US Poet Laureate Joy Harjo to speak at Notre Dame

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Joy Harjo

Joy Harjo

Joy Harjo, the 23rd poet laureate of the United States and the first Native American to hold the position, will speak at Notre Dame at 7 p.m. Feb. 22. The online event is free and open to the public, but registration is required.

An Evening with Joy Harjo is presented by Multicultural Student Programs and Services, the new Notre Dame Initiative on Race and Resilience and the Native American Student Association of Notre Dame. The event is part of the University’s Walk the Walk Week, which runs Feb. 22-28.

Harjo, of the Muscogee (Creek) Nation, is an internationally renowned poet, musician, performer and writer. She is the author of nine books of poetry, several plays and children's books and two memoirs, “Crazy Brave” and “Poet Warrior: A Call for Love and Justice.” 

Harjo is the exec­u­tive edi­tor of the anthol­o­gy “When the Light of the World was Sub­dued, Our Songs Came Through — A Nor­ton Anthol­o­gy of Native Nations Poet­ry” and the editor of “Living Nations, Living Words: An Anthology of First Peoples Poetry,” the companion anthology to her signature poet laureate project, an interactive story map and audio collection featuring Native Nations poets. 

At the Notre Dame event, Harjo will read some of her poetry and participate in a Q&A moderated by Native American Student Association President Mikaela Murphy and Mark A. Sanders, professor of English and Africana studies and director of the Initiative on Race and Resilience. 

Murphy, who first started reading Harjo’s work when she was in high school, said she has been working to try to bring the poet to campus since Harjo was named poet laureate in 2019. 

“Notre Dame has a long history with Native Peoples, and this is one of the ways that students and faculty can support the Native population here,” Murphy said. 

“This is an excellent opportunity for people who don’t know much about Native literature to hear from a Native poet firsthand. And Joy Harjo’s poetry promotes so much strength and resilience in times of hardship, which I think the entire campus community and beyond would benefit from during this time of the pandemic.”

The Initiative on Race and Resilience is honored to host Harjo for its inaugural event, Sanders said. “Celebrating the expressive cultures of BIPOC (Black, Indigenous and people of color) communities is a vital part of our mission to challenge systemic racism and to advance racial equality through research, education and community empowerment.”

Sanders added that the Initiative also recently announced a partnership with the Notre Dame Institute for Advanced Study to bring award-winning poet Reginald Dwayne Betts to Notre Dame as an artist-in-residence for the 2021-22 academic year. For more information on the new initiative, visit raceandresilience.nd.edu.

Originally published by Arts and Letters at raceandresilience.nd.edu on Feb. 15.