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Between the Covers Natalie Diaz Interview Part 2

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David Naimon: Today’s episode is brought to you by Marlene van Niekerk’s Agaat. A novel Toni Morrison called as “brilliant as it is haunting.” A deeply layered saga of resilience, loyalty, and betrayal, Agaat explores the decades-long relationship between a wealthy white woman and her black maidservant, beginning in 1940s Apartheid South Africa. In complex and devastating ways, the power shifts between the two women over the years, mirroring the historic upheavals happening around them and revealing a shared lifetime of hopes, sacrifices, and control. “Books like Agaat,” said the New York Times Book Review, “are the reason people read novels and the reason authors write them.” A special 10th-anniversary edition of Agaat which includes an introduction from Mary Gaitskill and an interview with Toni Morrison is out now from Tin House. Somehow as you listen to this in mid-December 2020, we’ve come upon the 10-year anniversary of the Between the Covers podcast. When I was an undergraduate, I had a brief stint as a 3:00 AM-5:00 AM radio DJ in Boulder, Colorado. Many years later when I finished graduate school in Portland, Oregon, I explored the local community radio station in the hopes of reliving those days of playing music on the radio. But those slots were super coveted and you had to become a long-term volunteer, earn your stripes, and hope for an opening—an opportunity which may or may not happen. I decided to get involved with the radio. I got trained as a volunteer engineer and worked on the soundboard for an environmental public affairs call-in show and eventually got asked to host a health show which I did for many years—interviewing doctors, and herbalists, and healers, and nutritionists, and social scientists—but after a decade-plus, I confess it actually got pretty boring for me because unlike with literature, once I read a book on let’s say herbal approaches to menopause—even a very well-written one—I would usually know once I read it what the guest was going to say before I asked the question. The questions felt much like the books, they delivered information and didn’t feel dynamic enough to sustain my interest except with writers like Michael Pollan or Atul Gawande or Sandra Steingraber or Siddhartha Mukherjee who wrote books that weren’t just manuals or how to’s but which asked existential questions, or they wrote with an attention to language and its potential for the lyric. In The Book Show, the same radio station suddenly needed help. I thought I’d give it a try and I should say here, I was given an encouraging push by a friend and fellow writer, Laura Moulton, who now runs a non-profit that she created from the ground up called Street Books, a bicycle-powered mobile library for the homeless here in Portland, Oregon that provides books, reading glasses, and community around a shared love of literature. Shout out to Laura and the Street Books which you can find at and also a shout out to Anthony Doerr who was the first person I interviewed about books. At that point, I was yes, a long-time reader, but I’d only barely begun writing a handful of years ago at that point and had no idea if I could talk to a novelist or a short story writer in any meaningful way. Doerr wasn’t the household name he is now so I didn’t have to battle any intimidation around celebrity but I do wonder if he hadn’t been so kind and encouraging, and so delighted after each of my questions, whether I’d be doing this here now 10 years later. It seems fitting that I’m doing something on the show today for the first time ever as I mark this 10-year anniversary. Not just honoring the decade-long journey but also breaking the mold and shaking things up. Today is the first-ever part two of the show, not a second conversation with a writer who’s been on before who’s returning for another book, something that happens once or twice a year. Not a second episode but instead a second part—a return to a conversation to re-enter it and extend it. With some writers, there’s a sense of sadness for me when I’m left with compelling questions unasked because either the conversation went a different direction or simply because of time. Sometimes if a guest returns years later, those questions become fertilizer for a future conversation, but usually, they just return to the void. But this time, when I finished my conversation with Natalie Diaz and realized—even as we had talked for two and a half hours—that I felt like there were places still to go, places to dwell, things to unearth, I decided to reach out to Natalie and see if she’d be open to coming back and talking some more. It would be easy to slap on the word epic to our now four and a half hours together when you combine part one and two, but epic isn’t the right word, at least not for me. That amount of time or the illusion of timelessness created by it allowed for a certain attentiveness to occur. There was nothing long about it but its length made it particularly spacious. This conversation doesn’t exactly depend upon part one. You can listen to it without it but it does extend from it and with some frequency, we refer back to it, so I will include the link to part one in the show notes. If you want the ideal experience, it’s probably best to start there. Also for part one, Natalie contributed a reading from Jorge Luis Borges’ Book of Imaginary Beings for the bonus audio archive. To find out how to subscribe to the bonus audio and about the wide variety of other potential benefits and rewards for becoming a listener-supporter—from supporter-only emails with each episode full of resources, links to things referred to in the conversation, and further avenues to explore, to becoming an early reader for Tin House receiving 12 advanced copies of Tin House books over the course of a year months before they’re available to the general public—all of this and more can be found at Now, part two of my conversation with Natalie Diaz about Postcolonial Love Poem.


These stories are about to get unleashed. They’re about the wildness contained in all of us. “I think stories have some magical effect in the world. I think it’s really hard to live without stories and if somebody tells you this is the way you’re going to end up, you’re lucky if you can forget that.” “There’s me and then there’s writer guy me, and then there’s me working, which is the absence of me. It’s just a story.” “I had no idea how to write a novel. I didn’t know if it would ever come to fruition. I was working at a vet and lint-rolling puppy hair and cat dander off myself.” “They’re almost like really shy animals. They will come out of the woods but you have to stay very still and you have to pretend like you’re not interested in them.” “Artists tend to put their fingers in the wounds in the silences.” “I believe in the role of literature as a catalyst for dialogue and new forms of thinking.” “All the stuff I’m interested in is thrown into the washing machine that is my brain and it’s put on a spin.”

David Naimon: Welcome back to Between the Covers for part two of our conversation, Natalie, which is a first for the show. I usually feel like most conversations that I have on the show start to drop to a lower energy around 90 or 100 minutes, not surprisingly, and I don’t want to speak for you, but to me, it felt like our conversation last time or the first part of this conversation unmoored itself from time, and I thought we could have kept going, and felt like there was a whole area yet to explore if we had. In a strange way, I feel like the fact that we’re able to talk again today, beyond your generous willingness to, is one of those upsides of everything having gone virtual during the pandemic, that we’re able to dilate the moment somehow because of this weird virtuality of everything.

Natalie Diaz: No. It feels lucky to me. I tend to finally get settled in. I’m always a little bit late to fully relax.

