Thursday, December 13, 2012

Power of Basketball, Poetry and Preservation of Mohave Language

A few weeks back Elliott Bay Books' chief book buyer Rick Simonson (who was a ball boy for the Sonics at 14) and author Sherman Alexie were shooting hoops with the poet (and former professional basket ball player) Natalie Diaz, authors Shann Ray and Jess Walter. Alexie had chosen this playful setting to present his latest novel "Blasphemy". 

Four on the Floor, a literary sparring game hosted by Seattle University, Elliott Bay Books and the Seattle Public Library called for volunteer runners, and I was game; a rare opportunity to wear basketball shoes or at least sneakers as an SPL volunteer. 

The sound on this unusual stage leaves a lot to be desired, the timbre of Alexie's voice made it hard for me to hear what he said, especially when he sat on a chair in the far corner of the North Court, but once the writers took position behind the microphone center stage, all voices came through loud and clear. 

This was the first time I heard Natalie Diaz read.  A Mohave, she seeks ways to preserve her People's native language and stories. She left the Reservation to attend Old Dominion University in Virginia, where she started to write poetry. With her book "When My Brother was an Aztec", she delivers harsh truth as myth, reinventing images.

Diaz has returned home to help preserve the Mohave language, recording stories and songs, hosting workshops with elders and tribe members of all ages. In a PBS interview On a Mission for Preservation Diaz explains how in Mohave everything comes through to people in dreams. And maybe the dreams are coming to the kids in Mohave, and they don't understand what they should be doing, because they don't understand the language. An important reason to keep the language alive and pass it on. 

This work by Judith van Praag is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License
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