020/21 Portland Arts & Lectures: Joy Harjo

Tue, April 20 from 6:00 pm - 8:00 pm PDT

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Joy Harjo is a renowned performer and writer of the Muscogee (Creek) Nation and was named the 23rd Poet Laureate of the United States in 2019. Harjo is the author of nine books of poetry—most recently An American Sunrise—several plays and children’s books, and a memoir, Crazy Brave. She has received numerous prominent awards, including the 2017 Ruth Lilly Poetry Prize and 2015 Wallace Stevens Award. The Librarian of Congress, Carla Hayden, says: “Her work powerfully connects us to the earth and the spiritual world with direct, inventive lyricism that helps us reimagine who we are.” Born in Tulsa, Oklahoma, Harjo earned her MFA at the Iowa Writ­ers’ Work­shop and has taught Eng­lish, Cre­ative Writ­ing, and Amer­i­can Indi­an Stud­ies at numerous universities, while per­form­ing music and poet­ry nation­al­ly and internationally. Harjo is the editor of the forthcoming When the Light of the World was Subdued, Our Songs Came Through (W. W. Norton, 2020), the first historically comprehensive Native poetry anthology.




“Poetry is the voice of what can’t be spoken, the mode of truth-telling when meaning needs to rise above or skim below everyday language in shapes not discernible by the ordinary mind. It trumps the rhetoric of politicians. Poetry is prophetic by nature and not bound by time. Because of these qualities poetry carries grief, heartache, ecstasy, celebration, despair, or searing truth more directly than any other literary art form. It is ceremonial in nature. Poetry is a tool for disruption and creation and is necessary for generations of humans to know who they are and who they are becoming in the wave map of history. Without poetry, we lose our way.” (Poets.org)


“History is people. History is stories. It’s poetry. And that’s what I love about poetry, and that’s how poetry teaches me. Poetry has taught me that you can time-travel in a poem. You can get to know people in a poem. And poetry is the place you can come to when you have no words.” (PBS)


“I am seen as a feminist poet. The way I interpret feminism in my own work is the power of a woman to be a warrior—to recognize the warrior characteristics within herself, which include self-love, vulnerability, honesty, integrity, a sense of morals, and so on.” (Poets & Writers)



“Her work powerfully connects us to the earth and the spiritual world with direct, inventive lyricism that helps us reimagine who we are.” – Carla Hayden, Librarian of Congress


“[Harjo] can have a kind of great sweeping vision and still speak so directly as one human being to another in a way that I can’t help but feel completely moved by and believe in.” – Rob Casper, Head of the Poetry and Literature Center at the Library of Congress


Praise for An American Sunrise:


“Radiant.… [A] profound, brilliantly conceived song cycle, celebrating ancestors, present and future generations, historic endurance and fresh beginnings.” — Jane Ciabattari , BBC

“Rich and deeply engaging, An American Sunrise creates bridges of understanding while reminding readers to face and remember the past.” – Elizabeth Lund, Washington Post



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