DN: At the beginning of our last conversation, I brought up how every time that I saw you read, I looked forward to how you would bring up different words—words that were often invested with goodwill and question or trouble them like citizen, goodness, empathy, truth—and that I wanted to use as an entryway to our last conversation the words and the title of your collection, Postcolonial Love Poem, and I felt like we spent a lot of time on postcolonial, and on love, and on postcolonial love, but I didn’t feel like we spent as much time on poem, and I wanted to return to postcoloniality and love from the vantage point of poem—of writing poetry under occupation and some of the questions you raised last time about participation versus complicity when living under occupation. I wanted to take these questions into first, how you orient yourself to poetic lineage and to an ancestry within poetry, and I’m going to read a quote by Heriberto Yepez who we talked a little bit about last time. This is a quote he said about the forefather of the American poetry canon, Walt Whitman, he said, “Whitman was very American. Free verse means having no meters. No limits. Respecting no borders. Free verse breaks the territories, makes it bigger. Free verse was how poetry materialized on the page the imperialism of the United States. Free verse explains how Mexico was stolen of half its territory through a take over, an expansion of the map of the United States. In fact, Whitman supported that war.” I know for you with basketball, you don’t trace its origins to a 19th Century New England YMCA gym, but rather to pre-Columbian ball games, and I guess I wondered how you placed yourself within or against received poetic forms and traditions as both an American and a native American poet.

ND: I feel really lucky because I did the MFA and I know there’s a lot of critique around the MFA program, how MFA programs began state department, things like that. I would not have become a poet if I didn’t do the MFA. My life was just built very differently. I was still an athlete, I still had a responsibility, and what I mean by that is not a task I wanted to avoid but it’s something a little bit more relational than that. I had a home that I knew I was absent from and so there’s something about when you realize you are absent from someplace, what that means about your relationship to it in a way home is always drawing me back, so I would have continued either to play basketball or most likely to return home, instead, when I hurt my knee, I decided to do the MFA program. I feel really lucky for the experience I had with Tim Seibles, Luisa Igloria, my professors there because they didn’t give me a prescription of what it meant to be a native poet or a poet in general. It was really lucky that I did not have white poetry professors and that I had someone from the diaspora and someone who has a troubled relationship with the country. I just had this incredible—I don’t even want to say freedom because it just feels like a generosity that I could find the language that I needed and I was exposed to so many different writers from so many different countries. It was probably poetry and translation that was my first real gift and entry into what poetry means to me now. I struggle a little bit with the academy. What I mean by that is it’s a literal struggle. I find myself in spaces that I do feel are very academy-centric and in other ways, I also feel the ways that my poetry will never fit into that academy space. I see the currency, I, literally Natalie, and then of course my work, I see what I am in those spaces, where Yepez is talking about Walt Whitman. How many social media arguments have there been about Walt Witman and Mark Doty? Good guys. I’m going to say names here but of course, you’re not allowed to do that in American poetry because if you mention the name, it means immediately that you want to go to battle with them, and I don’t mean this—people are people—but what I’m talking about are ideas right now, but the idea that Walt Whitman is the quintessential subversive American poet. One of the reasons why that irks me right is, of course, we’ve heard, and read, and seen the things that Whitman said about natives, about Indians, about Mexicans. Yes, he went and swathed the bleeding bodies of the young soldiers. Yes, he did that at the hospitals and those people were at war with bodies he didn’t believe were human, they were only bodies. They were only bodies on top of lands. There’s also something that when I think about my work, the place that I feel like I’m locking horns in a way that also exhausts me is in the space of desire that because the white, male, hetero cis body is not and never will be the center of my desire, that my work will always be de-escalated in some way. I don’t mind that it’s decentered, that’s fine, but it always seems to be an effort to diminish that aspect of my work. That’s what I mean about wrestling. This is not something I actually talk much about in public but it’s something I tend to keep in my inner circle, but it’s something that I feel like it’s more and more present now because I feel like it is now a part of the choices I have to make in terms of how I’m going to continue to move through the world as a poet. I’m lucky I have so many opportunities and options to do that. Some of what he’s talking about with the idea of free verse and just early on a lot of the ways that I’ve played with form, even still the way I play with form though form is not the end result of some of the poems that I’m messing with, and in some ways, I’m very etymologically traditional in terms of the ways that I’ve traced every word that I use in the book and followed it back to its first meanings, its misunderstood meanings, its blurred obsolete, contemporary, popular meanings.

DN: When you say that you struggle with the academy, there are so many ways in which I feel your desire to break the poetry outside of the academy and one of them is you said that you learned poetry from your mother even though she was denied poetry. You also recently had a series of tweets about your father, who you say isn’t a great reader and has trouble with text, but has been a great influence on your poetics. Could you talk about these poets who were denied poetry, people who are not only part of your family tree but seem to be part of your poetic family tree?

ND: Yeah, and I guess that’s the interesting thing. What is poetry? Maybe the most important question, the one we don’t often ask is where is poetry? Why is it only in the places where we can be the center of it and be lauded for it when the first gift of it is never that applause? That first gift is, I as a reader or I as the person crouched over the notebook or reciting lines in my head. Just thinking about that, there is no word for poetry in my Mojave language although there’s what I consider the practice of poetry which is intentionality, which is the pleasure of telling the pain and joy of remembering in language. My mom has been known for her ghost stories, for example, and her ghost stories are things that I don’t necessarily care for because I think they’re a lot scarier because they’re real, they could really happen. But the ways that my family talks and the ways that we tell stories to one another and of one another, that’s definitely influenced the ways that I tell a story. The always presence of humor, that’s always there, whether we categorize dark humor or light humor, but just the always possibility of humor, the ability to shift at any given moment and turn toward what feels painful and then very quickly to turn away from it toward what reminds you of what’s on the other side of that pain or what came before it. My father just came to reading very late and so he’s not a very great reader. He doesn’t read books or anything like that. But he likes to write, and so that’s been something really interesting is that he’s always wanting to show me something he has written and wants me to type it up for him. But maybe something about poetry, I think we talk about it a lot, we find our friendships among poetry. We have our crew or we have our people. A lot of my best friends are poets now. But what makes me remember some of that is just we’ve spent a lot of time back home during this shutdown time during the pandemic time, but just being around my family and hearing the ways they tell stories, there’s not a great difference between the way my mom talks about something painful that involves my brother from the ways that I write. She has a different way of looking sideways at it whereas I have my own way of looking sideways at it. In some ways, it’s happening simultaneously. There’s something much purer about the way my mother tells of something, the way that she uses language to tell a story or my father uses language to tell a story that it’s about care. It’s about caring for the self. It’s about touching one another even in a small space. It doesn’t even have to be across a great distance. We do talk a lot on the phone when we’re not together but even across a room, how different is that language of sitting among people you love and who’ve seen you at your worst, who basically had to feed you at times or who you still return to with your greatest pains to sit and tell a story, and to watch the ways we’re holding one another, and then at the same time, I also feel like I’ve been given a gift of poetry on another side that my parents haven’t had, and that I’ve been told I am good because of that poetry, and to know that my mother was never told that she was good in that way and my father, especially with his difficulty reading, was never told he was good in that way, and so it’s such an interesting chasm. Some of it is like age and opportunity and what our parents went through for us but it’s such an interesting thing that I have the luck for someone to tell me like, “Hey, you’re good,” or “you are great,” or “you are like all of these words,” for something that I do, that my parents would never have the time to make an art or craft out of. It simply is their practice of love and care, and sometimes just getting up in the morning and getting through the day. I’ve said this at times but my father wakes up in the morning and looks in the mirror, and he says, “Body, have I been good to you? Then let you and I get through this day.” That is poetry. That’s a small story right there that he’s telling. I don’t know if it’s that I’m at that age, I’m 42 right now, but those are the questions I’m really asking about what it means to tell a story, what it means to be a poet, and what am I doing in terms of returning what my parents gave me and I have arrived at. What am I doing to move that out of me and on to some other place?

