The power of story

Join us for SkyWords

SkyWords Visiting Writers Series connects students and the Durango community with emerging and established writers in dialogue about the power of story. SkyWords provides a space for engagement in discussion about narrative, writing craft, and the big ideas engaging our culture. The diversity of voices, backgrounds, traditions, and visions for the future showcased by SkyWords writers captures the possibilities writing offers for connection, understanding, and change.      

Common Reading Experience

We are sorry for the short notice but the Common Reading events are being rescheduled for September 2022. Please stay tuned for more details.

Natalie Diaz' events are SkyWords is excited to announce our 2022 Common Reading Experience author, Pulitzer Prize winning poet Natalie Diaz. Please join us in dialogue around Diaz's Pulitzer Prize-winning collection of poetry, Postcolonial Love Poem, made possible in part by generous funding from Natural Pathways Foundation, a Colorado Foundation based in Durango. 

Natalie Diaz was born and raised in the Fort Mojave Indian Village in Needles, California, on the banks of the Colorado River. She is Mojave and an enrolled member of the Gila River Indian Tribe. Her first poetry collection, When My Brother Was an Aztec, was published by Copper Canyon Press, and her second book, Postcolonial Love Poem, was published by Graywolf Press in March 2020. 

About Postcolonial Love Poem: "Postcolonial Love Poem is an anthem of desire against erasure. Natalie Diaz's brilliant second collection demands that every body carried in its pages - bodies of language, land, rivers, suffering brothers, enemies, and lovers - be touched and held as beloveds. Through these poems, the wounds inflicted by America onto an indigenous people are allowed to bloom pleasure and tenderness." - Graywolf Press

Copies of Postcolonial Love Poem are available for all Fort Lewis students, faculty, and staff. Please come by the Provost's office (240 Berndt Hall) to pick up your copy!

Press release for Pulitzer Prize-winning poet Natalie Diaz.


Skywords authors

Diné Reader Celebration, featuring Luci Tapahonso, the first Navajo Nation Poet Laureate; Laura Tohe, current Navajo Nation Poet Laureate; award-winning poet Sherwin Bitsui; and poet and anthology co-editor The Diné Reader book coverEsther Belin.

Join us to celebrate the publication of the ​Diné Reader: An Anthology of Navajo Literature, the groundbreaking anthology of ​Diné poetry, published by the University of Arizona Press. The anthology "showcases the breadth, depth, and diversity of Diné creative artists and their poetry, fiction, and nonfiction prose. This wide-ranging anthology brings together writers who offer perspectives that span generations and perspectives on life and Diné history. The collected works display a rich variety of creativity in themes: home and history; contemporary concerns about identity, historical trauma, loss of language; and economic and environmental inequalities."

Laura Tohe, Navajo Nation Poet LaureateLaura Tohe is Diné/Navajo. She is Sleepy Rock clan born for the Bitter Water clan. She holds a Ph.D. in Indigenous American Literature. A librettist and an award-winning poet, she has written six books, including an oral history book on the Navajo Code Talkers. Her commissioned libretto, Enemy Slayer, A Navajo Oratorio, was performed by the Phoenix Symphony and Nahasdzaan in the Glittering World was performed in France 2019 and 2021. She is Professor Emerita with Distinction at Arizona State University, is the current Navajo Nation Poet Laureate and awarded an Academy of American Poetry Fellowship in 2020-2021.

Luci Tapahonso, inaugural Poet Laureate of the Navajo Nation 2013-2015Luci Tapahonso is professor emerita of English Literature (University of New Mexico 2016) and served as the inaugural Poet Laureate of the Navajo Nation (2013-2015). She is the author of three children’s books and six books of poetry including A Radiant Curve which received the 2008 Arizona Book Award for poetry.

Recent literary recognitions include the 2021 Ostana (Italy) Prize: an international award which honors authors who write in their mother tongue, and the delivery of the keynote address at the 5th Annual Taos (N.M.) Writers Conference. Tapahonso will also receive the 2021 Distinguished Literary Achievement Award by the Western Literature Association at its 2022 conference. In 2020, she was an Artist-in-Their-Residence Fellow hosted by the Bosque Redondo Fort Sumner Memorial Museum and recorded a poem for Living Nations, Living Words: A Map of First Peoples Poetry for the U.S. Library of Congress. Her poems published in When the Light of the World Was Subdued, Our Songs Came Through (2020, A Norton Anthology) and The Dine Reader (2020, University of Arizona Press). Tapahonso’s poems were also featured on “The Slow Down with Tracy K. Smith” (Episode #263, 2019. American Public Media and Poetry Foundation) and “Poem-a-Day,” (August 2020, Academy of American Poets). She wrote the script for the exhibition “Creating Tradition: Innovation and Change in American Indian Art” for the American Heritage Gallery at Walt Disney World's Epcot in Florida.

Professor Tapahonso has delivered keynote addresses at several conferences and institutions including Harvard University, Gallup Central High School, Kenyon College, Institute of American Indian Arts, the Tbisili International Literature Festival in the Republic of Georgia and at the University of New Zealand at Auckland and Wellington.

Esther Belin, co editor of The Diné ReaderEsther Belin is an urban Indian, born at an Indian Health Service hospital in Gallup, New Mexico and raised in the greater Los Angeles area.  When recently asked how she became a writer, she explained, “writing was a coping mechanism.”  Belin has been using writing to cope with the everyday macroaggressions of racialized trauma, oppression and general ignorance about Indian tribes and people in the United States.   She has two poetry collections, From the Belly of My Beauty, and Of Cartography, both published by the University of Arizona Press.  She and three others edited an anthology of Navajo Literature, The Diné Reader.  Belin is a faculty mentor in the Institute of American Indian Arts Low-Rez MFA program.  She is a citizen of the Navajo Nation and lives on the Colorado side of the 4 corners region.

Sherwin Bitsui, author of ShapeshiftSherwin Bitsui (Diné) is originally from White Cone, Arizona, on the Navajo Reservation. He is Diné of the Todich’ii’nii (Bitter Water Clan), born for the Tl’izilani (Many Goats Clan). He is the author of Shapeshift (University of Arizona Press, 2003), Flood Song (Copper Canyon Press, 2009), and Dissolve (Copper Canyon Press, 2018). His honors include a Lannan Foundation Poetry Fellowship and a Native Arts & Cultures Foundation Artist Fellowship. He is also the recipient of a 2010 PEN Open Book Award, an American Book Award, and a Whiting Award. He teaches at the Institute of American Indian Arts, and joined the faculty at Northern Arizona University in the fall of 2019.

Theodore C. Van Alst, Jr is the chair and Tilikum Professor of Indigenous Nations Studies at Portland State University. His scholarly publications include chapters for collections such as Seeing Red: Hollywood's Pixelated Skins, and Visualities: Perspectives on Contemporary American Indian Film and Art, both from Michigan State University Press, as well as The Routledge Companion to Native American Literature and The Routledge Handbook of Critical Indigenous Studies. His research focuses on contemporary Indigenous literature and film as well as Native spirituality and its connections to land, health, and environment. His mosaic novel about sort of growing up in Chicago, Sacred Smokes, winner of the 2019 Tillie Olsen Award for Creative Writing, is now in its second printing. His next book, Sacred City, was published in November of 2021, also by the University of New Mexico Press, who released his edited volume The Faster Redder Road: The Best UnAmerican Stories of Stephen Graham Jones. He is the Creative Editor for Transmotion (a journal of postmodern indigenous studies) and an Active Horror Writers Association member. 



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