Announcing the 2024 Frost Medalist, Joy Harjo
The Poetry Society of America is pleased to announce that Joy Harjo is the 2024 recipient of the Frost Medal for distinguished lifetime achievement in poetry. Named for Robert Frost, and first given in 1930, the Frost Medal is one of the oldest and most prestigious awards in American poetry and is awarded annually at the discretion of the PSA's Board of Governors. Previous award winners include Wallace Stevens, Marianne Moore, Gwendolyn Brooks, Allen Ginsberg, Adrienne Rich, John Ashbery, Lucille Clifton, Sharon Olds, and most recently Juan Felipe Herrera.
The Frost Medal citation from the Poetry Society of America’s Board of Governors reads:
Musician, memoirist, and poet Joy Harjo plays the history, myths, and stories in her body as language and as song. Whether on the stage soloing on a saxophone or reading before audiences from her many books, her heard notes and composed lines arrive as remembrance, ritual, and calling. She reminds us of the spirit of the land, the force of art, and the presence of each other. Her work urges us, as she states in an interview, to “consider who we are and who we are becoming.” A member of the Muscogee nation, Harjo writes as part of a dynamic continuum of Native American literature. She makes a ceremony of language that has inspired a generation of poets to assert their cultural sovereignty. “I wanted the intricate and metaphorical language of my ancestors,” Harjo says, “to pass through to my language, my life.” In so doing, Harjo speaks tender and righteous truths about the eternal wisdom and resilience of women that places her in the company of Audre Lorde, Lucille Clifton, and Adrienne Rich, who announced Harjo as “one of the real poets of our mixed, fermenting, end-of-century imagination.” Her sacred songs create a pathway for understanding and renewal. She states, “To imagine the spirit of poetry is much like imagining the shape and size of the knowing. It is a kind of resurrection light.” The Poetry Society of America is thrilled and proud to award the Frost Medal, our highest honor, to Joy Harjo, a poet whose creative life ennobles American literature with beauty, compassion, and strength.
In 2019, Joy Harjo was appointed the 23rd United States Poet Laureate, the first Native American to hold the position and only the second person to serve three terms in the role. Harjo’s nine books of poetry include Weaving Sundown in a Scarlet Light, An American Sunrise, Conflict Resolution for Holy Beings, How We Became Human: New and Selected Poems, and She Had Some Horses. She is also the author of two memoirs, Crazy Brave and Poet Warrior, which invite us to travel along the heartaches, losses, and realizations of her “poet-warrior” road. She has edited several anthologies of Native American writing, including When the Light of the World Was Subdued, Our Songs Came Through: A Norton Anthology of Native Nations Poetry, and Living Nations, Living Words, the companion anthology to her signature poet laureate project. Her many writing awards include the 2022 Ivan Sandrof Lifetime Achievement Award, the 2019 Jackson Prize from Poets & Writers, the Ruth Lilly Prize from the Poetry Foundation, the 2015 Wallace Stevens Award from the Academy of American Poets, and the William Carlos Williams Award from the Poetry Society of America. She is a chancellor of the Academy of American Poets, Board of Directors Chair of the Native Arts & Cultures Foundation, and artist-in-residence at the Bob Dylan Center. A renowned musician, Harjo performs with her saxophone nationally and internationally; her most recent album is I Pray For My Enemies. She lives in Tulsa, Oklahoma.
Perhaps the World Ends Here
The world begins at a kitchen table. No matter what, we must eat to live.
The gifts of earth are brought and prepared, set on the table. So it has been since creation, and it will go on.
We chase chickens or dogs away from it. Babies teethe at the corners. They scrape their knees under it.
It is here that children are given instructions on what it means to be human. We make men at it, we make women.
At this table we gossip, recall enemies and the ghosts of lovers.
Our dreams drink coffee with us as they put their arms around our children. They laugh with us at our poor falling-down selves and as we put ourselves back together once again at the table.
This table has been a house in the rain, an umbrella in the sun.
Wars have begun and ended at this table. It is a place to hide in the shadow of terror. A place to celebrate the terrible victory.
We have given birth on this table, and have prepared our parents for burial here.
At this table we sing with joy, with sorrow. We pray of suffering and remorse. We give thanks.
Perhaps the world will end at the kitchen table, while we are laughing and crying, eating of the last sweet bite.
A selection of Joy Harjo’s books can be purchased through the Poetry Society of America’s store on Bookshop.org, an online bookstore with a mission to financially support local, independent bookstores.
"Perhaps the World Ends Here" from The Woman Who Fell From the Sky by Joy Harjo. Copyright © 1994 by Joy Harjo. Used by permission of W. W. Norton & Company, Inc.