Luci Tapahanso

Ethereal yet immensely powerful, the works of Navajo poet Luci Tapahanso seem as native to the Southwest as the yellow sandstone and fragrant sage of her first home in Shiprock, New Mexico. Like Joy Harjo and Simon Ortiz, Tapahanso draws from the oral traditions in which she was raised--in her case, the flowing rhythms of the Beauty Way and other Navajo chants.

These rhythms and traditional songs are incorporated organically into her work. Her poetry is rooted in the remote mesa country of the Navajo reservations; she does not ignore the problems of modern urban Indians--alcoholism, poverty, racism. Her poems untie these harsh realities with the harmony of vision so important to her Navajo worldview. From 2000 on, she was based in Tucson at the University of Arizona where she directed the program in Native American Studies. In 2009, she moved back to the University of New Mexico, where she was educated, retiring from there in 2016 to write full-time.

Click here to hear an excerpt on Luci Tapahonso from Writing the Southwest.

Listen to the half-hour documentary on Luci Tapahanso by David Dunaway below: