Joy Harjo

There is occasional confusion about the nature of the United States poet laureateship: The selection of laureate has nothing to do with the president.

The poet is selected by the Librarian of Congress, meaning the laureate works for a completely different branch of the government. This is a smart and useful separation of powers: An advocate of free speech and education should not be beholden to a president, especially this one.

Shawn Miller / Library Of Congress


The new poet laureate of the United States is also the first Native American appointed to the post. We'll talk with Joy Harjo.

Poet, writer and musician Joy Harjo — a member of the Muscogee Creek Nation — often draws on Native American stories, languages and myths. But she says that she's not self-consciously trying to bring that material into her work. If anything, it's the other way around.

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Poet and musician Joy Harjo, known for drawing upon her Muskogee Creek heritage and the Southwest America landscape, has won a $100,000 prize for lifetime achievement.

The Academy of American Poets announced Thursday that the 64-year-old Oklahoma native received the Wallace Stevens Award for "proven mastery." The academy praised Harjo for her "visionary justice-seeking art" and for transforming "bitterness to beauty" and "trauma to healing."

Her books include "How We Became Human" and "The Woman Who Fell from the Sky."