DN: If we were to take this moment that your father repeats every morning in the mirror, that’s both a mini-story and a mini poem, I was hoping we could talk about the talk you gave at Tin House one summer about repetition that I really loved. You intebraided questions of repetition and poetry with Steph Curry’s impossible to defend yet often repeated crossover dribble with a song that I suspect was in Mojave from one of your elders. You talked about how a repeated word is not really a repetition, not on the page where each iteration is placed differently next to different words, but also especially and particularly when spoken every time you say the word, it is sounded different in the body in time the light in the room has changed, everything has changed. That made me think about a review of a memoir about Borges that I was reading last Sunday morning over breakfast in the New York Times Book Review. It’s a book written by Jay Parini about when he was young and tasked to look after Borges while he was visiting Scotland in the early 1970s, and they’re on a road trip, and Parini recites to Borges a poem he has written, a romantic poem he has written while they’re in the car and Borges says, “I’ve written the same poem, this exact poem,” and then he tells Parini to read his short story, Pierre Menard, about a man who rewrites Don Quixote word for word believing he is writing it for the first time. Parini in the book then says, “In doing so, he liberates the idea of originality from the prison-house of romanticism. Every word is original in the mouth, in the fresh context of what is uttered in its own time and space,” so I was hoping maybe you could speak to orality or the oral tradition in relation to the written word in light of this.

ND: I think about orality a lot,and I might have mentioned this in that conversation you’re referencing, I tend to reference it a lot, but thinking of Walter J. Ong, he’s a Jesuit priest and some of his critique of ocularcentrism and literacy, we forget literacy, it’s a power construct. We forget who books were made for and what they were made to disseminate, which was often the text of god, so women could pray and read out loud to themselves, or so we could keep these great knowledges, put them down into text, but also what that robs you of your sensualities. I talk a lot about sensuality, and not necessarily in a synesthetic way because again, synesthesia is assuming that we have a certain number of senses versus a sensuality that really has no bounds, like what does it mean that the skin can sense color? Those things are almost beyond our imagination because we’ve been taught the five senses. The fact that a lot of the ways we think about story and the book itself is text-and-font, that’s what the poem is, the 8.5 x 11 inch page, which really doesn’t exist in the other places but in those moments of measuring and marking as, “Okay, this is a poem,” we do that with our students, “This is the poem,” and now it’s ready possibly for a book. For example, the eye is made to read difference, that’s what it’s supposed to do—who is you, and who is me, and who is them, and what do I need to be worried about, what is dangerous, what is same, what is like. There’s something about orality and the idea of listening that makes the body present—that allows the body to be fully itself—and I don’t mean to imply that that’s the only sensuality because there are ways of listening with the body that are not only the ear. I don’t mean to decenter the eye and then, of course, center the ear. That feels really important to me. My teacher Hubert or Ahmoch Chumee Mahakev is his name, he sings songs. We’re working on a 235-song cycle which is wild, you sing them all in a row. If you were to hear them, and that was one of the songs I played, it would seem like he’s saying the same thing again and again except that he’s not. I hear that and I follow every texture and corner, and lift and rise of the words that he’s singing, and a lot of them are song words. There’s music there and there’s language within that music. To me, that feels really important, and it feels so far beyond repetition. For example, I was talking about this, so I probably showed that Iverson clip, too, of Iverson talking about practice. Using the Steph Curry clips of his crossover, you can prepare for it, that’s what repetition makes us believe like, “I’m ready for it. I already know something about it. I know a lot about it,” and yet it arrives and you’re still experiencing it again. Your mind even, it’s like we were to track the mind and the way the mind fires, it would still re-fire. It wouldn’t suddenly say, “Oh, I’m only going to light up halfway because I’ve already heard this,” or “I’ve already seen this.” The same places in our brains fire as if it’s blooming again in us for the very first time. But even thinking about the Iverson clip where he says the word “practice” over 29 times, it seems a little bit funny but what’s interesting about that is that—maybe he says it like 20, 22, 23 times—but that day that Iverson was in there talking about practice and saying, “We’re talking about practice. Come on man. I’m the franchise player talking about practice,” he had lost his friend not long before that. For him to be in that room having just lost someone he loved and to use that word again and again, it was almost as if practice was a way of grieving, the use of that word practice. He catches himself and laughs about it, but what is grief if not a repetition that is so much more beyond repetition? It doesn’t stop and it’s never the same, not from one moment to the next. I think a lot about that, again, with orality. I don’t want to, of course, center the ear because there’s also a way that the body itself can speak that doesn’t just have to be the mouth. What that means of what we’re missing, thinking that the eye is actually a kind of touch, what does that mean? What does it mean that we’re in digital space? It’s named after touch. It’s named after the hands. I don’t know that I necessarily answered that, but for me, I actually want to repeat—I’m using that word for clarity because it doesn’t quite feel right—but I want to reorganize and reorganize and reorganize. If I can get to the place where things are so peeled back that it’s an energy that I am of that energy, that I also becomes me in some way, but it’s also beyond me, like the saying that the only difference between a living body and a dead body in terms of energy is it’s the same energy, it’s simply been reorganized but none of that energy is gone, it’s just been reorganized to other phases of what the human body once was.

