Joy Harjo

Joy Harjo

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).

Album cover

Tracks from Native Joy for Real are now available at iTunes. badgeitunes139x31lite

Listen to The Last World of Fire and Trash from Joy's new album

See a video clip of Eagle Song from the Vision Maker Video site.

Joy can be heard on the new spoken word CD standing ground.

A short biography from the Internet Public Library's Native American Author's Project is available.

The Academy of American Poets web site has a short biography page available on Joy.

Poetry Magazine featured Joy Harjo in their March 2003 Issue.


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.

Writing Available Online

Joy's Blog (weblog)
Eagle Poem
She Had Some Horses
Santa Fe
September Moon
and from Secrets From The Center of the World
I discover where giant butterflies burrow and dream.
Don't bother the earth spirit who lives here.
And in the season of new grass my birth is more visible
In winter it is easier to see what my death might look like
I don't imagine the turquoise bracelet the dusky wash makes
Two sisters meet on horseback.
Scarlet bluffs gather here to drink
These smoky bluffs are old traveling companions
Stories are our wealth.
If winter describes the frozen angles of this sandy wash
These tamaracks pretend to be tamaracks
It's true the landscape forms the mind.
I can hear the sizzle of newborn stars
In a misty dawn at the center of the world
Six poems by Joy in The Drunken Boat
    No, Rushing the Pali, I Am Not Ready To Die Yet , Equinox, It's Raining in Honolulu,
    & In Honor of Mo Who Is Our Cat, and We Are Hers
Perhaps the World Ends Here [from the Raven Chronicles website]
Deer Dancer [from The Academy of American Poets website]
Equinox [from The Academy of American Poets website]
Boston in Ploughshares
Desire in Ploughshares
Hieroglyphic in Ploughshares
Fishing (including a reading of the poem) [From the Favorite Poem Project]
Remember [From the University of New Mexico Women's Studies Dept.]
I Give You Back [from the Poets & Writers Series site at St. Andrews University]
Perhaps the World Ends Here [from the Poets & Writers Series site at St. Andrews University]
The Women Hanging From the Thirteenth Floor Window

Other Web Sites with Joy Harjo Information

Book Cover

The Native Joy website for her music and performances.

Joy was featured in the Writing the Southwest radio series.

The World's Best Poetry on CD contain's some of Joy's poetry

Annotations on 3 of Joy's poems, from the Hippocrates Project at the New York University School of Medicine.

Book cover

We now have a bookshop for those living in Canada or Europe!

Our Bookstore for Books by and about Joy Harjo       icon

How We Became Human: New and Selected Poems, W. W. Norton. (Hardcover)
Native America Calling interview with Joy on How We Became Human: New and Selected Poems
The Good Luck Cat, children's book, Harcourt Brace.
A Map to the Next World: Poems and Tales, W. W. Norton.
Native America Calling interview with Joy on A Map to the Next World: Poems and Tales
Reinventing the Enemy's Language : Contemporary Native Women's Writing of North America
(Edited by Joy Harjo and Gloria Bird), W.W. Norton. Publisher's page.
Review of Reinventing the Enemy's Language by Philip H. Red Eagle [From Raven Chronicles]
The Woman Who Fell From the Sky, W.W. Norton
From the Publisher's catalog
Fishing (miniature fine press), Oxhead Press 1992.
In Mad Love and War, Wesleyan University Press.
Secrets From The Center Of The World (photographs by Stephen E. Strom)
(Sun Tracks Books, No. 17) University of Arizona Press.
She Had Some Horses, Thunder's Mouth Press
Review from the University of New Mexico Women's Studies Dept.
What Moon Drove Me to This?, I. Reed Press
The Last Song, Puerto del Sol Press.
The Spiral of Memory: Interviews
Joy Harjo, ed. Laura Coltelli, University of Michigan Press

