Poet Laureate Joy Harjo visits Billings for Big Read
The Writer’s Voice received a $15,000 National Endowment for the Arts grant to host the Big Read in Billings Oct. 10-Nov. 10. An initiative of the NEA in partnership with Arts Midwest, the Big Read will focus on Joy Harjo’s poetry collection, How We Became Human. Harjo, who was recently named the U.S. Poet Laureate, will read from her collection at 7:30 p.m. Nov. 9 at the Petro Theatre on the campus of MSU-Billings.
Writer’s Voice director Corby Skinner said Harjo’s poetry collection “provides leadership and inspiration, and her work speaks to the resilience of Native cultures.”
As Harjo explains, “A lot of my poetry is inspired by injustice, love, the move for balance and compassion. This debris of historical trauma, family trauma … stuff that can kill your spirit is actually raw material to make things with and to build bridges over that which would destroy you.”
The Big Read kicks off Oct. 11 during the High Plains BookFest with a reading featuring Indigenous writers Dallas Hunt, Susan Devan Harness, Chris La Tray and Valerie Guillemin, 2 p.m. at the Western Heritage Center. Devan Harness, author of Bitterroot: A Salish Memoir of Transracial Adoption and a candidate for a High Plains Book Award, offers an evening presentation at the Billings Public Library titled “Adopting a Child of a Different Race? Let’s Talk.”
The festival continues Oct. 12, with readings by woman writers, poets and an art and photography presentation. For a schedule, visit highplainsbookawards.org.
Luzene Hill (Eastern Band of Cherokee), a multimedia artist based in Atlanta and best known for conceptual installations addressing the issue of violence against women, performs at 6:30 p.m. Oct. 14 in Petro Hall on the MSU-Billings campus. Through work informed by pre-contact culture, Hill advocates for indigenous sovereignty – cultural, linguistic and personal.
Joseph McGeshick of the MSU-B Native American Studies program, offers a lecture titled “Waiting for the Earth to Move: The 1890 Ghost Dance,” at 6:30 p.m. Oct. 24 at the Yellowstone County Museum. Contemporary Indigenous writers share their work at 6:30 p.m. Oct. 31 in LA-205 on the campus of MSUB; and Montana’s two new poets laureate, Melissa Kwasny and M.L. Smoker, join former poet laureate Tami Haaland for a reading at 6:30 p.m. Nov. 7. The Big Read culminates with Harjo’s reading on Nov. 9.
All events are free and open to the public. For more information contact Corby Skinner, Corby@skinnerbenoit.com.
Photo: U.S. Poet Laureate Joy Harjo reads from her work Nov. 9 in Billings. (Photo by Paul Abdoo)