Natalie Diaz’ Post-Colonial Love Poem Book Review by Windy Talbot
Natalie Diaz weaves a tapestry of humanity in her poetry collection, Post-Colonial Love Poem (Graywolf Press, 2020). On a global scale, Diaz exposes the violence involved in the subjugation of an indigenous culture. She explores the human desire to control another, be it in the colonization of Native American people or on a more intimate scale, in exerting control over another individual. Diaz’ own identity as an indigenous, Native American queer woman is explored throughout this collection. She examines how relationships impact and form an individual’s identity. “I am touched—I am. / This is my knee, since she touches me there. / This is my throat, as defined by her reaching.” Being identified and subsequently changed by interpersonal relationships is explored throughout Diaz’ work. Many of Diaz’ poems are poignant witnesses of family and racial violence. She confronts stereotypes and bias through vivid imagery, “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 Jordans in their closets.” Diaz further uses her mastery of language to define Talbot 2 race and racism. “Police kill Native Americans more / than any other race. Race is a funny word. / Race implies someone will win, / sometimes race means run.” Diaz further challenges racial bias, “Americans prefer a magical red Indian, or a shaman, or a / fake Indian in a red dress, over a real Native. Even a real Native carrying the dangerous and / heavy blues of a river in her body.” The “drought” that is humanity, is explored thoroughly in this collection, “The ache / of thirst, though, translates to all bodies along the same paths– the tongue, / the throat, the kidneys. No matter what language you speak, no matter the / color of your skin.” Throughout this collection, Diaz honors her own identity. She honors her heritage while mourning the displacement of her people, culture and the environment, “If I say, my river is disappearing, do I also mean, my people are disappearing?” Diaz connects the past with the present, the “ache of thirst,” needs and desires throughout the entirety of this moving collection. Although these harsh truths–racism and the loss of identity–are difficult topics, Diaz’ discovery of a new identity emerges in every poem, conveying a vulnerable hope and tenderness.