Indigenous Poetry

November is Native American heritage month! I love reading books by Indigenous authors all year long, but this month I decided to foray into poetry by Indigenous writers. I’ve read some really wonderful collections that celebrate the breadth and diversity of the Indigenous experience with beautiful imagery and sharp prose. If you’re looking for some quick reads that really resonate, give one of these poetry collections a try! 

New Poets of Native Nations: This anthology gathers poets of diverse ages, styles, languages, and tribal affiliations to present the extraordinary range and power of new Native poetry.

Navajo by Shonto Begay: A renowned Navajo artist/writer combines the best of his paintings with his rich poetic voice, to give young readers an insightful glimpse into the lives and souls of his people.

Dissolve by Sherwin Bitsui: A haunting, raw, and innovative collection of poems drawing upon Navajo history and tradition.

Living Nations, Living Words: An Anthology of First Peoples Poetry: A moving, thought-provoking anthology that celebrates the breadth of Native poets writing today.

Songs From This Earth on Turtle’s Back: Contemporary American Indian Poetry: A powerful anthology of poetry collecting 52 poets from more than 35 different Native American nations.

A Bare Unpainted Table by Gladys Cardiff: Intense and complex meditations on loss, grief, and the solaces we yearn for.

Postcolonial Love Poem by Natalie Diaz: A haunting, lyrical collection of poems exploring the body through desire and the preservation of Native American  lives and cultures.

Little Big Bully by Heid E. Erdrich: Immediate, impassioned poems exploring the past and present lives of Indigenous people.

When the Light of the World Was Subdued, Our Songs Came Through: This thoughtful, sweeping anthology collects the work of more than 160 poets, representing nearly 100 Indigenous nations.

An American Sunrise by Joy Harjo: A stunning, illuminating volume of poetry intertwining Harjo’s personal life with tribal histories to create space for renewed beginnings.

Star Quilt by Roberta Hill Whiteman: A tender, beautifully descriptive collection of poems about Native American life and traditions.

Dark, Sweet by Linda Hogan: Spare, clear, and powerful poems with sweeping themes including the environment. spiritual concerns, and Hogan’s Chickasaw heritage.

Dēmos: An American Multitude by Benjamín Naka-Hasebe Kingsley: From the intersection of Onondaga, Japanese, Cuban, and Appalachian cultures, Benjamín Naka-Hasebe Kingsley’s newest collection arrives brimming with personal and political histories.

The Secret Powers of Naming by Sara Littlecrow-Russell: Sharp, energetic, and provocative poems exploring the Native American experience at the beginning of the 21st century.

Whereas by Layli Long Soldier: An innovative collection of short lyrics, prose poems, and longer narrative sequences that confronts the coercive language of the United States government in its responses to treaties and apologies to Native American peoples and tribes.

Blood Thirsty Savages by Adrian C. Louis: These poems offer an unflinching look at the harsh realities of modern-day Native American life.

The Death of Sitting Bear: New and Selected Poems by Scott N. Momaday: An engaging, lyrical, reflective collection of poems illuminating the human condition, Momaday’s connection to his Kiowa roots, and his spiritual relationship to the American landscape.

What the Chickadeee Knows by Margaret Noodin: A striking, urgent collection of poems in Anishinaabemowin and English exploring the nature, history, tradition, and relationships of the Anishinaabe.

The Nightlife by Elise Paschen: Poems that are versatile and experimental in form create a narrative which balances the lived and imagined life in this thoughtful collection.

Eyes Bottle Dark With a Mouthful of Flowers by Jake Skeets: An atmospheric, searing, visceral collection of poems focusing on queerness, violence, and Navajo identity.

Blue Horses Rush In: Poems and Stories by Luci Tapahonso:A poignant collection of stories and poems celebrating the joys and sorrows of everyday life and deeply entrenched in Tapahonso’s Navajo heritage.

Manifestation Wolverine by Ray A. Young Bear: Ray Young Bear draws on ancient Meskwaki tradition and modern popular culture to create poems that provoke, astound, and heal in this definitive collection of his work.

Do you have a favorite Indigenous poet? What are you reading to celebrate Native American Heritage Month? Let me know in the comments!

Published by Kristi

Hi there! I am Kristi, a book obsessed human with strong opinions. Join me as I read across genres and do the work to find you the best of the best books.

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