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The Death of Sitting Bear: New and Selected Poems

“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.

This luminous collection demonstrates Momaday’s mastery and love of language and the matters closest to his heart. To Momaday, words are sacred; language is power. Spanning nearly fifty years, the poems gathered here illuminate the human condition, Momaday’s connection to his Kiowa roots, and his spiritual relationship to the American landscape.

The title poem, “The Death of Sitting Bear” is a celebration of heritage and a memorial to the great Kiowa warrior and chief. “I feel his presence close by in my blood and imagination,” Momaday writes, “and I sing him an honor song.” Here, too, are meditations on mortality, love, and loss, as well as reflections on the incomparable and holy landscape of the Southwest.

The Death of Sitting Bear evokes the essence of human experience and speaks to us all.

N. Scott Momaday (1934-2024) is an internationally renowned poet, Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist, artist, teacher, and storyteller. He authored numerous works that include poetry, novels, essays, plays, and children’s stories. He won the Pulitzer Prize for his debut novel House Made of Dawn and was the recipient of numerous awards and honors, including the Academy of American Poets Prize, the National Medal of Arts, the Ken Burns American Heritage Prize, the Dayton Literary Peace Prize Foundation's Richard C. Holbrooke Distinguished Achievement Award, and the Frost Medal for distinguished lifetime achievement in poetry. A longtime professor of English and American literature, Momaday earned his PhD from Stanford University and retired as Regents Professor at the University of Arizona. In 2022, he was inducted into the inducted into the Academy of American Arts and Letters.