I think it’s crucial that, in honor of Bad Poetry Day, we shed light on Latinx poets that represent the opposite of what this day celebrates. I mean, you need to know and understand greatness to know what’s terrible, right?
While bad poetry is undoubtedly fun to read and lends itself to reflect on the vast history of terrible verse, it’s also an excellent opportunity to highlight those that set the standard to say, “that’s definitely not great…”
Poetry has taken many shapes and forms over the years. From prolific authors that gained notoriety at the turn of the century to contemporary writers cultivating their craft through social media, we appreciate poetry as a versatile piece of literature, especially as it becomes increasingly accessible thanks to social media.
We’ve curated a list of a variety of Latinx poets you should check out:
Julia de Burgos
“But I was made of nows, and my feet level on the promissory earth would not accept walking backwards” –Julia de Burgos from “I Was My Own Route”
One of my personal favorites is Julia de Burgos. Even before the Nuyorican poetry movement, Burgos’ poems engaged themes of feminism and social justice. As a civil rights advocate, she paved the way for women and Afro-Latinx writers through verses that embodied a school of thought ahead of her time. Before working as a journalist in New York and Cuba, she worked as a teacher at the Barrio Cedro Arriba in Naranjito, Puerto Rico. Returning to New York after two years in Cuba, de Burgos served as the art and culture editor for the progressive newspaper Pueblos Hispanos.
Her most iconic pieces of poetry collections include El mar y tú: otros poemas (1954), and Poemas exactos a mi misma (1937).
“Scaling the scaffold, mindless of the mall, unaware of driveways, housewives dodge the wrecking ball, I crawl outside these vacant blues, and into the contours of your eyes” – Urayoán Noel from “Vacant Blues”
During my studies in Puerto Rico and the United States, my professors kept coming back to Urayoán Noel’s work. When I finally met him in person, I could feel the authenticity of the words I’d read in his poetry just through his presence and speech. Born and raised in Puerto Rico, his writing constantly explores hemispheric politics and poetics, and questions technology’s underlying and historic interventions into diasporic cultures. A multifaceted artist and academic, he has seven books of poetry that offer a variety of topics, including the exploration of Latinx identity and interrogation of humanity.
“The sky above Puerta del Sol turns a darker shade of blue. Who says it doesn’t become night’s one eye as it scales the heavens, paling and shrinking before it moves” –Francisco Aragón from “City Moon”
In constant exploration of language and genre as forms that can both connect and separate, Francisco Aragón’s poems speak from personal experiences within a broader cultural and historical conversation. His most recent book, After Rubén, is breathtaking and revolutionary. Set within a tribute to the poets who inspired him, this rewriting of poet Rubén Darío is interlaced in a celebration and a questioning of his hetero-patriarchal legacy. As Nicaraguan American poet, translator, and longtime Latinx poetry advocate consistently invites the reader into the queer Latinx literary lineage.
“Momma that tells me to fix my hair, and so many words remain unspoken. Because all I can reply is, ‘You can’t fix what was never broken.’” –Elizabeth Acevedo from “Hair”
Since I’m a curly-haired, Caribbean feminist myself, Elizabeth Acevedo’s poetry has always left me feeling seen and empowered. As a Dominican American poet and writer, she writes from a place that speaks to her Afro Latinx and diasporic identity, covers topics such as violence against women, and delves into the experience of colorism. Most known for her debut novel The Poet X, she managed to blend poetry and young-adult fiction through a character that finds her voice through slam poetry, a practice she has embodied in many ways throughout her journey as a poet.
“If you ask me if I’m fluent, I will tell you that my Spanish is a puzzle left in the rain, too soggy to make its parts fit together so that it can look just like the picture on the box.” -Melissa Lozada-Oliva from her book “PELUDA”
I first stumbled upon Melissa Lozada-Oliva’s poetry when her spoken word performance called “Bitches” started gaining traction on social media. Since then, she’s released publications like Peluda, where she searches, probes, and transforms the intersections of Latinx identity, feminism, misogyny, nihilistic humor, and belonging. She explained her work best in an interview for Vulture “My poems are all about being a Latino child of immigrants, never having enough money, and the way my sadness for boys and my sadness for the world collides. I want to say that I’m trying to make myself (and other millennials of color) feel less like an alien, but really, I’m trying to say that it’s okay to be an alien.”