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U.S. Poet Laureate JOY HARJO Comes to Columbus for NEA Big Read

Photo (c) Melissa Luekenbill

The Chattahoochee Valley Libraries, in partnership with Columbus State University’s Carson McCullers Center for Writers and Musicians, is pleased to announce that United States Poet Laureate JOY HARJO will be coming to Columbus in February, 2020 for a series of readings and classes with students and the public.

Ms. Harjo’s appearance will be the culminating event in this year’s NEA Big Read, the national program where an entire community is encouraged to read and study one book. This year’s title is the poet’s emotional and moving compilation  HOW WE BECAME HUMAN.

A month-long series of programs on Native American literature, history and cultural arts will precede Ms. Harjo’s appearances on February 21 and 21. You can find the complete list of events below.

The public will have two opportunities to see and meet the Poet Laureate:

◊ Friday February 21 – 7:00pm reception, 7:30pm reading and book-signing. Copies of HOW WE BECAME HUMAN and other works will be available for purchase.

◊ Saturday February 22 – 10:00am – Master Class on writing poetry

Both events will be held on the Riverside Theatre Mainstage, Columbus State University, 6 West 10th Street, Columbus.

TEACHERS/BOOK CLUBS: The NEA Big Read is happy to provide background materials and discussion questions about Ms. Harjo and HOW WE BECAME HUMAN. Be sure to visit the Book’s webpage for more information.

The NEA Big Read is a program of the National Endowment for the Arts in partnership with Arts Midwest. Additional local sponsors include the Muscogee County Friends of Libraries. Media sponsors include WRBL News 3 and iHeartRadio.


—Literary Events—

Photo (c) Matika Wilbur

An Evening with Joy Harjo
Our NEA Big Read Celebration of Joy Harjo and her poetry collection How We Became Human culminates with incredible evening of verse and story with the U.S Poet Laureate. Don’t miss this opportunity to hear from and speak with one of our nation’s leading writers and philosophers! Copies of her work will be available for purchase.
Fri. February 21
Reception @ 7:00pm
Reading and Book-signing @ 7:30pm
Riverside Theatre Complex, Columbus State University
6 West 10th Street, Columbus

Master Class – Creative Writing with Joy Harjo; Readings by Melissa Pritchard and Sandra Meek
A wonderful chance to learn and grow as a writer. Ms. Harjo will offer tips, advice and more during this workshop presentation. Joining her for readings of their work will be essayist and author Melissa Pritchard and poet Sandra Meek. Presented as part of the Carson McCullers Literary Festival.
Sat. February 22 @ 10:00am
Riverside Theatre Complex, Columbus State University
6 West 10th Street, Columbus

Reading Poetry in General (and Joy Harjo in Particular)
Award-winning poet and McCullers Center Director Nick Norwood gives us an entertaining overview of how to appreciate good and great poetry, with a focus on the work of our NEA Big Read author Joy Harjo. A great introduction to her appearance later in February!
Tues. February 11 @ 7:00pm
Auditorium, Columbus Public Library


The Triumph of the Ecunnau-Nuxulgee – An Introduction to the Creek Nation in Georgia
Columbus Historian William W. “Billy” Winn, the author of two books on the Creek nation in Georgia, will discuss their long history in our area before their forced removal to the Western Frontier, an event that presaged the better-known Trail of Tears saga with the Cherokee.
Thur. January 30 @ 7:00pm
Auditorium, Columbus Public Library

One Road Tells Many Stories
Learn about the intersections of Creek Indian and African-American 19th century life along the historic Federal Road that stretched from GA into AL. Shari L. Williams, The Ridge Executive Director & Ph.D. Candidate, Auburn University, will highlight interactions of Creeks, settlers, and enslaved persons as the Federal Road evolved from a prehistoric Native-American hunting and trading path into a conduit for U.S. westward expansion and a contributor to Creek Indian forced removal.
Tues. February 18 @ 6:30pm
AKA Room, Mildred L. Terry Public Library


Five Civilized Tribes: Researching Native American Genealogy
NOTE: Registration is requested for this free event. Please click on the event title above then click the “Register” button.
APG Professional Genealogist and registered Cherokee Nation member Marjorie Lowe leads this morning-long workshop on researching Native American ancestry in the Southeast:

  • Part One – Finding the Five Tribes: The Dawes Roll and Beyond – Lowe will start with an overview of the Dawes Roll – the official listing of members of the Five Civilized Tribes (Cherokee, Chickasaw, Choctaw, Creek and Seminole). From there she will discuss sources and strategies for uncovering Native American ancestry and will highlight Library resources that may aid you in your quest.
  • Part Two – The Cherokee Trail of Tears: Tiana’s Journey. Ms. Lowe will focus on historical resources (such as information about the Trail of Tears) from which to craft a narrative of your ancestors’ journeys. The story of her ancestor Tiana will be used as an example.

