Poet, essayist, and editor Ray Gonzalez was born and raised in El Paso, Texas. Gonzalez’s work is inextricably linked to his Mexican ancestry and American upbringing in the deserts of the Southwest, as well as to rock n’ roll music and mid-century American poets such as Robert Bly and James Wright. A long-time professor at the University of Minnesota, Gonzalez has spoken to the importance of place in his work: “I do not have to live in west Texas or southern New Mexico to shape new poems about my past life there,” he told CLA Today, “because the magical aspects of poetry have allowed me to bring the spirit of my home to Minnesota. Living in Minnesota has given me fresh perspectives about the area I came from… Perhaps my most powerful discovery in writing and teaching poetry in Minnesota is that all poets carry their homeland experience with them, no matter where they go.”
Gonzalez is the author of numerous books of poetry, including The Heat of Arrivals (1997), which won the PEN/Oakland Josephine Miles Book Award; Cabato Sentora (2000), a Minnesota Book Award Finalist; The Hawk Temple at Tierra Grande (2003); winner of the Minnesota Book Award for Poetry; Consideration of the Guitar: New and Selected Poems (2005) another finalist for the Minnesota Book Award Finalist; Cool Auditor (2009); and Faith Run (2009). His mixed-genre book Turtle Pictures (2000) received the 2001 Minnesota Book Award for Poetry; The Religion of Hands (2005), a follow-up to Turtle Pictures, received a 2006 Latino Heritage Best Book of Poetry Award. His poems have appeared in The Best American Poetry and The Pushcart Prize: Best of the Small Presses 2000.
Gonzalez’s recent work has explored the formal possibilities of the prose poem. As he told BOMBlog in an interview: “It [prose poetry] has given poets the freedom to focus on detail, word choice, movement, fable, perception, and scene while keeping the various aspects of poetry—rhythm, deep imagery, sound, and ideas. Prose poems allow the poet to condense the world into a tiny paragraph that contains huge worlds trying to get out. If I am writing a prose poem, I don’t have to worry about line breaks or stanzas or emphasizing certain words all by themselves. The paragraph is a form itself that does all that for me and really allows the poet and the reader to be immersed in a complete experience that justifies poetic experience, the mysteries of language, and saying it without the distraction of manipulating lines and white space.”
A prolific writer in many genres, Gonzalez is also the author of a memoir about growing up in the Southwest, Memory Fever (1999), and essay collections, including The Underground Heart: A Return to a Hidden Landscape (2002), which received the 2003 Carr P. Collins/ Texas Institute of Letters Award for Best Book of Non-fiction, was named one of ten Best Southwest Books of the Year by the Arizona Humanities Commission, named one of the Best Non-fiction Books of the Year by the Rocky Mountain News, named a Minnesota Book Award Finalist in Memoir, and selected as a Book of the Month by the El Paso Public Library. His second collection of essays, Renaming the Earth: Personal Essays (2008), Gonzalez has also written two collections of short stories, The Ghost of John Wayne (2001), winner of a 2002 Western Heritage Award for Best Short Story and a 2002 Latino Heritage Award in Literature, and Circling the Tortilla Dragon (2002).
He is the editor of numerous anthologies, including No Boundaries: Prose Poems by 24 American Poets (2002) and Sudden Fiction Latino (2010), which he co-edited with Robert Shapard and James Thomson. He has served as Poetry Editor of the Bloomsbury Review for twenty-five years and founded LUNA, a poetry journal, in 1998. He received a 2004 Lifetime Achievement Award in Literature from the Border Regional Library Association. He is a professor in the MFA Creative Writing Program at the University of Minnesota-Minneapolis.
Poet, editor and educator. Woodinville, WA, public schools, poet-in-residence, 1987; Guadeloupe Cultural Arts Center, San Antonio, TX, director, beginning 1989; University of Illinois-Chicago, assistant professor of English and Latin American studies, 1996-98; University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, assistant professor, 1996-2000, associate professor, 2000-02, professor of English, 2002—. Taught writing to juvenile offenders at the Emerson House Detention Center, Denver, CO.
- From the Restless Roots, Arte Publico Press (Houston, TX), 1986.
- Twilights and Chants: Poems, J. Andrews (Golden, CO), 1987.
- Railroad Face, Chile Verde Press (San Antonio, TX), 1995.
- The Heat of Arrivals, BOA Editions (Brockport, NY), 1996.
- Cabato Sentora, BOA Editions, 1998.
- Turtle Pictures, University of Arizona Press (Tucson, AZ), 2000.
- The Hawk Temple at Tierra Grande: Poems, BOA Editions (Rochester, NY), 2002.
- Human Crying Daisies: Prose Poems, Red Hen Press (Los Angeles, CA), 2003.
- The Religion of Hands: Prose Poems and Short Fictions, University of Arizona Press (Tucson, AZ), 2005.
- Consideration of the Guitar: New and Selected Poems, BOA Editions, 2005.
