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Native American Poets and Writers

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  This is a list of some of the prominent, but certainly not all, Native American poets and writers from or teaching in border states in the U.S.


Ofelia Zepeda

Zepeda is a Tohono O'odham poet, writer and professor of linguistics at the University of Arizona. Zepeda has published several books, her most recently titled Where Clouds are Formed (UA Press 2008). Zepeda is bilingual and writes poems in both English and O'odham. Her other books are Jewed 'I-hoi / Earth Movements (Kore Press 1997) and Ocean Power: Poems from the Desert (UA Press 1995). She's also the author of the first Tohono O'odham grammar book. Click here to read an excerpt from Ocean Power: Poems from the Desert.

Leslie Marmon Silko

Marmon Silko is a Native American poet, novelist and essayist from the Laguna Pueblo tribe in west central New Mexico, 45 miles outside of Albuquerque. Marmon Silko taught at the University of Arizona until she won the MacArthur Genius Award, after which she devoted her time to writing. Her novels include Ceremony (Viking 1997), Almanac of the Dead (Simon and Schuster 1991) and Gardens in the Dunes (Simon and Schuster 1999). She has also written six different collections of poetry and short stories, the most recent being Love Poem and the Slim Canyon (1996).

Sherwin Bitsui

Bitsui is Diné, originally from the Navajo Reservation in White Cone, Arizona. A graduate of the University of Arizona, Bitsui has earned multiple writing awards for his poems, including the Truman Capote Creative Writing Fellowship. He has published two books, Shapeshift (UA Press 2003) and Flood Song (Copper Canyon Press 2009), the latter of which won the 2010 PEN Open Book Award and an American Book Award. Click here to visit Bitsui's website and blog. Click here to read River a poem by Bitsui.

Franci Washburn

Born on the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota, Washburn is currently (2011) an Associate Professor in the American Indian Studies Program at the University of Arizona. Washburn is a fiction writer who draws from her experiences as a Native American woman.Her most recent novel titled The Sacred White Turkey was published in 2010 (University of Nebraska Press). She is also the author of one other novel, Elsie's Business (University of Nebraska Press 2006).

Joy Harjo

Harjo is a Native American poet, originally from Tulsa, Okla. and a member of the Mvskoke Creek Nation. She has taught at several Southwest universities including University of New Mexico, Albuquerque, University of Arizona and Arizona State University. She has written seven books of poetry, her most recent titled How We Became Human: New and Selected Poems, 1975-2001 (Norton 2002). Click here to read the poem "She Had Some Horses." She also produces original music and has recently release a CD titled "Red Dreams." Click here to listen.

Sherman Alexie
Alexie is a Spokane/Coeur d'Alene Indian writer who has published an array of poetry, novels, and collection of stories including his most recent novel, War Dances, which won the 2010 PEN, Faulkner Award for Fiction. He has also written three movies, 49?, Smoke Signals and The Business of Fancydancing. He grew up on the Spokane Indian Reservation, 50 miles from Spokane, WA. Visit Alexie's Website at here.

Luci Tapahonso
Tapahonso is a Diné poet, writer and professor at the University of Arizona, originally from Shiprock, New Mexico. She teaches American Indian literature and creative writing courses. Tapahonso is the author of three children's books and five books of poetry. Her most recent book was published in 2008, A Radiant Curve: Poems and Stories. Tapahonso's other books include, Blue Horses Rush In: Poems and Stories, Saanii Dahataal/The Women are Singing: Poems and Stories and A Breeze Swept Through. Click here and read an excerpt from Saanii Dahataal/The Women are Singing: Poems and Stories.

Gerald Vizenor

Vizenor is a poet and member of the Minnesota Chippewa tribe and was raised from a young age on the White Earth Reservation. Currently a professor emeritus at UC Berkeley and a professor at the University of New Mexico, Vizenor has written more than 20 books of nonfiction, fiction and poetry. His most recent poetry collection is titled Almost Ashore: Selected Poems (Salt Publishing 2006). His novel Griever: An American Monkey King in China (University of Minnesota Press 1990) won the New York Fiction Collective Prize and an American Book Award. To read "Tyranny of Moths," a poem by Vizenor, click here.

Simon J. Ortiz

Ortiz is a fiction and non-fiction writer as well as a poet. Born and raised in New Mexico, Ortiz is an Acoma Pueblo Indian. According to the Poetry Foundation, Ortiz's poetry has been heavily influenced by his culture as well as the work of other poets like Walt Whitman and the Beat movement poets. His most recent publication is a children'd book titled The Good Rainbow Road (UA Press 2004). A previous publication, From Sand Creek: Rising In This Heart Which Is Our America (1981), won the Pushcart Prize in Poetry. Click here to read "Culture and the Universe" a poem by Ortiz.


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