Celebrating and Supporting Indigenous Poetry

Gallery image with 18 portraits of poets participating in the retreat.

At the end of April/National Poetry Month, the Library of Congress will celebrate Joy Harjo, the first Native American U.S. poet laureate, as her three terms in the position come to an end. There will be public programs—which you can read about here—as well as a unique gathering that also honors her legacy: the historic first retreat of In-Na-Po — Indigenous Nations Poets. This gathering is supported by funding through the Library’s Of the People initiative.

In-Na-Po is a new organization dedicated to mentoring emerging Native writers, founded by former Wisconsin Poet Laureate Kimberly Blaeser (Anishinaabe, White Earth Nation) and featuring Harjo as an advisory board member. Throughout the week-long retreat, a cohort of 30 fellows, faculty, and guests will participate in workshops and panel discussions in the Library’s Thomas Jefferson Building. They will also visit the Library’s American Folklife Center (AFC), which developed a new digital collection of recordings for Harjo’s “Living Nations, Living Words” signature project. At the AFC and elsewhere in the Library, retreat participants will engage collection items and reference staff in order to support their own research and writing. Retreat faculty and guests include: Luci Tapahanso (Diné), the first Poet Laureate of the Navajo Nation, and her successor, Laura Tohe (Diné); recent National Poetry Series winners Heid Erdrich (Turtle Mountain Ojibwe) and Jake Skeets (Diné); and other award-winning writers such as Deborah Miranda (Esselen and Chumash) and Elise Paschen (Osage). Find out more about all of the participants in the retreat.

“This has been an incredible moment to serve poetry and to celebrate the historic, ongoing contributions of the original peoples of these lands,” Harjo said. “I’m thrilled to conclude my laureateship with In-Na-Po’s inaugural retreat, which marks a fresh beginning for emerging generations of Native poets.”

The American Folklife Center is proud to co-sponsor the In-Na-Po retreat as part of the Library’s Of the People: Widening the Path initiative. Supported by an institutional grant from the Mellon Foundation, Of the People is a multiyear effort to connect the Library more deeply with Black, Indigenous and communities of color historically underrepresented in the United States and in the Library’s collections. The primary Of the People component managed by AFC is the Community Collections Grant program, which recently announced the first round of awardees. Read more about the exciting cohort of awardees here.


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