- Cool Auditor: Prose Poems, BOA Editions, 2009.
- Faith Run, University of Arizona Press, 2009.
- The Ghost of John Wayne, and Other Stories, University of Arizona Press (Tucson, AZ), 2001.
- Circling the Tortilla Dragon: Short-Short Fiction, Creative Arts Book Co. (San Francisco, CA), 2002.
- Memory Fever: A Journey beyond El Paso del Norte, Broken Moon Press (Seattle, WA), 1993.
- The Underground Heart: A Return to a Hidden Landscape: Essays, University of Arizona Press (Tucson, AZ), 2002.
- Renaming the Earth: Personal Essays, University of Arizona Press, 2008.
- City Kite on a Wire: 38 Denver Poets, Mesilla Press, 1986.
- Crossing the River: Poets of the Western U.S., Permanent Press (Sag Harbor, NY), 1987.
- Tracks in the Snow, Mesilla Press, 1988.
- Without Discovery: A Native Response to Columbus, Broken Moon Press (Seattle, WA), 1992.
- After Aztian: Latino Poets in the Nineties, David R. Godine Publishers (Boston, MA), 1992.
- Mirrors beneath the Earth: Chicago Short Fiction, Curbstone Press (St. Paul, MN), 1992.
- Currents from the Dancing River: Contemporary Latino Literature, Harcourt, Brace (New York, NY) 1994.
- Contemporary Poetry from Texas, University of Texas Press (Austin, TX), 1995.
- Under the Pomegranate Tree: Contemporary Latino Erotica, Pocket Books (New York, NY), 1996.
- Muy Macho: Latino Men Confront Their Manhood, Anchor/Doubleday (New York, NY), 1996.
- Inheritance of Light, University of North Texas Press (Denton, TX), 1996.
- Touching the Fire: Fifteen Poets of Today’s Latino Renaissance, Anchor/Doubleday (New York, NY), 1998.
- No Boundaries: Prose Poems by 24 American Poets, Tupelo Press (Dorset, VT), 2003.
- (With Robert Shapard and James Thomson) Sudden Fiction Latino: Short Stories from the United States and Latin America, Norton, 2010.
Editor-in-chief, La Voz, 1981-82; poetry editor, Bloomsbury Review, 1981—.
- Dictionary of Literary Biography, Volume 122: Chicano Writers, Second Series, Thomson Gale (Detroit, MI), 1992.
- Gonzalez, Ray, From the Restless Roots, Arte Publico Press (Houston, TX), 1986.
- Gonzalez, Ray, Cabato Sentora, BOA Editions (Rochester, NY), 1998.
- Booklist, February 15, 1998, Donna Seaman, review of Touching the Fire: Fifteen Poets of Today's Latino Renaissance, p. 971; October 15, 2001, Donna Seaman, review of The Ghost of John Wayne, and Other Stories, p. 381; May 15, 2002, Donna Seaman, review of The Hawk Temple at Tierra Grande: Poems, p. 1569; September 1, 2002, Donna Seaman, review of The Underground Heart: A Return to a Hidden Landscape: Essays, p. 47; October 1, 2005, Janet St. John, review of Consideration of the Guitar: New and Selected Poems, p. 18.
- Hispanic, September, 2005, Ambar Hernández, review of Consideration of the Guitar, p. 74.
- Kirkus Reviews, August 1, 2002, review of The Underground Heart, pp. 1093-1094.
- Library Journal, June 15, 1996, Mark L. Grover, review of Muy Macho: Latino Men Confront Their Manhood, p. 82; January, 1998, Jack Shreve, review of Touching the Fire, p. 104; February 15, 2000, Lawrence Olszewski, review of Turtle Pictures, p. 161; November 1, 2001, Harold Augenbraum, review of The Ghost of John Wayne, and Other Stories, p. 134.
- Poets & Writers Magazine, November-December, 2001, Maria Garcia Tabor, "Toward a Larger, Listening World: An Interview with Ray Gonzalez," p. 34.
- Publishers Weekly, September 30, 1996, review of The Heat of Arrivals, p. 83; December 21, 1998, review of Cabato Sentora, p. 64; February 7, 2000, review of Turtle Pictures, p. 71; September 24, 2001, review of The Ghost of John Wayne, and Other Stories, p. 68; May 27, 2002, review of The Hawk Temple at Tierra Grande, p. 53; September 9, 2002, review of The Underground Heart, p. 58.
- Review of Contemporary Fiction, fall, 2003, James Sallis, review of Circling the Tortilla Dragon: Short-Short Fiction, p. 130.
- Double Room, http://webdelsol.com/ Double_Room/ (September 28, 2005), W. Scott Howard, review of Human Crying Daisies: Prose Poems.
- Texas Observer, http://www.texasobserver.org/ (September 6, 2003), Diana Anhalt, review of The Ghost of John Wayne, and Other Stories.
- University of Minnesota English Department Web site, http://english.cla.umn.edu/ (November 28, 2005), faculty profile of author.