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FINALIST FOR THE 2020 NATIONAL BOOK AWARD FOR POETRY
FINALIST FOR THE 2020 LOS ANGELES TIMES BOOK AWARD FOR POETRY
Natalie Diaz’s highly anticipated follow-up to When My Brother Was an Aztec, winner of an American Book Award
Postcolonial Love Poem is an anthem of desire against erasure. Natalie Diaz’s brilliant second collection demands that every body carried in its pages—bodies of language, land, rivers, suffering brothers, enemies, and lovers—be touched and held as beloveds. Through these poems, the wounds inflicted by America onto an indigenous people are allowed to bloom pleasure and tenderness: “Let me call my anxiety, desire, then. / Let me call it, a garden.” In this new lyrical landscape, the bodies of indigenous, Latinx, black, and brown women are simultaneously the body politic and the body ecstatic. In claiming this autonomy of desire, language is pushed to its dark edges, the astonishing dunefields and forests where pleasure and love are both grief and joy, violence and sensuality.
Diaz defies the conditions from which she writes, a nation whose creation predicated the diminishment and ultimate erasure of bodies like hers and the people she loves: “I am doing my best to not become a museum / of myself. I am doing my best to breathe in and out. // I am begging: Let me be lonely but not invisible.” Postcolonial Love Poem unravels notions of American goodness and creates something more powerful than hope—in it, a future is built, future being a matrix of the choices we make now, and in these poems, Diaz chooses love.
In this exquisite, electrifying collection, Diaz (When My Brother Was an Aztec) studies the body through desire and the preservation of Native American lives and cultures, suggesting that to exist as a Native in a world with a history of colonization and genocide is itself a form of protest and celebration. She explores this idea in "The First Water Is the Body," cataloguing the destruction of this invaluable resource by those who seek to protect it: "in the U.S., we are tear-gassing and rubber-bulleting and kenneling natives trying to protect their water from pollution and contamination at Standing Rock." But it's desire, both in its erotic form and as present in the will to assimilate, that drives the book: "Like any desert, I learn myself by what's desired of me / and I am demoned by those desires." "These Hands, If Not Gods" opens with a stunning lyrical address to a lover: "Haven't they moved like rivers / like glory, like light / over the seven days of your body?" The elegiac "Grief Work" closes the book with a meditation on longing: "my melancholy is hoofed./ I, the terrible beautiful// Lampon, a shining devour-horse tethered at the bronze manger of her collarbones." Diaz continues to demonstrate her masterful use of language while reinventing narratives about desire.