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El Paso Education: UTEP to Host U.S. Poet Laureate at Virtual Celebration

Apr 14, 2021

Credit Joy Harjo

  EL PASO, Texas — The University of Texas at El Paso’s Department of Creative Writing announced that Joy Harjo, second-term Poet Laureate of the United States, will participate in a virtual reading and conversation at 5 p.m. MDT Friday, April 16, 2021.

Harjo, the 23rd U.S. Poet Laureate and the first Native American to hold that post, is one of the most important living U.S. poets, said Daniel Chacon, professor and chair of the Department of Creative Writing. He said the fact that she was asked to serve a second term speaks to her cultural and literary significance.

Chacon said he expects the National Poetry Month Celebration, which is part of the department’s Somos Writers Spring Series, will attract an audience of bilingual, binational and multicultural poets, other writers, academics, and anyone who cares about language and the cultural-political importance of poetry. He said Harjo’s poetry speaks of the impact of racism, misogyny, economic oppression and other issues that plague many U.S. communities.

“She is more than just a voice of U.S. poetry,” Chacon said. “She is a voice of hope; a voice for an inclusive future.”

The UTEP professor, who will lead the conversation, said he wants the dialogue to be organic, but added that he will be ready to ask questions about her career, what she has learned as a poet, and what she would like to pass on to future generations.

The celebration will begin with the reading of one of Harjo’s poems that has been translated into Spanish by Paula Cucurella, Ph.D., an adjunct professor of creative writing. The effort, which was called a gift to Harjo, will recognize the department’s bilingualism.

More than a poet, Harjo is an author, playwright, musician and higher education instructor. She is the author of nine books of poetry including the highly acclaimed “An American Sunrise,” which was published in 2019. Her awards include the Ruth Lily Prize for Lifetime Achievement from the Poetry Foundation, the Academy of American Poets Wallace Stevens Award, two NEA Fellowships and a Guggenheim Fellowship. An accomplished flutist and saxophonist, she has been recognized as a musician and performer. She has taught English, creative writing and American Indian studies at universities from Hawaii to Tennessee.

She is a resident of Tulsa, Oklahoma, and a member of the Muscogee (Creek) Nation.

People may register for the Zoom link and event updates at tinyurl.com/harjoregistration.

UTEP’s Department of English and The Humanities Collaborative at EPCC-UTEP are event co-sponsors.