vocalisms #41: Leslie Marmon Silko


vocalisms is a regular feature that presents selected tracks from Voca, the Poetry Center's online audiovisual archive of more than 800 recorded readings, spanning from 1963 to today.

Leslie Marmon Silko stands in the desert at night, a flower near her right shoulder

This 1974 recording features Leslie Marmon Silko reading in the same year her first book, Laguna Woman, was published, when she was only twenty-six years old. Here, Silko reads work that would be published in 1981 in her book Storyteller. “Horses at Valley Store” captivates me for the way it weaves together straightforward statements with imaginative, metaphor-driven leaps. The poem centers on horses seen by Silko on her daily commute from Chinle to Navajo Community College, where she taught. “Every day I met the horses,” Silko begins, describing the heat and dust before simply stating that the horses are “pulling the day behind them.” These ordinary horses are also extraordinary, beings “outside of time.” Silko’s gentle reading embodies the horses’ quiet power.