Joy Harjo

Native American Poet and Musician

U.S. Poet Laureate Joy Harjo was born in Tulsa, Oklahoma and is an enrolled member of the Muscogee Creek Nation. She is the daughter of a Creek father and a Cherokee-French mother. Her father was a sheet-metal worker from a famous Creek family. His great-grandfather was a Native American leader in the Red Stick War against President Andrew Jackson in the 1800s. Harjo’s mother was a waitress of mixed Cherokee, Irish, and French descent. Growing up, Harjo was surrounded by artists and musicians, but she did not know any poets. Her mother wrote songs, her grandmother played saxophone, and her aunt was an artist. These influential women inspired Harjo to explore her creative side. Harjo recalls that the very first poem she wrote was in eighth grade. However, Harjo did not start to write professionally until later in life. She became a writer, academic, musician, and Native American activist whose poems feature Indian symbolism and history. Her poems also deal with social and personal issues, notably feminism, and with music, particularly Jazz.

In 2019, Harjo was elected a Chancellor of the Academy of American Poets and became the first Native American United States Poet Laureate from the Library of Congress. She has also written several film scripts, television plays, and released five albums of original music. In 2009, she won a NAMMY (Native American Music Award) for Best Female Artist of the Year.

Interview with Joy Harjo

Program Credits:
Joy Harjo — Interviewee
John Erling — Interviewer
Mel Myers — Announcer

Honest Media
Mel Myers — Audio Editor

Müllerhaus Legacy Website Team
Douglas Miller — Art Director
Mark DeMoss — Webmaster
Kristin Stroup — Upload Coordinator

Date Created: November 5, 2020

Date Published: November 20, 2020

Notes: Recorded by John Erling in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Digital Audio Sound Recording, Non-Music.

Tags: Muskogee, Creek Nation, Poet Laureate, New Mexico, Scott Momaday, Tattoos, Jazz Hall of Fame, Tulsa Artist Fellowship, Horses, Poetry