On April 24, Elmer Guy, president of Navajo Technical College, announced the appointment of Luci Tapahonso as the Navajo Nation’s first Poet Laureate. Tapahonso will officially assume her role for the two-year position at the college’s commencement ceremonies on May 17, Guy said in revealing the award.
The goal of designating a chief poet is “to encourage other Navajo poets, writers, film makers and artists to realize how important their work is to the continuance and growth of Navajo contemporary culture,” Guy said at a press conference announcing Tapahonso’s honor. “Luci represents the best of what it is to be Diné, honoring our traditions, while at the same time forming a contemporary voice that speaks beautifully to all people.”
Tapahonso has written five books of poetry and stories, as well as a children’s book. Saánii Dahataal (1993) and Blue Horses Rush In (1997) are two of her better-known collections, both published by the University of Arizona Press. She also holds the distinction of being named Storyteller of the Year by the Wordcraft Circle of Native Writers in 1999, a year after being recognized with the Region Book Award from the Mountains & Plains Booksellers Association, the Navajo Nation said in a press release.
For more on Native poetry, see First American Indian Poet and Indigenous American Poetry Symposium.