GRIC member and 2018 MacArthur Fellow gives poetry reading at ASU
Gila River Indian News
Being a daughter, sister and a writer is the backdrop of one author’s poems of living in a tribal community. Natalie Diaz, Associate Professor at Arizona State University Department of English, read her poetry at an event hosted by the Virginia G. Piper Center for Creative Writing at ASU Old Main on Feb. 12.
The event celebrated the work of Diaz, who was among the winners of the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation fellowship last year. Her work explores life growing up in the Fort Mojave Indian Tribe along the Colorado River between Arizona and California.
Diaz, is also an enrolled member of the Gila River Indian Community, which she recognized during the reading as an essential part of her heritage and exploration into the issues concerning the environment, like water.
“I believe in the power of language, the way I always thought of it is like an energy, it’s something that’s moving inside that is physical,” said Diaz. On attraction of language and poetry, she said, “What am I a part of? What is it that each and every one of us sitting in this room feel like we are a part of?”
Her work examines the complexity of carving out an identity in a shifting society of Native American culture. “Our young people, that are learning their languages, are now charged with creating new words to describe the things that are in their life, that didn’t exist before,” said Diaz.
Diaz’s first collection, “When my Brother was an Aztec,” was published in 2012, and explored her relationship with her late brother as well as the ravages of diabetes, substance abuse and bigotry directed towards American Indians.
She shared a passion for basketball with her brother, but their paths diverged as her brother struggled with drug addiction. Diaz immortalizes her brother’s life and those around her in a way that both remembers and brings to light the problems families face in tribal communities.
Next year, Diaz will release a new collection called, “Postcolonial Love Poem.”