January 26, 2021
5 pm MST | via Zoom

Join former Poet Laureate of the United States, Natasha Trethewey (2012-13), and the first Native Poet Laureate of the United States, Joy Harjo, for a reading and conversation.


Language is power. It is not the body, yet it is one of the most important ways in which we carry our bodies, carry our lives, to one another—in desire, in tenderness, in fear or worry, in imagination and wonder. Poetry is one among our many technologies of touch. It requires an attentiveness, to the world, a listening not just with the ear, but with our sensual bodies—it is a call to listen, with our entire life, to the lives of others. Poetry is often referenced as a language we return to in moments of turmoil, as a response to violence or oppression, a way of reminding ourselves we are not the sum of our wounds or those who have inflicted those wounds. Yet, poetry is not always against or in response to—it is a natural condition and celebration of the body and of all life—it is song and story, even in a single word or line or stanza. There once was a world in which someone said the word “fire” for the first time and fire happened. There was a moment in your life when someone called your name for the first time, and just like that, you were spoken into the world. That is one of the many powers of language, as well as one of its dangers—it can be prophetic. Poetry is also a vehicle by which we remember our ancestors and the stories they told—in many ways, we are our ancestors’ stories.

The act of reading or writing a poem are both ways of remembering and manifesting the world we want to live in—singing ourselves into being. Joy Harjo and Natasha Trethewey have both built their lives in language—the intimate and personal language they carry to their pages and the language we receive when we arrive at their pages—a relational life, a reciprocal life, built at least partly of poems. Join us and these two Poet Laureates of the United States, as we talk about the ways poetry gathers and holds us, lifts us, catapults us to action, not only against the violence of the world but also beyond them. Join us as we engage the energy, imagination, and power of poetry, as a community, as an important part of the beautiful and capacious world we are imagining for one another.

Joy Harjo is an internationally renowned performer and writer of the Muscogee (Creek) Nation and was named the 23rd Poet Laureate of the United States in 2019. The author of nine books of poetry, several plays and children's books, and a memoir, Crazy Brave, her many honors include the Ruth Lily Prize for Lifetime Achievement from the Poetry Foundation, the Academy of American Poets Wallace Stevens Award, a PEN USA Literary Award, Lila Wallace-Reader’s Digest Fund Writers’ Award, a Rasmuson USArtist Fellowship, two NEA fellowships, and a Guggenheim Fellowship. Harjo is a chancellor of the Academy of American Poets and is a founding board member of the Native Arts and Cultures Foundation. She lives in Tulsa, Oklahoma, where she is a Tulsa Artist Fellow.


Natasha Trethewey is an American poet who was appointed United States Poet Laureate in 2012 and again in 2013. She won the 2007 Pulitzer Prize in Poetry for her 2006 collection Native Guard, and she is a former Poet Laureate of Mississippi and a Chancellor of the Academy of American Poets. She is the Board of Trustees Professor of English at Northwestern University.