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Tulsan is named first Native American U.S. Poet Laureate

Posted: 6:34 PM, Jun 24, 2019
Updated: 2019-06-24 22:20:50-04

TULSA, Okla. — A Tulsa woman is the first Native American and the first Oklahoman to be named Poet Laureate of the United States.

"Even a small remark can shift everything" Joy Harjo said.

The United States head librarian Carla Aiden appointed Joy Harjo as the 23rd United States Poet Laureate.

"It's actually very humbling because there's always responsibility, I think, anytime you use words," Harjo said. "We all used words. And in poetry you're using them in a more stylized way."

She originally wanted to be an artist, but things changed along the way.

"Well, being a poet is not usually at the top of the career list for young people," she said. "I've come think of it as a kind of calling in a way, it's a very discipline."

People in the community like Abby Mashunkashey say Harjo is the type of person who puts herself before anyone else. They believe she deserved the title.

"As a Native Oklahoman, as a Native American, as a Native woman, for Joy to receive this award while she's back home in Tulsa is incredible, and it's exactly how things should be," Mushunkashey said.

Joy believes poetry got her through some hard times.

"I remember asking the poet Audrey Lord years ago when I was a young poet and she would just, she embodied poetry, and I said, I asked her if it got any easier and she says 'noooo, honey,'" Joy said.

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