November 19, 2020 Joy Harjo Appointed to Third Term as U.S. Poet Laureate

Harjo Launches Signature Project, “Living Nations, Living Words,” During Native American Heritage Month

Press Contact: Brett Zongker (202) 707-1639,
Website: Poetry and Literature

Poet Laureate of the United States Joy Harjo, June 6, 2019. Photo by Shawn Miller.

Librarian of Congress Carla Hayden has announced the appointment of U.S. Poet Laureate Joy Harjo to a third term, making Harjo the second laureate to receive this extension since terms for the position were established in 1943.

Harjo’s third term, to begin in September 2021, will offer her an opportunity to complete projects and programs whose timelines continue to be affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, including her signature project being launched today in celebration of Native American Heritage Month.

“Throughout the pandemic, Joy Harjo has shown how poetry can help steady us and nurture us. I am thankful she is willing to continue this work on behalf of the country,” said Librarian of Congress Carla Hayden. “A third term will give Joy the opportunity to develop and extend her signature project.”

For her third term, Harjo will focus on her signature project, “Living Nations, Living Words,” just launched at This digital project features an interactive ArcGIS Story Map, developed with the Library’s Geography and Map Division, which maps 47 contemporary Native American poets across the country — including Joy Harjo, Louise Erdrich, Natalie Diaz, Ray Young Bear, Craig Santos Perez, Sherwin Bitsui and Layli Long Soldier.

The map connects to a new online audio collection developed by Harjo and housed in the Library’s American Folklife Center, which features the participating poets reading and discussing an original poem. Each chose their poems based on the theme of place and displacement, and with four focal points in mind: visibility, persistence, resistance and acknowledgment.

“This has been a challenging year for the country, for our earth. Poetry has provided doorways for joy, grief and understanding in the midst of turmoil and pandemic,” Harjo said. “I welcome the opportunity of a third term to activate my project and visit communities to share Native poetry. The story of America begins with Native presence, thoughts and words. Poetry is made of word threads that weave and connect us.”

During her laureateship, which began June 19, 2019, Harjo opened her term as the nation’s first Native American poet laureate with a poetry reading and concert in the Library’s Coolidge Auditorium accompanied by a three-piece band. Her first-term closing event was canceled after the pandemic forced the closure of the Library’s public buildings, and she started her second term on Sept. 1.

Harjo has adapted to the virtual world by participating in programs such as the 2020 Library of Congress National Book Festival — in a video recorded especially for the event and by appearing in the festival’s accompanying broadcast special on PBS — as well as in “The Poetry of Home,” a virtual series developed with The Washington Post.

About Joy Harjo

Joy Harjo was born in Tulsa, Oklahoma, on May 9, 1951, and is the author of nine books of poetry, including her most recent collection, “An American Sunrise” (W.W. Norton), as well as “Conflict Resolution for Holy Beings”; “The Woman Who Fell From the Sky,” which received the Oklahoma Book Arts Award; and “In Mad Love and War” (Wesleyan University Press, 1990), which received an American Book Award and the Delmore Schwartz Memorial Award. Harjo has also written a memoir, “Crazy Brave,” which won the 2013 PEN Center USA literary prize for creative nonfiction, as well as a children’s book, “The Good Luck Cat,” and a young adult book, “For a Girl Becoming.” 

Harjo has also recently released her co-edited anthology, “When the Light of the World Was Subdued, Our Songs Came Through: A Norton Anthology of Native Nations Poetry” (Norton).

For more information on the Poet Laureateship as well as other poetry and literature programs of the Library, visit the Poetry and Literature website.

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PR 20-075
ISSN 0731-3527