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Joy (Foster) Harjo (b. 1951)

Poet, Musician, Author

 

Last updated 7/15/2017 at 1:10pm

K.B. Schaller

Joy Harjo is Professor of English and American Indian studies at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, and has taught in a number of other universities in the United States. She discovered and developed her artistic voice while studying at the Institute of American Indian Arts, earned a BA degree from the University of New Mexico, and her MFA from the University of Iowa's Creative Writers Workshop Program.

"Joy Harjo...transforms personal and collective bitterness to beauty, fragmentation to wholeness, and trauma to healing."

-Alicia Ostiker, Chancellor, Academy of American Poets

Multi-talented artist Joy Harjo is considered as pivotal in the artistic Native American Renaissance during the latter half of the 20th Century. Born Joy Foster in Tulsa, Oklahoma she took her paternal grandmother's surname when she enrolled in the Muscogee (Mvskoke/Creek ) Nation.

She discovered and developed her artistic voice while studying at the Institute of American Indian Arts, earned a BA degree from the University of New Mexico, and her MFA from the University of Iowa's Creative Writers Workshop Program (1978).

Joy Harjo is Professor of English and American Indian studies at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, and has taught in a number of other universities in the United States.

Also a Spoken Word performer-an art that focuses on the beauty of voice inflection, word play and intonation-Harjo has performed her poems in venues that include HBO's Def Poetry Jam and has also performed internationally.

Harjo's many poems include Conflict Resolution for Holy Beings (2015) in which she intones, "I have broken my addiction to War and desire; In Mad Love and War (1990) and She Had Some Horses (1983).

Among her prestigious honors in poetry are the Wallace Stevens Award by the Academy of American Poets (2015); Griffin Poetry Prize (2016); Ruth Lilly Poetry Prize (2017); and an American Indian Distinguished Achievement in the Arts Award.

A musician also, Joy Harjo plays the saxophone with her band Poetic Justice, and in 2009, won a Native American Music Award (NAMMY) for Best Female Artist of the Year. Joy Harjo has also garnered awards for four of her original music CDs.

She is author of the award-winning children's book, The Good Luck Cat (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2000).

Harjo's Crazy Brave: A Memoir has been called "musical, transcendent...poetic," and won the 2013 PEN Center USA literary prize for creative nonfiction. In it Harjo chronicles her journey to becoming a poet, and reveals that in learning to dodge an abusive stepfather as a child, she found shelter in her imagination.

Crazy Brave also describes Harjo's struggles on her own after giving birth as a single teenager; her memoir further narrates her experiences of betrayal and her difficult life as she transformed into the unique award-winning musician, author and poet the world now knows.

When not performing or teaching, Joy Harjo resides in Honolulu, Hawaii.

References:

Amazon Author Biography, Joy Harjo, Crazy Brave: A Memoir

Buntin, Simmons B., Interview About Poet and Musician

Joy Harjo, The Roots of Poetry Lead to Music, Poets.org website, Joy Harjo

Poetry Foundation Website, Joy Harjo,

Poet Details

Wikipedia, Joy Harjo

Poet Joy Harjo web page

KB Schaller (Cherokee/Seminole heritage) is a journalist, novelist, and illustrator. A version of this article appears in 100+ Native American Women Who Changed the World by KB Schaller, winner, 2014 International Book Award, Women's Issues Category. Her books are available through Amazon.com and other bookstores. She lives in South Florida. Email: soaring-eagles@msn.com; http://www.KBSchaller.com

 
 

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