Joy Harjo, professor and chair of excellence in the Department of English, is the recipient of the 2017 Ruth Lilly Poetry Prize–the prestigious award that honors a living U.S. poet for outstanding lifetime achievement.
The Chicago Sun Times featured Harjo and praised her for following her Native American roots.
Born in Tulsa, Oklahoma, Harjo, 66, is a member of the Muscogee (Creek) Nation (she uses the term “Indian” rather than “Native American,” but says her preference is to name the specific tribe). She attended an Indian boarding school (part of a controversial system designed to educate and assimilate Native American youths according to Euro-American standards) and went on to earn degrees from the University of New Mexico and the Iowa Writers’ Workshop. But the true source of her poetry runs far deeper than academia, according to the article by the Sun Times.
Harjo’s connection to her history reveals itself in the way she draws on Native American storytelling, histories and indigenous myths in her poems, and this is combined with her devotion to feminist and social justice poetic traditions.