Joy Harjo Born in Tulsa, Oklahoma and an enrolled member of the Muskogee Tribe, Joy Harjo came to New Mexico to attend the Institute of American Indian Arts where she studied painting and theatre, not music and poetry, though she did write a few lyrics for an Indian acid rock band. Joy attended the University of New Mexico where she received her B.A. in 1976, followes by an M.F.A. from the University of Iowa. She has also taken part in a non-degree program in Filmmaking from the Anthropology Film Center.
She began writing poetry when the national Indian political climate demanded singers and speakers, and was taken by the intensity and beauty possible in the craft. Her most recent book of poetry is the award-winning How We Became Human: New and Selected Poems. It wasn't until she was in Denver that she took up the saxophone because she wanted to learn how to sing and had in mind a band that would combine the poetry with a music there were no words yet to define, a music involving elements of tribal musics, jazz and rock. She eventually returned to New Mexico where she began the first stirrings of what was to be Joy Harjo and Poetic Justice when she began working with Susan Williams. Their first meeting occurred several years before in Blues Alley in Washington, D.C., a hint of things to come.
Joy has published in magazines such as Massachusetts Review, Ploughshares, River Styx, Contact II, The Bloomsbury Review, Journal of Ethnic Studies, American Voice, Sonora Review, Kenyon Review, Beloit Poetry Review, Greenfield Review and Puerto del Sol. She has made recordings, done screenwriting, given readings all over the world and is now performing with her own music.
Joy has taught at Arizona State University as a Lecturer in 1980-81, at Santa Fe Community College as an Instructor in 1983-84, at the Institute of American Indian Arts as an Instructor in 1978-79 and in 1983-84. She was an Assistant Professor at the University of Colorado from 1985-1988, an Associate Professor at the University of Arizona in 1988-1990 and a Full Professor at the University of New Mexico from 1991-1995. She is currently teaching at the University of California at Los Angeles.
Joy is a member of the PEN Advisory Board and the PEN New Mexico Advisory Board. She has been a member of the Native American Public Broadcasting Consortium Board of Directors from 1987 to 1990, The Phoenix Indian Center Board of Directors in 1980-81, the Coordinating Council of Literary Magazines Grants Panel for the Fall of 1980, the National Endowment for the Arts Policy Panel for Literature 1980-83, the New Mexico Arts Commission Advisory Panel 1979-80 and 1984, and the National Third World Writers Association Board of Directors (which is no longer functioning).