Bitsui, Sherwin 1975-

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Bitsui, Sherwin 1975-

PERSONAL: Born 1975, in Fort Defiance, AZ. Education: Institute of American Indian Arts, A.F.A., 1999; attended University of Arizona.

ADDRESSES: Home— Tucson, AZ.


AWARDS, HONORS: Truman Capote Creative Writing Fellowship, 1999; Lannan Foundation Literary Residency Fellowship; Individual Poet Grant, Witter Bynner Foundation for Poetry, 2000-01; Whiting Writers’ Award, 2006.


Shapeshift (poetry), University of Arizona Press (Tucson, AZ), 2003.

Contributor of poetry to periodicals, including American Poet, Iowa Review, Frank, Red Ink, and Lit Magazine, and to the anthology Legitimate Dangers: American Poets of the New Century.

SIDELIGHTS: Poet Sherwin Bitsui is a Native American, a member of the Bitter Water clan of the Diné, or Navajo. An active participant in the culture and the ceremonies of his tribe, Bitsui composes poetry, as Arthur Sze noted on, that “struggles with the tension between Diné and English, between the desire to restore a balance with the natural world and the recognition of how ineluctable the forces of twentieth century technology are.” Sze continued: “In struggling to reconcile these opposing forces, [Bitsui’s] poems and prose poems enact a personal ceremony.” According to Frances Sjoberg, literary director of the University of Arizona Poetry Center, as quoted in the AZ Daily Star, Bitsui’s “aesthetic reflects a new direction in Native American poetry.”

Bitsui’s 2003 verse collection, Shapeshift, is a work characterized by its use of carefully chosen language and its novel look at Native American life in the twenty-first century. The poems in this book range from the historical, such as “1868,” to the edgy modern tone of “Is This What I Deserve: A White Anthropologist Sitting beside Me at a Winter Ceremony?” Greg Gagnon, writing in the American Indian Quarterly, praised the “vibrant renderings of [Bitsui’s] Dine (Navajo) foundations, combined with an urban Indian’s spin on life off-reservation” in this debut collection. Gagnon went on to commend the “evocative choice of words used to convey a unique perspective beautifully.” Writing in, Deborah Adams felt that the thirty-three poems in this collection express the “dry lack of spirituality among interactions between the Indian and those who are not.”



American Indian Quarterly, winter-spring, 2005, Greg Gagnon, review of Shapeshift, p. 295.

AZ Daily Star (Tucson, AZ), November 10, 2006, Doug Kreutz, “Master of Words.”

Publishers Weekly, October 30, 2006, “The Whiting Winners,” p. 6.

ONLINE, (December 11, 2006), Deborah Adams, review of Shapeshift., (December 11, 2006), Arthur Sze, “Emerging Poet: On Sherwin Bitsui.”

Sherwin Bitsui Home Page, (December 11, 2006).