Editor’s Note: In 2003, Newsweek proclaimed the death of poetry. “It is difficult to imagine a world without movies, plays, novels and music, but a world without poems doesn’t have to be imagined,” the author wrote. “I find it disturbing that no one I know has cracked open a book of poetry in decades and that I, who once spent countless hours reading contemporary poets like Lowell and Berryman, can no longer even name a living poet.”
It is a familiar lament, one that we’ve been hearing for decades now. This year, the Washington Post published government data indicating that today, fewer people read poetry than ever. Apparently, the only art form less popular overall – and with young people in particular – is opera 😔.
This is the cultural landscape that the first Latino United States Poet Laureate, Juan Felipe Herrera, inherited last summer when he took his post. Representing the nation as its official poet, his role is not only to compose pieces for national events and celebrations, but to also to get us to care about poetry.
As a proud Chicano who is the son of migrant farmworkers, Herrera has said this responsibility is a huge honor for him. And “For my family and my parents who came up north before and after the Mexican Revolution of 1910 — the honor is bigger than me.”
But he also has his work cut out for him. Part of his approach may be to get us to shift how we even conceive of poetry. For him, it is a “verbal art,” that is “at the heart of almost all text, from chants and songs and sacred books to ads and greeting cards.”
Which brings us to social media – platforms that are spurring entirely new artistic languages, as well as means of distribution for new work. What is Twitter if not the new haiku? (I’m kidding. But only kind of). Instagram is filled with hashtags where communities of thousands of poets share their work, and for some, like Dominican poet Mirtha Michelle Castro Mármol, it has been a tool to build a large audience for her self-published book of poetry. (Compare her 60k Instagram follower base to the sale of just 2,000 copies publishers say is average for a book of poetry in today’s market).
In a national climate currently gripped by hateful, anti-immigrant rhetoric, poetry can be a way to make sense of our identity and shifting social landscape. And so, even though they tell us the “millennials” don’t care about it, here are some young poets you should know, as curated by our contributor Jessica Diaz-Hurtado.
– Andrea Gompf, Managing Editor
Elizabeth Acevedo was born and raised in New York City and her poetry is infused with her Dominican parents’ bolero and her beloved city’s tough grit. A National Slam Champion, she has been a CantoMundo Fellow and Cave Canem Fellow with here work in multiple publications, like Acentos Review and the Notre Dame Review. This mujer is FIERCE.
Alan Pelaez Lopez
A poet and grassroots organizer for the Queer Undocumented Immigrant Project and the UCLA Dream Resource Center, Pelaez Lopez is an Afro-Latin@ that grew up in Boston via Mexico City. Pelaez Lopez’s queer undocumented experience not only informs his poetry, but also influences his activism. He recently got a piece published with Black Girl Dangerous called ‘What HIV Testing is Like When You Are Queer, Black and Undocumented,’ check it out!
David Tomas Martinez
A Chicano from San Diego, Martinez is author of Hustle and has been a Breadloaf and CantoMundo Fellow. He is an accomplished poet with his work in publications like Oxford American, Los Angeles Review of Books and Poetry Magazine. You can hear about his work on platforms like NBC Latino, Buzzfeed and NPR. Martinez is killing the game. Read one of his pieces, ‘The Only Mexican.‘
Ada Limon is for the books, literally. She has published four books and is faculty for Queens University of Charlotte’s Low-Residency M.F.A program, as well as the 24Pearl Street Online Program for the Provincetown Fine Arts Work Center. She also works as freelance writer splitting her time between Lexington, Kentucky and Sonoma, California (with a great deal of New York in between). Damn mujer, you better get it! Read her poem, ‘Before.’
Sonia is a badass migrant, queer, poet, activist and educator from Ecuador. Living in New York undocumented for 21 years, Sonia has made it a mission to make the undocumented community visible through art and activism. She launched ‘Dreaming in ink,’ a creative writing workshop for undocumented youth in New York and founded UndocuMic series, a space for intergenerational undocumented writers. Hear her poem through the PBS News Hour called ‘Bursting of Photographs after trying to squeeze out memories.‘
Christopher Soto (Loma)
A queer latin@ punk and prison abolitionist, Christopher Soto (Loma)’s first chapbook Sad Girl Poems is forthcoming from Sibling Rivalry Press. They edit Nepantla: A Journal Dedicated to Queer Poets of Color with the Lambda Literary Foundation & cofounded the Undocupoets Campaign with Javier Zamora and Marcelo Hernandez Castillo. They recently interned at Poetry Society of America and graduated with an MFA from NYU. Read three of Loma’s poems published in the Feminist Wire here.
An Afromexicana poet from San Antonio, Texas, Ariana is the recipient of the Andrew Julius Gutow Academy of American Poets Prize, and was recently awarded the title of Best Poet at the 2014 College Unions Poetry Slam Invitational, a national competition. (Her team, representing UT Austin, also took first place). In 2015, she was awarded the title of “Best Poem” for her piece above, titled ‘Invocation.’
Yosimar Reyes is a two-spirit poet from Guerrero, Mexico, who now lives in San Jose, Calif. His poetry has been featured in the collection Mariposas: A Modern Anthology of Queer Latino Poetry, and he has published a chapbook of poetry called For Colored Boys Who Speak Softly. His style has been described as “a brave and vulnerable voice that shines light on the issues affecting queer immigrant youth and the many disenfranchised communities in the U.S and throughout the world.” Check out his poem, Mi Viejito.
Jessica Helen Lopez
Jessica Helen Lopez was recently named the City of Albuquerque Poet Laureate. She has also been a featured writer for 30 Poets in their 30s by MUZZLE magazine. Lopez is a nationally recognized award-winning slam poet, and holds the title of 2012 and 2014 Women of the World (WOW) City of ABQ Champion. Mire su TED Talk on Spoken Word about telling Herstory.
Kristina Rae Colón
Kristiana Rae Colón was one of the first poets I saw perform back when HBO’s Poetry Def Jam was poppin. She is a playwright, actor and poet who explores romantic and personal transformation and has taught at Chicago State University, Malcolm X College, and Tribeca Flashpoint Academy. She is also assistant editor for the online literary journal Muzzle and artistic associate for the theater company Teatro Luna in Chicago.
Read her inspiring poem, ‘a remix for remembrance.’
Honorary Poet: Rigoberto González
Born in Bakersfield California and raised in Michoacán, Mexico, Rigoberto González is the author of many poetry books such as Other Fugitives and Other Strangers (2006); Black Blossoms (2011); and Unpeopled Eden (2013). A recipient of Guggenheim, NEA and USA Rolón fellowships, a NYFA grant in poetry, the Shelley Memorial Award from the Poetry Society of America, The Poetry Center Book Award, and the Barnes & Noble Writer for Writers Award, González is an impeccable writer and storyteller. Read his poem, ‘Casa.’