DN: Some of what you said about books and the written word on the page in a very standardized format makes me think of the poet who’s also a classicist, Alice Oswald, who says that the poem on the page is more like a musical score, it isn’t the music. That it shouldn’t be mistaken for the music of performing the poem. Your lecture on repetition also made me think of her because she’s always deeply engaged with water. She believes the way our minds work and the way water works are in relationship to each other—the reflective and mimetic ways of water and the mind. But also that water is never about sameness and repetition, but similarities and correspondences, the way a green leaf reflected in a pail of water will look brown, or gray, or yellow, but still be somehow inseparable from the green leaf itself. It also reminded me of your distrust of the word “truth” where in one interview, you say, “Truth is a way of being asleep. When something is true, we no longer are engaging with it. It is established. It has come to a standstill.” Thinking about water versus truth, and about correspondences versus sameness, I joined your conversation with the visual artist Maria Hupfield where you led us through the empty Heard Museum to see her exhibit which was really great, to be able to visit a museum and also have a guide. A conversation that described, the text that accompanied this event said, “Join us for a conversation with visual artist Maria Hupfield and poet Natalie Diaz as they reimagine our borderlands as fluid and return to the practice of migration as a natural relationship with language, story, land, water, and one another. We’ll also explore how artists can move past representation towards liberation.” Thinking of this event and thinking about truth and water, and thinking of your line, “I’m doing my best not to become a museum of myself,” I wanted to bring us to the longest poem in Postcolonial Love Poem, exhibits from the American Water Museum. I was hoping you could talk about this poem and the questions that animate it.

ND: This is a poem that feels like it’s just dropped into the book, like the book is just one small space that it has decided to enter. It feels very much alive to me. I feel like maybe where the way it exists in the book is it’s almost like a small door you can enter, but if you were to enter it fully, you would leave the book, and move beyond, and go to this other place. It’s actually a really important research project for me right now because I am trying to realize it, to manifest it as an actual physical space with physical objects in it, and thinking along those lines of migration, involving other artists in coming into that space, and creating their relationship to what is the water museum, how do we relate to water. I actually just had this conversation not long ago with a group of students from a poet Lamar Wilson and Tacey Atsitty that was talking with their class. They were very interested in the idea of the museum and what the museum is, what it has been in the past, and thinking of it that it’s always been a center of knowledge but a certain kind of knowledge. It’s a place of preservation. In some ways, I’m really calling into question what preservation is, and what it is we are always trying to preserve, and that what deteriorates and what goes back into the earth is not meant to be preserved. There’s a way that we are of the earth and we are taken back into it, and that is a very natural condition in the same way that migration is also a natural condition. You can track the path of many tribes across the country because of the trees that grow along those paths. Many paths that they were forced to walk—that they were forced to travel, and lost so many loved ones along the way—and yet, every time they stopped, they were carrying with them parts of their home, seeds, shells, nuts, and things, and moving along. Even the ways that our country is set up right now, if we took a closer look and didn’t look at state lines, what we would begin to see is that waterways are so extremely important to the ways that we have moved and gathered, and the ways we disperse. It’s also one of the most dangerous weapons of war and we’re seeing it in quiet ways right now in the United States. We’re not actually realizing that this living body of water is under attack in a way like with humans, you die, or you scar, you heal, and even if that healing is imperfect and you’re changed afterward, there’s something about the scar that is also part of a newness, a new origin, yet the body of water takes much longer to heal because it’s not necessarily worried about our human scale. For me, that museum became that place to think very texturally and in small and slow ways about water in a way that I don’t know that people will understand the relationship I have to my river, I know I talk about it a lot but because we have constructions like metaphor or constructions like magical realism, in some ways, that’s what my story becomes. It becomes that thing. It’s like, “What if people understand museum? They understand when something has disappeared or that something is disappearing, if you can put it into a museum, there’s like this very violent measurement of what has been or what is yet.” For me, if any poem in that book is an obsession of mine, it’s that American Water Museum and in some ways, I think I fail at it as a poem because it’s so much larger. I was reading a lot of placards in museum walls—like some of the ways that they mark text and things with it—and just imagining what are the things that are missing. As an indigenous person, it’s like they wanted to shellac your wound. That’s what they do and they hold you still. A lot of really incredible artists—Maria Hupfield among them—are really at the forefront of shifting what’s happening in museums in the United States and in North America in general. Then Maria’s word is she activates her exhibits, refuses to let them be there alone and quiet, and so that was part of the work I did there with her was to move in it, to activate it, to touch the things. Again, I don’t know that that’s necessarily like a very straightforward answer but that poem is the one that for me, is very much still happening.

DN: Could we hear some of the exhibits?

ND: Yeah, and again, I feel like desire is always missing from the museum like what emotions are allowed to happen in the museum. I think a lot about that and then just etymologically Museum, what it was originally intended to relate to the idea of a muse.

[Natalie Diaz reads an excerpt from “exhibits from the American Water Museum” from her collection, Postcolonial Love Poem]

DN: We’ve been listening to Natalie Diaz read from “exhibits from the American Water Museum” from her collection, Postcolonial Love Poem. One of my favorite parts of our first conversation is when I quoted you something from the poet Heriberto Yépez, a poet I wasn’t very familiar with, but you knew so well that you were able to immediately pull something up to read by him in response, and also a poet you teach regularly in your classes. I feel like something similar has happened since we talked where we are again, on a similar wavelength and again, you are many steps ahead of me. When we last spoke, I was about halfway through Christina Sharpe’s In the Wake, reading it as part of a preparation for an interview I’m doing this winter with another poet. This book has been a transformative read for me where I suspect the ideas that are put forth in it are going to inform a lot of my questions going forward as an interviewer, and also just inform a lot of the growth I’m going to do as a person. As I was finishing the book after our conversation, thinking about what we might focus on this time in our second conversation, Sharpe’s ideas about the wake became inextricably intertwined with your engagement with water and your engagement with questions of participation in America—the wake being the track left on the water surface by a ship, particularly, in this case, a slave ship. The wake as a disturbance caused by a body swimming or moving in water. The wake, a region of disturbed flow—and Sharpe’s notion that thinking needs care, and that thinking and care needs to stay in the wake, she says, “To be in the wake is to occupy and be occupied by the continuous and changing present of slaveries, as yet unresolved unfolding. To be ‘in the wake’ to occupy that grammar, the infinitive might provide another way of theorizing in, for, from what Frank Wilderson refers to as staying in the hold of the ship.” But then I discover a little later on that you are already in a deep engagement with In the Wake, that through the center for imagination in the borderlands, you’re inviting writers to participate in a durational study of the book with your students in a series called Migrating the Loop. Some of these writers include past Between the Covers guests Eunsong Kim and Brandon Shimoda, and also one of my favorite poetry editors, Claire Schwartz from Jewish Currents, and also independently of this project, you’ve brought Canisia Lubrin whose most recent book is in direct conversation with In the Wake as well. I was hoping we could dwell in this confluence between Christina Sharpe and you for a bit, if you could talk to us about In the Wake for you as a poet, and a teacher, and an indigenous person living in the United States.

