SDHC Supports Another National Poet Laureate Appearance in SD

Newly named U.S. Poet Laureate Joy Harjo will visit Brookings, S.D. on Dec. 4 during an event funded in part by the South Dakota Humanities Council. Photo credit: Matika Wilbur.

Harjo Appearing in Brookings Dec. 4, Succeeds Tracy K. Smith, who Visited Black Hills in October 2018

The South Dakota Humanities Council is again helping to bring a U.S. Poet Laureate to South Dakota.

Thanks in part to funding from SDHC, a statewide non-profit for the humanities, South Dakotans will have a chance to meet and discuss poetry with Joy Harjo, the newly appointed Poet Laureate of the United States. She'll appear in Brookings on Dec. 4 for a book discussion and poetry reading at the Oscar Larson Performing Arts Center on the South Dakota State University campus. The event is presented in partnership with Woodbine Productions and sponsored by a 3M Vibrancy Grant to the Brookings Arts Council, as well as by SDHC, the City of Brookings and a private donor.

Free tickets for the event will be made available in November. This marks the second time in as many years that SDHC has supported a visit to South Dakota from the nation's top poet. In 2018, SDHC assisted the Library of Congress during the visit of Tracy K. Smith to the Black Hills for her "American Conversations" project Oct. 5-6, 2018. See SDHC's coverage of the event on the U.S. Library of Congress Blog.

"We are pleased to help bring the nation's top poet to South Dakota for the second year in a row," said Jennifer Widman, Director of SDHC's Center for the Book. "The attendance for Tracy K. Smith in the Black Hills was astounding, and we expect South Dakotans to turn out in droves once again to take advantage of such a rare opportunity."

Widman is also director of SDHC's South Dakota Festival of Books, which has featured renowned poets like Pulitzer Prize winner and former U.S. Poet Laureate Ted Kooser. The annual event features not only poets but also authors and illustrators from every genre.

Harjo is 23rd U.S. Poet Laureate

In June 2019, Harjo succeeded Smith to become the 23rd United States "Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry," the first Native American to hold the position.

Born in Tulsa, Okla., Harjo is an internationally-known and award-winning poet, writer, performer and saxophone player of the Muscogee Creek Nation.

"Joy Harjo is a poet of music just as she is a poet of words," Grammy award-winning saxophonist Paul Winter said.

Harjo is the author of nine books of poetry and a memoir. Her seven books of poetry, which includes such well-known titles as "How We Became Human: New and Selected Poems," "The Woman Who Fell from the Sky" and "She Had Some Horses," have garnered many awards. These include the New Mexico Governor's Award for Excellence in the Arts, the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Native Writers Circle of the Americas; and the William Carlos Williams Award from the Poetry Society of America. "For A Girl Becoming," a young adult/coming of age book, was released in 2009 and is Harjo's most recent publication.

"I've admired Joy Harjo's work ever since watching her read 'She Had Some Horses,'" said English professor Christine Stewart, who was recently named South Dakota Poet Laureate. "The poem imprinted on my psyche. With her distinguished career as a poet, musician and playwright, she brings much talent and wisdom to her new role as United States Poet Laureate. We're so lucky to have the opportunity to host her."

About the Poet Laureate Position

The Library of Congress Poetry and Literature Center is the home of the Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry, a position that has existed since 1937 when Archer M. Huntington endowed the Chair of Poetry at the Library. Since then, many of the nation's most eminent poets have served as Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress and, after the passage of Public Law 99-194 (Dec. 20, 1985), as Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry – a position which the law states "is equivalent to that of Poet Laureate of the United States."

During his or her term, the Poet Laureate seeks to raise the national consciousness to a greater appreciation of the reading and writing of poetry. For more information on the Poet Laureate, visit loc.gov/poetry/laureate.html.

Congress created the Library's Center for the Book in 1977 to stimulate public interest in books and reading. It has become a national force for reading and literacy promotion with affiliates in all 50 states, the District of Columbia and the U.S. Virgin Islands. The affiliates meet every spring at the Library of Congress to exchange ideas. They also promote youth literacy and each state's literary heritage at the National Book Festival, held each fall in Washington, D.C. Widman will attend this year's event, featuring the title "Muskrat and Skunk" by South Dakota author and illustrator Donald F. Montileaux. For more information, visit read.gov.

Joy Harjo, an internationally-known and award-winning poet, writer, performer and saxophone player of the Muscogee Creek Nation, is the newest U.S. Poet Laureate.

About the Library of Congress

The Library of Congress is the world's largest library, offering access to the creative record of the United States – and extensive materials from around the world – both on-site and online. It is the main research arm of the U.S. Congress and the home of the U.S. Copyright Office.

Members of the public can explore collections, reference services and other programs and plan a visit at loc.gov, access the official site for U.S. federal legislative information at congress.gov, and register creative works of authorship at copyright.gov.

For more information about the Harjo event, contact the Brookings Arts Council at 605-692-4177 or directorbac@swiftel.net.

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