A member of the Sioux and Assiniboine tribes, poet M.L. Smoker earned a BA at Pepperdine University and an MFA at the University of Montana, where she received the Richard Hugo Memorial Scholarship. Smoker also studied at UCLA, where she received the Arianna and Hannah Yellow Thunder Scholarship, and the University of Colorado, where she was a Battrick Fellow.
Influenced by John Steinbeck, James Welch, and Philip Levine, Smoker composes free verse poems that focus on personal struggle and identity and engage Native American history, language, and culture. As Smoker noted in a From the Fishouse audio recording, “[B]eing a poet allows me to interact and observe and be a witness to so many things that go on in the world around us, large things that go on in our community but also things that happen in our day-to-day lives, and I’m very honored to have the chance and the opportunity to slow down occasionally and pay attention to those things that can sometimes get lost in the greater scheme of things and in our lives.”
Smoker is the author of the poetry collection Another Attempt at Rescue (2005). With Melissa Kwasny, she co-edited I Go to the Ruined Place: Contemporary Poems in Defense of Global Human Rights (2009). Smoker lives in Helena, Montana, where she works in the Indian Education Division of the Office of Public Instruction.