First Native American to be named U.S. Poet Laureate, Joy Harjo, a Member of the Muscogee Creek Nation

Harjo at “Legacies: A Conversation with Sandra Cisneros, Rita Dove, and Joy Harjo”, 2017 courtesy of Gage Skidmore under CC BY-SA 2.0

“I can hear the sizzle of newborn stars, and know anything of meaning, of the fierce magic emerging here. I am witness to flexible eternity, the evolving past, and I know we will live forever, as dust or breath in the face of stars, in the shifting pattern of winds.”Joy Harjo, Secrets from the Center of the World


I don’t think I’ve seen Laureate news spread as quickly as this announcement today by the Librarian of Congress Carla Hayden: that is, the appointment of Joy Harjo as the nation’s 23rd Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry for 2019-2020. Harjo will take up her duties in the fall, opening the Library’s annual literary season on Sept. 19 with a reading of her work in the Coolidge Auditorium.

Harjo is the first Native American poet to serve in the position – she is an enrolled member of the Muscogee Creek Nation. She succeeds Tracy K. Smith, who served two terms as laureate.

“Joy Harjo has championed the art of poetry – ‘soul talk’ as she calls it – for over four decades,” Hayden said. “To her, poems are ‘carriers of dreams, knowledge and wisdom,’ and through them she tells an American story of tradition and loss, reckoning and myth-making. Her work powerfully connects us to the earth and the spiritual world with direct, inventive lyricism that helps us reimagine who we are.”

Harjo currently lives in her hometown of Tulsa, Oklahoma, and is also the nation’s first Poet Laureate from Oklahoma.

Poet Laureate of the United States Joy Harjo, June 6, 2019. Photo by Shawn Miller, Library of Congess

“What a tremendous honor it is to be named the U.S. Poet Laureate,” Harjo said. “I share this honor with ancestors and teachers who inspired in me a love of poetry, who taught that words are powerful and can make change when understanding appears impossible, and how time and timelessness can live together within a poem. I count among these ancestors and teachers my Muscogee Creek people, the librarians who opened so many doors for all of us, and the original poets of the indigenous tribal nations of these lands, who were joined by diverse peoples from nations all over the world to make this country and this country’s poetry.”

Harjo joins a long line of distinguished poets who have served in the position, including Juan Felipe Herrera, Charles Wright, Natasha Trethewey, Philip Levine, W.S. Merwin, Kay Ryan, Charles Simic, Donald Hall, Ted Kooser, Louise Glück, Billy Collins, Stanley Kunitz, Robert Pinsky, Robert Hass and Rita Dove.

Harjo was born in Tulsa, Oklahoma, on May 9, 1951, and is the author of eight books of poetry – including “Conflict Resolution for Holy Beings” (W. W. Norton, 2015); “The Woman Who Fell From the Sky” (W. W. Norton, 1994), which received the Oklahoma Book Arts Award; and “In Mad Love and War” (Wesleyan University Press, 1990), which received an American Book Award and the Delmore Schwartz Memorial Award. Her next book of poems, “An American Sunrise,” will be published by W.W. Norton in fall 2019. Harjo has also written a memoir, “Crazy Brave” (W.W. Norton, 2012), which won the 2013 PEN Center USA literary prize for creative nonfiction, as well as a children’s book, “The Good Luck Cat” (Harcourt, Brace 2000) and a young adult book, “For a Girl Becoming” (University of Arizona Press, 2009).

As a performer, Harjo has appeared on HBO’s “Def Poetry Jam” and in venues across the U.S. and internationally. In addition to her poetry, Harjo is a musician. She plays saxophone with her band, the Arrow Dynamics Band, and previously with Poetic Justice, and has released four award-winning CDs of original music. In 2009, she won a Native American Music Award (NAMMY) for Best Female Artist of the Year.

Harjo’s many literary awards include the PEN Open Book Award, the American Indian Distinguished Achievement in the Arts Award, the New Mexico Governor’s Award for Excellence in the Arts and the Arrell Gibson Lifetime Achievement Award from the Oklahoma Center for the Book. Harjo has received fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation, the Witter Bynner Foundation, and the National Endowment for the Arts. Her collection “How We Become Human: New and Selected Poems 1975-2001” (W.W. Norton, 2002) was selected by the National Endowment for the Arts for its Big Read program. Her recent honors include the Jackson Prize from Poets & Writers (2019), the Ruth Lilly Poetry Prize from the Poetry Foundation (2017) and the Wallace Stevens Award from the Academy of American Poets (2015). In 2019, she was elected a Chancellor of the Academy of American Poets.

Harjo has taught at UCLA and was until recently a professor and chair of excellence at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville. She has returned to her hometown where she holds a Tulsa Artist Fellowship.

