MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – U.S. Poet Laureate Joy Harjo will visit WVU’s Morgantown campus on April 5 to give a public poetry reading at the Mountainlair Ballrooms and virtually via Zoom at 7 p.m.

Harjo, a native of Tulsa, Oklahoma and a citizen of the Muscogee (Creek) Nation, is the 23rd U.S. Poet Laureate and the first Native American to hold the position. She will also be the second poet laureate to ever visit WVU.

“This is an opportunity to celebrate Indigenous leadership, talent and voices, especially the singular Joy Harjo,” said Bonnie Brown, coordinator of the WVU Native American Studies Program and the host of Harjo’s visit. “Native Americans are serving in prominent public roles, including Deb Haaland, the first Native American U.S. Cabinet secretary, and there’s a proliferation of acclaimed works by Native musicians, authors, filmmakers, online content creators and others. Harjo’s visit to campus is a distinct reminder that the First Peoples have prevailed, and are still here, inspiring generations yet to come.”

U.S. Poet Laureate Joy Harjo (WVU Photo) 

Before she takes the stage, people from on and off campus will participate in a Tribute Exhibit. To welcome Harjo to West Virginia, Mylan Park Elementary students will display a watercolor banner they have painted and a collaborative painting based on her poem, “How to Write a Poem in a Time of War,” during the event.

Other exhibitors include the Appalachian Prison Book Project, Literacy Volunteers of Monongalia and Preston Counties, and the Madwomen in the Attic Poetry Workshops.

Before Harjo’s presentation, beginning at 6:30 p.m., will be book sales and a flute performance by Cody Blackbird, a Native American Music Award winner and Wheeling-born artist.

The event will be hosted by the WVU Native American Studies Program, in collaboration with the WVU Humanities Center and co-sponsored by Eberly College of Arts and Sciences and the Department of English. 

Harjo’s event will kick off the University’s National Poetry Month celebrations.

“Ms. Harjo’s visit to campus has auspicious timing,” WVU Humanities Center Director Renée Nicholson said.

“When the invitation was first extended, there was no way to know that the world would be witnessing harrowing events in Ukraine coupled with economic strains, a lingering pandemic and a host of state and national challenges,” Nicholson said. “Her poetry sings with the potential for healing. Her reverence for nature and her deep connectedness with Indigenous storytelling give us a place to pause and deeply contemplate what it means to be alive through her poetry and her prose.”

Those interested can register for the virtual event.