Tuesday, March 18, 2014 at 8:56 a.m.
LaTasha N. Nevada Diggs
Photo courtesy the artist
Writer and sound artist LaTasha N. Nevada Diggs visits the Walker Art Center this week to present work from her recent book TwERK, a collection of poems exploring things like sound, language, idioms, and pop culture, with some personal narrative thrown in as well. The event is part of the museum's Free Verse Series, in collaboration with Rain Taxi Review of Books.
Nevada Diggs began writing before she considered herself as a writer. "I was writing in a notebook, not thinking much about what I would be doing as a writer in the future," she says. "I was just writing, and over time finding that this mode of expression was becoming common. It was becoming a daily practice."
TwERK is a culmination of 15 years of work listening to language and eavesdropping on conversations. "I'm looking at all these ways of looking at things: the question of translation and mistranslation, of code switching, the question of music and how that informs how we speak and move, and how language has its own dance and its own muscularity itself," she says.
Language has always been of interest to Nevada Diggs, who speaks multiple languages, though doesn't consider herself fluent in any. She likens the ability to be bilingual or trilingual to somewhat magical. "To hear someone fluctuate between two or more languages," she says, "that's just a super-human skill."
The more Nevada Diggs studied different languages, the more she began thinking about "transcending all these tongues into something else," she says. "And what it is I'm not entirely sure yet, because I'm still working with them. I don't feel that my book -- which is a real introduction to the mad world of LaTasha -- is the end of those explorations. It's the beginning of something that is going to transform into something else entirely. All I can do is wait."
The title of the book came out of conversations with poet Douglas Kearney during the process of writing it. They played around with ideas, and Kearney suggested using the word "twerk." "It was this final decision after joking about what the title could possibly be," she says. The two came to the realization that TwERK was a title, because "it's this mashing of two other words that could be translated into other things," Nevada Diggs says. When you combine the word "tweak" (which could mean tweaking a poem or tweaking on narcotics) and "work" (which could mean performing something to the maximum, or doing a work), you end up with "twerk," which was a perfect fit.
La Tasha N. Nevada Diggs
7 p.m. Thursday, March 20
Part of the Walker Art Center's Target Free Thursday Night program.