Award-winning poet, author and musician Joy Harjo, a U. of I. professor of creative writing and of English, who also is affiliated with American Indian Studies, has won the Wallace Stevens Award from the Academy of American Poets for “outstanding and proven mastery in the art of poetry.”
“Throughout her extraordinary career as poet, storyteller, musician, memoirist, playwright and activist, Joy Harjo has worked to expand our American language, culture, and soul,” said Academy of American Poets Chancellor Alicia Ostiker. “A Creek Indian and student of First Nation history, Harjo is rooted simultaneously in the natural world, in earth – especially the landscape of the American southwest – and in the spirit world. Aided by these redemptive forces of nature and spirit, incorporating native traditions of prayer and myth into a powerfully contemporary idiom, her visionary justice-seeking art transforms personal and collective bitterness to beauty, fragmentation to wholeness, and trauma to healing.”
Harjo is a member of the Mvskoke Nation of Oklahoma, and her work includes seven books of poetry, including “How We Became Human: New and Selected Poems,” “She Had Some Horses,” and “The Woman Who Fell From the Sky.” Her eighth collection of poetry, “Conflict Resolution for Holy Beings,” will be released this year.
Harjo was named a Guggenheim Fellow in 2014, and she has also received the New Mexico Governor’s Award for Excellence in the Arts, the Rasmuson United States Artist Fellowship, the William Carlos Williams Award from the Poetry Society of America, and a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Native Writers Circle of the Americas.
Her memoir, “Crazy Brave,” won the PEN USA Literary Award for Creative Non-Fiction and the American Book Award. She is using her Guggenheim Fellowship to complete her second memoir.
Harjo has written an award-winning children’s book, “The Good Luck Cat,” and 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. She has also co-edited an anthology of contemporary Native women’s writing, “Reinventing the Enemy’s Language: Native Women’s Writing of North America.”
She is also a musician, performing on the saxophone as a soloist and with her band, The Arrow Dynamics. She has released four CDs of original music, and she won a Native American Music Award in 2009 for Best Female Artist of the Year for “Winding Through the Milky Way.”
Harjo will give a reading on Sept. 16 as part of the Creative Writers Showcase of the Illinois Program for Research in the Humanities. Her reading will be at 7:30 p.m. in the Knight Auditorium at Spurlock Museum. University of Illinois music Professor Gabriel Solis will join her for a discussion of her work. The event is free and open to the public.