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Best of the National Book Festival: Poet Laureate Joy Harjo, 2019

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Welcome to our ongoing celebration of the Library of Congress National Book Festival. Each weekday, we will feature a video presentation from among the thousands of authors who have appeared at the National Book Festival and as part of our new year-long series, National Book Festival Presents. Mondays will feature topical nonfiction; Tuesday: poetry or literary fiction; Wednesday: history, biography, memoir; Thursday: popular fiction; and Friday: authors who write for children and teens. Please enjoy, and make sure to explore our full National Book Festival video collection!

In September 2019, Joy Harjo began her formal duties as the new U.S. poet laureate with an inaugural reading and musical performance of her work, including from her new book of poetry, “An American Sunrise.” In addition to reading from her repertoire of poems spanning a 40-year career, Harjo, an award-winning musician, also performed with bassist Howard Cloud, keyboardist Robert Muller and guitarist Larry Mitchell. The event, part of the new year-long National Book Festival Presents series, was held in the Coolidge Auditorium of the Library of Congress Thomas Jefferson Building.

The presentation begins with a blessing from Robin Soweka, Medicine Maker (Heles Hiya) of the Muscogee Creek Nations’ Hickory Ground; remarks from Muscogee Creek Principal Chief James Floyd; and a welcome and introduction from Librarian of Congress Carla Hayden.

Joy Harjo’s performance begins at 15:20, and timestamps for individual poems and pieces are below:

  • Land Acknowledgment (16:38)
  • “Remember” (19:28)
  • “She Had Some Horses” (23:52)
  • “I Give You Back” (32:38)
  • “My House is the Red Earth” (39:57)
  • “Eagle Poem” (45:03)
  • “Perhaps the World Ends Here” (47:12)
  • “Equinox” (54:28)
  • “Witchi Tia To” (song originally by Jim Pepper) with Harjo’s poem “The Fight” (1:00:56)
  • “Rabbit Is Up to Tricks” (1:13:27)
  • “My Man’s Feet” (1:20:35)
  • “Bless This Land” (1:25:42)