ND: I guess I’m thinking where to begin. This book feels like a germinal text. It’s poetry in so many ways and something that I really admire about it is that I feel like it lets the ancestors in, as like thinking alongside us also. There’s such a beautiful conversation happening even within the book. You’re touching and in touch with so many thinkers who Christina has been in touch with or has been touched by her work, shaped by in so many different ways. Thus, maybe a good starting place would just be thinking about the weather. It’s definitely something that I’ve been taught to think about in different ways and I want to make sure that I’m talking in a way that is acknowledging the conversions and diversions because the black experience in diaspora, the black indigenous experience is very different than the indigenous experience and yet they’re in deep conversation. One of the ways that I engage with the idea of the weather is like for me, the weather lets me disallow context and I feel like context is such a dangerous power structure in America. We’ve been taught to think in the shape of context. I just need to know the context of that and then I can jump into any experience. It’s a lot like empathy. Empathy is a context and in many ways. Empathy is one way I look at something based on the context of my life, and where the pressure points of that are. There’s a way that we’ve always talked about the weather, moving like the weather, or a lot of our stories, we become weather in Mojave stories so that as we’re moving into battle, or so that we can hide, or so that we can move and transform, those have also become the ways that we have come to be in this nation, in this country. One of the many ways that she treats the weather is—again, I relate to it in that way—that it is a condition. It’s not something that comes and goes but it is the very condition by which we move and act. One of the things that I see in the book is this incredible generosity of the small intimate moments that I would call touches, even how she slows us down to think about “hold” itself—hold, be hold to be held—what that means. One of those generosities I also believe is for me, one of the ways I enter it is that there’s been a very long bifurcation of ocean belonging to blackness and land belonging to nativeness. I feel like what Christina’s texts, what In the Wake has offered all of us, is this place to return to a relationality. I really do feel like it’s a very indigenous text. It’s about relationality, it’s about the fact that in some ways, we will always be the things that have happened to us, who we have been, and who we have come from, and yet we are also living in what does that mean about the ways we learn to frame memory, the ways we learn to enact memory, again, that kind of timelessness. I guess for me, it feels like I sat down and someone talked with me about the ways they’ve decided to live. It feels like something I might get from my teacher Hubert who’s in his 90s. It’s also a way that I feel like disallows a lot of Western, in particular, South and North American points of engagement, there are certain places they would like us to engage with what has happened to us and I say “us” very broadly. In history, it’s like, “We’ll engage you here because we have decided this is what has happened.” Because this is now a point of engagement, we expect it to stay in this small area but just the disallow even, I think of a particular timeline, I guess that’s what my elders mean in some ways, is say like, “It’s not the wound, it’s the scar.” The wound heals but the scar is what reminds you, the scar is what you carry, and it’s what tells you the story again and again and again. I guess I think a little bit about it in that way. One of the things that I’m really interested in and hopeful with the text and offering it to my students is that, this text for me because I think one, it’s one of the few texts that I think everybody should read but bringing in [Kinsella 1:02:53] Brandon Shimoda, like you said in song, we brought in Victoria Adukwei Bulley who’s based in London now, her parents are from Accra, Claire will be our final one, Asiya Wadud also was part of it. But just for them to see the many ways that we are kin to one another, we are relational, and that we don’t have to be the same, like there are some experiences that are too big, they’re too big I think to imagine a language for, which is I think one of the real beauties of the text is how many voices are in that book, that in some ways is a chorus that she has built and really who else could carry it but a chorus. This goes back in some ways to the idea of migration, you need that chorus, I’m thinking back, I don’t want to ruin anything by tying it to a Western tradition but I don’t mean the Western tradition of chorus but there’s a reason why Mojave funerals are four nights long, they were full of singing because we had to sing that person to the next place, it took that long, it was all day and all night. It took that many of my people to hold what that loss was, to hold what that person had been through, and also what we had been through. There’s a word in Mojave that means—it’s a powerful word because only older people do it—but it’s a word that means you can cry for your entire life. I don’t feel like the book is only situated, of course, in the womb but I think what that book feels like to me is it’s an invitation to find that chorus, to find that group of voices that you need to hold but not just to hold, to carry it. Because it’s one thing to hold, that’s what we’ve been taught, you hold this wound, then we’re also going to hold you still with this wound. But there’s a way that even that very poetic playfulness to hold, to be hold, to be beholden, again, it’s a generosity that I couldn’t imagine actually teaching that book much less offering it without its own chorus, that’s one of the ways that I try to deliver it to my students, to show them that there are some things that are so big and so important that it’s going to take the collective to do it. Yes, Christina, I can’t imagine the toll that book must have taken on her. I’m assuming, it also brought a certain ecstatic, pleasure, and joy in certain ways but there’s a lot that she carried for many people in that book.

DN: I want to read a paragraph from it that feels connected to a piece you just did for PEN about the election, about the question of voting or not voting, and about the importance of impossibility that your piece was called A Practice of Momentum. This is from In the Wake, Joy James and João Costa Vargas ask in Refusing Blackness as Victimization: Trayvon Martin & the Black Cyborgs, “What happens when, instead of becoming enraged and shocked every time a black person is killed in the United States, we recognize black death as a predictable and constitutive aspect of this democracy? What will happen then if instead of demanding justice we recognize (or at least consider) that the very notion of justice produces or requires black exclusion and death as normative?” Sharpe continues by saying, “The ongoing state-sanctioned legal and extralegal murders of Black people are normative and, for this so-called democracy, necessary; it is the ground we walk on. And that it is the ground lays out that, and perhaps how, we might begin to live in relation to this requirement for our death. What kinds of possibilities for rupture might open up? What happens if we proceed as if we know this, antiblackness, to be the ground on which we stand, the ground from which we attempt to speak, for instance, an ‘I’ or a ‘we’ who know, an ‘I’ or a ‘we’ who care?” I just want to repeat what I quoted earlier because it also feels vital to this, “To be in the wake is to occupy and be occupied by the continuous and changing present of slavery’s as yet unresolved unfolding. To be ‘in’ the wake, to occupy that grammar, the infinitive, might provide another way of theorizing, in/for/from what Frank Wilderson refers to as “stay[ing] in the hold of the ship.” When I think of Frank Wilderson, I realize my interest and curiosity about afro-pessimism at this point far outstrips my knowledge of it, so what I might say now might be a misunderstanding or might be naive in some sense. But while this framing of Christina’s may be pessimistic with regards to America and the promises it puts forth—and I think that’s what the pessimism is referring to—it seems to be a position full of possibility imaginative, otherwise, this notion of staying in the wake, accepting that anti-blackness, as she puts it, is the total climate. I’d add to that the near universal eraser of indigeneity as part of that total climate. But much like your line in your essay, A Practice of Momentum, where you say, “We are the ancestors of what is yet impossible of America,” this doesn’t feel pessimistic to me, you say explicitly you’re not invested in the success of America, yet that essay feels like it is an opening. Maybe, that’s just a reiteration of what you’ve just said but I wondered if hearing Christina’s words prompts any further thought.

