Joy Harjo Awarded Yale University’s Bollingen Prize for American Poetry

Joy Harjo has been named the winner of Yale’s 2023 Bollingen Prize for American Poetry. The Bollingen Prize, established by Paul Mellon in 1949, is awarded biennially by Yale University Library through the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library to an American poet for the best book published during the previous two years or for lifetime achievement in poetry. The prize includes a cash award of $175,000.

Professor Harjo was honored for her book Weaving Sundown in a Scarlet Light: Fifty Poems for Fifty Years (WW. Norton, 2022) and for her lifetime achievement in and contributions to American poetry.

The judges noted: “For Harjo, poetry is witness and song; it is kin to incantation, speaking to the past and the present at once, finding a language that vibrates with the possibility of crossing the threshold of time. This poet knows that language is not a record of an event, it is an event in itself. Her work employs music to convey ideas and arguments with the shimmering power of a sacred text.”

Author of more than 10 books of poetry, as well as plays, children’s books, and memoirs, Harjo is an internationally renowned performer and writer of the Muscogee (Creek) Nation. She served three terms as the 23rd poet laureate of the United States from 2019 to 2022. Earlier, she held the John C. Hodges Chair of Excellence in the department of English at the University of Tennessee. Previously, she served as a professor of English and American Indian studies at the University of Illinois. She has also taught at Arizona State University, the University of Colorado, the University of Arizona, and the University of New Mexico.

Professor Harjo holds a bachelor’s degree from the University of New Mexico and a master of fine arts degree from the Iowa Writers Workshop.

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