Natalie Diaz was born in the Fort Mojave Indian Village in Needles, California. She is Mojave and an enrolled member of the Gila River Indian community. She earned a BA from Old Dominion University, where she received a full athletic scholarship. Diaz played professional basketball in Europe and Asia before returning to Old Dominion to earn an MFA. Her debut poetry collection, When My Brother Was an Aztec (Copper Canyon Press, 2012) was described by New York Times reviewer Eric McHenry as an "ambitious... beautiful book." Her second collection, Postcolonial Love Poem (Graywolf Press, 2020) was a finalist for the National Book Award.
Diaz's honors and awards include the 2018 MacArthur Foundation Fellowship, a Native Arts Council Foundation Artist Fellowship, the Holmes National Poetry Prize, the Nimrod/Hardman Pablo Neruda Prize for Poetry, the Louis Untermeyer Scholarship in Poetry from Bread Loaf, the Narrative Poetry Prize, a Lannan Literary Fellowship, the PEN/Civitella Ranieri Foundation Residency, and a US Artists Ford Fellowship. Her poems and essays have appeared in Narrative Magazine, Guernica, Poetry Magazine, the New Republic, Tin House, and Prairie Schooner, among others. She serves as an associate professor in the Department of English as Arizona State University and is the youngest poet ever elected as a Chancellor of the Academy of American Poets.