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Momentum of writing: Dine writer’s new book explores a lifetime of stories

Momentum of writing: Dine writer’s new book explores a lifetime of stories

SANTA FE, N.M. – A Diné poet released her second book after winning a poetry prize, which melded personal experiences throughout the author’s life.

Tacey M. Atsitty, 41, from Cove, Arizona, had her second book, “(At) Wrist,” published on Nov. 14 by the University of Wisconsin Press. This happened after she entered her 88-page manuscript for the Brittingham Prize for Poetry.

Atsitty’s first book, “Rain Scald,” was published by the University of New Mexico Press in 2018.

Atsitty believes writing supports her process through triumphs and emotions when certain events have not been fully experienced.

Momentum of writing: Dine writer’s new book explores a lifetime of stories

Courtesy | Cara Romero
“(At) Wrist” by Diné poet Tacey M. Atsitty was published by the University of Wisconsin Press Nov. 14. Before publishing, the book won an award for a poetry prize and was then picked up by the press.

“In my experience, reading is very important to foster in our homes for our children,” she said. “That’s how the imagination is able to perpetuate images and stories.”

Atsitty believes that people are inspired to create and think imaginatively when reading a book. Atsitty is Tsénahabiłnii and born for Ta’neeszahnii. Her maternal grandfather is Tábąąhá, and her paternal grandfather is Hashk’ąą Hadzohó.

“It (reading) creates action,” Atsitty said. “In a way, it kind of brings us bravery to read what other people have done.”

Even revisiting childhood or events that occurred in one’s life has meaning.

Each person has a story to tell, Atsitty believes, and those stories, whether appearing in newspapers, magazines, or online, are never mundane.

The emotional process is what writers lean in to when trying to comprehend events that occurred throughout their lives.

Atsitty’s newly published book highlights experiences of shared vulnerability and honesty and lessons, of which, throughout her life, she has experienced various fragments. Stories are created through experiences and emotional phases.

“I always tell them (young writers), ‘Know your voice,’” Atsitty said.

Growing up in a border town in Kirtland, New Mexico, Atsitty felt that some often think their lives are simple, and no one wants to know about it.

However, the youth see what the world has to offer, and the world is becoming more innovative.

“Sometimes we think everyone else is living a great life and that they have less value,” Atsitty said. “Every story of every person matters.”

Beacon of light

Atsitty believes stories are important, and growing up in grade school, she developed an interest in writing.

One day, while in grade school, she wrote a story that her grandma happened to submit for a magazine contest.

Although the story didn’t place, Atsitty’s grandma saw a light in her writing.

“She was really excited about it,” Atsitty said.

As Atsitty began her writing journey at an early age, her grandma and father encouraged her.

Atsitty’s father asked her if she enjoyed writing, and with confidence, Atsitty answered yes.

“He (father) said, ‘OK,’ and he went and bought me a typewriter,” Atsitty said. “An electric typewriter.”

Evolving in form

Growing up, Atsitty used her typewriter often. Eventually, she fell in love with a poetry slam at her high school, Navajo Preparatory School in Farmington, where she graduated in 2000.

The poetry slam allowed Atsitty to read her work out loud, where she produced poems and competed nationally with her teammates.

After graduating high school, Atsitty evolved into various writing programs where she was introduced to other Diné writers.

This underlined the importance of writing and allowed Atsitty to pursue a college degree.

In 2004, Atsitty enrolled at Brigham Young University (Provo, Utah), pursuing a bachelor’s in English with a minor in Native American studies. In 2009, she received a bachelor’s in fine arts at the Institute of American Indian Arts in Santa Fe, N.M., and in 2011, she received a master’s in creative writing from Cornell University.

“I really loved my poetry classes,” said Atsitty, adding she fell in love with form.

“It’s very difficult, and when I look back at those poems, I cringe,” Atsitty said. “It’s difficult with writing all the conventions of formal poetry.”

“I write a lot of sonnets today, and there are a lot of sonnets in my book,” Atsitty said of the topics about love and relationships.

Atsitty currently resides with her husband in Tallahassee, Florida, where she is a doctoral student in creative writing at Florida State University.

The “(At) Wrist” manuscript began its journey in 2011. Atsitty halted the work in 2018 to let it breathe for a bit.

After a few years of marination, she returned to her manuscript and began revising. She also allowed the manuscript to be workshopped with her colleagues and instructors.

“It was nice to get that feedback and jump right back into it after a few years,” Atsitty said, who dedicated the book to her father.

“(The) book explores love and an array of relationships,” she said.

Atsitty is also the director of the Navajo Film Festival, a member of the Lightscatter Press Board of Directors, a member of the Advisory Council for BYU’s Charles Redd Center for Western Studies, and the founding member of the Advisory Board for the Intermountain All-Women Hoop Dance Competition.


About The Author

Boderra Joe

Boderra Joe is a reporter and photographer at Navajo Times. She has written for Gallup Sun and Rio Grande Sun and has covered various beats. She received second place for Sports Writing for the 2018 New Mexico Better Newspaper Awards. She is from Baahazhł’ah, New Mexico.

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