Ions into striking poetic images As you might expect given that background When My Brother Was an Aztec sees Diaz putting her linguistic and artistic skills to great use interpreting the many sides of her multifaceted identity fitting them together pulling them apart adjusting her angle of approach Her poems are often intimate and physical closely attuned to the sensations of individual bodies but they re also always zooming out giving those bodies a context in history and space Her style is experimental but never to the point of incomprehensibility weaving bits of Spanish and Mojave and symbols from Lorca Borges and others in between her own reminiscences and confessionsThis book is a pretty long one as far as contemporary poetry collections go forty poems compiled I m sure from many individual pieces and clusters and there s inevitably some repetition and reiteration It s also understandably uite bleak almost overwhelmingly so at times and all the for its length But neither of those are marks against its uality and there are definite moments of humor acidic though it may be as wellThere s much that could be said about When My Brother Was an Aztec but for all its multitudes I find that it s a difficult book to talk about Maybe that s not unusual poetry even than other forms tends to speak best for itself With that in mind then give Aztec a try If you listen to what Diaz has to say I m confident you ll find it worth your time When My Brother Was an Aztec is a debut poetry collection The poems are vivid with language family history cultural struggle and struggles in the body Before I wrote this review I spent almost an hour watching Natalie perform her poems and talk about her poems and life on YouTube It was interesting to hear her talk about her work to help her people retain the Mojave language and her family s reactions to her poems She writes about her brother s meth addiction in particular and its effect on her family and communitySome of my favoritesWhen My Brother Was an Aztec Feverish funny serious sensual poems This collection has TEETH Whether D az is writing about reservation life her brother s drug addiction or lovers jealousy she ties in themes of conuering and being conuered of ecstasy and despair of living the color red internally and externally And her phrasing regularly took my breath away Perfect both for poetry lovers who ll get of the allusions than I did and for those intimidated by poetry like me Like the cover colorful Natalie D az does the imagery thing extremely well It s a rich dish this book and her brother is metaphorically sacrificed like so many young people these days to drugs in his case meth which I guess involves lightbulbs somehow Family the body love race and a few other big honking themes included Worth a look An expansive debut collection of poems about family ties ueer romance and Mojave life Diaz writes plainspoken poetry that s full of sharp wit and clear images and she tackles head on a wide array of difficult subjects from the emotional toll of a loved one s addiction to the devastating effects of white supremacy Well worth checking ou. Idn't want to do it He didn't want to eat the man like a piece of fruit and he told the crowdthis I only wanted some goddamn sleep Natalie Diaz was born and raised on the Fort Mojave Indian Reservation in Needles California After playing professional basketball for four years in Europe and Asia Diaz returned to the states to complete her MFA at Old Dominion University She lives in Surprise Arizona and is working to preserve the Mojave language.
Natalie Diaz ConjurerPoetry as turgid with metaphors as disturbing raw and a veces humorous and sly and naughty doesn t happen often but in this collection WHEN MY BROTHER WAS AN AZTEC Natalie Diaz manages to travel this bumpy terrain with such a sure hand that the result is staggering Perhaps a part of the intensity of her writing is that as a woman born and raised on an Indian Reservation and that without parody intended is why she writes like a necromancer an augurer a sorceress a conjurer This poet seesfeelsdefines life in a situation close to her so well that she makes her reader finish a poem ad immediately return to the top of the poem to make sure it is fully digested before moving on to the next experience Read Natalie Diaz and understand life on a reservationABECEDARIAN REUIRING FURTHER EXAMINATION OF ANGLIKAN SERAPHYM SUBJUGATION OF A WILD INDIAN REZERVATIONAngel s don t come to the reservationBats maybe or owls boxy mottled thingsCoyotes too They all mean the same thing death And deatheats angels I guess because I haven t seen an angelfly trough this valley everGabriel Never heard of him Know a Gabe though he came through here one powwow and stayed typicalIndian Sure he had wingsjailbird that he was He flies around In stolen cars Wherever he stopskids grow like gourds from women s belliesLike I said no Indian I ve ever heard of has ever been or seen an angelMaybe in a Christmas pageant or something Nazarene church holds one every Decemberorganized by Pastor John s wife It s no wonderPastor John s son is the angel everybody nows angels are whiteuit bothering with angels I say They re no good for IndiansRemember what happened last some white god came floating across the oceanTruth is there may be angels but if there are angelsup there living on clouds or sitting on thrones across the sea wearingvelvet robes and golden rings drinking whiskey form silver cupswe re better off if they stay rich and fat and ugly and zactly where they are in their own distant heavensYou better nope you never see angels on the rez If you do they ll bemarching you off toZion or Oklahoma or some other hell they ve mapped out for usThe title of this collection suggests that we are going to hear a lot about Diaz brother and we do A fragment of a longer poem follows3 aka delusional parasitosisDope is what my dad calls it He never says methAnd the dope always has my brother It s that dopemy dad sighs that dope s got himMy dad once took us to the railroad tracksgave each of his nine One Ticket To Texas kids a penny to set on the rusted railsMy brother wanted a dollar not a pennyBecause it s hard to turn a firstborn son away he got itshoved it down into his pocket walked away from usWe placed our pennies along the rails he balanced onhis heels sueaked against the metal arm stretchedout on each side Inew that he d do it He d crucify himselfone day just like that day arms nailed to a horizon of salt cedarsdate palms the purple mountains behind him sharp as needlesThese two samples seductive though they are represent only a glimpse at the wealth of philosophy and poetry and social comment that lies within Natalie Diaz is. I write hungry sentences Natalie Diaz once explained in an interview because they want and lyricism and imagery to satisfy them This debut collection is a fast paced tour of Mojave life and family narrative A sister fights for or against a brother on meth and everyone from Antigone Houdini Huitzilopochtli and Jesus is invoked and invited to hash it out These darkly humorous poems illuminate far corners of the heart revealing teeth tails and th.
