Paying Homage to Indigenous Poetry

Reading Time: 5 minutes

Indigenous Poetry Collections 

November marks Native American Heritage Month, a time for reflection and celebration, inviting us to explore Indigenous cultures through poetry.

It is our duty, not just in this designated month but every day, to uplift and celebrate the voices that have too long been marginalized.

Join us as we go through poetry collections that unlock a world of understanding, empathy, and appreciation for Native American heritage.

The Death of Sitting Bear

by N Scott Momaday

isbn: 9780062961150,template: list“These are the poems of a master poet. . . . When you read these poems, you will learn to hear deeply the sound a soul makes as it sings about the mystery of dreaming and becoming.”Joy Harjo, Mvskoke Nation, U.S. Poet Laureate

Pulitzer Prize winner and celebrated American master N. Scott Momaday returns with a radiant collection of more than 200 new and selected poems rooted in Native American oral tradition.

One of the most important and unique voices in American letters, distinguished poet, novelist, artist, teacher, and storyteller N. Scott Momaday was born into the Kiowa tribe and grew up on Indian reservations in the Southwest. The customs and traditions that influenced his upbringing–most notably the Native American oral tradition–are the centerpiece of his work.

Dream Drawings: Configurations of a Timeless Kind

by N Scott Momaday

isbn: 9780063218116,template: list

“[Momaday] must be ranked among the greatest of our contemporary writers.”–American Scholar

From Pulitzer Prize winner and revered literary master N. Scott Momaday, a beautiful and enchanting new poetry collection, at once a celebration of language, imagination, and the human spirit.

A singular voice in American letters, Momaday’s love of language and storytelling are on full display in this brilliant new collection comprising one hundred sketches or “dream drawings”–furnishings of the mind–as he calls them. Influenced by his Native American heritage and its oral storytelling traditions, here are prose poems about nature, animals, warriors, and hunters, as well as meditations that explore themes of love, loss, time, and memory.

Eyes Bottle Dark with a Mouthful of Flowers: Poems

by Jake Skeets

isbn: 9781571315205,template: listWinner of the 2021 Kate Tufts Discovery Award

Winner of a 2020 Whiting Award in Poetry

Finalist for the 2020 Lambda Literary Award in Gay Poetry

Selected by Kathy Fagan as a winner of the 2018 National Poetry Series, Eyes Bottle Dark with a Mouthful of Flowers is a debut collection of poems by a dazzling geologist of queer eros.

Drunktown, New Mexico, is a place where men “only touch when they fuck in a backseat.” Its landscape is scarred by violence: done to it, done on it, done for it. Under the cover of deepest night, sleeping men are run over by trucks. Navajo bodies are deserted in fields. Resources are extracted. Lines are crossed. Men communicate through beatings, and football, and sex. In this place, “the closest men become is when they are covered in blood / or nothing at all.”

But if Jake Skeets’s collection is an unflinching portrait of the actual west, it is also a fierce reclamation of a living place–full of beauty as well as brutality, whose shadows are equally capable of protecting encounters between boys learning to become, and to love, men. Its landscapes are ravaged, but they are also startlingly lush with cacti, yarrow, larkspur, sagebrush. And even their scars are made newly tender when mapped onto the lover’s body: A spine becomes a railroad. “Veins burst oil, elk black.” And “becoming a man / means knowing how to become charcoal.” Rooted in Navajo history and thought, these poems show what has been brewing in an often forgotten part of the American literary landscape, an important language, beautiful and bone dense.

Habitat Threshold

by Craig Santos Perez

isbn: 9781632430809,template: list

With Habitat Threshold, Craig Santos Perez has crafted a timely collection of eco-poetry that explores his ancestry as a native Pacific Islander, the ecological plight of his homeland, and his fears for the future. The book begins with the birth of the author’s daughter, capturing her growth and childlike awe at the wonders of nature. As it progresses, Perez confronts the impacts of environmental injustice, the ravages of global capitalism, toxic waste, animal extinction, water rights, human violence, mass migration, and climate change.

Throughout, he mourns lost habitats and species, and confronts his fears for the future world his daughter will inherit. Amid meditations on calamity, this work does not stop at the threshold of elegy. In this future, we cultivate love and ‘carry each other towards the horizon of care.’

Through experimental forms, free verse, prose, haiku, sonnets, satire, and a method he calls “recycling,” Perez has created a diverse collection filled with passion. Habitat Threshold invites us to reflect on the damage done to our world and to look forward, with urgency and imagination, to the possibility of a better future.

Little Big Bully

by Heid E Erdrich

isbn: 9780143135920,template: listWinner of the 2022 Rebekah Johnson Bobbitt National Prize for Poetry

Little Big Bully begins with a question asked of a collective and troubled we – how did we come to this? In answer, this book offers personal myth, American and Native American contexts, and allegories driven by women’s resistance to narcissists, stalkers, and harassers. These poems are immediate, personal, political, cultural, even futuristic object lessons. What is truth now? Who are we now? How do we find answers through the smoke of human destructiveness? The past for Indigenous people, ecosystem collapse from near-extinction of bison, and the present epidemic of missing and murdered Indigenous women underlie these poems. Here, survivors shout back at useless cautionary tales with their own courage and visions of future worlds made well.

Living Nations, Living Words

by Joy Harjo – Carla D Hayden – The Library of Congress The Library of Congress

isbn: 9780393867916,template: list

Joy Harjo, the first Native poet to serve as U.S. Poet Laureate, has championed the voices of Native peoples past and present. Her signature laureate project gathers the work of contemporary Native poets into a national, fully digital map of story, sound, and space, celebrating their vital and unequivocal contributions to American poetry.

This companion anthology includes every poem and poet featured in the project. Readers have the opportunity to hold this wealth of poems in their hands. These selected poems explore the theme of place and displacement and touch upon the elements of visibility, persistence, resistance, and acknowledgment. Each poem exemplifies what Joy Harjo emphasizes in her compelling introduction: “that heritage is a living thing, and there can be no heritage without land and the relationships that outline our kinship.”

Postcolonial Love Poem

by Natalie Diaz

isbn: 9781644450147,template: list



Postcolonial Love Poem is an anthem of desire against erasure. Natalie Diaz’s brilliant second collection makes a powerful demand.

Weaving Sundown in a Scarlet Light: Fifty Poems for Fifty Years

by Joy Harjo – Sandra Cisneros

isbn: 9781324036487,template: list

Throughout her long and influential career in poetry, Joy Harjo has garnered praise from notable critics. John Freeman of the Boston Globe has described her as possessing a “warm, oracular voice.” According to Craig Morgan Teicher of NPR, her voice emanates “from a deep and timeless source of compassion for all.” Her poems are musical, intimate, political, and wise, intertwining ancestral memory and tribal histories with resilience and love.

In this gemlike volume, Harjo selects her best poems from across fifty years. It begins with her early discoveries of her own voice and ends with moving reflections on our contemporary moment. Generous notes on each poem offer insight into Harjo’s inimitable poetics.



Want more on this similar topic? Check out our poetry selection! From love poems to explorations of modern culture, discover the harmony of classic prose and a new generation’s best poetry voices. Explore and connect with fellow lovers of poetry.