ODU women’s basketball alum wins Pulitzer Prize for Poetry

Norfolk

NORFOLK, Va. (WAVY) — Old Dominion University announced on Friday that alumna Natalie Diaz was awarded a Pulitzer Prize on Friday for “Postcolonial Love Poem.”

Diaz, 42, was born and raised in the Fort Mojave Indian Village in Needles, California. She later graduated from ODU in 2000 with her bachelor’s degree and again in 2007 with her master’s degree in fine arts.

While at ODU, Diaz was a member of the the women’s basketball team. She later went on professionally in Europe and Asia.

“From the basketball court to the writing classroom, Natalie Diaz inspired us,” said Sheri Reynolds, the Ruth and Perry Morgan Chair of Southern Literature and department chair and professor of English at ODU. “It’s no surprise to her former professors and classmates from the MFA program in Creative Writing that Natalie has now won the Pulitzer Prize for poetry.  We knew it was just a matter of time.”

Her winning collection has been described as “heart-wrenching and defiant poems that explore what it means to love and be loved in an America beset by conflict.”

Previously, “Postcolonial Love Poem” was also a finalist for the 2020 National Book Award, the 2020 Los Angeles Times Book Prize and the 2020 Forward Prize for Best Collection. It was also shortlisted for the 2020 T.S. Eliot Prize.

“For me, poetry is one way I center myself in my body,” Diaz said after earning a MacArthur Genius Grant in 2018. “I really believe in the physical power of poetry, of language. Where we come from, we say language has an energy, and I feel that it’s a physical energy. To me, it’s very similar to what I did on a basketball court.”

Diaz has received many honors, including a USA fellowship, a Lannan Literary Fellowship, and a Native Arts and Cultures Foundation Artist Fellowship. She is currently the Maxine and Jonathan Marshall Chair in Modern and Contemporary Poetry at Arizona State University.

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