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Poetry tour showcases current Latino talent

Nicole Toczauer | Monday, November 7, 2011

A national Latino poetry tour affiliated with Notre Dame launched at Harvard University today.

The Poetry Society of America (PSA) and Letras Latinas, a subdivision of the literary program at Notre Dame’s Institute for Latino Studies (ILS), created the tour, called “Latino/a Poetry Now.”

The tour will showcase 15 poets in a span of two-and-a-half years at different universities across America. It will conclude at Notre Dame in October 2013.

Director Francisco Aragón of Letras Latinas facilitated the opening installment of “Latino/a Poetry Now” at Harvard University.

Lauro Vazquez, first-year MFA graduate student and Aragón’s assistant, said the poets hoped to debut a new wave of Latino poetry through the national readings.

“All of these poets, or the majority, are kind of like a newer generation that is coming into maturity,” he said. “What ‘Latino Poetry Now’ seeks to do is enhance the visibility of Latino poetry and these newer voices.”

Vasquez said that, while the term “Latino” implied a homogeneous focus in the showcase, each poet produced different styles of work.

“In reality Latinos are very diverse,” he said. “They have varying aesthetics, influences and cultural backgrounds. The topics are tremendously diverse.”

Different poets will speak at each segment of the series, Vazquez said. The first installment featured Rosa Alcalá, Eduardo C. Corral and Aracelis Girmay. Corral recently won the Yale Younger Poets Award and Girmay received the Isabella Gardner Poetry Award.

Following installments held at Georgetown University, Macalester College and the University of Arizona, the showcase will conclude at Notre Dame in 2013.

“When it comes to here, it will be a two-day event with a reading and discussion,” Vazquez said. “It will be collaboration between the Creative Writing program at Notre Dame and undergrads who will have the opportunity to listen to these poets and ask questions.”

Vazquez said Aragón hoped to create a dialogue between the poets and their audience. Aragón will guide the conversations at each installment over the next two and a half years as a representative of the ILS and the University.

“Aragón also worked with the PSA to generate online discussion,” Vasquez said. “We’re not just trying to bring audiences to the poets. We want the thing to take on a life of its own.”

The poets hope to reach several audiences through the showcase, Vazquez said.

“I think it goes without saying that the general impact is not only for people in higher education,” he said. “Poetry, especially this new poetry, is meant to be visible to anybody.”