The Creative Writing Program is honored to welcome internationally recognized poet, author, musician, and playwright Joy Harjo as a Professor and Chair of Excellence. “I am thrilled and proud to have Joy Harjo as a colleague,” Marilyn Kallet said. “I have admired her and her poetry ever since I reviewed In Mad Love and War in 1990. I learned that Joy Harjo started out as a visual artist; one can sense the love of design in everything she writes. In her lines there’s a fierce connectedness to the natural world and to all living beings that we urban dwellers often lose sight of. This connectedness fuels her writings on social justice, on tribal life, and charges up her love poetry. Truly, Joy Harjo is one of the great love poets of our time. Her poems are electric, shot with lightning and storms, harnessed by the skilled seer.”
Harjo was born in Tulsa, Oklahoma and is an enrolled and active member of the Mvskoke Nation, with maternal ties to the Cherokee Nation. She earned her BA from the University of New Mexico and MFA from the Iowa Writers’ Workshop. She is the author of nine books of poetry, a memoir, Crazy Brave, which won the American Book Award and the Delmore Schwartz Memorial Award, as well as many other works. Her most recent book of poems, Conflict Resolution with Holy Beings, W.W. Norton, 2015, won the Wallace Stevens Award for Lifetime Achievement from the Academy of American Poets. A few of her many other honors include a Guggenheim Foundation Fellowship, a National Endowment for the Arts fellowship, the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Native Writers Circle of the Americas, the William Carlos Williams Award from the Poetry Society of America, and the New Mexico Governor’s Award for Excellence in the Arts. For A Girl Becoming, a young adult/coming of age book, was released in 2009. Currently she is serving as a judge for the 2015 National Book Award in poetry.
Harjo is currently working on a play, Wings of Night Sky, Wings of Morning Light, forthcoming from Wesleyan University Press, and Song Lines of Justice, a historical memoir, for W.W. Norton. Her musical play, We Were There When Jazz Was Born, has been commissioned by the New York Public Theater. Joy Harjo has released five award-winning CD’s of original music and in 2009 won a Native American Music Award for Best Female Artist of the Year for Winding Through the Milky Way. Her most recent CD release is a traditional flute album: Red Dreams, A Trail Beyond Tears. She performs nationally and internationally with her band, the Arrow Dynamics. She is a founding board member of the Native Arts and Cultures Foundation and writes a column, “Comings and Goings,” for her tribal newspaper, the Muscogee Nation News.
Joy Harjo brings to the Creative Writing Program and to the University of Tennessee her distinction as a major figure in contemporary American poetry, her expertise in Native American studies, and her background in creative non-fiction, drama, and music. Her service to the community is as extensive as her publications. We are pleased to welcome her.