Born in Tulsa, Oklahoma, in 1951 and an enrolled member of the Muskogee Tribe, Joy Harjo went to New Mexico to attend the Institute of American Indian Arts where she studied painting and theatre, not music and poetry, though she did write a few lyrics for an Indian rock band. Harjo attended the University of New Mexico where she received her B.A. in 1976, followed by an M.F.A. from the University of Iowa. She also took part in a non-degree program in Filmmaking from the Anthropology Film Center. She began writing poetry when the national Indian political climate demanded singers and speakers, and she was taken by the intensity and beauty possible in the craft. She began to play the saxophone because she wanted to learn how to sing and had in mind a band that would combine poetry with a music there were no words yet to define, a music involving elements of tribal musics, jazz and rock. She worked with other musicians to form the band aptly named Poetic Justice. She has made recordings, performs with her own music, writes screenplays, and has given poetry readings all over the world. Harjo now lives in Hawaii, teaches at UCLA and the University of Hawaii.
Her books of poetry include How We Became Human: New and Selected Poems (2002); A Map to the Next World: Poems (2000); The Woman Who Fell From the Sky (1994), which received the Oklahoma Book Arts Award; In Mad Love and War (1990), which received an American Book Award and the Delmore Schwartz Memorial Award; Secrets from the Center of the World (1989); She Had Some Horses (1983); and What Moon Drove Me to This? (1979). Her many honors include The American Indian Distinguished Achievement in the Arts Award, the Josephine Miles Poetry Award, the Mountains and Plains Booksellers Award, the William Carlos Williams Award, and fellowships from the Arizona Commission on the Arts, the Witter Bynner Foundation, and the National Endowment for the Arts.
Poet will be on campus for Workshop/Poetry Reading on Wednesday, April 11, 2007.