Former US Poet Laureate Joy Harjo performed and shared her creative vision at UNT

Wednesday, February 21, 2024

Harjo addresses attendees during her reading and Q&A sessionDENTON (UNT), Texas — Former United States Poet Laureate and renowned musician Joy Harjo visited the University of North Texas for a poetry reading, music performance and Q&A session. Her visit was part of the College of Liberal Arts and Social Sciences’ (CLASS) Acts Performing Arts series, a program that aims to give students opportunities to meet and learn from successful creatives.

“We aim to invite a variety of people from different genres, disciplines and approaches to engage the entire college community,” said Priscilla Ybarra, associate professor of English and a co-chair of CLASS Acts.

Harjo, a member of the Muscogee (Creek) Nation, was appointed the 23rd U.S. Poet Laureate in 2019, becoming the first Native American to hold the title and the second person to serve three terms. The official position is appointed annually by the Librarian of Congress to serve as the nation’s poet, promoting the appreciation and understanding of poetry through various public events and initiatives.

She has written 10 books of poetry, two memoirs, and several children’s books and plays. Harjo is the recipient of numerous writing awards and currently serves as the artist-in-residence for the Bob Dylan Center in her hometown of Tulsa, Oklahoma.

Harjo speaks with an attendee during her book signing“It’s important for students to see the profession of writing demystified, and to get hands-on experience meeting a writer who is a professional — and, in Joy Harjo’s case, a public figure,” said Tarfia Faizullah, assistant professor of creative writing.

Faizullah moderated the craft conversation on the first day of Harjo’s visit, where the poet discussed her work and creative views and fielded questions from students. Before her second-day performance during her visit, leaders from UNT’s Native American Student Association introduced Harjo to university students, faculty and staff.

“What I have found here [in Denton] is quite amazing,” Harjo said. “Thank you for inviting me to be a part of your community.”

Harjo played flute, read from her memoirs and books of poetry, and participated in a Q&A session with attendees. She offered advice to young creatives, especially writers trying to improve their work.

“The more you write, the more you develop your own critical stance and craft,” Harjo said.

For Kaili Mora-Duarte, a master’s student who hopes to teach creative writing to high school and community college students, Harjo’s campus visit was educational and “a chance to see poetry in motion”. 

“Being in the same room as a person who has reached critical acclaim reminds you that kind of achievement is possible,” said Mora-Duarte, who is also a poet. “But even more than that, having the opportunity to see poetry blossoming and happening in front of you is inspiring.”

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From UNT News – General News