Born in Tulsa, Oklahoma and an enrolled member of the Muskogee Tribe, Joy Harjo
came to New Mexico to attend the Institute of American Indian Arts where she
studied painting and theatre, not music and poetry, though she did write a few lyrics
for an Indian acid rock band. Joy attended the University of New Mexico
where she received her B.A. in 1976, followes by an M.F.A. from the
University of Iowa. She has also taken part in a non-degree program in Filmmaking
from the Anthropology Film Center.
She began writing poetry when the national Indian
political climate demanded singers and speakers, and was taken by the intensity
and beauty possible in the craft. Her most recent book of poetry is the award-winning
How We Became Human: New and Selected Poems. It wasn't until she
was in Denver that she took up the saxophone because she wanted to learn how to
sing and had in mind a band that would combine the poetry with a music there were
no words yet to define, a music involving elements of tribal musics, jazz and rock.
She eventually returned to New Mexico where she began the first stirrings of
what was to be Joy Harjo and Poetic Justice when she began working with Susan
Williams. Their first meeting occurred several years before in Blues Alley in
Washington, D.C., a hint of things to come.
Joy has published in magazines such as Massachusetts Review,
Ploughshares, River Styx, Contact II,
The Bloomsbury Review, Journal of Ethnic Studies,
American Voice, Sonora Review, Kenyon Review, Beloit Poetry Review, Greenfield Review and
Puerto del Sol. She has made recordings, done screenwriting,
given readings all over the world and is now performing with her own music.
Joy has taught at Arizona State University as a Lecturer in 1980-81,
at Santa Fe Community College as an Instructor in 1983-84, at the Institute
of American Indian Arts as an Instructor in 1978-79 and in 1983-84. She
was an Assistant Professor at the University of Colorado from 1985-1988,
an Associate Professor at the University of Arizona in 1988-1990 and
a Full Professor at the University of New Mexico from 1991-1995. She is currently teaching at the
University of New Mexico in Albuquerque.
Joy is a member of the PEN Advisory Board and the PEN New Mexico Advisory Board.
She has been a member of the Native American Public Broadcasting Consortium
Board of Directors from 1987 to 1990, The Phoenix Indian Center Board of
Directors in 1980-81, the Coordinating Council of Literary Magazines Grants
Panel for the Fall of 1980, the National Endowment for the Arts Policy Panel for Literature 1980-83, the New Mexico Arts Commission Advisory Panel 1979-80
and 1984, and the National Third World Writers Association Board of Directors
(which is no longer functioning).
Tracks from Native Joy for Real are now available at iTunes.
Listen to The Last World of Fire and Trash from Joy's new album
Joy was named the 2005 Writer of the Year - Film Script by the
Wordcraft Circle of Native Writers and Storytellers for the script for A Thousand Roads, 2005, made for the National Museum of the American Indian.
She was named the 2003-2004 Writer of the Year - Poetry for How We Became Human: New and Selected Poems 1975-2001 and the 2003-2004 Storyteller of the Year
or her new CD, Native Joy for Real by the Wordcraft Circle of Native Writers and Storytellers.
Joy has received the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Native Writers Circle of The Americas. She has also received the
2003 Arrell Gibson Award for Lifetime Achievement from the Oklahoma Center for the Book.
How We Became Human: New and Selected Poems won the 2003 Oklahoma Book Award for poetry.
Reinventing the Enemy's Language was a finalist for the Oklahoma Book Award in 1998.
In 1995 The Woman Who Fell From the Sky won the Oklahoma Book Award in Poetry.
Joy was named Writer of the Year for children's books in 2001 by the Wordcraft Circle of Native Writers and Storytellers
for her book The Good Luck Cat.
In 1998, Joy received a Lila Wallace-Reader's Digest Fund Writer's Award to work with the
nonprofit group Atlatl to bring literary resources to the Native American community.
She has received the New Mexico Governor's Award for Excellence in the Arts
in 1997. Joy Harjo & Poetic Justice received the Musical Artist of the Year for 1996-1997 for a CD Recording
from the Wordcraft Circle of Native Writers and Storytellers.
She has received the American Book Award from the Before Columbus
Foundation in 1991 for In Mad Love and War, as well as the Mountains and Plains Booksellers Award,
the William Carlos Williams Award from the Poetry Society of America
for the best book of poetry in 1991, and the Oakland PEN, Josephine Miles
Poetry Award in 1991. She Received the Bravo
Award from the Albuquerque Arts Alliance in 1996, the Oklahoma Book Award in 1995 for The Woman Who Fell from the Sky , the Witter Bynner Poetry Fellowship in 1994,
the Woodrow Wilson Fellowship at Green Mountain College in Poultney, VT
in 1993, and an Honorary Doctorate from Benedictine College in 1992.
Joy has held National Endowment for the Arts Creative Writing Fellowships in 1992 and 1978, and received the Delmore Schwartz Memorial Award
from New York University in 1991, the American Indian Distinguished
Achievement in the Arts Award in 1990, an Arizona Commission on the Arts Poetry Fellowship in 1989, and an NEH Summer Stipend in American Indian Literature
and Verbal Arts at the University of Arizona in 1987.
Her work has been included in the Pushcart Prize Poetry Anthologies XV
& XIII. She was named one of the Outstanding Young Women of
America in 1978 & 1984. She has taken 1st Place in Poetry
in the Santa Fe Festival of the Arts in 1980, the Writers Forum at the University of Colorado, Colorado Springs in 1977 and the University of New Mexico
Academy of American Poets Award. Joy also received the 1st and
2nd Place Awards in Drawing at the University of New Mexico
Kiva Club Nizhoni Days Art Show in 1976.