Fifty Years of Song

Joy Harjo celebrates her life in poetry

Photograph by Shawn Miller
Photograph by Shawn Miller

In 2019, Joy Harjo was named the 23rd United States Poet Laureate, becoming the first Indigenous American to receive the honor. Born in Tulsa, Oklahoma, she is a member of the Muscogee (Creek) Nation. Her unusually varied career has included painting, screenwriting, and playing the alto saxophone, as well as teaching, editing, and writing children’s books. Harjo is marking the occasion of her semi-centenary as a poet with two books: Weaving Sundown in a Scarlet Light, which collects 50 poems for 50 years, and Catching the Light, a meditation on “the why of writing poetry.” Her work stands at the crossroads, evoking both the deeply personal and the shared experience of generations, and in it we find Creek spirits and missing women, creation myths and truck stops. Through it all, her voice is unmistakable.

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Stephanie Bastek is the senior editor of the Scholar and the producer/host of the Smarty Pants podcast.


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