An Oklahoma native was named U.S. poet laureate, becoming the first ever Native American and first Oklahoman appointed to the position, according to an article by NPR.
Joy Harjo, 68, is a Muscogee Creek poet, musician and writer from Tulsa, Oklahoma, according to the article. She will serve as the country’s 23rd poet laureate consultant in poetry when she is sworn in this fall.
“It's such an honoring for Native people in this country, when we've been so disappeared and disregarded. But it's quite an honor,” Harjo said in the article. “I bear that honor on behalf of the people and my ancestors. That's really exciting for me."
The Library of Congress describes the role of U.S. poet laureate as "the nation's official poet," according to the article.
According to the Library of Congress’ website, the library “keeps to a modest minimum the specific official duties it requires of the Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to afford each incumbent maximum freedom to work on his or her own projects while at the Library. Each appointee brings a new emphasis to the position.”
Rep. Tom Cole, R-Okla., released a statement Wednesday congratulating Harjo.
“I am very pleased to congratulate Oklahoma’s own Joy Harjo on her historic appointment,” Cole said in the statement. “Joy Harjo’s unique tribal heritage and distinguished career as a poet, performer and professor will indeed make her an excellent contributor as Poet Laureate at the Library of Congress. In the days ahead, I know she will be a phenomenal teacher of the arts and tremendous ambassador for the compelling stories and traditions of Native Americans nationwide.”
Harjo is the author of eight books of poetry, including the book “In Mad Love and War (1990),” an American Book Award winner. She has also written a memoir and literature for children and young adults, according to the article.
Harjo has a new collection of poetry, “An American Sunrise,” which is set to be published in August, according to the article.
Harjo has taught at the University of California, Los Angeles, and the University of Tennessee, according to the article.
Harjo hopes to continue serving as an “ambassador” for poetry as poet laureate, according to the article.
"Since I started writing in 1973, I've almost always been on the road with poetry, and meeting people and communities for years on behalf of poetry — and the gift that poetry brings to all of us," Harjo said in the article.
Harjo said in the article that poetry can help people to get past their differences.
"I really believe if people sit together and hear their deepest feelings and thoughts beyond political divisiveness, it makes connections,” Harjo said in the article. “There's connections made that can't be made with politicized language.”