(with apologies to Forrest Gander)
A brown poet does not automatically know the work of other brown poets. It is an education, one that usually does not happen in the classroom. Anthologies, the generous ones, include a brown poet or two, probably Gary Soto, probably Martin Espada. Both are great poets, but come on. It is an education that happens in the main stacks of the UH Anderson Library where instead of studying for classes I was enrolled in I read all the Chicano poets I could get my dirty paws on. My education of brown poets from New York didn't begin in earnest until earlier this year when I went to NYC for a couple of ACENTOS readings (Big Ups to Rich Villar and his crew) and a Con Tinta reunion (Saludos a El Pasoan Rich Yañez, who more than anyone else has convinced me that ours has to be a retrospective age). The following is a list of 6 Poetas I was fortunate enough to see perform during my stay.




Originally Published: October 27th, 2008

Javier O. Huerta's debut collection Some Clarifications y otros poemas (Arte Publico 2007) received the 31st Chicano/Latino Literary Prize from UC Irvine. He is also the author of American Copia (2012). A graduate of the Bilingual MFA Program at UT El Paso, Huerta is currently a PhD student in the...

  1. October 27, 2008
     Rich Villar

    Oh, wow...Javier, I'm really humbled and gratified to see this list up here.
    There are, of course, more Boricuas to be found: PAPIROS DE BABEL, a groundbreaking anthology edited by Dr. Pedro Lopez Adorno, was published in the 90's and chronicles work by New York-based Boricua poets from 1898-1993. A little hard to find, but worth the effort. More recently, Roberto Marquez put together a 500-page monster called PUERTO RICAN POETRY, AN ANTHOLOGY FROM ABORIGINAL TO CONTEMPORARY TIMES, which also documents the distinctly Boricua song forms used in the improvisational poems of the Jibaro troubadour.
    For the broader swaths of Latino/a poetry, I would send readers to Martin Espada's EL CORO; PAPER DANCE, edited by Victor Hernandez Cruz, Virgil Suarez, and Leroy Quintana; THESE ARE NOT SWEET GIRLS, an all-womens anthology edited by Marjorie Agosin; and Francisco Aragon's THE WIND SHIFTS: NEW LATINO POETRY. I would also send folks to PALABRA, elena minor's print journal of writing by Latino/a poets (palabralitmag.com), and to Acentos' new online journal, the Acentos Review (acentosreview.com).
    Can't say enough good things about the writers listed here, particularly Willie and Sandra, who have both served as mentors to a number of up-and-coming Boricua writers and especially teens working with organizations like Urban Word NYC and the Bronx Writers' Center. Lastly, Willie's two books WHERE A NICKEL COSTS A DIME and SMOKING LOVELY are more often than not the ones that bring young Latino/a and African-American teens to poetry in the first place. Most teaching artists I know in New York and Chicago, at one point or another, have dealt in and with Willie's work, and I've seen it ring the truest in the ear and eye of many a kid.

  2. October 27, 2008
     Aaron Fagan

    Another Bronx treasure: http://www.mosaicmagazine.org/

  3. October 27, 2008
     Barbara Jane Reyes

    Hey Javier, Glad to see you've mentioned Edwin Torres here - and thank you again for coming out to his Small Press Traffic reading. He's something else beyond my knowledge base of Poetas de/en Nueva Yol, and speaks to work that simultaneously does and does not handle "ethnicity," does and does not exhibit "Nuyorican"-ness or Latino-ness. Complicated fella, that one.

  4. October 27, 2008
     Barbara Jane Reyes

    I thought I'd also mention the above online Bronx lit/art site, which is a project of the Bronx Council for the Arts.

  5. October 27, 2008
     Oscar Bermeo

    Thanks for this list, Javier. The inclusion of Louis Reyes Rivera, a tireless advocate and prominent advocate for human rights, is very appreciated.
    Another go-to-text would be ALOUD: VOICES FROM THE NUYORICAN POETS CAFE
    The "Founding Poems" section highlights many voices whose work did not make it to print, most notably the true founding voice of Nuyorican Poetry: Jorge Brandon.
    I hope you get a chance to hear Miguel Algarín at a live reading one day. An amazing combination of Taino, Nuyo, Shakesperaen, New York School, and Beat influences all delivered with hurikan force.
    A poeta who gets more props for his novels than his poesia is Piri Thomas. His work set off a whole new generation of Latino writers and still continues to resonate.
    I am sure that Magdalena Gomez would have read at the Acentos/Hunter College Reading if she was in town. She doesn't get near enough mention.
    My last mention goes out to one of my biggest influences: Jack Agüeros. Even though he has published some amazing work in poetry, translations, and fiction, he still gets left off so many lists when the term Nuyo Poet is used.

  6. October 27, 2008
     Rich Villar

    Other poets to look up would be Frank Lima, a Boricua poet who is identified more with the New York School than the Nuyo school, and Julio Marzan, author of several texts in poetry and the book THE SPANISH-AMERICAN ROOTS OF WILLIAM CARLOS WILLIAMS.
    Rivera was also friends with Sekou Sundiata, and published one of the few (if not only) chapbooks with Sekou's name on it.
    That Hunter reading was bananas. I should post pictures or something.

  7. October 29, 2008
     Javier Huerta

    Rich, the Hunter reading was bananas! Didn't someone get that on video. I thought I saw a video camera.
    The great thing about the reading is not only that I enjoyed the performances but also that those performances made me rethink my own work.
    Willie's line, "What the fuck is a 'vosotros'?", is still echoing in my head. I'm actually working on a poem trying to answer that question.
    Aaron, thanks for the link.
    Barbara, the SPT reading was amazing. It's great to see poets stretch the idea of what a reading is supposed to be. Edwin's website is also amazing.
    Oscar, thanks for the recommendations. Yeah, I want to get my hands on Jack Agueros's book of sonnets. It's great to have a Bronx poet living here in Oakland.
    And so the education of Javier O. Huerta continues.