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Pulitzer Prize-winning poet Natalie Diaz to give reading Feb. 9

Closeup of Natalie Diaz
Natalie Diaz (photo by Deanna Dent/ASU Now).

The Washington State University Common Reading Program and the Visiting Writers Series (VWS) will co-sponsor a reading by Pulitzer Prize-winning poet and author Natalie Diaz at 6 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 9 via YouTube Live.

The event is open to the public and free of charge. A question-and-answer session will follow the virtual reading.

Diaz’s poem, “American Arithmetic,” is featured in this year’s common reading book, “Tales of Two Americas: Stories of Inequality in a Divided Nation.” The book is used in dozens of first-year classes and by other students across the university.

“We are pleased to co-sponsor with the Visiting Writers Series the poet’s address to WSU students, faculty, staff, and community guests,” said Karen Weathermon, Common Reading director. 

“Natalie Diaz is one of the most compelling poets writing today, and we are honored to welcome her to WSU,” said Cameron McGill, VWS co-director.

Diaz is the first of six guests featured in the VWS spring season and kicks off a robust line-up of Common Reading presentations.

About the guest presenter

In 2021, Diaz received the Pulitzer Prize for her poetry collection “Postcolonial Love Poem (Graywolf, 2020). Her first collection, “When My Brother Was an Aztec,” was published in 2012 by Copper Canyon Press.

Diaz is Mohave and enrolled in the Gila River Indian Community, identifying as Akimel O’odham. She is an associate professor at Arizona State University and holds the Maxine and Jonathan Marshall Chair in Modern and Contemporary Poetry. She earned her B.A. from Old Dominion University, where she received a full athletic scholarship. She went on to play professional basketball in Europe and Asia before returning to her alma mater to earn an MFA in poetry and fiction.

In addition to the Pulitzer Prize, Diaz’s honors and awards include the Nimrod/Hardman Pablo Neruda Prize for Poetry, the Louis Untermeyer Scholarship in Poetry, the Narrative Poetry Prize, and a Lannan Literary Fellowship.

Reading co-sponsors

Since 2007, WSU’s Common Reading Program has introduced students to a shared text and brought authors or other guest experts to campus for Common Reading Invited Lectures, such as this one by Diaz. The program is part of the Division of Academic Engagement and Student Achievement (DAESA) in the Office of the Provost and Executive Vice President and Pullman Chancellor.

Topics from each of the 15 Common Reading books have provided a rich basis over the years for academic discussion in classes and beyond, creating community among students and their professors, residence hall staff, and others. Book subjects often highlight WSU research and the diversity of ideas across disciplines, and present different ways to explore complex issues from a variety of perspectives. 

VWS is part of the WSU Department of English in the College of Arts and Sciences. The series brings noted poets and writers of fiction and nonfiction to campus for creative readings, class visits, workshops, and collaborative exchanges across intellectual and artistic disciplines. For more than two decades, the series has welcomed hundreds of authors and artists to WSU’s campuses, offering a diverse range of programming to students, faculty, staff, and members of our communities.

Reading contributors

Several groups have helped make the Diaz presentation possible. They include: WSU Pullman Department of English, WSU Pullman College of Arts and Sciences,  WSU Vancouver Office of Equity and DiversityWSU Vancouver Office of Student Equity and OutreachWSU Vancouver Office of Academic AffairsWSU Vancouver College of Arts and SciencesASWSULandEscapesAcademic Outreach and InnovationWSU Native American Programs, Global Campus, Office of the Provost and Executive Vice President and Pullman Chancellor, and the WSU Teaching Academy.

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