TwERK by LaTasha N. Nevada Diggs
Belladonna, 2013; 98 pp
Reviewed by Wesley Rothman


                                                                titanium, boom shocka, kill di woofa.
                                                        thrash reverberating neatly polish mih ride.
         hyphy dancehall — no can
                                                                       hear tings demur.

                                                                                  —from “dutty gal”

In her atlas of a poetry collection, TwERK, LaTasha N. Nevada Diggs shatters and blasts expectations of poetry, language, imagination, and social/societal existence: her poetic forms stretch readers into unheard-of or at least blatantly foreign territory; TwERK is a truly globalized language—an honest melting pot, unlike the American cliché; her imagination collects ancient, contemporary, and seemingly futuristic references (often in a single line); and as a whole, TwERK dances off the dust and rust and arthritis of resisting cultural metamorphosis and hybridization.

Todo kemushi amaba kakimono en ‘uala lü’au.
All furry caterpillars love anything written on sweet potato and kalo leaves.

Me ke aloha pau’ole, una quebra cabeca en köanga.
                  So with never-ending love, a jigsaw for your spring.

Te llama pīkake loli. tu eres onaona ni nalu.
              Your name is jasmine cucumber. You are fragrant like waves.

¡Y yo soy kána’ohe ese láìsí sus sirena de Pu’ukapu!
¡And I am the fisherman that is without his siren from sacred hill!

                                                       —from “¡cucumber!”

In other words, this book gives us a livewire look at what our human society could be if we seek out and genuinely, within ourselves need the world’s differences—those societies, languages, idea(l)s, foods, musics, and traditions that are other than/to our own. As it stands, and as history reaffirms, on the whole, difference, otherness, strangeness, and disagreement thrust the human mind and heart into defensive zeal; TwERK is the act of seeking an other, learning from them, and dancing while it happens.

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:[…]


            no appropriatin’ of tongues jigga jigga   HOO   true   you knew ja rule


                                                —from “gamab click”


Diggs’s linguistic dash-dash-d-dash-dash, speeds from Spanish to Tagalog to Kanji to Malay to Chamorro to Hindi to Urdu to Thai to Hawaiian to Japanese to Barbadian dialect to Nation Language to Cherokee to Quechua to Englishes to Maori to pidgins to Yoruba to Papiamentu to Portuguese to Swahili to Samoan to marketing-speak to slangs and names. Via many non-English alphabetic characters and a bridge of pyro-phonetics, Diggs eases us into understanding, possibly embracing that which is other to us—she leads us to an understanding of languages we may not be able to speak or hear on the page, she helps us figure out how to move our mouths and bodies and minds in unfamiliar ways.

                                                            the prodigal bulge overwhelms.
it is a bubblegum kink.     a Sheik’s interloper.
            a radical since 1979.   a brujo.   a tommy gun.   a werewolf.
                 a Kudos-derived crotch screaming at his maharashi;
                                    this crotch is a rollercoaster —
t radiates beside Pavarotti. 

it makes uncouth melody mill about in Nederland.
it is a holistic crotch with dynamic roundabouts.          

—from “King Sani, the mystical crotch”

And through various disorientations, syntactical acrobatics, critiques, and highspeed reference-trains, Diggs fashions a poetic world as rhythmic and cacophonous as our true world. TwERK is brilliantly a reflection of our world that most readers won’t recognize, except for momentary flashes. The disorientation of standing before our bathroom mirrors and fearing the otherness, the strangeness of our reflections is balled up in TwERK, a jolting encounter with language, ourselves/our world, but also a confrontation with our resistance to difference, a shout-scream-flail-grunt-sing-sway-shake of what we are without noticing, of what beautiful multiplicity we could become if only we acknowledge and welcome it.