To a Child Running With Outstretched Arms in Canyon de Chelly

by N. Scott Momaday
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Last Updated on August 27, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 169

First published in the 1976 collection The Gourd Dancer, the brief poem “To a Child Running with Outstretched Arms in Canyon de Chelly” contains many of the thematic and stylistic qualities of Momaday’s poetry. The poem is set in New Mexico’s Canyon De Chelly, where the poet lived briefly as a child. As his childhood home, as well as the site of ancient Anazasi cliff dwellings, and of the Navajo tribe’s 1864 defeat and forced removal at the hands of the American military, the setting allows Momaday to explore his own Indian heritage. In addition, the poem serves as a joyous reminder of the intense and intimate feelings of belonging—a sense of place—which humans can experience in the natural world. Focusing on images of the canyon’s tremendous natural beauty, coupled with the beauty and innocence of a small child, the poem blends two worlds—the human and the non-human—and brings a human presence back into the canyon to “embrace / The spirit of this place.”

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