Just Press Play

At a time when the COVID-19 pandemic is disrupting millions of people’s lives in unprecedented ways, PEN America’s World Voices Festival launches a new playlist series with songs selected by some of our favorite authors from around the world.

Every week, Just Press Play brings the soundtracks of poets and novelists’ writing lives into homes and offices everywhere. From the balconies of Milan to the speakers of our smartphones, these playlists remind us all that music, like books, can connect humanity from a distance.

This week, 2018 MacArthur Foundation Fellow Natalie Diaz, author of the poetry collections When My Brother Was an Aztec and most recently, Postcolonial Love Poem, shares a playlist inviting us into her home: 

Natalie Diaz“This is a small playlist of songs I imagine sharing with my beloveds—a little note. Some are songs my partner and I consider ‘ours.’ This is a playlist you might hear if we were to have you over for dinner or cocktails. I began with ‘Dear April’ by Frank Ocean because it feels like most of my days these past two months begin with me talking myself into the hour or day—manifesting myself in language first, before I push my body toward love and work that will become who I am in the day. I get this from my father, who wakes every day and says to himself: ‘Body, have I been good to you?’ as he prepares for how he hopes to treat himself and others throughout his day. This song talks a lot about being woken up, being made new—and that’s what these months will offer us when we come out from under them.”

Check out her playlist on Spotify and YouTube today, and grab Postcolonial Love Poem on Bookshop or Amazon.

Natalie’s Favorite: “Take Me to the Alley” from Gregory Porter 

“I love Gregory Porter and ‘Take Me to the Alley,’ even more so after hearing him talk a little bit about it at a show. He grew up in Bakersfield, CA, which is close to my reservation. He knows my desert and its heat, its cruelties and generosities. He sings: 

Let them hear me say
I am your friend. 
Come to my table
Rest here in my garden
You will have a pardon. 

“And I know this is the kind of rest and acceptance I would like to offer my beloveds and strangers. It reminds me of my father, and the ways of giving and caring that he has shown me.”

About Natalie Diaz

Natalie Diaz is Mojave and an enrolled member of the Gila River Indian Tribe. Her first poetry collection, When My Brother Was an Aztec, was published by Copper Canyon Press. She is a MacArthur Fellow, a Lannan Literary Fellow, a United States Artists Ford Fellow, and a Native Arts Council Foundation Artist Fellow. Diaz is the director of the Center for Imagination in the Borderlands and the Maxine and Jonathan Marshall Chair in Modern and Contemporary Poetry at Arizona State University. She lives in Phoenix, Arizona.

Join us next week for a playlist from poet, performer, educator, and activist Roya Marsh, whose debut poetry collection, dayliGht, is out now.