How I began following Tanaya on Twitter escapes me. What I do know is that I admire her, her work, and what she is putting out into the world. Given that our theme is culture, given that many people think Indigenous peoples have died out, and given the significance of NAHM I felt it was only right to nominate a Native for Poet of the Month. Not only is her writing something anyone can relate to, but some of her work also touches on some of the things going on in Indian Country.

Featured Image art is “Together” by Melissa Melero from The Numu Series. View her website here, and an enlarged version of piece here. Without further ado, your Poet of the Month, Tanaya Winder.


    for the murdered & missing Indigenous women on Turtle Island

Not when or where but how, did we lose you,
in between Last Seen _____ the words become elegy
echoing sidewalks and streets. Hand out your picture to
strangers. Post it on Post Office bulletin boards: Missing
as if it were destination, a place one goes
to disappear in invisible cities. Except theres no hero like
in the movies. No ads, mainstream coverage, or TV shows
to show our story. Are we invisible if no one knows, why?
When 1,181 women were taken, did eyes cease to have vision
or pay attention to a body being swallowed up?
Those left behind who remember you continue on a mission,
an endless search of the cities in which we loved
(and love) you.  We will never forget. We demand for you
action, words, even a poem that ends: your lives matter, too.


in my mothers womb


i came into this world
incomplete, born with a hole
in my heart. it happened

in my mothers womb.
doctors have a name for it:
call it congenital cardiovascular defect.

my grandmother says its the moon
emptied of its many faces. it is against nature.
creation has a will of its own.

or is it a pact from the past
made long ago? it happened
in my mothers womb, the blood

vessels closest to my heart
didnt develop the way nature
or the Creator intended.  

when the doctors say hereditary,
my grandmother responds
ancestrally in prayer, songs gifted

to her like birds. my mother and i do not know
the words. but, when grandmother sings
she is calling on horses to run in on clouds

to protect us, to save us.


long ago, there was a man
who loved my great great great grandmother.
the love connected two people, two

spirits so deeply it shook the earth.
i imagine it, the way it should have lasted
long after the moon. yet, he left her.

his leaving made
this hole passed down
in my grandmothers grandmothers womb.


love on paper

Wandering the City of Chicago, I stumble
     upon the Newberry Librarys exhibit titled,
          Love on Paper. It begins
               Googled most frequently in 2014:
                    “What is love?

Exhibit A: Archangel Gabriel. We met singing
     silly love songs from Moulin Rouge, the Eagles,
          Elton John. Was it wrong to ask
               a stranger to duet when we were
                    drunk off red wine?

Exhibit B: The first time we made love he strummed
     melodies Best of My Love on guitar. We sat in the dark
          on white linen sheets so paper-thin,
               starched dry, youd think
                    they were his wings.

Exhibit C: I dont remember the details exactly
     if Gabriel wrapped his wings around me or if I asked:
          hold me each night. Come What May
               rolling from his lips like waves,
                    questioning: is this love?

an answer my lips couldnt give as I kissed him farewell
     between wings and sheets. Your Song follows me in
          every city echoing beneath my ribbed cage:
               a reminder of every place my
                    paper heart has ever burned.


awakening: you died while i was sleeping

and I climbed further and farther into the night to ask the
stars: are there limits to loving? In silence they answered.

Unspoken, I placed grief on the backs of constellations
rearranged my thinking, put together the lights to make

the sky read: people grow up, out of love, and leave people behind.
You left. I lost you when you died and maybe

yes, maybe love can be rendered in the countless times
I awoke that night to hear your voice crying

on the wind that carried it or was it my own
that woke me as it echoed Come back to me.

Come back to me. Come back to me. You died
while I was sleeping and I cant remember

what I was dreaming about,
if I was dreaming at all.

Tanaya Winder is from the Southern Ute, Duckwater Shoshone, and Pyramid Lake Paiute Nations. A poet, writer, artist, and educator who holds a BA in English from Stanford University and a MFA in Creative Writing from the University of New Mexico (UNM). Winder has published in Cutthroat, Adobe Walls, Superstition ReviewDrunkenboat, and Kweli. She is co-editor of Soul Talk, Song Language with Joy Harjo (Wesleyan Univ. Press) and founding editor of As/Us: A Space for Women of the WorldWords Like Love is her first full length poetry collection (West End Press, 2015).

Most impressively she is Director of UC-Boulder’s Upward Bound Program, which services 103 Native American youth from 8 states, 22 high schools, and 12 reservations across the country and an active performer and champion of her peers, Winder founded a management company for Indigenous artists, Dream Warriors.

See her full bio here on her website.
Follow her on Twitter: @tanayawinder

MEDIA NOTE: Ms. Winder is available for interviews & events. Email or contact Amanda Sutton with West End Press at or +1-505-400-3898.

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November 4, 2015