  Books Containing Interviews with Joy or  
Articles by or on Joy

The Resilient Writer: Tales of Rejection and Triumph by 23 Top Authors
Catherine Wald (Editor), Persea Books.
The Pueblo Imagination, Lee Marmon, with essays by Joy Harjo, Leslie Marmon Silko & Simon Ortiz, Beacon Press.
American Indian Literature, Environmental Justice, and Ecocriticism: The Middle Place,
Joni Adamson, Univ. Arizona Press.
The Nature of Native American Poetry, Norma C. Wilson, Univ. New Mexico Press.
Feminist Readings of Native American Literature: Coming to Voice,
Kathleen M. Donovan, University of Arizona Press.
Joy Harjo, by Rhonda Pettit, Boise State University Western Writers Series, No. 133.
Native American Writers of the United States, (Dictionary of Literary Biography, V. 175),
Kenneth M. Roemer (Editor), Gale Research.
"This Woman Can Cross Any Line": Feminist Tricksters in the Works of Nora Naranjo-Morse and Joy Harjo
Kristine Holmes, Studies in American Indian Literatures, 7, 45, 1995 Spring.
Survival This Way : Interviews With American Indian Poets
Joseph III Bruchac (Editor), (Sun Tracks Books, No 15) University of Arizona Press
Winged Words : American Indian Writers Speak, Laura Coltelli,
Univ of Nebraska Press.
I Tell You Now : Autobiographical Essays by Native American Writers
Brian Swann, Arnold Krupat, Brompton Books Corp.
June Jordan's Poetry for the People : A Revolutionary Blueprint,
Lauren Muller & June Jordan (Editors), Routledge.
Partial Recall : With Essays on Photographs of Native North Americans
Lucy Lippard (Editor), New Press
The Desert Is No Lady : Southwestern Landscapes in Women's Writing and Art
Vera Norwood & Janice Monk (Editors).
The Language of Life : A Festival of Poets by Bill D. Moyers, David Grubin (Editor), James Haba
A review of The Language of Life : A Festival of Poets by Jeff McCollum
Interview with Joy in the Heath Anthology of American Literature Newsletter, Number VI, Fall 1991.

