U.S. poet laureates Rita Dove, Joy Harjo, and Juan Felipe Hererra
February 5, 2021

Writers Week to honor three U.S. poet laureates

Rita Dove, Joy Harjo, and Juan Felipe Herrera will each receive lifetime achievement awards during a special event Feb. 19.

Author: Jessica Weber
February 5, 2021

Three U.S. poet laureates will close out this year’s Writers Week, California’s longest-running free literary festival, held by UC Riverside for the 44th year. Rita Dove, Joy Harjo, and Juan Felipe Herrera will each be honored with the annual Los Angeles Review of Books (LARB) - UCR Department of Creative Writing Lifetime Achievement Award during a special closing event at 6:30 p.m. on Feb. 19.

“The legacy of these three laureates is incredible,” said Allison Hedge Coke, director of Writers Week, noting each poet has published award-winning books of poetry for over 40 years. “This luminary trifecta served as the first African American, the first Latinx, and first tribally enrolled citizen of a Native nation appointed as U.S. poet laureates, the highest honor for a poet in the United States. Their work for greater good, in providing light to ease troubles, in their generous and great mentorship outreach, and gracious literary presence in shaping the way we view ideals in democracy are represented in their careers and in their compendiums. It is a phenomenal opportunity for us to acknowledge their gifts to our canon and to the world.”

Previous recipients of the Lifetime Achievement Award include Walter Mosley, Margaret Atwood, Maxine Hong Kingston, Ngugi wa Thiong’o, and John Rechy. This year’s event marks the first time there have been three honorees receiving the award.

The award ceremony, as well as all sessions during Writers Week, is free and open to the public and will be presented virtually through the video platform Crowdcast, allowing guests to attend from the comfort and safety of home. The evening will include luminary tributes, presentation of the awards, readings by the poet laureates, and a virtual live Q&A, giving attendees the opportunity to interact with the honorees.

“Thank you, everyone, for attending and sharing links to our first virtual festival,” Hedge Coke said. “We hope everyone stays safe and in touch. Writers Week is for you and is a big part of our outreach from the Department of Creative Writing’s goal to make living writers accessible to everyone and to bring the best of contemporary literature to our stage. Thank you to our generous sponsors, to everyone who staffed and collaborated with us, and to the writers and readers who make this possible. We hope everyone will consider purchasing books by this year’s authors and follow their next offerings, as well.”


Event Information

Writers Week 2021 UCR Department of Creative Writing Lifetime Achievement Award Ceremony

2021 LA Review of Books (LARB) – UCR Department of Creative Writing Lifetime Achievement Award Honorees, U.S. Poet Laureates Rita Dove, Joy Harjo, and Juan Felipe Herrera

Friday, February 19, 2021 | 6:30-8 p.m. (PST) 

Register to attend by saving your spot through the Writers Week Crowdcast.

This event is free and open to the public. Space is limited and advance registration is required.

*This award night is the closing event of the UCR-hosted festival. A ticketed after-event celebration is scheduled with the LA Review of Books at 4 p.m. Feb. 20.

Writers Week logo

Works by Writers Week authors will be available at UCR Campus Barnes & Noble online and at Cellar Door Books in Riverside.

Find more information and register for events at writersweek.ucr.edu.

Read more about Writers Week 2021 and scheduled events here.



Lifetime Achievement Honorees

Rita Dove

Rita Dove

In 1993, Rita Dove was appointed Poet Laureate of the United States and Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress, making her the youngest person — and the first African American — to receive this highest official honor in American Poetry. She served 1993-1995. In 1999 she was reappointed Special Consultant in Poetry for 1999/2000, The Library of Congress Bicentennial year. From 2004-2006, she served as Poet Laureate of the Commonwealth of Virginia. She is a Pulitzer Prize winner for “Thomas and Beulah” (1987), author of numerous poetry books, a novel, short stories, a play, and is editor of “The Penguin Anthology of Twentieth-Century American Poetry.”  Her honors include the 1996 National Humanities Medal from President Clinton and the 2011 National Medal of Arts from President Obama — the only poet ever to receive both medals — as well as the Heinz Award in the Arts and Humanities, the Wallace Stevens Award from the Academy of American Poets, Lifetime Achievement Medals from the Liberty of Virginia and the Fulbright Commission, as well as 28 honorary doctorates, and an NAACP Image Award, which she received for her work “Collected Poems: 1974-2004.” She has served as president of the Association of Writers and Writing Programs and as chancellor of the honor society Phi Beta Kappa. An elected member of the American Philosophical Society, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and the American Academy of Arts and Letters, she is the Henry Hoyns Professor of Creative Writing at the University of Virginia. Her next volume of poems, “Playlist for the Apocalypse: Poems,” is forthcoming from W.W. Norton in the summer of 2021. 

