Poet Natalie Diaz has been selected as the latest recipient of the Theodore H. Holmes ’51 and Bernice Holmes National Poetry Prize awarded by the Lewis Center for the Arts’ Program in Creative Writing at Princeton University.
The Holmes National Poetry Prize was established in memory of Princeton 1951 alumnus Theodore H. Holmes and is presented each year to a poet of special merit as selected by the faculty of the Creative Writing Program, which includes writers Jeffrey Eugenides, Chang-rae Lee, Paul Muldoon, Joyce Carol Oates, James Richardson, Tracy K. Smith, Susan Wheeler, and Edmund White. The award currently carries a prize of $5,000, and was first made to Mark Doty in 2011. The Prize’s candidates are chosen through nomination by faculty in the Creative Writing Program.
Diaz is the author of the poetry collection When My Brother Was an Aztec (2012), which New York Times reviewer Eric McHenry described as an “ambitious … beautiful book.” The Bread Loaf Louis Untermeyer Scholar for Poetry in 2012, she is the recipient of an American Book Award, a Poetry Society of American New American Poets Award, a Native Arts & Cultures Foundation Artist Fellowship, a Lannan Residency and a 2012 Lannan Literary Fellowship, as well as a 2012 Native Arts Council Foundation Artist Fellowship. She is currently working on a second collection of poems.
“Through the generosity of the Holmes family, this award is a tremendous opportunity for us to recognize exceptional work, and our recent focus on poets early in their careers means that the award can make a real difference in poets’ perennial seeking of time for writing,” notes Susan Wheeler, Director of the Program in Creative Writing. “Natalie Diaz’s extraordinary work to date augurs a long and stellar life in poetry.”
Born and raised in the Fort Mojave Indian Village in Needles, California, Diaz is Mojave and an enrolled member of the Gila River Indian community. She earned a B.A. from Old Dominion University, where she received a full athletic scholarship. Diaz played professional basketball in Europe and Asia before returning to Old Dominion to earn an M.F.A.
Diaz teaches at the Institute of American Indian Arts Low Rez M.F.A. program and splits her time between Brooklyn and Mohave Valley, Arizona, where she directs the Fort Mojave Language Recovery Program, working with the last remaining speakers at Fort Mojave to teach and revitalize the Mojave language. “I am both grateful and lucky to have my work recognized by the Lewis Center for the Arts and the Princeton Creative Writing Program faculty, many whose works and words have been my guides as I move through the world,” notes Diaz. “I appreciate the generosity of the Holmes family. I am hopeful that one day I can return this gracious gesture, either on the page or to another young writer who seeks what I continue to seek in poetry.”