NEW YORK, June 19 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - The United States on Wednesday named its first Native American to the role of poet laureate, a woman whose poetry reflects the struggles and stories of indigenous people in America.
The poems of Joy Harjo, a member of the Muscogee Creek Nation, are “carriers of dreams, knowledge and wisdom,” said U.S. Librarian of Congress Carla Hayden, who made the announcement.
The job of U.S. poet laureate is raising national appreciation of reading and writing poetry, and they often launch projects to expand the audience for poetry, the Library of Congress said.
Harjo “tells an American story of tradition and loss, reckoning and myth-making,” Hayden said.
“Her work powerfully connects us to the earth and the spiritual world with direct, inventive lyricism that helps us reimagine who we are,” she said in a statement.
Harjo, who lives in Tulsa, Oklahoma, has written eight books of poetry and taught as a university professor.
She said she shared the honor of being named poet laureate “with ancestors and teachers who inspired in me a love of poetry, who taught that words are powerful and can make change when understanding appears impossible.”
Harjo joins such well-known poets as Billy Collins and Robert Pinsky who have served in the role.
She follows poet Tracy K. Smith and is among several women who have been poet laureates. Louise Bogan was the first woman to hold the post, when its title was consultant in poetry, in 1945.
The U.S. Library of Congress is the world’s largest library, the main research arm of Congress and the home to the U.S. Copyright Office.
Reporting by Ellen Wulfhorst, Editing by Claire Cozens. Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women's and LGBT+ rights, human trafficking, property rights and climate change. Visit http://news.trust.org