National Poetry Month 2021: 5 Latinx Poets Who Build Community Through Art

By Hannah Eko Apr 12, 2021

Latinx identity is an incredible blend of movements, cultures, and language. It is also an identity that continues to face considerable challenges, including inhumane migration policies, and inaction by Congress, which continually threatens to defer the American Dream for the undocumented Latinx community.
rnBut despite these inequalities, still they rise. One poet on our list arrived in the US in her mother’s belly, while another challenged the notion that one must provide “proof of citizenship” to create art. And thus, we celebrate the lives and experiences of these five Latinx poets, who use their poetry as artful protest, and bridge their multitudinous identities with mastery and courageous truth-telling. 

Raquel Gutiérrez
rnWhy You Should Know Them: A  2017 Creative Capital awardee, Gutiérrez was born and raised in Los Angeles, CA and currently makes their home in Tucson, Arizona. They work across a variety of topics that include, “critical race theory, Queer and Latinx aesthetics, and performance art.” Gutiérrez is an essayist, art critic, and runs Econo Textual Objects, a tiny press which centers the work of queer and trans writers of color. Their advice to aspiring creators is grounded alongside their own personal artistic mission, “Just tell the truth no matter how complicated or unflattering it might be. There’s beauty there. And work together…Don’t be afraid to belong to each other.”

rnAppetizer: “Balance and Grace Side”
rnMain Course:Southwest Reconstruction” (Noemi Press, 2022)

rnDenice Frohman
rnWhy You Should Know Her: Denice Frohman is a recognized poet who has graced The White House stage and was champion of the Women of the World Poetry Slam and her work has been viewed over 10 million times online, according to Advocate. A Cantomundo Fellow, Frohman’s poetry is a proud and often provocative ode to her Puerto Rican, Jewish, queer identities, and music-centric upbringing. A proud Nuyorican, Frohman co-organized the #PoetsForPuertoRico in 2017, to raise funds for Puerto Rican farmers in an effort to rebuild their land. 

rnAppetizer: “A queer girl’s ode to the piraguero”
rnMain Course: “Dear Straight People” (Huffington Post)

rnMalcolm Friend
rnWhy You Should Know Him: Friend’s poetry is both tapestry and ownership of his connective African-American, Puerto Rican, and Caribbean roots, “…what I’m trying to do with my writing is … let people know how I name myself.” A native of Seattle, Friend is the author of “mxd kd mixtape” (Glass Poetry, 2017) and “Our Bruises Kept Singing Purple” (Inlandia Books, 2018). His poetry has been praised by noted Puerto Rican poet, Willie Perdomo, for its honest inquiry of Caribbean-American complexes. Friend is on the advisory board for Latinx & Proud!, a reading series which showcases the artistry of Latinx creators in the Pittsburgh area and beyond.

rnAppetizer: “Ode To Prince, or The Day Prince Dies I’m Reminded I Don’t Call Home Enough”
rnMain Course: “mxd kd mixtape(Glass Poetry, 2017)

Norma Liliana Valdez
rnWhy You Should Know Her: A Mexican-American poet, Valdez entered the US in her pregnant mother’s belly. She is a writer who has been heralded for her ability to useemotional turmoil to create poetic experiences that transform her readers.” She has been awarded fellowships from Hedgebrook, Under the Volcano, and Voices of Our Nations (VONA). Her poems are subversive transmogrifications of desire, the site of a woman’s body, and both private and public pain. She is a founding member of the Xingona Collective, a mutually-affirming women’s writing group.

rnAppetizer: “You’ll Be Given Love”
rnMain Course:Preparing the Body (YesYes Books, 2019)

Christopher Soto (aka Loma)
rnWhy You Should Know Them: Soto published their (now sold out) “Sad Girl Poems” with Sibling Rivalry Press in 2016. “Sad Girl Poems” delves into their relationship with domestic violence, queer youth homelessness and the suicide of a close friend. Alongside Javier Zamora and Marcelo Hernandez Castillo, Soto cofounded the Undocupoets, a campaign which supports the work of undocumented creators. The group was successful in inspiring several first book prizes to remove “proof of citizenship” entry requirements. In 2014, they founded Nepantala: A Journal Dedicated to Queer Poets of Color, which centers the experiences of Queer POC in America.

rnAppetizer: “I’ve Been Yearning for a Riot”
rnMain Course: Sad Girl Poems” (Sibling Rivalry, 2016)

Hannah Eko is a Black-Nigerian writer, teaching artist, and creator of honeyknife, llc. Her work has been featured in Buzzfeed, Bust, b*tch, make/shift, and Aster(ix) magazines. She is the author of Honey is the Knife, an eclectic essay collection grounded in peace, power, and pleasure.