Joy Harjo was born in Tulsa, Oklahoma on May 9, 1951, and is a member of the Mvskoke/Creek Nation. She received a BA from the University of New Mexico before earning an MFA from the Iowa Writers Workshop in 1978.
Harjo is a poet, musician, and playwright. She is the author of several books of poetry, including most recently 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 memoir Crazy Brave (W. W. Norton, 2012) won the 2013 PEN Center USA literary prize for creative nonfiction. Harjo has also published collections of interviews and conversations, children's books, and collaborative art texts. Her next collection, An American Sunrise, is forthcoming from W. W. Norton in September 2019.
Also a performer, Harjo has appeared on HBO's Def Poetry Jam in venues across the U.S. and internationally. She plays saxophone with her band Poetic Justice, and has released four award-winning albums. In 2009, she won a Native American Music Award (NAMMY) for Best Female Artist of the Year.
Harjo’s other honors include the 2019 Jackson Poetry Prize, the PEN Open Book Award, the American Indian Distinguished Achievement in the Arts Award, The Ruth Lilly Poetry Prize, the Josephine Miles Poetry Award, the Mountains and Plains Booksellers Award, the New Mexico Governor's Award for Excellence in the Arts, the William Carlos Williams Award from the Poetry Society of America, and the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Native Writers Circle of the Americas. She has also recieved fellowships from the Arizona Commission on the Arts, the Witter Bynner Foundation, and the National Endowment for the Arts.
In 2015 she received the Wallace Stevens Award for proven mastery in the art of poetry from the Academy of American Poets. About Harjo, Chancellor Alicia Ostiker said, “Throughout her extraordinary career as poet, storyteller, musician, memoirist, playwright and activist, Joy Harjo has worked to expand our American language, culture, and soul. 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.”
She was elected a Chancellor of the Academy of American Poets in 2019. On this occasion, Academy Chancellor Marilyn Chin said "[Harjo] is an iconic and beloved multi-genre artist. Her poetry, prose, and music have delighted, informed, and tantalized an international audience for over four decades. Her poetry displays a strong commitment to her social and political ideals as she fights tirelessly for Native American justice, ending violence against women, and a variety of important issues. Her masterful spiritual grace always shines through with compassion and forgiveness. Her poetry is a timeless gift to the world.”
Harjo is Professor of English and American Indian studies at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. She lives in Tulsa, Oklahoma.
Conflict Resolution for Holy Beings (W. W. Norton, 2015)
How We Became Human: New and Selected Poems (W. W. Norton, 2002)
A Map to the Next World: Poems (W. W. Norton, 2000)
The Woman Who Fell From the Sky (W. W. Norton, 1994)
In Mad Love and War (Wesleyan University Press, 1990)
Secrets from the Center of the World (University of Arizona Press, 1989)
She Had Some Horses (Thunder's Mouth Press, 1983; W. W. Norton, 2008))
What Moon Drove Me to This? (Reed Books, 1979)
Crazy Brave (W. W. Norton, 2012)
Soul Talk, Soul Language: Conversations with Joy Harjo (Wesleyan University Press, 2011)
For a Girl Becoming (Sun Tracks, 2009)
The Spiral of Memory: Interviews (Poets on Poetry) (University of Michigan Press, 1995)