Anthologies Containing Joy's Work       icon

Poetry Speaks to Children, Elise Paschen & Dominique Raccah (Editors),
Sourcebooks MediaFusion. [CD included]
Family Matters : Poems of Our Families, Ann & Larry Smith (Editors), Bottom Dog Pr.
Face to Face: Women Writers on Faith, Mysticism, and Awakening (Featured here),
Linda Hogan & Brenda Peterson (Editors), North Point Press
From Totems to Hip-Hop: A Multicultural Anthology of Poetry Across the Americas, 1900-2002,
Ishmael Reed (Editor), Thunder's Mouth Press.
The Compact Bedford Introduction to Literature, Michael Meyer (Editor), Bedford/St. Martin's.
Without Reservation: Indigenous Erotica, Kateri Akiwenzie-Damm (Editor),
Kegedonce Press.
September 11, 2001: American Writers Respond, William Heyen (Editor), Etruscan Press.
Sister Nations, Heid Erdrich and Laura Tohe (Editors), New Rivers Press.
A Grain of Poetry: How to Read Contemporary Poems and Make Them a Part of Your Life,
Herbert R. Kohl , Harperflamingo.
Through the Eye of the Deer, Carolyn Dunn & Carol Comfort (Editors), Aunt Lute Books.
Between Mothers and Sons: Women Writers Talk About Having Sons and Raising Men,
Patricia Stevens (Editor), Touchstone Books.
Prayers for a Thousand Years,
Elizabeth J. Roberts, Elias Amidon (Editors), Harper San Francisco.
Rethinking Columbus : The Next 500 Years,
Bill Bigelow & Bob Peterson (Editors), Rethinking Schools Ltd.
The Practice of Peace, Judith Rafaela & Nancy Fay (Editors), Sherman Ascher Pub.
What Have You Lost, Naomi Shihab Nye (Editor), Greenwillow.
Getting over the Color Green: Contemporary Environmental Literature of the Southwest,
Scott Slovic (Editor), Univ. AZ Press.
Intimate Nature: The Bond Between Women and Animals,
with Brenda Peterson and Deena Metzger, Ballantine & Random House
She Rises Like the Sun: Invocations of the Goddess by Contemporary American Women Poets,
Janine Canan (Editor), Crossing Press.
Gatherings, Volume X, A Retrospective of the First Decade, Greg Young-Ing & Florene Belmore (Editors),
Penticton: Theytus Books
The Responsive Writer, Jocelyn Siler, International Thompson Pub.
Beyond Portia : Women, Law, and Literature in the United States
Jacqueline St. Joan & Annette Bennington McElhiney (Editors), Northeastern Univ. Press.
Night Out : Poems About Hotels, Motels, Restaurants, and Bars
Kurt Brown, Laure-Anne Bosselaar & Gerald Stern, Milkweed Editions.
I've Always Meant to Tell You: Letters to Our Mothers:
An Anthology of Contemporary Women Writers, Constance Warlow (Editor), Pocket Books
Poetic Medicine: The Healing Art of Poem-Making, John Fox, J. P. Tarcher .
Sweetgrass Grows All Around Here, Beth Brant & Sandra Laronde (Editors),
Native American Songs and Poems: An Anthology, Brian Swann (Editor), Dover.
Homemaking : Women Writers and the Politics and Poetics of Home
Catherine Wiley & Fiona R. Barnes (Editors), Garland Pub.
In Short: A Collection of Brief Creative Nonfiction,
Judith Kitchen & Mary Paumier Jones (Editors), W. W. Norton.
Literature : Reading and Responding to Fiction, Poetry, Drama, and the Essay,
Joel Wingard, Addison Wesley.
English Postcoloniality: Literatures from Around the World
Radhika Mohanram & Gita Rajan (Editors), Greenwood Pub.
Poetry of the American West: A Columbia Anthology, Alison Hawthorne Deming (Editor),
Columbia Univ Press.
The Conversation Begins: Mothers and Daughters Talk About Living Feminism,
Christina Looper Baker, Christina Baker Kline (Editors), Bantam Doubleday.
Communion: Contemporary Writers Reveal the Bible in Their Lives,
David Rosenberg (Editor), Bantam Doubleday.
Where We Stand: Women Poets on Literary Tradition,
Sharon Bryan (Editor), W W Norton & Co.
Scars: American Poetry in the Face of Violence,
Cynthia Dubin Edelberg (Editor), Univ. Alabama Press.
The Poet's Notebook: Excerpts from the Notebooks of Contemporary American Poets,
Stephen Kuusisto, Deborah Tall & Stephen Weiss (Editors), W. W. Norton.
Sacred Journeys: A Woman's Book of Daily Prayer,
Jan L. Richardson, Upper Room Books.
The Second Set: The Jazz Anthology, (The Jazz Poetry Anthology , Vol 2)
by Sascha Feinstein (Editor), Yusef Komunyakaa(Editor)
Home Places : Contemporary Native American Writing from Sun Tracks (Sun Tracks, Vol 31)
Larry Evers (Editor), Ofelia Zepeda (Editor), Univ of Arizona Press.
The Right to Hope, Global Problems, Global Visions, Earthscan Pub.
Poets at Work, Contemporary Poet's Lives. Poems. Process, Betty Cohen (Editor), Just Buffalo Literary Center.
Letters to America: Contemporary American Poetry on Race
Jim Daniels (Editor), Wayne State Univ. Press.
Native-American Literature: A Brief Introduction and Anthology
Gerald Vizenor & Ishmael Reed (Editors), Harper Collins.
Life Studies: An Analytic Reader, DAvid Cavitch (Editor), Bedford/St. Martins.
Storming Heaven's Gate: An Anthology of Spiritual Writings by Women
Amber Coverdale Sumrall & Patrice Vecchione, Plume/Penguin Books.
A Circle of Nations: Voices and Visions of American Indians,
John Gattuso (Editor), Beyond Words Publishing Co.
Smoke Rising: The Native North American Literary Companion, Janet Witalec,
Visible Ink Press.
!Saludo! Poems de nuevo Mexico, Jeanie C. Williams & Victor di Suevro (Editors), Pennywhistle Press.
Unsettling America: An Anthology of Contemporary Multicultural Poetry,
Maria M. Gillan, Jennifer Gillan (Editors), Penguin USA
Durable Breath: Contemporary Native American Poetry,
John E. Smelcer, D. L. Birchfield (Editors), Salmon Run Pub.
Claiming the Spirit Within: A Sourcebook of Women's Poetry
Marilyn Sewell (Editor)
Gatherings, Volume X, Celebrating the Circle, Beth Cuthand & William George (Editors),
Penticton: Theytus Books
The Colour of Resistance: A Contemporary Collection of Writing by Aboriginal Women,
by Connie Fife, Sister Vision Press.
An Ear to the Ground: An Anthology of Contemporary American Poetry,
Marie Harris, Kathleen Aguero (Editor), Univ of Georgia Press.
Sister to Sister: Women Write About the Unbreakable Bond, Patricia Foster (Editor),
Anchor Books.
The Arc of Love, Clare Coss (Editor), Scribner.
That's What She Said: Contemporary Poetry and Fiction by Native American Women,
Rayna Green (Editor) Indiana Univ Press
Song of the Turtle: American Indian Fiction 1974-1994, Paula Gunn Allen (Editor)
Songs from This Earth on Turtle's Back: An Anthology of Poetry by American Indian Writers
Joseph Bruchac (Editor) Greenfield Review Press
Gatherings: The En'owkin Journal of the First North American Peoples, Volume II,
Theytus Books.
Wounds Beneath the Flesh, Maurice Kenny (Editor), White Pine Press.
Words in the Blood: Contemporary Indian Writers of North and South America,
Jamake Highwater (Editor), New American Library.
The Remembered Earth: An Anthology of Contemporary Native American Literature
Geary Hobson (Editor), Univ of New Mexico Press
Harper's Anthology of 20th Century Native American Poetry
Duane Niatum (Editor), HarperCollins
Talking Leaves: Contemporary Native American Short Stories
Craig Lesley, Katheryn Stavrakis (Editor) Dell Books
Sisters of the Earth: Women's Prose and Poetry About Nature,
Lorraine Anderson (Editor), Vintage Books.
Named in Stone and Sky: An Arizona Anthology, by Gregory McNamee (Editor),
Univ of Arizona Press.
Women in American Indian Society (Indians of North America)
Rayna Green Editor), contains poetry by Joy Harjo and a photograph of Sue Williams speaking at the Smithsonian Institution
Words in the Blood: Contemporary Indian Writers of North and South America,
Jamake Highwater (Editor), New American Library.
The Third Woman: Minority Women Writers of the United States,
Dexter Fisher (Editor), Houghton Mifflin Co.