Rita Dove, University of Virginia

Rita Dove, Library of Congress 

Photo credit: Fred Viebahn

Joy Harjo

Joy Harjo

Joy Harjo’s nine books of poetry include “An American Sunrise,” “Conflict Resolution for Holy Beings,” “How We Became Human: New and Selected Poems,” and “She Had Some Horses.” Harjo’s memoir “Crazy Brave” won several awards, including the PEN USA Literary Award for Creative Non-Fiction and the American Book Award. She co-edited two anthologies of contemporary Native women’s writing: “When the Light of the World was Subdued, Our Songs Came Through” and “Reinventing the Enemy’s Language: Native Women’s Writing of North America,” one of the London Observer’s Best Books of 1997. She is the recipient of the Ruth Lilly Prize from the Poetry Foundation for Lifetime Achievement, the 2015 Wallace Stevens Award from the Academy of American Poets for proven mastery in the art of poetry, a Guggenheim Fellowship, the William Carlos Williams Award from the Poetry Society of America, and the United States Artist Fellowship. In 2014 she was inducted into the Oklahoma Writers Hall of Fame. A renowned musician, Harjo performs with her saxophone nationally and internationally, solo and with her band, the Arrow Dynamics. She has five award-winning CDs of music including the award-winning album Red Dreams, A Trail Beyond Tears and Winding Through the Milky Way, which won a Native American Music Award for Best Female Artist of the Year in 2009. Harjo’s latest is a book of poetry from Norton, “An American Sunrise.” In 2019, Joy Harjo was appointed the 23rd United States Poet Laureate, the first Native American to hold the position. She lives in Tulsa, Oklahoma.

Joy Harjo, Joy Harjo

Joy Harjo, Blue Flower Arts

Joy Harjo, Library of Congress

Photo credit: Matika Wilbur

Juan Felipe Hererra

Juan Felipe Herrera

Juan Felipe Herrera is the 21st Poet Laureate of the United States (2015-2016) and is the first Latino to hold the position. From 2012-2014, Herrera served as California State Poet Laureate. Herrera’s many collections of poetry include “Every Day We Get More Illegal”; “Notes on the Assemblage”; “Senegal Taxi”; “Half of the World in Light: New and Selected Poems,” a recipient of the PEN/Beyond Margins Award and the National Book Critics Circle Award; and “187 Reasons Mexicanos Can’t Cross The Border: Undocuments 1971-2007.” He is also the author of “Crashboomlove: A Novel in Verse,” which received the Americas Award. His books of prose for children include: “SkateFate,” “Calling The Doves,” which won the Ezra Jack Keats Award; “Upside Down Boy,” which was adapted into a musical for young audiences in New York City; and “Cinnamon Girl: Letters Found Inside a Cereal Box.” His book “Jabberwalking,” a children’s book focused on turning your wonder at the world around you into weird, wild, incandescent poetry, came out in 2018. Herrera is also a performance artist and activist on behalf of migrant and indigenous communities and at-risk youth.

Juan Felipe Herrera, UCR Emeritus Professor of Creative Writing  

Juan Felipe Herrera, Blue Flower Arts

Juan Felipe Herrera, Library of Congress

Photo credit: Carlos Puma

The 44th Writers Week 2021 is made possible by support from Ken Crocker, Thea Temple / Jack and Jacob Myers Literary Fund,  African Student Programs, Middle Eastern Student Center, UCR Department of English, UCR Department of Ethnic Studies, UCR Department of Music, UCR Department of Theatre, Film, and Digital Production, Center for Ideas and Society, California Center for Native Nations, Dr. Michael Alexander, Associate Professor and Maimonides Chair of Jewish Studies, Dr. Melissa Wilcox, Professor and Holstein Endowed Chair, Pr. Alex Espinoza, Associate Professor, Tomás Rivera Endowed Chair of Creative Writing and English, Dr. Clifford Trafzer, Distinguished Professor of History and Rupert and Jeanette Henry Costo Chair in American Indian Affairs, UCR Arts, College of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences Dean’s Office, our generous sponsors through #UCRGivingTues, Native American Student Programs Office (NASP), the Ratcliffe Family Creative Writing Endowment Fund and Los Angeles Review of Books.

Contact allisonh@ucr.edu or performingarts@ucr.edu for more information.

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