ND: I’m interested in pessimism. Again, I’m thinking of course, is the way that she speaks of weather which is a lot the way that my ancestors and my teachers have talked about the weather. We don’t say like, “Under the weather,” it’s like, “Oh, you’re in the weather.” It could even mean that you’re being mopey or you’re in a bad mood but it has to do with the condition of you. We also talk a lot about the weather being beyond something like a storm. Sometimes, the weather is just the way the sky looks, the feeling that they have of something that might be coming that anyone else might not notice but we have a way of saying that the sky is in a way that something is coming. It doesn’t mean storm or clouds but it’s just like a kind of strangeness. I’ve always tried to watch them and mark it so that I might be able to read the sky that way but I realize it’s not visible with the eye, it’s something within them. But I guess what I’m so intrigued by with the idea of pessimism and optimism, but pessimism in general, is that it’s about the condition. Pessimism is not even an intellectualism. I was talking to my partner about this today because I was like, “We pretend the emotions are happening somewhere out in the air around us,” but I’ve been thinking a lot about my skin, what is my body. When I’m anxious, when I’m sad, the air can hurt me, there’s a physical reaction I have to the air that is actually my emotion. When I’m upset about something or when I’m angry or even filled with joy, it’s my body but somehow we’ve tried to separate these things. For example, with pessimism, we pretend it’s our intellectualism, it’s the way that we are approaching something intellectually when it’s actually the conditions in which we are living. Pessimism is made up of action. It’s a literal deterioration. If we go back to the etymology, that’s something that it’s linked to. Again, Frank Wilderson has a much more complex relationship to this but rather than me trying to pretend I can hold afro-pessimism in my head, or much less I’m in a position to speak to it, I guess I just want to approach it from this space that we are not the pessimists, the pessimism is the state of this country, this country exists in such a way, and while it’s diminishing certain bodies, it is also its own deterioration. This country was not meant to be maintained, this is why we go through all these cycles. Democracy was someone’s idea. I think the part that feels like pessimism to me is democracy itself is right now, we’re watching it deteriorate. Not that I’ve ever held it up as an ideal like I’ve been taught to, we’ve all been taught, like the vote itself I guess, I’ll just say, I’ve never been much of a voter, I feel like democracy has put us in certain states of compromise that mean we have to look away from what we’ve once been or what we could be of joy or love or our own imaginations because we believe everything has to go through democracy. I guess, to think about being pessimistic, I don’t know that I am, I think I just live in a country of pessimism, I live in a country that was built on the deterioration of others in a way that could only bring about its own deterioration. I want to look up the word because I think it’s actually linked to the idea of the ground as well which I think is—I might be wrong, but I’ll have to go back and look a little bit later, maybe, I’m just dragging it there because of deterioration—but I do think it’s linked to the actual literal ground which is also interesting to imagine something being returned to that like crumbling to it, then what that would mean.

DN: What you’re saying here now about America and what Christina said about staying within the wake and attempting to speak an “I” or  a “we” who know and care, feels like it brings me back to Whitman and the Yépez quote because Whitman really feels like a perfect window into this America you describe, then the gap between the aspirational “we” that is lauded for its seeming inclusiveness and the embodied lived life of the person on the ground who supported the war against Mexico, who cared more about preserving indigenous place names but not actual indigenous people, who was for denying the vote to black people, the celebrated “we” of Whitman feels to me at least connected to the “we”and we, the people of the constitution which feels like it denies the wake also. I feel like you make a nod to this in A Practice on Momentum when you bring up the Supreme Court case, the Supreme Court in 1884 making sure that the 14th Amendment which defines what a citizen is as someone born in the United States didn’t actually include Native Americans.

ND: Yeah. I’m moving backward here because I guess, as we’re building this landscape of thinking about democracy and thinking about the idea of staying in the wake, thinking about “I” “we” about pessimism, something that I think about with the idea of the “we” or the “I-We,” just for example with my language work, I never say “I” at home, it’s always “we”. One, because I work with elders, I’m young, and so there’s a way that I should never be the center there. Even if they’re teaching me something, it’s the energy of their teaching that is important. That’s the same reason why we don’t say please and thank you. We don’t say thank you because it’s not about me, it’s about that forward energy of you doing or giving or offering. It brings me back to thinking about empathy. You had asked me about something I’d said, I was blinking out that day, I’ve been working on a really big grant the last few months so it kind of fried my brain but I guess, something I’m thinking about is this is a concept that’s not present in a lot of cultures but because you were asking about the idea of hunters and empathy, we had been talking about that, there’s something I was writing about a few years ago when I was in Princeton. There’s a poet named Nomie Stone. She and I had several conversations about this. She had studied Arabic and had done some work. We had been in some Middle Eastern countries but we were talking about the way soldiers trained and even that when they build these small villages—we actually have one out here in Tucson, just the ways that soldiers are taught to “empathize,” it’s how we want to teach you how to think like they think so you understand, and things like even giving the kids candy, that’s very much related—but we were talking about hunters, there are so many ways that they imagine themselves empathizing or thinking like their prey in order for them to hunt them. Again, empathy, the idea that you can understand how someone is feeling, you can put yourself in the shoes of someone to imagine how they might feel. But again, it’s such a very Western perspective because there are indigenous hunters and there are people in my own culture and family who can become an other thing, it’s an actual happening. There are indigenous hunters who do believe that they can become the animal that they are hunting, that they are that for a moment, then they return to themselves. It’s a much different relationship than empathy, it’s a much more real happening in that it also creates the relationship by which you have respect for something so you understand what it means when a life is gone even if it’s the life that you’ll then feed yourself from. Thinking about democracy, because I think democracy is very much built on this very false idea of empathy—even the idea that we can say who deserves to be treated like a citizen, who doesn’t, and who isn’t a citizen, then how much suffering must they suffer or how much discomfort must I experience in order for me to be brought to a place of empathy for that non-citizen, I don’t know, I’m making a very messy constellation of this—but I guess just for me, I almost don’t know how to think about it, I know that I have to, I know there are people who again, have been doing this work but when I say that I’m not invested in the success of America, in one respect, I do know what I mean, in another respect, I know I am not prepared for that either. This is why I think I’m leaning or returning to or dragging my hand through the idea of empathy because I don’t know if I have what it takes to be as uncomfortable or discomfited as I would need to be in order for certain kinds of change to happen. I don’t know that the improvisational, I don’t know that me, improvising within these systems, it won, I see it shaping me in ways that I compromise or that I toe that line. I guess that’s why I’m trying to differentiate between what is participation and what is complicity because I think, if I am able to separate those, I definitely know I transgress both areas.

