“The creative act amazes me. Whether it's poetry, whether it's music, it's an amazing process, and it has something to do with bringing forth the old out into the world to create and to bring forth that which will rejuvenate.” – Joy Harjo
Harjo, whose roots trace to a number of Native American cultures, was born in Oklahoma on this date in 1951 and thought art would be her career path. But, after studying art at the Institute for American Indian Arts in Santa Fe, NM, she went on to grad school at the University of New Mexico and fell in love with both writing and music. Since the mid-1970s, she has taught writing at half-a-dozen major universities, and also made a name for herself on the performance art circuit, playing alto saxophone with the band Poetic Justice and doing poetry readings and solo musical performances across the nation.
Among her written works are 2015’s Conflict Resolution for Holy Beings, the 2012 award-winning Crazy Brave, and a wonderful book of poetry How We Became Human: New and Selected Poems 1975–2000. She also has edited literary journals, written several screenplays, and released 5 CDs. She’s also a recent recipient of a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Native Writers' Circle of the Americas.
In the early 2000s I attended one of her performance/talks and was impressed with her dedication to writing, support for other Native American writers and artists, and commitment to Social Justice.
“I am a member of the Muskogee people. I'm a poet, a musician, a dreamer of sorts, a questioner,” she said. “It’s important as a writer to do my art well and do it in a way that is powerful and beautiful and meaningful, so that my work regenerates the people, certainly Indian people, and the earth and the sun. And in that way we all continue forever.”
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