Joy Harjo to Receive First Black Earth Institute Award

August 21, 2014

Joy HarjoJoy Harjo, renowned poet of Muskogee Creek, received the first Black Earth Institute (BEI) Award for her work towards illuminating the Native American experience through both poetry and music. The award will be officially presented to Harjo on October 18th at the annual BEI fellows and scholars conference at the Old Feed Mill in Mazomanie, WI at 7:30 pm. The event is open to the public.

According to the Black Earth Institute’s press release, the award is given to an artist who “best exemplifies the goals and mission of BEI in their work and life,” by showing a dedication to “create a more deeply connected and socially just world, protect the planet, and celebrate the human spirit in all peoples.” The award is fitting, as Harjo has long served as a spokesperson-poet for Native American issues, politics, love of the land, and spiritual values. Her works, largely autobiographical, involve a blend of Native American myths and tales, in an effort to, as a Publishers Weekly reviewer wrote of How We Became Human: New and Selected Poems, 1975-2001 (2002), “make sense of her present, drawing together the brutalities of contemporary reservation life with the beauty and sensibility of Native American culture and mythology.”

Harjo’s most recent book, Crazy Brave, A Memoir (W.W. Norton & Company) was released in July 2012, and received the American Book Award from The Before Columbus Foundation. She is best known for her award-winning collection, In Mad Love and War (1990), which also received the National Book Award in 1991.

Harjo has received numerous awards in her lifetime for her work, including the Josephine Miles Poetry Award, William Carlos Williams Award, and the American Indian Distinguished Achievement in the Arts Award. She has also received fellowships from the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation, the Arizona Commission on the Arts, the National Endowment for the Arts, and the Witter Bynner Foundation.

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