The Eugene Public Library kicked off the NEA Big Read Celebration in February 2018, hosting renowned author, poet, and musician Joy Harjo at the library for a public talk attended by more than 800 members of the public.
Harjo, whose Crazy Brave memoir won the PEN USA Literary Award for Creative Non-Fiction and the American Book Award, was in Eugene on the afternoon of February 3. Harjo shared her inspiration for How We Became Human, a compilation of new and selected poems that touch upon America’s indigenous history, nature, woven through with some of the poet’s own personal narratives and spirituality.
At the standing-room only event, Harjo not only read from How We Became Human but also sang, to the delight of those gathered. In reference to her work, Harjo shared that “I’ve always felt like I was taking the English language and making it Muscogee.” As Connie Bennett, the Library’s newly retired librarian, noted in her review of the book, Harjo’s writing is “deeply personal, rooted in her individual experiences as a woman and Native American, and at the same time, universal…”
The Eugene Public Library Foundation hosted a private event prior to the public talk at which donors were able to meet and converse with the poet. As she spoke with those gathered, Harjo remarked several times on the importance of libraries and books throughout her lifetime, at one point endearingly characterizing the library as the “story-carrying place.”