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Book Review: Natalie Diaz’s Postcolonial Love Poem

Jordynn Godfrey

Posted on May 26, 2021 20:51

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In Postcolonial Love Poem, Natalie Diaz explores relationships such as those between natives and the land, and those between the speaker and their family, lovers, and the reader. Diaz makes room for all bodies in her poems; native bodies, bodies of land, bodies of language, human bodies, and rivers.

This semester, I was able to take a creative writing class in which I was required to read Natalie Diaz’s Postcolonial Love Poem. We were supposed to be paying particularly close attention to her use of imagery, metaphor, and simile – which is impeccable. I enjoyed reading Diaz’s poetry on her modern Native American experience.

In Postcolonial Love Poem, Diaz explores relationships such as those between natives and the land, and those between the speaker and their family, lovers, and the reader. Diaz makes room for all bodies in her poems; native bodies, bodies of land, bodies of language, human bodies, and rivers.

Diaz is a Mojave born and raised in the Fort Mojave Indian Village in Needles, Colorado. Having lived on the banks of the Colorado River, she incorporates water and nature into her poetry as something that is a part of humanity, rather than a separate body. Her poem “The First Water Is the Body” articulates this idea in masterful detail as she writes “The water we drink, like the air we breathe, is not a part of our body but is our body. What we do to one – to the body, to the water – we do to the other.” She writes of the pollution and damage that is being done to the river that has sustained her ancestors for centuries: specifically, how colonizers have been actively destroying the land and the rivers that once belonged to the Native People. She also discusses the dangers of hurting the rivers which support life. Notably, she engages with the reader asking, “Do you think the water will forget what we have done, what we continue to do?”

And that is the magic of Diaz’s poetry – she asks you to think. About racism, colonization, pollution, and all the harm that has been done to the Americas and the Natives who once held them.

Diaz does not aim to make anyone comfortable. Rather, she writes of the harsh reality Natives still face in the U.S. today. One of my favorite poems in Postcolonial Love Poem is “Caching Copper.” In this poem, the speaker describes their brothers’ bullet and how their bullet “makes them ready for God.” This poem is full of intense imagery, clever analogies, and lines packed with multiple meanings. In just about 90 lines, she is able to invoke emotions that make the reader uncomfortable as the truth of her poetry never fails to weigh heavy in each line. When I finished this poem, I had to just sit and ponder in awe what I had just read. I immediately texted my closest friends, insisting that they read it.

These are just 2 of 31 breathtaking, inspiring, and heartbreaking poems. The entire book was more than worth it. Diaz is a master poet with a diverse experience and culture to share. I definitely recommend reading Postcolonial Love Poem.

Jordynn Godfrey

Posted on May 26, 2021 20:51

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Source: The Guardian

Native American poet Natalie Diaz among contenders for best collection award with Postcolonial Love Poem, alongside Pascale...

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