Sat. February 8 @ 9:30am-12:30pm
Synovus Meeting Rooms A+B, Columbus Public Library

 —Fine and Performing Arts—

Concert/Lecture: The Construction and Expression of Flute and Drums in Native American Music
Have you ever wondered what makes a Native American flute sound so unique or how their drums are similar (or not!) to other native cultures? In addition to playing native compositions, local musicians Stephanie Payne and Caroline Vaughan will go through how these instruments are constructed and the meaning behind their construction in this delightful concert/lecture.
Thur. February 6 @ 7:00pm
Auditorium, Columbus Public Library

 Art as Intimacy and Activism: Hopi Revival Pottery
This presentation by Columbus State University Art Historian Melissa Hebert-Johnson examines of the revival of ancient ceramic practices by early 20th century Hopi artists in two ways. The creation and function of pottery was something intimate to be shared with loved ones; yet at the same time, the promotion and sale of pottery enabled communities to survive and thrive in the colonized Southwest. The talk concludes with a discussion of contemporary Native American artists’ thoughts on the creation and sale of art in the late 20th-21st centuries.”
Thur. February 13 @ 7:00pm
Auditorium, Columbus Public Library

 —Storytelling and Culture—

Game Time!
Native Americans played games during their ceremonies and to teach children life skills. During this program we will learn about and enjoy some of these games.
Fri. February 7 @ 4:30pm
AKA Room, Mildred L. Terry Public Library

Survival of the Eastern Creeks – a Family Storytelling Event
The whole family is invited to spend time with Dr. Peggy Venable of the Lower Muscogee Creek Tribe. She and other volunteers will share stories, songs, crafts, activities and more.
Sat. February 15 @ 2:00pm-4:00pm.
North Columbus Public Library

Creek Culture Family Night
To celebrate Poet Laureate Joy Harjo’s works, families are invited to learn about local Creek Indian culture. Games, stories and more will be highlighted and a light dinner will be provided. Registration for this event is required. Please call (706) 683-8805 to reserve your spot!
Wed. February 26 @ 6:00pm
South Columbus Public Library

 —Crafts (and more) for Teens—

Bullet Journal Poetry
Learn how to use bullet-journaling and other techniques to make your poetry pop. Bring your own poetry or select from Joy Harjo’s works. Materials provided. Registration is required at 706-748-2855.
Sat. February 1 @ 4:30pm
North Columbus Public Library

Multicultural Crafts 
We will learn about the Lakota Nation as we make Lakota Star Quilt Designs.
Tues. February 11 @ 4:00pm
Teen Department, Columbus Public Library

Building Up: Architecture and Engineering
Technology meets History! Let’s use today’s architectural software to build Native American structures. What might we discover as we create?Tues. February 11 @ 6:00pm
AKA Room, Mildred L. Terry Public Library

Teen Movie: Smoke Signals
Join us to watch a coming-of-age dramatic comedy featuring an indigenous American cast. Movie is rated PG-13.
Thur. February 27 @ 4:00pm 
Teen Department, Columbus Public Library

Poetry & Painting
Session 1: ages 8-12 4-5pm
Session 2: ages 13-16: 6-7pm
Create canvas art with inspiration! We will talk about US Poet Laureate Jo Harjo’s poetry and her Native American heritage and then create pieces inspired by her work.
Thur. February 27 @ 4:30pm and 6:00pm
Large Conference Room, North Columbus Public Library

 —Public Book Discussions—
The public is invited to join in with some of our most popular book clubs to discuss Joy Harjo and the NEA Big Read selection How We Became Human. Be sure to check in with the sponsoring Branch (listed in the description) as they may be able to provide you with a free copy of the collection.

Books and Brews
Like books? Like brews? This adult book club is the perfect “mix” for a lazy Saturday afternoon! Participants are responsible for their own food and beverages. Call the Mildred L. Terry Public Library 706-243-2782 for more information.
Sat. February 1 @ 2:00pm
Houlihan’s Uptown Columbus, 800 Front Avenue

Page Turners Book Club
Join us monthly for a lively book discussion of eclectic, member-selected titles. New members are always welcome to this book club that typically meets at the Mildred L. Terry Public Library. Call 706-243-2782 or email mlt@cvlga.org for more information.
Sat. February 8 @ 1:00pm
AKA Room, Mildred L. Terry Public Library

One More Chapter Book Club
Bring your lunch and join us each month for lively banter about a book selected from a variety of genres. We will follow up with everyone’s latest reading recommendations! Please call the North Columbus Public Library at 706-748-2855 for more information.
Thur. February 20 @ 12noon
Small Conference Room, North Columbus Public Library

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