Grantee:  Natalie Diaz
Native Citizenship:  Mojave/Pima
Location:  Mohave, Ariz.
Award:  2013 NACF Artist Fellowship
Discipline:  Literature
Web Site:  Copper Canyon Press website

Poet Natalie Diaz attended Old Dominion University on a full athletic scholarship. After playing professional basketball in Austria, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, and Turkey, she returned to ODU for an MFA in writing. Her publications include Prairie Schooner, Iowa Review and Crab Orchard Review among others. Her work was selected by Natasha Trethewey, 2012 U.S. Poet Laureate, for Best New Poets, she has received the Nimrod/Hardman Pablo Neruda Prize for Poetry, and her debut book, “When My Brother Was An Aztec,” was published by Copper Canyon Press.

“My poetry weaves together a cultural and personal mythology from numerous threads of identity—by myth, I mean truth,” said Diaz. “My poems wrestle with the violence of brothers, family, reservation, body, hunger, and other types of hard, true love. Sometimes, they come out on top. My poetry illuminates the dark corners of the heart, revealing teeth and tails, reducing violence to beauty or hilarity, to something bearable.”

Beyond her explosion into the world of Native letters, Diaz is passionately dedicated to the preservation of language in her community, working with elders on a daily basis to preserve and teach cultural practices and values.

Foundation support allowed the artist opportunities to share her art with diverse communities and giving groups of up to 200 participants the chance to feel the power of Native arts and cultures expressed in her work. “Over the course of the year, and as a direct result of receiving the 2013 NACF Artist Fellowship in Literature, I was able to give readings of my poetry, perform discussion and panels focusing on language revitalization and the documentation of indigenous languages,” said Diaz.”I was able to organize and teach writing workshops in Milwaukee, New York, Minneapolis, Los Angeles, Tucson, Victoria, B.C., Bellingham, Seattle, Port Townsend, Portland, Olympia, Corvallis, Sacramento, Santa Cruz and other cities.”

“I am grateful for the Native Arts and Cultures Foundation and its support of my work. There exists no other fellowship like this one- it defies the typical fellowship,” said Diaz. “The foundation carries the values my elders are fighting to teach us: work ethic, respect for one another, pride in our identity and caring for our communities like family. What they have given me goes far beyond money; their support gives me the strength to do the work in me to be done.”

Top Ten Reasons Why Indians Are Good at Basketball

1. The same reason we are good in bed.

2. Because a long time ago, Creator gave us a choice: You can write like an Indian god, or you can have a jump shot sweeter than a 44-ounce can of commodity grape juice—one or the other. Everyone but Sherman Alexie chose the jump shot.

3. We know how to block shots, how to stuff them down your throat, because when you say, “Shoot,” we hear howitzer and Hotchkiss and Springfield Model 1873.

4. When Indian ballers sweat, we emit a perfume of tortillas and Pine Sol floor cleaner that works like a potion to disorient our opponents and make them forget their plays.

5. We grew up knowing that there is no difference between a basketball court and church. Really, the Nazarene’s hold church in the tribal gym on Sunday afternoons—the choir belts out “In the Sweet By and By” from the low block.

6. When Walt Whitman wrote, The half-breed straps on his light boots to compete in the race, he really meant that all Indian men over age 40 have a pair of vintage Air Jordan’s in their closets and believe they are still magic-enough to make even the largest commod bod able to go coast to coast and finish a layup.

7. Indians are not afraid to try sky hooks in real games, even though no Indian has ever made a sky hook, no Indian from a federally recognized tribe, anyway. But still, our shamelessness to attempt sky hooks in warm-ups strikes fear in our opponents, thus giving us a mental edge.

8. On the court is the one place we will never be hungry—that net is an emptiness we can fill up all day long.

9. We pretend we are playing every game for a Pendleton blanket, and the MVP gets a Mashantucket Pequot-sized per capita check.

10. Really, though, all Indians are good at basketball because a basketball has never been just a basketball—it has always been a full moon in this terminal darkness, the one taillight in Jimmy Jack Tall Can’s gray Granada cutting along the back dirt roads on a beer run, the Creator’s heart that Coyote stole from the funeral pyre cursing him to walk alone through every coral dusk. It has always been a fat gourd we sing to, the left breast of a Mojave woman three Budweisers into Saturday night. It will always be a slick, bright bullet we can sling from the 3-point arc with 5 seconds left on a clock in the year 1492, and as it rips down through the net, our enemies will fall to their wounded knees, with torn ACLs.

Menu