Joy Harjo

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Joy Harjo
Joy Harjo.jpg
Harjo in 2012
Born May 9, 1951
Tulsa, Oklahoma, USA
Occupation Author, poet, performer, educator
Nationality Mvskoke and American
Genre Poetry, non-fiction, fiction
Literary movement Native American Renaissance

Joy Harjo (born May 9, 1951) is a Mvskoke poet, musician, and author. She is often cited as playing a formidable role in the second wave of what critic Kenneth Lincoln termed the Native American Renaissance of the late 20th century. She is the author of such books as Conflict Resolution for Holy Beings (2015), Crazy Brave (2012), and How We Became Humans: New and Selected Poems 1975 - 2002 (2004).


Joy Harjo was born in Tulsa, Oklahoma in 1951 and is a member of the Muscogee (Creek) Nation, with partial Cherokee descent. She is a graduate of the Iowa Writers' Workshop at the University of Iowa.

Known primarily as a poet and musician, Harjo has also taught at the college level, played alto saxophone with the band Poetic Justice, edited literary journals, and written screenplays.

In 1995, Harjo received the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Native Writers' Circle of the Americas.[1]

In 2002, Harjo received the PEN Open Book Award, formerly known as the Beyond Margins Award for A Map to the Next World: Poetry and Tales. In 2008, she served as a founding member of the Board of Directors for the Native Arts and Cultures Foundation,[2] for which she currently serves as a member of its National Advisory Council.[3]

Harjo joined the faculty of the American Indian Studies Program at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in January 2013.[4]

In 2016 Harjo was appointed to the Chair of Excellence in the Department of English at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville.

Literature and Performance[edit]

Harjo is a highly praised writer and has written several works within the genres of poetry, books, and plays. Harjo's works often include themes such as defining self, the arts, justice, and several others.[Literature Resource Center 1] Harjo uses the oral tradition as a mechanism for portraying these issues, and believes that "written text is, for [her], fixed orality".[Literature Resource Center 2] Her use of the oral tradition is prevalent through various literature readings and musical performances conducted by Harjo. Her methods of oral tradition include story-telling, singing, and voice inflection in order to captivate the attention of her audiences. While reading poetry she claims that "[she] starts not even with an image but a sound," which is indicative of her oral traditions presenting themselves through performance.[Literature Resource Center 3]


As well as being an acclaimed author and poet, Harjo is also a musician. Harjo's mother was a singer, which influenced her to play the alto saxophone and the flute.[5] She also sings and acts, frequently traveling with her group known as the Arrow Dynamics.[5] She won the Native American Music Award in 2009 for best female artist and has received several other awards for her published CDs.[5]


Harjo is currently an active follower of political and Native American affairs within the United States. Her website contains several blogs consisting of her stance on current political issues and her strong support for women's rights and equality.[5] She is also an active member of the Muscogee Tribe and uses her poetry as "a voice of the indigenous people".[6]




  • 1st Place in Poetry in the Santa Fe Festival of the Arts (1980)
  • Outstanding Young Women of America (1984)
  • New Mexico Music Awards (1987)
  • NEH Summer Stipend in American Indian Literature and Verbal Arts, University of Arizona (1987)
  • Arizona Commission on the Arts Poetry Fellowship (1989)


  • The American Indian Distinguished Achievement in the Arts Award (1990)
  • Delmore Schwartz Memorial Award, New York University: In Mad Love and War (1991)
  • Oakland PEN, Josephine Miles Poetry Award (1991)
  • William Carlos Williams Award from the Poetry Society of America (1991)
  • American Book Award from the Before Columbus Foundation: In Mad Love and War (1991)
  • Honorary Doctorate from Benedictine College (1992)
  • Woodrow Wilson Fellowship at Green Mountain College in Poultney, Vermont (1993)
  • Witter Bynner Poetry Fellowship (1994)
  • Lifetime Achievement Award from the Native Writers Circle of The Americas (1995)[1]
  • Oklahoma Book Award: The Woman Who Fell from the Sky (1995)
  • Bravo Award from the Albuquerque Arts Alliance (1996)
  • Wordcraft Circle of Native Writers and Storytellers Musical Artist of the Year: Poetic Justice (1997)
  • New Mexico Governor's Award for Excellence in the Arts (1997)
  • Lila Wallace-Reader's Digest Fund Writer's Award for work with nonprofit group Atlatl in bringing literary resources to Native American communities (1998)
  • Finalist for the Oklahoma Book Award: Reinventing the Enemy's Language (1998)
  • National Endowment for the Arts Creative Writing Fellowships (1998)


  • Writer of the Year/children's books by the Wordcraft Circle of Native Writers and Storytellers for The Good Luck Cat (2001)
  • Oklahoma Book Award for Poetry How We Became Human: New and Selected Poems 1975-2001 (2003)
  • Arrell Gibson Award for Lifetime Achievement from the Oklahoma Center How We Became Human: New and Selected Poems 1975-2001 (2003)
  • Storyteller of the Year Native Joy for Real by the Wordcraft Circle of Native Writers and Storytellers. (2004)
  • Writer of the Year - Poetry How We Became Human: New and Selected Poems 1975-2001 (2004)
  • Wordcraft Circle of Native Writers and Storytellers "Writer of the Year" for the script A Thousand Roads (2005)
  • United States Artists Rasmuson Fellows Award (2008)
  • Eagle Spirit Achievement Award (2009)
  • Nammy Native American Music Award (2009)


  • Mvskoke Women's Leadership Award (2011)
  • John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation Fellowship (2014)[7]
  • Wallace Stevens Award in Poetry by the Academy of American Poets Board of Chancellors[8]


  • University of New Mexico Academy of American Poets Award.
  • Mountains and Plains Booksellers Award
  • Featured in Pushcart Prize Poetry Anthologies XV & XIII




  • I Give You Back .
  • When the World As We Knew It Ended .
  • The Last Song, Puerto Del Sol, 1975 .
  • What Moon Drove Me to This?, I. Reed Books, 1979, ISBN 978-0918408167 .
  • Remember, Strawberry Press, 1981 .
  • She Had Some Horses, Thunder's Mouth Press, 1983, ISBN 978-1560251194 ; W. W. Norton & Company, 2008, ISBN 978-0393334210.
  • New Orleans, 1983 .
  • The Woman Hanging from the Thirteenth Floor Window, 1983 .
  • Secrets from the Center of the World, University of Arizona Press, 1989, ISBN 978-0816511136 .
  • In Mad Love and War, Wesleyan University Press, 1990, ISBN 978-0819511829 .
  • Fishing, Ox Head Press, 1992 .
  • The Woman Who Fell From the Sky, W. W. Norton & Company, 1994, ISBN 978-0393037159 .
  • A Map to the Next World, W. W. Norton & Company, 2000, ISBN 978-0393047905 .
  • How We Became Human New and Selected Poems: 1975 - 2001, W. W. Norton & Company, 2004, ISBN 978-0-393-32534-8 .
  • Conflict Resolution for Holy Beings: Poems, W. W. Norton & Company, 2015, ISBN 978-0-393-24850-0 . (shortlisted for the 2016 Griffin Poetry Prize)

As editor[edit]

  • Reinventing the Enemy's Language: Contemporary Native Women's Writings of North America, W.W. Norton & Company, 1998, ISBN 978-0393318289 .


  • Soul Talk, Song Language: Conversations with Joy Harjo, Wesleyan University Press, 2011, ISBN 978-0819571519 .
  • Crazy Brave: A Memoir, W. W. Norton & Company, 2012, ISBN 978-0393073461 .

Children's literature[edit]


Joy Harjo[edit]

  • Native Joy for Real (2004)
  • She Had Some Horses (2006)
  • Winding Through the Milky Way (2008)
  • Red Dreams: A Trail Beyond Tears (2010)

"Crossing the Border"

Joy Harjo and Poetic Justice[edit]

  • Letter From the End of the Twentieth Century (1997)

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b "Lifetime Achievement Awards from the Native Writers Circle of America". Storytellers: Native American Authors Online. Karen M. Strom. Retrieved 2015-05-01. 
  2. ^ Pogrebin, Robin (April 21, 2009). "New Group Is Formed to Sponsor Native Arts". The New York Times. Retrieved 2015-05-01. 
  3. ^ "NACF National Leadership Council Members". Archived from the original on April 24, 2009. Retrieved 2014-05-14. 
  4. ^ "Current News, American Indian Studies Program, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign". University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Archived from the original on October 29, 2013. Retrieved 2012-09-29. 
  5. ^ a b c d Harjo, Joy. "Joy Harjo". Retrieved May 24, 2016. 
  6. ^ Scarry, John (1994). "Joy Harjo: Overview". Reference Guide to American Literature. 
  7. ^ "Joy Harjo - 2014 John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation Fellow". Archived from the original on May 17, 2014. 
  8. ^ "Wallace Stevens Award". Retrieved 9 April 2016. 


  1. ^ Kingsbury, Pam (June 15, 2002). "Harjo, Joy. How We Became Human: New and Selected Poems.". Library Journal. 
  2. ^ Acosta, Belinda (2014). "Joy Harjo. Crazy Brave: A Memoir.". Prairie Schooner: 160+. 
  3. ^ Scarry, John (1994). "Joy Harjo: Overview.". Reference Guide to American Literature. 
  • Bochynski, Pegge (2002). "She Had Some Horses". In Jason, Philip K. Masterplots II: Poetry (revised ed.). Pasadena, CA: Salem Press. pp. 3369–3371. ISBN 978-1587650376. 
  • Bochynski, Pegge (2003a). "Joy Harjo". In Parini, Jay. American Writers: A Collection of Literary Biographies, Supplement XII. New York: Charles Scribner's Sons. pp. 215–234. ISBN 978-0684197852. 
  • Bochynski, Pegge (2003b). "Review of How We Became Human: New and Selected Poems: 1975-2001 by Joy Harjo". In Wilson, John D.; Kellman, Steven G. Magill's Literary Annual 2003: Books of 2002. Pasadena, CA: Salem Press. pp. 379–383. ISBN 978-1587651298. 
  • Stone, Louise M.; Bochynski, Pegge (2006). "Joy Harjo". In Kellman, Steven G. Magill Survey of American Literature (revised ed.). Pasadena, CA: Salem Press. pp. 980–988. ISBN 978-1587652851. 
  • Azfar Hussain. "Joy Harjo and Her Poetics as Praxis: A 'Postcolonial' Political Economy of the Body, Land, Labor, and Language." wicazo sa review: A Journal of Native American Studies 15.2 (2000) 27-61

External links[edit]