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Hooray for Joy! The Library Has a New Poet Laureate

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This post was first published on “From the Catbird Seat,” the blog of the Library’s Poetry and Literature Center. Rob Casper, head of the center, wrote it.

Joy Harjo. Photo by Shawn Miller.

Today is one of the biggest days of the year for the Poetry and Literature Center — it’s the day of the poet laureate announcement. I want to say how honored and excited we are at the center — and throughout the Library of Congress — that Joy Harjo will be our 23rd poet laureate consultant in poetry.

Today’s announcement has been more than six months in the making, and it involved:

  • Soliciting and receiving laureate nominations from over 90 different nominators in 27 states, including past poets laureate; scholars and critics; directors of centers, conferences, festivals and residencies; and bookstore owners and editors, among others.
  • Working with an internal library committee to create a recommendation memo to Librarian of Congress Carla Hayden — and meeting with the Librarian and senior staff, during which Dr. Hayden decided on her appointment choice.
  • Organizing a two-day poet laureate orientation at the Library that included a lunch with the Librarian and senior staff as well as background conversations and strategy sessions with various administrative offices, visits to reading rooms, sneak peeks at our collections and meetings with outside organizations to discuss partnership ideas.

The end result couldn’t be better — Joy seems the perfect poet to take on the role right now. She’s recently received major honors from the Academy of American Poets, the Poetry Foundation and Poets & Writers. And with both a new poetry collection and a new anthology forthcoming, she’ll be out on the road promoting poetry in a big way.

I’ve known of Joy’s work since I was in college and saw a copy of “In Mad Love and War” on a friend’s bookshelf, and I’ve followed her ever since. Later, I had the chance to hear her read (and sing!) her poems for an event I organized at the Association of Writers and Writing Programs conference in Denver, to interview her about her memoir “Crazy Brave” for the Library’s National Book Festival and even once to celebrate her birthday with a trip out to my favorite Thai restaurant in Queens! But nothing compares to this experience.

Below is a short video interview I did with Joy up in the Poetry Room — otherwise known as the office of the laureate — during her laureate orientation. I hope you enjoy, and if you’re in D.C. on September 19, I hope you will come celebrate Joy’s laureateship with us at her big opening reading.


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