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This post compiled courtesy of the U.S. Library of Congress, Wikipedia, Amazon, and my personal library.

About the Laureateship

The Library of Congress Poetry and Literature Center is the home of the Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry, a position that has existed since 1937, when Archer M. Huntington endowed the Chair of Poetry at the Library. Since then, many of the nation’s most eminent poets have served as Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress and, after the passage of Public Law 99-194 (Dec. 20, 1985), as Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry – a position that the law states “is equivalent to that of Poet Laureate of the United States.”

During his or her term, the Poet Laureate seeks to raise the national consciousness to a greater appreciation of the reading and writing of poetry. The Library keeps to a minimum the specific duties required of the Poet Laureate, who opens the literary season in the fall and closes it in the spring. In recent years, Laureates have initiated poetry projects that broaden the audiences for poetry.

For more information on the Poet Laureate and the Poetry and Literature Center, visit loc.gov/poetry. Consultants in Poetry and Poets Laureate Consultants in Poetry and their terms of service can be found at loc.gov/poetry/laureate.html.

The Library of Congress is the world’s largest library, offering access to the creative record of the United States – and extensive materials from around the world – both on site and online. It is the main research arm of the U.S. Congress and the home of the U.S. Copyright Office. Explore collections, reference services and other programs and plan a visit at loc.gov, access the official site for U.S. federal legislative information at congress.gov, and register creative works of authorship at copyright.gov.


ABOUT

Recent in digital publications: 
* Four poemsI Am Not a Silent Poet
* Remembering Mom, HerStry
* Three poems, Levure littéraire
Upcoming in digital publications:
Over His Morning Coffee, Front Porch Review

A homebound writer, poet, and former columnist and associate editor of a regional employment newspaper, my work has been featured widely in print and digital publications including: Ramingo’s Porch, Vita Brevis Literature, Connotation Press, The Bar None Group, Salamander Cove, I Am Not a Silent Poet, The Compass Rose and California Woman. I run The Poet by Day, an info hub for poets and writers and am the founding/managing editor of The BeZine.


“Every pair of eyes facing you has probably experienced something you could not endure.”  Lucille Clifton



 

Poet and Writer Denis Johnson (d. May 24) to receive posthumous award for fiction

“English words are like prisms. Empty, nothing inside, and still they make rainbows.” Denis Johnson, Jesus’ Son


Upon being offered the prize in March, Johnson said, “The list of past awardees is daunting, and I’m honored to be in such company. My head’s spinning from such great news!” After a protracted struggle with liver cancer, Denis Johnson died on May 24 of this year. He was sixty-seven.

Librarian of Congress Carla Hayden announced last week that Denis Johnson (July 1, 1949 – May 24, 2017), author of the critically acclaimed collection of short stories, Jesus’ Son, and the novel Tree of Smoke, will posthumously receive the U.S. Library of Congress Prize for American Fiction during the 2017 Library of Congress National Book Festival, Sept. 2.

The National Book Festival and the prize ceremony will take place at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center in Washington, D.C. The author’s widow, Cindy Johnson, will accept the prize.

Hayden chose Johnson based on the recommendation of a jury of distinguished authors and prominent literary critics from around the world.

“Denis Johnson was a writer for our times,” Hayden said. “In prose that fused grace with grit, he spun tale after tale about our walking wounded, the demons that haunt, the salvation we seek. We emerge from his imagined world with profound empathy, a different perspective—a little changed.”

Johnson was born in Munich, West Germany, the son of an American diplomat, and spent his childhood in the Philippines and Japan before returning to spend the rest of his youth in the suburbs of Washington, D.C. He is the author of nine novels, as well as many plays, poetry collections, a short-story collection and a novella. Johnson won the National Book Award for his resonant Vietnam novel Tree of Smoke (2007), which was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize.

His short novel Train Dreams (2012) was also a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize. His most recent work, The Laughing Monsters, was published in 2014. Johnson’s many other honors include fellowships from the Guggenheim and Lannan Foundations and a Whiting Award.

Johnson’s characters were down on their luck (at least in the work that I’ve read) and created out of his own life and experience of being benched early on by alcohol and drugs, psychiatric care in his early twenties and after his first marriage. It apparently took him some time to realize that his addictions did nothing for his creativity. Once he became sober his output was prodigious. The eleven stories in Jesus’ Son, considered by many to be Johnson’s preeminent work, are linked by the same drug-addicted narrator. The fictions depict criminal activities in various parts of the U.S.