A poet to heed to read to remember to follow Brilliant Grady Harp The most prominent part of Diaz s When My Brother Was an Aztec is the exploration of the poet s identity growing up in the Fort Mojave Indian Reservation as in Hand Me Down Halloween and coming to terms with her brother s meth addiction as in No More Cake HereThe year we moved off the reservation a white boy up the street gave me a green trash bagfat with corduroys bright collared shirts a two piece Tonto costumeturuoise thunderbird on the chesthirt pants Hand Me Down Halloween pg 6Two mutants came to the doorOne looked almost human They wantedto Helpmate know if my brother had willed them the potsand pans and spoons stacked in his basement bedroomThey said they missed my brother s cooking and did wehave any cake No cake here I told them Well what s in the pi ata they asked I told themGod was and they ran into the desert barefootI gave Dad his slide and put Mom s in the freezer I broug A book so lush it left me drunk Serious painful poems about the narrator s relationship with her drug addicted brother Poems of passion and longing Poems riffing off works by Lorca and Rimbaud A clever commentary on our paranoid post 911 world in which oranges become the new vehicles of evil The power of red the sensual attraction of apples Thenots of family loveThese poems contain so much and examine with great intensity love that sometimes borders on hate on feelings that seem to great for a human to containFabulous work Whew The confidence in this poetry collection is impressive The work here takes on race and identity and poverty and popular culture There is also a lot of interesting commentary on the body how it bleeds how it fails how it endures A truly striking collection Such a strong debut This is one of my favorites in my month of poetry reads This book has stayed with me in the days since I read it and it begs for a re read Truth is there may be angels but if there are angelsup there living on clouds or sitting on thrones across the sea wearingvelvet robes and golden rings drinking whiskey from silver cupswe re better off if they stay rich and fat and ugly and xactly where they are in their own distant heavensYou better hope you never see angels on the rez If you do they ll be marching you off toZion or Oklahoma or some other hell they ve mapped out for us Some people just seem to live a lot of life it has little to do with age and everything to do with experience For example Natalie Diaz is a former professional basketball player turned poet teacher and MFA holder She is Mojave an enrolled member of the Gila Indian Community and has done important work on language revitalization with her home tribe She is a speaker of English a speaker of Spanish a speaker of Mojave and I d guess given that she played basketball for several years in Europe and Asia others too If her poetry is autobiographical which it seems to be she is also a woman who loves women and the sister to a brother addicted to methamphetamine On top of all that Diaz is gifted with a well tuned ear for words and a talent for transforming memories and sensory impress. An a few dreams I watched a lion eat a man like a piece of fruit peel tendons from fascialike pith from rind then lick the sweet meat from its hard core of bonesThe man had earned this feast and his own deliciousness by ringing a stickagainst the lion's cage calling out Here Kitty Kitty MeowW ith one swipe of a paw much like a catcher's mitt with fangs the lionpulled the man into the cage rattling his skeleton against the metal bars The lion
Natalie Diaz was born and raised in the Fort Mojave Indian Village in Needles California on the banks of the Colorado River She is Mojave and an enrolled member of the Gila River Indian Tribe Her first poetry collection When My Brother Was an Aztec was published by Copper Canyon Press in 2012 Her second poetry collection Postcolonial Love Poems is published by Graywolf Press in 2020 She i