Joy Harjo Wins Ruth Lilly Poetry Prize

The Poetry Foundation has announced Joy Harjo as the recipient of its 2017 Ruth Lilly Poetry Prize. The $100,000 award is given annually to a U.S. poet for lifetime achievement.

Poetry editor Don Share says of Harjo’s poetry, “Her work is a thrilling and necessary antidote to false news, the ephemera of digital celebrity, and other derelictions. It pushes vigorously back against forgetfulness, injustice, and negligence at every level of contemporary life. Her work moves us because it is in the continual motion of bringing forward, with grace but also acuity, our collective story, always in progress.”

The author of ten poetry collections and a memoir, Harjo was born in Tulsa and is a member of the Muscogee (Creek) Nation. Her poetry draws on Native American history and storytelling, as well as feminist and social justice issues. “In a strange sense,” Harjo once commented, “[writing] frees me to believe in myself, to be able to speak, to have voice, because I have to; it is my survival.” Her most recent poetry collection is Conflict Resolution for Holy Beings (Norton, 2015). 

Harjo’s accolades include the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Native Writers' Circle of the Americas, the Wallace Stevens Award from the Academy of American Poets, and two fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA). (Read Harjo’s comments about the life-changing support of an NEA fellowship in the May/June 2017 issue of Poets & Writers Magazine.)

Established in 1986, the Ruth Lilly Poetry Prize is one of the most prestigious awards given to American poets, and is also one of the nation’s richest literary prizes. Recent winners include Ed Roberson, Alice Notley, and Nathaniel Mackey. Visit the Poetry Foundation website for more information.