DN: Maybe to go oblique to this question, I did want to ask you about your notion of indigeneity, both because of some things you said in the last conversation and also even when in this conversation, when you mention Christina’s book as an indigenous text, then talk about the ways in which land has been associated with indigenous people and water with the black experience. You suggested in the last conversation that indigeneity does not have to do to or not only have to do with land, also, that it isn’t reserved for Natives, you referred in passing I think to a diasporic indigeneity or something to that effect. You’ve also said that indigeneity is the key to constellating between us. That was all really intriguing to me, I wanted to know so much more just because of my own assumptions. I remember listening a couple of years ago to an indigenous run show on the same radio station where Between The Covers gets aired here in Portland, I don’t remember who the host and the guests were but the guests came on the show, it was two indigenous people speaking, he was wondering how long it took generationally for an inhabitant of a land to become Native to the land. I remember immediately dismissing this notion out of hand as I was driving, thinking that no amount of time would make a Han Chinese settler indigenous to Tibet or my family’s descendants indigenous to Colorado or Oregon, but it sounds like you have a much more complicated and nuanced notion unsurprisingly. I was hoping you could talk to us about indigeneity in general, then also, in relationship to the land and this idea of constellating between us as a key moving forward.

ND: I understand the importance of recognizing the people who’ve come from these particular lands. I think very physically about that. For example, I am made from the clay along the Colorado River, I recognize that water and that water recognizes me. I feel that it’s a real relationship, it’s not metaphorical, it’s not magical realism, it’s something beyond that. It’s this pre-verbal space, the language has trapped us, the English language is not large enough, it’s not old enough to hold some of those ways of being. I think of indigeneity, so there’s that, I think that is something that has to be recognized and respected, yet I think indigeneity is also one’s relationship with where they are, with how they arrive. Again, like ritual, this very important process, this very important practice of arriving and receiving, when someone comes into my home, I want to receive them in a certain way, I want them to know that I’m glad that they have arrived, I want them to be fed, I want them to feel comfortable, I want them to rest. At the same time, it’s reciprocal, they also have a practice of arriving. I think for me, that reciprocal relationship is an important aspect of indigeneity. I do think water recognizes us. I’ve been in a lot of conversations lately about the Pacific and the Atlantic, what those waters have come to represent and who those waters have carried or held. I’m thinking a lot about, for example, we think of migration, we think of that mostly being on land, the majority of it has happened on water, like what the water carries, what the water has shaped of us. It’s controversial because we don’t have the language for it yet. It’s such a space between what is native or indigenous, what is blackness or blackness in diaspora? What is black indigenous? What is indigenous blackness? Some people are having it but largely, we don’t have that language outside whereas, in my community, we have many black indigenous people. I have a black and indigenous household, my wife is black. Again, it’s an allness which doesn’t have to mean sameness. I think that is something that’s really difficult to hold in the English language because the English language has done such a good job of creating time, time that we are beholden to, what do those time markers mean? Who do those time markers acknowledge? Even thinking about that this country is largely built of migration, the United States, yet what does that mean for me as an indigenous person who is also Mexican and Spanish, what does that mean for me when migration was actually a part of my culture as well? The way that we moved, and we moved the way the land taught us to move, we moved the way the river taught us to move. When the floods came, we moved. When animals moved, we moved. I think this for me is why engaging a text like In the Wake and engaging it among a group of thinkers from many different places and many different languages feels essential because I’m invested in what that language needs to be, I’m invested in it in a very intimate way in my own household, I’m invested in it among my friends. I think it’s a conversation that, for me, began a long time ago, like on my reservation in my community because we have a lot of Mojaves who are also black or black people who are also Mojaves, we’re family. If you’re mojave, you’re mojave. Beginning to see the way these things are situated and also, the necessity for the conversation to happen in relationship to what is democracy, what is any of our futures, beginning to think about even things like freedom—we say freedom as if it means the same thing to everybody, it definitely does not, but where do you begin with that conversation? Then in indigenous conversations, there are words that are incredibly fraught like talking about sovereignty with the younger native people is very difficult. I guess it’s all a matter of language. This is why I think, in some ways, why poetry has a certain power but I think it’s also why—back to the beginning of this question—In the Wake has felt so important, there’s a lexicon there that I think is a very generous lexicon. At least in the pages of the book, to watch how that lexicon was shaped and all of the touching that happened across other texts to build that lexicon, I think it’s pretty incredible. It feels like entering a conversation that’s been happening for a long time and that will continue to happen.

DN: I wanted to end with a question about time. In your essay, A Practice of Momentum, you say, “My existence requires a dislocation from traditional markers of time and score—a clock, the year 1492, the year of my birth, a scab and its scar, any election year. Before the beginning and always becoming I say to remind myself I am capacious, of origin, of rising at any moment and from any descent, including the descent of a country. As a Native in America, I must disallow being counted down on a nation-clock of beginnings—American time zones are designed to begin after my people.” In Postcolonial Love Poem, we get a lot of advocations of time on a non-human scale, flowers that take 20 years to bloom, 100 year floods, deserts that used to be oceans, but you also had this interesting conversation on the Thresholds Podcast about time in your own body where you described your lifelong struggle with anxiety, using the language of time to describe it, the anxiety as the knowing of the boundaries of time down to tiny increments down to a second of time, I wondered when I heard that if you’re evoking of this longer non-human time was a way to counterbalance the second by second time of the anxiety of your own body but also, I was wondering more generally if you could speak about the dislocation of yourself from time in relationship to this almost microscopic awareness of it.