Text Books

Literature an Introduction to Reading and Writing,Edgar V. Roberts, Prentice-Hall.
Imagining Worlds, Marjorie Ford & Jon Ford (Editors), McGraw Hill Higher Education.
Approaching Poetry: Perspectives and Responses, Peter Schakel and Jack Ridl
St. Martin's Press.

 Audio Cassettes & CDs

Native Joy For Real, Mekko Productions.
Tracks from Native Joy for Real are now available at iTunes. badgeitunes139x31lite
Letter From The End Of The Twentieth Century, Silver Wave Records. (Cassette)
Furious Light with Joy reading her poetry can be ordered from the Poet's Audio Center.
Heartbeat, Vol. 2: More Voices Of First Nations Women, Smithsonian Folkways.
Weaving The Strands: Music By Contemporary Native American Women, Red Feather.
Tribal Fires, Earthbeat! Records.
Native American Currents, Silver Wave Records.
A Circle of Nations, John Gattuso (editor), Audio Literature. Abridged.
The Woman Who Fell From the Sky,
In Their Own Voices: A Century of Recorded Poetry, ed. Rebecca Presson, Vol. 4,
CD Album, Rhino Records, 1996. Audio Cassette
Mankiller by Wilma Mankiller, read by Joy Harjo,

In Association with

This is an "official" site in that this page was constructed with the assistance and active collaboration of the poet, Joy Harjo. The website "author" is Karen M. Strom.

© 1997-2005 Joy Harjo and Karen Strom.

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