“The traveling salesmen fed me pills that made the lining of my veins feel scraped out, my jaw ached… I knew every raindrop by its name, I sensed everything before it happened. Like I knew a certain Oldsmobile would stop even before it slowed, and by the sweet voices of the family inside, I knew we’d have an accident in the rain. I didn’t care. They said they’d take me all the way.”
― Denis Johnson, Jesus’ Son

Part of this write-up is courtesy of the U.S. Library of Congress

Celebrating American She-Poets (31): Tracy K. Smith, “Like a woman journeying for water …”

Tracy K. Smith (b. 1977), Pulitzer Prize winning poet and new U.S. Poet Laureate

“When some people talk about money
They speak as if it were a mysterious lover
Who went out to buy milk and never
Came back, and it makes me nostalgic
For the years I lived on coffee and bread,
Hungry all the time, walking to work on payday
Like a woman journeying for water
From a village without a well, then living
One or two nights like everyone else
On roast chicken and red wine.”  Tracy K. Smith, Life on Mars


On Wednesday Librarian of Congress Carla Hayden announced the appointment of Tracy K. Smith as the Library’s 22nd Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry for 2017-2018. Smith will take up her duties in the fall, opening the Library’s annual literary season in September with a reading of her work in the Coolidge Auditorium.

Smith, a Pulitzer Prize-winning poet and a professor at Princeton University, succeeds Juan Felipe Herrera as Poet Laureate.

“It gives me great pleasure to appoint Tracy K. Smith, a poet of searching,” Hayden said.

“Her work travels the world and takes on its voices; brings history and memory to life; calls on the power of literature as well as science, religion and pop culture. With directness and deftness, she contends with the heavens or plumbs our inner depths—all to better understand what makes us most human.”

“I am profoundly honored,” Smith said. “As someone who has been sustained by poems and poets, I understand the powerful and necessary role poetry can play in sustaining a rich inner life and fostering a mindful, empathic and resourceful culture. I am eager to share the good news of poetry with readers and future readers across this marvelously diverse country.”

Smith joins a long line of distinguished poets who have served in the position, including Juan Felipe Herrera, Charles Wright, Natasha Trethewey, Philip Levine, W.S. Merwin, Kay Ryan, Charles Simic, Donald Hall, Ted Kooser, Louise Glück, Billy Collins, Stanley Kunitz, Robert Pinsky, Robert Hass and Rita Dove.

The new Poet Laureate is the author of three books of poetry, including Life on Mars (2011), winner of the 2012 Pulitzer Prize for Poetry; “Duende” (2007), winner of the 2006 James Laughlin Award and the 2008 Essence Literary Award; and The Body’s Question (2003), winner of the Cave Canem Poetry Prize. Smith is also the author of a memoir, Ordinary Light (2015), a finalist for the 2015 National Book Award in nonfiction and selected as a notable book by the New York Times and the Washington Post.

For her poetry, Smith has received a Rona Jaffe Writers Award and a Whiting Award. In 2014, the Academy of American Poets awarded her with the Academy Fellowship, given to one poet each year to recognize distinguished poetic achievement. In 2016, she won the 16th annual Robert Creeley Award and was awarded Columbia University’s Medal for Excellence.

In the Pulitzer Prize citation for Life on Mars, judges lauded its “bold, skillful poems, taking readers into the universe and moving them to an authentic mix of joy and pain.” Toi Derricotte, poet and Academy of American Poets chancellor, said “the surfaces of a Tracy K. Smith poem are beautiful and serene, but underneath, there is always a sense of an unknown vastness. Her poems take the risk of inviting us to imagine, as the poet does, what it is to travel in another person’s shoes.”

Born in Falmouth, Massachusetts in 1972, and raised in Fairfield, California, Tracy K. Smith earned a B.A. in English and American literature and Afro-American studies from Harvard University and an M.F.A. in creative writing from Columbia University. From 1997 to 1999, she was a Stegner Fellow in poetry at Stanford University. Smith has taught at Medgar Evers College of the City University of New York, at the University of Pittsburgh and at Columbia University. She is currently the Roger S. Berlind ’52 Professor in the Humanities and director of the creative writing program at Princeton University.


Background of the Laureateship

The Library of Congress Poetry and Literature Center is the home of the Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry, a position that has existed since 1937, when Archer M. Huntington endowed the Chair of Poetry at the Library. Since then, many of the nation’s most eminent poets have served as Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress and, after the passage of Public Law 99-194 (Dec. 20, 1985), as Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry—a position which the law states “is equivalent to that of Poet Laureate of the United States.”

During his or her term, the Poet Laureate seeks to raise the national consciousness to a greater appreciation of the reading and writing of poetry. The Library keeps to a minimum the specific duties required of the Poet Laureate, who opens the literary season in the fall and closes it in the spring. In recent years, Laureates have initiated poetry projects that broaden the audiences for poetry.


The Great Hall of the U.S. Library of Congress. Public domain photo.

