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Tulsa poet Joy Harjo wins $65,000 poetry prize

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Tulsa poet, author, musician and performer Joy Harjo has won the 2019 Jackson Poetry Prize.

The prestigious award is given by Poets & Writers each year to "an American poet of exceptional talent who deserves wider recognition," according to a news release. The prize includes $65,000.

Harjo was chosen from a group of 20 nominees who were nominated by 20 poets, the release notes. The nominees and nominators are anonymous, and the winner is selected by three judges.

In awarding Harjo the prize, the judges issued a statement that reads, in part:

"Harjo's work speaks not only to the world we live in, but to the unseen world that moves through us, the thread that has connected us all from the start. ... Harjo's poems embody a rich physicality and movement; they begin in the ear and the eye, the go on to live and hum inside the body. ... Throughout her luminous and substantial body of work, there is a sense of timelessness, of ongoingness, of history repeating; these are poems that hold us up to the truth and insist we pay attention."

Harjo's accomplishments are too many to list, but here is a far from inclusive roster. Harjo, an enrolled member of the Muscogee Creek Nation, has published 10 books of poetry, and her next volume, "An American Sunrise," is set for release from W.W. Norton in September. Her memoir, "Crazy Brave," won an American Book Award and the PEN Center USA Literary Award for creative nonfiction, among others.

Other major awards include the Ruth Lilly Poetry Prize, the Wallace Stevens Award and the William Carlos Williams Award. She received a Guggenheim Fellowship and a United States Artists Fellowship. She was inducted into the Oklahoma Writers Hall of Fame in 2014.

As a saxophonist and vocalist, both solo and with her Arrow Dynamics band, she has recorded five award-winning albums. She also performs a one-woman show, the text of which was published as a book in January by Wesleyan University Press.

Past winners of the Jackson Poetry Prize are John Yau (2018), Patricia Spears Jones (2017), Will Alexander (2016), X. J. Kennedy (2015), Claudia Rankine (2014), Arthur Sze (2013), Henri Cole (2012), James Richardson (2011), Harryette Mullen (2010), Linda Gregg (2009), Tony Hoagland (2008) and Elizabeth Alexander (2007).

Poets & Writers will host a reading and reception in Harjo's honor in New York City on June 17. For more information, go to pw.org.

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