In 1993, Rita Dove was appointed Poet Laureate of the United States and Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress, making her the youngest person – and the first African-American – to receive this highest official honor in American Poetry. She served 1993-1995. In 1999 she was reappointed Special Consultant in Poetry for 1999/2000, The Library of Congress Bicentennial year. From 2004-2006, she served as Poet Laureate of the Commonwealth of Virginia. She is a Pulitzer Prize winner (Thomas and Beulah, 1987), author of numerous poetry books, a novel, short stories, a play, and, as an editor, The Penguin Anthology of Twentieth-Century American Poetry. Her honors include the 1996 National Humanities Medal from President Clinton and the 2011 National Medal of Arts from President Obama — the only poet ever to receive both medals — as well as the Heinz Award in the Arts and Humanities, the Wallace Stevens Award from the Academy of American Poets, Lifetime Achievement Medals from the Liberty of Virginia and the Fulbright Commission, as well as 28 honorary doctorates, and an NAACP Image Award (for Collected Poems: 1974-2004). She has served as president of the Association of Writers and Writing Programs and as chancellor of the honor society Phi Beta Kappa. An elected member of the American Philosophical Society, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and the American Academy of Arts and Letters, she is the Henry Hoyns Professor of Creative Writing at the University of Virginia. Her next volume of poems, Playlist for the Apocalypse: Poems, is forthcoming from W.W. Norton in the summer of 2021.
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Joy Harjo’s nine books of poetry include An American Sunrise, Conflict Resolution for Holy Beings, How We Became Human: New and Selected Poems, and She Had Some Horses. Harjo’s memoir Crazy Brave won several awards, including the PEN USA Literary Award for Creative Non-Fiction and the American Book Award. She co-edited two anthologies of contemporary Native women’s writing: When the Light of the World was Subdued, Our Songs Came Throughand Reinventing the Enemy’s Language: Native Women’s Writing of North America, one of the London Observer’s Best Books of 1997. She is the recipient of the Ruth Lilly Prize from the Poetry Foundation for Lifetime Achievement, the 2015 Wallace Stevens Award from the Academy of American Poets for proven mastery in the art of poetry, a Guggenheim Fellowship, the William Carlos Williams Award from the Poetry Society of America, and the United States Artist Fellowship. In 2014 she was inducted into the Oklahoma Writers Hall of Fame. A renowned musician, Harjo performs with her saxophone nationally and internationally, solo and with her band, the Arrow Dynamics. She has five award-winning CDs of music including the award-winning album Red Dreams, A Trail Beyond Tears and Winding Through the Milky Way, which won a Native American Music Award for Best Female Artist of the Year in 2009. Harjo’s latest is a book of poetry from Norton, An American Sunrise. In 2019, Joy Harjo was appointed the 23rd United States Poet Laureate, the first Native American to hold the position. She lives in Tulsa, Oklahoma.
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Juan Felipe Herrera
Juan Felipe Herrera is the 21st Poet Laureate of the United States (2015-2016) and is the first Latino to hold the position. From 2012-2014, Herrera served as California State Poet Laureate. Herrera’s many collections of poetry include Every Day We Get More Illegal; Notes on the Assemblage; Senegal Taxi; Half of the World in Light: New and Selected Poems, a recipient of the PEN/Beyond Margins Award and the National Book Critics Circle Award; and 187 Reasons Mexicanos Can’t Cross The Border: Undocuments 1971-2007. He is also the author of Crashboomlove: A Novel in Verse, which received the Americas Award. His books of prose for children include: SkateFate, Calling The Doves, which won the Ezra Jack Keats Award; Upside Down Boy, which was adapted into a musical for young audiences in New York City; and Cinnamon Girl: Letters Found Inside a Cereal Box. His book Jabberwalking, a children’s book focused on turning your wonder at the world around you into weird, wild, incandescent poetry, came out in 2018. Herrera is also a performance artist and activist on behalf of migrant and indigenous communities and at-risk youth.
Photo credit: Carlos Puma