Indigenous US Poet Laureate Joy Harjo explores ideas of home

Joy Harjo is the first Native American Poet Laureate of the U.S. Photo by C. Shawn Miller.

As a member of the Muscogee Creek Nation, U.S. Poet Laureate Joy Harjo is the descendant of Native Americans who were forcibly removed from their land in the 19th century Trail of Tears. Thousands died on the march from their ancestral homes in the Southeast to so-called “Indian Territory,” which is now Oklahoma. Much of Harjo’s work explores themes of home, place, and displacement. 

“Natives have been so disappeared [sic] from the American story. And yet, if we make a map that shows no political boundaries, that's one thing. …  One thing that came out of this project is really starting to see how all poets' voices … are innately tied to land and the idea of place.”

Her signature project is “Living Nations, Living Words.” It features the work of other contemporary Native American poets, plus an interactive map that places each poet in the place that they feel most rooted.