Artist of the Week: Poet and MacArthur Genius Natalie Diaz

Artist of the Week: Poet and MacArthur Genius Natalie Diaz

This week’s pick: Natalie Diaz, a Mojave American poet, linguist, educator and activist.

Why we picked her: Author of the celebrated poetry collection “When My Brother Was an Aztec,” based on her brother’s drug addiction, Natalie Diaz draws from her personal experience as an Indigenous American, Latina and queer woman to write poetry that combines mythological symbols and bodily language.

“For me, poetry is one way that I center myself in my body, and the way that happens is that I really believe in the physical power of poetry, of language,” said Diaz, who was a former professional basketball player, in a video on the MacArthur website. “Where we come from, we say language has an energy. And I feel that it’s a very physical energy. And so I believe in that exchange. And to me, it’s very similar to what I did on a basketball court.”

Diaz, who is a member of the Gila River Indian community, received a MacArthur “Genius” grant for her cultural contributions. When not writing poetry, Diaz works in Mohave Valley, Arizona, on a program to sustain and revitalize the Mojave language and teaches in the English department at Arizona State University.

Top Image: Portrait of Natalie Diaz in her studio in Phoenix, AZ on September 14, 2018. (Photo by John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation)