Long Soldier, Stewart-Nunez Lead 2021 South Dakota Festival of Books Poetry Track

South Dakota Poet Laureate Christine Stewart-Nunez is a featured author at the Virtual 2021 South Dakota Festival of Books Oct. 1-3.

Due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, the 2021 South Dakota Festival of Books is switching from an in-person format to an all-virtual format. Visit sdbookfestival.com for more information.

Virtual 2021 Festival of Books is Oct. 1-3

A National Book Award finalist and the South Dakota Poet Laureate will showcase their poetic talents at the Virtual 2021 South Dakota Festival of Book Oct. 1-3. Layli Long Soldier and Christine Stewart-Nunez lead a diverse and skilled lineup of authors and poets.

Long Soldier's full-length collection Whereas (2017) won the National Books Critics Circle award and was a finalist for the National Book Award. Stewart-Nunez became South Dakota Poet Laureate in 2019 and has led efforts to make poetry accessible for aspiring South Dakota poets.

"Both poets bring unique talents and perspectives to the Festival," said Festival of Books Director Jennifer Widman. "They have extensive teaching experience, which makes them ideal presenters for Festival audiences. Not only do our attendees enjoy the beautiful language and ideas shared in poetry readings, but many are also aspiring poets themselves."

Author Layli Long Soldier

Author Layli Long Soldier.

Long Soldier: Prominent Poet Important to Tribal Community

Long Soldier is a citizen of the Oglala Lakota Nation and lives in Santa Fe, NM. She earned a BFA from the Institute of American Indian Arts and an MFA with honors from Bard College. In addition to Whereas, she also published the chapbook Chromosomory (2010) and has been a contributing editor to Drunken Boat and poetry editor at Kore Press.

In 2012, her participatory installation, Whereas We Respond, was featured on the Pine Ridge Reservation. In 2015, Long Soldier was awarded a National Artist Fellowship from the Native Arts and Cultures Foundation and a Lannan Literary Fellowship for Poetry. She was awarded a Whiting Writer's Award in 2016.

"Layli is a prominent poet whose voice is especially important to the tribal community," Widman said. "Her work is inspirational but can also be unsettling, as she explores life's triumphs and tragedies on both a personal and a cultural level. She definitely makes readers reflect in new ways through her unique forms and approaches."

Christine Stewart-Nuñez has steadily built her publishing portfolio while teaching since 2007 in the South Dakota State University English Department. She is the author of Postcard on Parchment (2008), Keeping Them Alive (2010), Untrussed (2016), and Bluewords Greening (2016), winner of the 2018 Whirling Prize. Her new book of poetry, The Poet & The Architect, is now on sale on Amazon with an official publication date of June 30.

Stewart is a native of Des Moines, IA. She holds a bachelor's degree in English education and writing from the University of Northern Iowa. She taught for two years at Tarsus American College in Turkey, then earned a master's in literature from Arizona State University and a Ph.D. in creative writing from the University of Nebraska.

As South Dakota Poet Laureate, Stewart-Nunez's top priority has been making poetry less daunting for people to read and write. In 2020, she released South Dakota in Poems: An Anthology, a collection of poems about the people, landscapes, and cultural life of South Dakota. It was written about South Dakota by South Dakotans.

"I think poetry has a bad reputation, in some ways, that it has to be dissected and unpuzzled, that it's not written for the everyday person, that it's written for other poets or artists, and it's not meant to be consumed by the general reader," she said upon the collection's release. "I'd like to challenge that with the anthology by highlighting accessible poetry that doesn't confound."

Other Authors in the Poetry Track

Kwame Alexander is a poet, educator, publisher, and New York Times Bestselling author of 35 books, including Newbery Honor-winning picture book The Undefeated and Newbery Medal-winning middle grade novel The Crossover. A regular contributor to NPR's Morning Edition, Alexander is the writer and executive producer of The Crossover TV series on Disney+.

Sharon (Grenz) Chmielarz was born and raised in Mobridge, attended two years at what was then Sioux Falls College, and graduated with degrees in German, French, Education, and English from the University of Minnesota, where she fell in love with poetry. She has published 13 books of poetry and three children’s picture books. In May the South Dakota State Poetry Society named Chmielarz the 2021 Poet of Merit.

Colin D. Halloran is a U.S. Army veteran who documented his combat experiences in Afghanistan in his memoir-in-verse Shortly Thereafter, which won the 2012 Main Street Rag Poetry Books Award and was named a Massachusetts Must-Read Book. He has also published the poetry collections Icarian Flux and American Etiquette, along with many essays and short stories. When not writing, Halloran leads workshops that seek to promote personal and international healing and reconciliation through writing and the arts.

Juan Felipe Herrera is a poet, performance artist, and activist. The son of migrant farmworkers, he was the U.S. Poet Laureate from 2015–2017. He has published more than a dozen collections of poetry and is the author-illustrator of Jabberwalking and the author of the 2021 Young Readers One Book, Imagine/Imagina. He lives in Fresno, CA.

Rahele Megosha is the 2021 Poetry Out Loud National Champion. The daughter of an Ethiopian immigrant, she grew up in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, watching her three older siblings perform and compete, which sparked her interest in speech, music, and the arts. A recent graduate of Washington High School, Megosha is studying biochemistry at Columbia University and exploring the art world in New York City.

Navarre Scott Momaday is a Kiowa novelist, short story writer, children’s book author, essayist, playwright, and poet. His novel House Made of Dawn won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 1969 and is considered the first major work of the Native American Renaissance. His follow-up work, The Way to Rainy Mountain, blended folklore with memoir.

Bruce Roseland is a fourth-generation cattleman who grew up on – and still works – a ranch in north central South Dakota. His poetry collections include The Last Buffalo (2007 Wrangler Award), A Prairie Prayer (2009 Will Rogers Medallion Award), Cowman (2019 Will Rogers Medallion Award), and 2021’s Heart of the Prairie. Roseland holds a master’s degree in sociology from the University of North Dakota and serves as South Dakota State Poetry Society president and a South Dakota Humanities Council scholar.

Christopher Vondracek is a journalist, piano player, and poet, whose 2020 book Rattlesnake Summer features a poem for every county in South Dakota. He contributes music and free verse to a traveling radio program, The Rock Garden Tour, and his band, The Golden Bubbles, will release their third album later this year. Vondracek holds degrees in literature and journalism from the University of South Dakota and in creative writing from Hamline University in St. Paul.

Norma Wilson was born in Clarksville, TN, where she began writing poetry. In 1978 she completed a doctorate in English at the University of Oklahoma; published her first book, Wild Iris; and joined the English faculty at the University of South Dakota, where she taught until 2005. Since retirement Wilson has authored five books, most recently Continuity. She and her husband, the writer Jerry Wilson, live on a prairie bluff near Vermillion.

Learn More

Event schedules for authors in the poetry track will be announced as the Festival draws nearer. To stay current on Festival events, please subscribe to our e-newsletter at the link below.