timeline

born 1953

Luci Tapahonso started writing poems at age 8 or 9, but she didn't decide on a career in creative writing until famous Native American author Leslie Marmon Silko stepped in as her mentor. Raised with 11 siblings on a New Mexico farm in the heart of the Shiprock Reservation, Luci's poetry + stories are influenced by her traditional Navajo upbringing. Her work ~ often composed orally in her first language before being transcribed to English ~ blends contemporary voices with ancient forms + legends.

In 2013, the Navajo Nation honored Luci's legacy by selecting her as their inaugural poet laureate. She uses the position as a platform to share the culture of storytelling that's foundational to Southwestern tribal life.

bio bits

her quotes

all quotes by Luci Tapahonso (17)

"I can easily sing for this time is mine, and these ragged red cliffs, flowing hills and wind echoes are only extensions of a never-ending prayer."

Prayer | january 1982

"Vincent Watchman was shot in the head February 12 because he owed 97c at a Thriftway gas station . . . There is no way that such an action can be justified, the official said, while we realized our lives weren't worth a dollar and a 24-year-old Ganado man never used the $3 worth of gas he paid for."

Pay Up or Else | january 1982

"The past determines what our present is or our future will be. I don't think there is really a separation of the three."

For What I Am {via Native American Authors} | january 1987

"The combination of song, poetry, and prayer is a natural form of expression for many Navajo people. A person who can 'talk beautifully' is well thought of. To know stories, remember stories, and retell them well is to have been 'raised right.'"

Saanii Dahataat: The Women Are Singing | january 1993

"You will grow: laughing, crying, and we will celebrate each change you live."

Blue Horses Rush In | january 1993

"When you were born and took your first breath, different colors and different kinds of wind entered through your fingertips . . . Each sound we make evokes the power of these winds and we are, at once, gentle and powerful."

Remember the Things They Told Us | january 1993

"Because of her, we think and create. Because of her, we make songs. Because of her, the designs appear as we weave. Because of her, we tell stories and laugh. We believe in old values and new ideas."

This is how they were placed for us | january 1994

"It makes your life complete to have something to believe in."

The Moon Is So Far Away: An Interview with Luci Tapahonso | november 1995

"Part of what is really important, is to be able to have empathy for people, to understand the pain of another person, even if you haven’t experienced what they have."

The Moon Is So Far Away: An Interview with Luci Tapahonso | november 1995

"Because of her, we tell stories and laugh. We believe in old values and new ideas."

Blue Horses Rush in: Poems and Stories | january 1997

"I consider Navajo language to be the undercurrent, the matrix which everything in my life filters through . . . Yet I use English to function in American society."

Luci Tapahonso: A Navaho Voice in the Midwest {via Native American Authors} | january 1997

"For me, writing is a way of sharing the memories and voices of family and relatives, and a way of surviving."

Luci Tapahonso: A Navaho Voice in the Midwest {via Native American Authors} | january 1997

"My little one, my daughter’s child, what happiness you are to me. She cries a little, ah, ah, like the infant she no longer is, and I hold her like the sweet surprise she will always be."

Shisóí | may 1997

"Words have power that can create and heal. Also destroy. After something is said, the people who heard it will always remember it. You have to think about the words you say."

A World Carved from Words: The First Navajo Poet Laureate | january 2014

"Poetry can’t all be about beauty. It is a balance."

A World Carved from Words: The First Navajo Poet Laureate | january 2014

"At its essence, poetry is storytelling."

A World Carved from Words: The First Navajo Poet Laureate | january 2014

"The more you tell stories, the more people will tell you their stories, and it just adds to the knowledge."

A World Carved from Words: The First Navajo Poet Laureate | january 2014
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curated with care by Alicia Williamson