Poet Laureate of the United States

Poet Laureate of the United States Joy Harjo, June 6, 2019. 

WILLIAMSBURG, Va.

Joy Harjo, the 23rd United States Poet Laureate and the first American Indian to hold the position, will speak on Saturday, June 5 at Jamestown Settlement, a museum of 17th-century Virginia history and culture. The program is being held in conjunction with the yearlong special exhibition, “FOCUSED: A Century of Virginia Indian Resilience.”

Harjo, an internationally known award-winning poet, writer, performer and saxophone player of the Muscogee (Creek) Nation in Oklahoma, is the author of nine books of poetry and two memoirs. She will speak on the theme of resilience at 10:30 a.m. during a limited-capacity event planned outdoors on the museum mall. A book-signing event will follow the presentation. The one-hour presentation is included with museum admission, and online tickets to this special performance must be purchased in advance to reserve a seat.

“FOCUSED,” a contemporary special exhibition on display through March 25, 2022, features personal and professional photography collections charting the past century of change and resilience of Virginia’s Indian population, from the passage and repeal of the Racial Integrity Act in 1924 to the contemporary efforts of 11 Virginia tribes to receive state and federal recognition. In collaboration with Virginia Indian tribal communities, the exhibition highlights themes central to Virginia Indian daily life, including the establishment and maintenance of Virginia Indian reservations and tribal lands, education, fishing and hunting, traditional crafts and cultural heritage.

Harjo’s 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), which was shortlisted for the 2016 Griffin Poetry Prize and added to American Library Association’s 2016 Notable Books List, as well as “How We Became Human: New and Selected Poems” and “She Had Some Horses.”

Her first 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, followed by her second memoir “Poet Warrior” (W. W. Norton, 2021). She is currently working on her next memoir, and she has a commission from the Public Theater of New York City to write “We Were There When Jazz Was Invented,” a musical play that aims to 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 three anthologies of American Indian writing spanning both historic and contemporary voices: “Living Nations, Living Words,” “When the Light of the World was Subdued, Our Songs Came Through” and “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 six CDs of music and poetry including her most recent, “I Pray For My Enemies,” and the award-winning album of traditional flute, “Red Dreams, 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 New York City and La Jolla 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, the Rasmuson United States Artist Fellowship. In 2014, she was inducted into the Oklahoma Writers Hall of Fame.

About Jamestown Settlement

Jamestown Settlement, open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily, is located on Route 31 just southwest of Williamsburg. Outdoor living-history areas are open 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Gift shop and café are open during museum hours. Parking is free. Museum operations have been adapted for everyone’s health and safety with protective protocols.

Joy Harjo’s presentation is included with museum admission, and online tickets to this special performance must be purchased in advance to reserve a seat for the June 5 daytime event. In case of inclement weather, the program will be held indoors to the museum’s Robins Foundation Theater. Video recording of this program is not permitted.

Jamestown Settlement admission is $18.00 for adults and $9.00 for ages 6-12, and a combination ticket is available with the American Revolution Museum at Yorktown. Children ages 5 and under are admitted free. Residents of James City County, York County and the City of Williamsburg, including William & Mary students, receive free admission with proof of residency.

Jamestown Settlement is administered by the Jamestown-Yorktown Foundation, an agency of the Commonwealth of Virginia accredited by the American Alliance of Museums. For more information, call (757) 253-4838 or visit jyfmuseums.org/joyharjo.

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