The Library of Congress is the world’s largest library, offering access to the creative record of the United States—and extensive materials from around the world—both on site and online. It is the main research arm of the U.S. Congress and the home of the U.S. Copyright Office. Explore collections, reference services and other programs and plan a visit at loc.gov, access the official site for U.S. federal legislative information at congress.gov, and register creative works of authorship at copyright.gov.


This feature courtesy of the U.S. Library of Congress; photo credit slowking4 under GNU Free Documentaton License 2.0

The U.S. Library of Congress Launches New Software to Simplify the Downloading of Braille and Audio Reading Material

Library of Congress, Thomas Jefferson Building

Library of Congress, Thomas Jefferson Building

41drgudqojl-_sx365_bo1204203200_I the Library of Congress. For those of us who are writers, readers and researchers, there is nothing that quite compares to the depth and breadth of services and materials that are available and becoming increasingly accessible from the U.S. Library of Congress. Of recent note is a new software system – launched on January 4th –  to enhance the Braille and Audio Reading Download (BARD). The enhanced service uses the BARD Express, software donated to the library by a developer whose wife and son use the National Library Service (NLS, part of the Library of Congress) BARD service.

NLS is a freely available to U.S. residents and citizens living abroad whose low vision, blindness, or physical disability makes it difficult to read regular print. Local cooperating libraries throughout the United States mail NLS talking books, magazines, and playback equipment directly to enrollees at no cost. Braille books and magazines are also available at no cost. Braille and talking books and magazines also may be downloaded from the Internet through the BARD Express.

 photograph of the Great Hall in the Thomas Jefferson building The Great Hall interior

photograph of the Great Hall in the Thomas Jefferson building
The Great Hall interior

The BARD Express, a Windows-based software program, aids in the use of the NLS Braille and Audio Reading Download (BARD) service. The free software is available for download from a link on the BARD main page. If you are a patron of the NLS program and a current BARD user, log in at nlsbard.loc.gov. You must register and the application instructions are HERE. The application is intended for use by partrons or institutions in good standing with the NLS.

“BARD Express will make browsing BARD audio materials, downloading titles and transferring them to a cartridge or USB drive much easier for patrons using a PC.” said Karen Keninger, NLS director. “We hope it will make the thousands of books available on BARD readily accessible to more patrons.”

BARD Express manages audio materials that users download to their computers and categorizes the materials as books, magazines, read items and unread items for easy sorting. The program also simplifies downloading and transferring talking books to a cartridge or USB drive by providing a button that unzips and transfers the files to an external storage device. It also provides device-management options from the main menu.

Don Olson, BARD operations manager at NLS, said “BARD Express enables NLS patrons to more easily unzip the books they download from BARD. Gone are the days of having to carry out multiple file-management steps in order to place a book or magazine on an NLS cartridge or a USB drive.”

The BARD Express software provides step-by-step menus to more easily move books from a PC to a patron’s device of choice. The program also simplifies searching for titles on BARD by presenting a range of search-and-browse options from the main menu, such as search by series, search by keyword, browse the recently added and most popular lists, and browse the magazine collection.

The NLS will release the software, along with support resources—such as a BARD Express “how-to” video series, frequently-asked-questions about BARD Express and a getting-started guide to supporting library staff in the network of cooperating libraries.

Kirk Saathoff, the software developer who donated the software, said, “For years, I watched my wife sometimes become a bit annoyed with her computer, and I know software is designed without regard for people with disabilities. My hope in developing this software was that it would allow more people to enjoy books while minimizing the time and frustration involved in accessing them.”

U.S. Library of Congress, Packard Campus (Culpeper, Virginia)

U.S. Library of Congress, Packard Campus (Culpeper, Virginia) for audio-visual conservation

For more information, visit loc.gov/ThatAllMayRead/ or call 1-888-NLS-READ (1-888-657-7323).

The Library of Congress is the world’s largest library, offering access to the creative record of the United States—and extensive materials from around the world—both on site and online. It is the main research arm of the U.S. Congress and home of the U.S. Copyright Office. Explore collections, reference services and other programs and plan a visit at loc.gov, access the official site for U.S. federal legislative information at congress.gov,. Register your creative works at copyright.gov.

Photo credits ~ Thomas Jefferson Building, Carol M. Highsmith under CC BY SA 3.0 license; the great hall interior Carol M. Highsmith and generously released into the public domain; the Packard Campus, Federal Government, public domain.


51qqbcpwhul-_sx332_bo1204203200_The WordPlay Shop offers a selection of books and tools especially selected for poets and writers … and in some cases, activists. Sales from the shop go to support the maintenance of this site.  Suggested reading this week – a read for these times – is the Rev. Dr. William J. Barber’s The Third Reconstruction: How a Moral Movement is Overcoming the Politics of Division and Fear

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