6 Powerful Latina Poets You Must Read, Hear & See
Latina poets are amazing creatures. I adore poetry in all its forms, but there is something special about reading a poem or listening to a performance and hearing my own experience in the words of others. Many times their experiences are different, but there is a thread of connection that I hold on to. Whether they speak in melodic sing-songy rhythms or angry shouts, I become engrossed in their art.
Spoken work performance requires a bravery unlike any other – to put your thoughts and hurts and hopes on to paper and share it with a world that isn’t just judging your words, but your performance and the life you reveal sounds terrifying. So to those women brilliant and brave enough to do just that, I hear you.
I’ve written before about Latina poets and the voices that inspire me, like Carmen Tafolla, Laurie Ann Guerrero, Sandra Cisneros, Amalia Ortiz and so many others. But these are some talents I’ve only recently discovered. I can’t stop listening to them. And I hope, as you listen, you’ll hear bits and pieces of their lives that connect to yours, or if not, that you’ll appreciate them anyway.
Elizabeth Acevedo “Hair”
For women of color, heavy is the head that wears the hair. Women battle their natural hair texture in an unending quest for the “good hair” that nature denied them, even when that means scorched scalps or burned curls. In this performance Acevedo takes on the fact that wearing the beautiful hair God gave her is deemed a rejection of her Latin roots and a political statement. She’s strong, honest and eye-opening.
Denice Frohman “Accents”
You cannot watch this performance just once – I’ve clocked in about half a dozen times. As I watch Frohman describe her mother’s accent, I can’t help thinking of the heavy accents, the remixed words of my Mexican relatives. And while her funny and touching tribute doesn’t shy away from honesty, it also provides a new perspective. I love the idea that English doesn’t fit into the mouths of loud Spanish-speaking women because their throats are too full of music and their minds have too much to express.
Mercedez Holtry “Something out of Nothing”
In her poem to her inner city students, Mercedez Holtry created a piece that can bring audiences – even those watching on YouTube — to tears. Her love of unbroken children who fashion dreamcatchers from popsicle sticks and search for the last sharpened colored pencil in a box of broken ones, is matched only by her anger toward a system that gives them nothing yet insists that from it these kids make so many somethings. This Chicana poet from New Mexico will move you.
Melissa Lozada-Oliva “Like Totally Whatever”
Don’t watch this if you think that ”feminists should really call themselves equalists.” This is not for you. In her funny and frustrated poem, Lozada-Oliva breaks down the audacity of men who correct and dismiss her speech, mannerisms and femininity as “girlie”, and dismiss “girlie” as worthless. You’ll laugh and get justifiably angry, which are my favorite feelings when hearing live poetry. She’s also funny and honest on Twitter.
Janel Pineda “To Be a Latina Woman on a College Campus”
Pineda’s powerful performance went somewhat viral earlier this year when it was covered by Huffington Post. And that’s a great thing. It’s the performance that people needed to see. How many times have young Latina women felt just like Pineda as they walked the manicured grounds of their college campuses? How many times has that experience been discussed? Because of her bravery, it got talked about and women like Pineda felt heard.
Yesika Salgado “Translation”
I’ve written about Yesika Salgado before as one of the woke Latinxs you must follow on Instagram. But let’s take a step back, the reason why you must follow her on any platform is to absorb her words. They shed light on her experiences – personal and personally political – and you will be in awe. In this performance she considers the role language has played in her life and how it feels in her heart and mind. I am undone by passages like this: This is Spanish for me: Everything that should be but quite isn’t. How does she express it so right, so truthfully?