Institute of American Indian Arts’ Joy Harjo Receives Prestigious Award

Sep 16th, 2015 | By | Category: Online TC News, Tribal College News, Web Exclusive
By Eric Davis

Joy Harjo

Joy Harjo (Mvskoke/Creek), an alumnus of the Institute of American Indian Arts (IAIA) has received the 2015 Wallace Stevens Award for mastery in the art of poetry from the Academy of American Poets. Her seven books of poetry include, She Had Some Horses and Conflict Resolution for Holy Beings. She is also the recipient of the New Mexico Governor’s Award for Excellence in the Arts, a Rasmussen U.S. Artists Fellowship, the William C. Williams Award from the Poetry Society of America, and a Guggenheim Fellowship.

Harjo has also written a memoir, Crazy Brave, which describes her journey to becoming a poet, and which won the 2013 PEN Center USA literary prize for creative nonfiction.  Harjo’s other honors include the American Indian Distinguished Achievement in the Arts Award, the Josephine Miles Poetry Award, the Mountains and Plains Booksellers Award, and fellowships from the Arizona Commission on the Arts, the Witter Bynner Foundation, and the National Endowment for the Arts.

“Throughout her extraordinary career as poet, storyteller, musician, memoirist, playwright, and activist, Joy Harjo has worked to expand our American language, culture, and soul,” states Alicia Ostiker, the Academy of American Poets chancellor. “A Creek Indian and student of First Nation history, Harjo is rooted simultaneously in the natural world, in earth—especially the landscape of the American southwest—and in the spirit world. Aided by these redemptive forces of nature and spirit, incorporating Native traditions of prayer and myth into a powerfully contemporary idiom,  her visionary justice-seeking art transforms personal and collective bitterness to beauty, fragmentation to wholeness, and trauma to healing.”

Harjo attended IAIA when it was still a high-school. She received a BA degree from the University of New Mexico before earning an MFA from the Iowa Writers Workshop in 1978. She is a professor of English and American Indian studies at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

In an interview with Indian Country Today Media Network, Harjo expressed her feelings about receiving this award: “I had no idea. Never in a million years. I am deeply, deeply moved … and honored. I feel like it’s a doorway for Native writers, poets, and women. Not many women have won this award and no Natives. I am stunned. It’s still not fixed… in my thinking. It’s for my Mom, my teachers, it’s for the kids coming up, for the Native poets, and it’s for ALL the young writers coming up. Everything is poetry. It’s all poetry, it’s all in the words, in songs, in lyrics. My Mom used to write songs. Poetry is like singing to me. Even on paper.”

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