Joy Harjo Becomes First Native American Named U.S. Poet Laureate

NEW YORK (AP) — Joy Harjo, the first Native American to be named U.S. poet laureate, has been ready for a long time.

“I’ve been an unofficial poetry ambassador — on the road for poetry for years,” the 68-year-old Harjo wrote in a recent email to The Associated Press. “I’ve often been the only poet or Native poet-person that many have seen/met/heard. I’ve introduced many poetry audiences to Native poetry and audiences not expecting poetry to be poetry.”

Her appointment was announced Wednesday by Librarian of Congress Carla Hayden, who said in a statement that Harjo helped tell an “American story” of traditions both lost and maintained, of “reckoning and myth-making.” Harjo’s term is for one year and she succeeds Tracy K. Smith, who served two terms. The position is officially called “Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry,” with a $35,000 stipend. Harjo will have few specific responsibilities, but other laureates have launched initiatives, most recently Smith’s tour of rural communities around the country.