ND: Yeah, that’s the pain of time I think, the torture of it is that I don’t know what my anxiety would be like without the pressure of success in relationship to time. Our successes are measured in time, in ways I think that are counter to the way any life wants to live. We talked a little bit last time about watching plants bloom, that some are late and some bloom on their own time. From my very human time measured eye, I would give up on them like, “Oh, that one didn’t make it.” Then sure enough, two weeks later, it’s on its own time. I think there’s a way that we talk about time as being out of time, that you want to be out of time because these things are still happening. For example, I was driving—we live in a very flat valley, so light shifts and you see different parts of the valley depending on where the light is, depending on how clouds are—so we have [inaudible 1:38:32] which is the rock who cried—I talk about that a lot, it’s one of my favorite places at home—but it’s the rock who cried when he found out that the creator had died. When the creator died—it happened up the river—so the river carried it down, and the rock found out that way, and so the rock cried and it’s still a deep red purple color because when it cried, it got wet, that’s what changed its color. When we say [inaudible 1:39:06], it’s like the rock who cried, well, that’s still happening, that mourning is still happening even there in the stone. Thinking about that in relationship to time, then that alongside, the ways that we have been taught when we say “sumach ahotk”, I always say like, “Dream well,” or “Dream good.” It doesn’t mean again, “I hope you sleep alright or I hope you don’t have nightmares,” but it just means that where we arrive, it’s already there and we will arrive to it. It’s been dreamed for us. There’s something about time that already doesn’t work, something about the typical way that we clock a year or an hour because I will arrive there, it will be right on time even if I wanted to arrive there soon or even if I never could have imagined arriving there. What else could it be that I am here and who I am having come from where I’ve come from? What was different about where my brother is now and where I am now except that I was dreamed here in a way that he was dreamed somewhere else? I think about that. It doesn’t feel unrelated to, again, anxiety which is why for me, the poem From the Desire Field, the necessity to say like, “I need to reorganize this,” because anxiety is such a measure of time, it’s my inability to make it through the shortest increment, so much that you would count seconds or that I’ll sit in the clock and be like, “Okay, a minute has passed.” The same way that my father wakes up in the morning and it’s like, “Body, have I been good to you?” I can catch myself through a day, it’s like back to sports, I’m like, “Come on, you can do this, you can get through it.” It’s the shortest increment of time. But what would happen if I could treat it not as that? What if my anxiety is a river, how might I need to move then? Or what might I let of it move through me in a way that I wasn’t trying to always hold it? I think there’s also something about time and the idea of endurance that we’ve been taught, and that’s something I just feel like I’m a lot more willing to break in ways that I always thought I should or couldn’t, especially as an athlete, you go until you can’t go, then suddenly, your body finds a way for you to keep going. But that was all I knew, it was also the thing that got me through where I grew up and how I grew up. I tried to pull that into the rest of my life, it didn’t work because you can only take so much—and this is related to the idea of saying like, “We’re capable of many origins and we have to be, so why not let myself break if I am breaking so then I’ll just see what the next origin is?—It’s not easy because my first thought is always like, “Well, I always have so much on the line.” I always have so many things that I’m trying to make that might crumble. Who would I be letting down if that happened? Or what would I be? But yeah, I think those are all measures of time. Again, that’s in some ways why I feel like I’m at poetry because I do think it operates far outside of time even though we do our best to measure it like we measure who’s successful? Who’s not? Who’s emerging? Who’s not? We have all these ways to measure it but once it happens, it’s always happening.

DN: If we were to go out with a final poem, I was hoping you’d be willing to read Snake-Light. Could you introduce it to us before you read it? Maybe, in the context of how you see the light poems, Blood-Light, Skin-Light, Ink-Light, Snake-Light.

ND: Yeah, again, light is one of my lexicons just having grown up in the desert. I think of light as a kind of touch. In the first poem Blood-Light, it’s a poem that has a lot of violence and intimate violence in it. I wanted delight to also be there touching those who were in pain in that particular poem, that felt really important to me. Light is paired with things that might normally hit your eye as dark or might normally be projected as having a kind of darkness to them. Skin-Light, the game itself was a brutal game, it had certain rituals about moving into the underworld and being in conversation with some of the gods from the underworld. Ink-Light, again, thinking about the ink being of the body, thinking about that Ink-Light is the night I met my partner, my now wife. For me, pairing these poems with light, it was almost like I guess of what felt like a physical riddling of light, it’s already shot through with light but these are the places I wanted to really mark in that way.

[Natalie Diaz reads Snake-Light from Postcolonial Love Poem]

DN: We’ve been listening to Natalie Diaz read Snake-Light from Postcolonial Love Poem. “I am singing a song that can only be born after losing a country,” the epigraph that opens the book by Joy Harjo, also, later the quote by Hortense Spillers, “My country needs me, and if I were not here, I would have to be invented,” feel connected to the after body of the snake in that poem to me and to the lines in your essay, “I do believe that I am the momentum of my ancestors having arrived—arrived and still in motion, still toward. I also believe that where you and I ever meet is in the space of what might happen next—not a location but what we do there and how we do it. A practice of our relations, and we must relate better. My ancestors will be there too—they always are—not in the past but in what lies ahead, and not just for me but for all of us.” I guess on that note, I wanted to just thank you for being on the show again, Natalie, and put forth my hope that our almost five hours of talking together now have been part of a practice of relations of one after body with another In the Wake. Thanks for being on the show again.

ND: Yeah. Gracias, David. I really appreciate all your work and energy for it. You haven’t talked with Christina, have you?

DN: I haven’t.

ND: Oh, I think that would be an amazing conversation. Have you talked with Dionne Brand?

DN: I’m not going to say anything about that. I’m hoping that’s going to happen. [laughter]

ND: I’m going to wish all my good energies for you. I’m always up for listening to Dionne or Christina or any of those incredible folks.

DN: Me too.

ND: Yeah. I’m wishing you a good evening, love, and health to you and your beloved.

DN: You as well, Natalie. Thank you again for being on the show.

ND: Thanks, David. Ciao.

DN: We were talking today to Natalie Diaz, the author of Postcolonial Love Poem from Graywolf. You’ve been listening to Between The Covers. I’m David Naimon, your host.


Today’s program was not recorded at the studios of KBOO but it’s a volunteer-powered, non-commercial, listener-sponsored, full-strength, makeshift home office of me, David Naimon. If you enjoyed today’s program, consider supporting the fall Fundraising Campaign to get Between The Covers on solid footing going into 2021, you can do so at where you can discover a wide variety of potential gifts and rewards for becoming a listener supporter. Or if you prefer a one-time donation, you can do so via PayPal at I’d like to thank the Tin House team who keep the ship afloat; Elizabeth DeMeo, Alyssa Ogi, Spencer Ruchti in the Book Division, Jacob Vala in the Art Department, Yashwina Canter in Publicity, and Lance Cleland, the Director of the summer and winter Tin House Writing Workshops. Finally, I’d like to thank Imre Lodbrog and Barbara Browning for creating the outro. Their album, Imre Lodbrog & sa petite amie can be found on iTunes and Barbara Browning’s trove of ukulele covers can be found at