Natalie Diaz on Her Go-To Songs, the Unlikely Influences of George Michael, and More
In Conversation with Brad Listi on Otherppl
Natalie Diaz is the guest. Her new poetry collection, Postcolonial Love Poem, is available from Graywolf Press.
From the episode:
Natalie Diaz: There are songs that I know that I sing with my elders, and I’m really good at mimicking voices. So my register is often like Kenny Rogers and Randy Travis and Neil Diamond, all these older white guys.
Brad Listi: So I don’t know what that means. Where you can do a Kenny Rogers impression?
Natalie Diaz: I do a lot. I’m not going to do them here, but those are my go-to songs. I do a little Billy Joel every now and again, too. It’s a different register though.
Brad Listi: Billy Joel was big for me, a Midwestern guy from the suburbs in Indiana. For some reason, there is some common experience I feel among boys my age. I’m just a little bit older than you, but why Billy Joel? Like, I was completely obsessed when I was in sixth grade.
Natalie Diaz: My cousins had MTV. We never had cable, but I had a set of cousins who lived across the way, so wed always beg to go over there because they had cable. My mom didn’t like us to go over there because she said we shouldn’t be watching cable. I saw MTV for the very first time and Wham! was on. That was the very first group I ever saw. … George Michael, in particular, just never received the credit for making us capable to ask ourselves, which outright telling us, you know, what is gender? What is queerness? It’s incredible that we were all so compelled by him and weren’t told yet what questions we should be asking that were divisive. We simply loved him, and loved the music.
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Natalie Diaz is the author of the poetry collection When My Brother Was an Aztec. She has received many honors, including a MacArthur Fellowship, a USA Fellowship, and a Lannan Literary Fellowship. She teaches at Arizona State University.