Natalie Diaz: 'Postcolonial Love Poem'
Natalie Diaz's poems unravel notions of American goodness and creates something more powerful than hope: love
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Natalie Diaz was born and raised in the Indian village of Fort Mojave, in Needles, California, on the banks of the Colorado River, and if there is anything that can be identified in her poetic work, it is the pride of feeling Mojave.
His first collection of poems, 'When My Brother Was an Aztec,' was published by Copper Canyon Press in 2012. In these distinctively voiced poems, a sister struggles with a brother’s addiction to meth, while everyone, from Antigone and Houdini to Huitzilopochtli and Jesus, is invited to hash it out.
In 2021, 'Postcolonial Love Poem,' a poetic ode to roots, to land, to language, won the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry. Diaz's poetic work is "a collection of tender, heart-wrenching and defiant poems that explore what it means to love and be loved in an America beset by conflict," reads the Pulitzer site.
In this collection of poems, Diaz recovers for her tribe the sense of dignity, place, uniqueness, and the singularity of her proposal places her in the new post-humanist movement. The message conveyed by her verses is that borders are not feared, they are inhabited. Ethnic minorities are not despised, they are embraced.
"I come from a community of storytellers. I grew up surrounded by stories about our land and water, about the strange and reality-defying happenings of my desert-discovering the night stirring in sleep on a moonlit sand dune; hearing an owl call you to "come closer and look," the author wrote in Alta magazine.
Diaz, who is a professor of creative writing at Arizona State University, writes a kind of poetry that declares, through a rich array of forms, what it is to be Mojave and Mexican in the United States today, "as well as what it is to be a sister, a lover, a friend, a poet, and the multitude of other identities that Diaz, like many of us, carries within," according to a report in the LA Times.
At the same time, she demands that her readers interrogate the myths we grew up with as Americans, now that many of the issues of race and oppression that have plagued the country's past and present are becoming central to conversations about the future.
"Poetry is where I recognize myself. I started writing poetry because it was what was waiting for me, a gift to come to. I'm still getting there; it's always ahead of me," she wrote at Alta.
As the publisher says, "'Postcolonial Love Poem' is an anthem of desire against erasure. Natalie Diaz’s brilliant second collection demands that every body carried in its pages—bodies of language, land, rivers, suffering brothers, enemies, and lovers—be touched and held as beloveds. Through these poems, the wounds inflicted by America onto an indigenous people are allowed to bloom pleasure and tenderness: “Let me call my anxiety, desire, then. / Let me call it, a garden.” In this new lyrical landscape, the bodies of indigenous, Latinx, black, and brown women are simultaneously the body politic and the body ecstatic. In claiming this autonomy of desire, language is pushed to its dark edges, the astonishing dunefields and forests where pleasure and love are both grief and joy, violence and sensuality.