NEA Literature Fellowships

LaTasha N. Nevada Diggs

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(2015 - Poetry)

"the originator"

here's the remedy for your chronic whiplash –

           coming to you via triple ones on a mission –
                       pop a wheelie for originators of the flash.

                                    check ya dial, emboss the rock b4 a fella dip dash.

                                                 grand to slam a party – peep two needles in collision:

                                    here's the remedy for your chronic whiplash.

                       flare your dome w/ a pinch of cheeba succotash.

           got my avenue peaking from rapid circumcision:

pop a wheelie for originators of the flash.

           ululate the call; gods never caught tongue-lash –

                       tweak an EQ before hash sparks double vision:

                                    here's the remedy for your chronic whiplash.

                                                 got my tambourine for ya partner, now pass the calabash.

                                    smile for the DJ when the cut spits – peep the precision:

                       pop a wheelie for originators of the flash.

           never fret what the beat can establish in the trash.

master meter on Orion, starship blast w/ supervision:

           here's the remedy for your chronic whiplash –

                       pop a wheelie for originators of the flash.

(From TwERK. Copyright © 2013 by LaTasha N. Nevada Diggs. Reprinted by permission of Belladonna)

A writer and sound artist, LaTasha N. Nevada Diggs is the author of TwERK (Belladonna, 2013). Her interdisciplinary work has been featured at the Museum of Modern Art, Brooklyn Museum, the Whitney Museum of American Art and the Walker Art Center. A Cave Canem fellow, Diggs is the recipient of numerous awards, including ones from the New York Foundation for the Arts, Jerome Foundation, and Lower Manhattan Cultural Council. As an independent curator and artistic director, she has staged events at BAM Café, Lincoln Center Out of Doors, and El Museo del Barrio. She is the co-founder and co-editor of Coon Bidness/SO4 magazine.

Photo courtesy of LaTasha N. Nevada Diggs

Author's Statement

It was on the day I went to The Field Museum to visit Ruatepupuke, a Maori meetinghouse, originally built on Tokomaru Bay, New Zealand in 1881. The reason: to honor the request of an acquaintance whose ancestors had built Ruatepupuke. Two days prior was perhaps the most miserable phone tag to have with a young man named Mohammad from the NEA. Messages left little information and much suspense. Mohammad would call and I would miss it, calling back to end up leaving a message myself.  Returning from the museum, I emailed my location with one final note: "I am here right now." A minute later, the phone rang. Receiving the news, I was in total disbelief.  Is this is a ‘419' call? I sat in a hotel room and listened, writing down what was being conveyed, unable to grasp this amazing blessing.

This award represents so much. It confirms what I periodically question; that my obsession with multiples languages, histories, and identities are on the right course. It grants me a brief vacation from debt and some overdue travel to resume research for a project in development. It affirms that the panel of judges and the NEA believes in my work enough to offer an encouraging nod. 

There are words I say to myself that aid me through periods of artistic frustration. Words like nadvnehvi (service) in Tsalagi. Sayings like aroha mai, aroha atu (love received, love given) in Te Reo Māori. Did it matter that I prayed to os orixás das águas that morning before hearing (and reading) the word ‘congratulations?' I wonder. What is safe to propose is this: while serving my literary and performing arts family – be it through curatorial work, publication or by honoring another's ancestors, in the traditions of those before me – prayers are heard. àṣẹ.