The Virginia G. Piper
Center for Creative Writing

Home / Mar 13: Heard Museum Ekphrastic Workshop

Bił Náni’eeł: Luxuriating in the Experience of Image and Language with Manny Loley, Heard Museum

Date(s): Saturday, March 13, 2021, 1:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m. Phoenix MST
Craft Class, Generative Workshop, Workshop
Genre and Form(s): American Indian, Indigenous, Mixed Genre, Visual Art
Cost: Free

About this Event

The Diné phrase “bił náni’eeł” can be understood as a pooling of water. In many areas within Diné Bikeyah, the Navajo homeland, and surrounding desert areas, water collects in pools and flows around the land after summer rainstorms. To honor this process, and the land that gives breath to our stories, we’ll think about image and language through the idea of “bił náni’eeł” as a framework for engaging with ekphrastic poetry. 

In this hour and a half session, we'll experience art from the Heard Museum’s collection and respond with our own compositions: thinking about the dynamic of image reproduction within the written form, the purpose and experience of art in-person v. online, the art of listening with the whole body, multiple histories in conversation with each other in presence and absence, and more. More than aesthetic appreciation, art (in all its forms) allows the writer to delve into deeper parts of themselves and the world that continues to shape them. By situating ourselves within a Diné framework, we’ll be thinking through ekphrastic poetry as more than a euro-centric practice, but one concerning humanity and the land. This session is an exercise in rooting our writing practice in ancestral knowledges that pre-exist the English language, and the occupied territory of what is now the United States.  

While individuals are encouraged to visit the Heard Museum in-person before the workshop, you can also view art through the online collections or the Heard Museum app

Please note: In order to ensure equity and access, seats will be distributed through a lottery system with priority given to members of Indigenous communities. Individuals who receive a seat should log in to the waiting room beginning at 12:30 in order to claim their seat. Unclaimed seats will open to the waitlist at 12:55 p.m. Individuals who do not receive a seat will still be able to observe the workshop and participate in the community reading later that evening. More details will be sent via emailIndividuals of all backgrounds, identities, and experience levels are welcome. This event is presented in partnership with the Heard Museum and is open to the public and free.

Bił Náni’eeł: Luxuriating in the Experience of Image and Language with Manny Loley and the Heard Museum is Saturday, March 13, 2021 from 1:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m. Phoenix MST on Zoom

Looking for more events? Take a tour of the Heard Museum, write through revenge with Gionni Ponce on March 22, or view the full schedule for the NEA Big Read today at

About the Author

Photograph of Manny Loley

Manny Loley is ‘Áshįįhi born for Tó Baazhní’ázhí; his maternal grandparents are the Tódích’íi’nii and his paternal grandparents are the Kinyaa’áanii. Loley is from Casamero Lake, New Mexico. He holds an M.F.A. in fiction from the Institute of American Indian Arts and he is a current Ph.D. candidate in English and literary arts at the University of Denver. Loley is a member of Saad Bee Hózhǫ́: Diné Writers’ Collective and director of the Emerging Diné Writers’ Institute.

Logo for Heard Museum

Dedicated to the advancement of American Indian art, the Heard Museum presents the stories of American Indian people from a first-person perspective, as well as exhibitions that showcase the beauty and vitality of traditional and contemporary art.

The museum's activities revolve around collecting, preserving and presenting art ranging from ancestral artifacts to contemporary paintings and jewelry. Exhibitions lay the foundation for learning about the cultures and experiences of the people.

About NEA Big Read: Phoenix

NEA Big Read is a program of the National Endowment for the Arts in partnership with Arts Midwest. This event is presented as part of the NEA Big Read: Phoenix, celebrating Indigenous literary arts and culture in the Valley with over 25 talks, workshops, performances, book clubs, art exhibits other virtual events inspired by The Round House by Louise Erdrich. NEA Big Read: Phoenix is presented by the Virginia G. Piper Center for Creative Writing at Arizona State University with additional support from Arizona Humanities, Phoenix Public Library, the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences Humanities Division at ASU, and over 40 authors, performers, and community organizations. Find events, meet our partners, and start reading today at

Support Indigenous Communities

The Phoenix Indian Center is the oldest American Indian non-profit organization of its kind in the United States, providing workforce development, cultural enrichment, and other vital services to Indigenous communities throughout the Valley for over 70 years. To support their work, visit their website at, click the donate button, enter an amount, and enter "NEA Big Read" in the description. Please consider making a gift to the Phoenix Indian Center today.

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