National Poetry Month is officially upon us! Celebrated annually every April, this is a month-long celebration that was originally created by the Academy of American Poets in 1996 to increase awareness and appreciation for poets and poetry across the U.S. But even now, many people don’t know where to start when it comes to reading poetry, much less writing it, or think it’s only a genre for dead white men. But there are so many talented Latina poets out there like Yesika Salgado and Elizabeth Acevedo doing the good work of uplifting our community, increasing visibilty of BIPOC writers, and paving the way for the next generation. This is not an exhaustive list but is a starting place for you as you compile your lists of poetry books to read and poets to follow. Read on to learn more about 13 contemporary Latina poets you need to read for National Poetry Month and beyond.
Natalie Diaz is an award-winning Mojave poet, language activist, and an enrolled member of the Gila River Indian Tribe, specifically identifying as Akimel O’odham. As the daughter of a Mexican father and an Indigenous mother, she often explores these intersectionalities in her work, as well as themes of nature, water, family, addiction, adolescence, queerness, and love. “Poetry was an unlikely place for me to land … I mean, who says: ‘I’m going to be a poet when I grow up’? I grew up on a reservation and we had a boarding school where language was taken,” Diaz previously told The Guardian. So far, she has published two collections of poetry, When My Brother Was an Aztec and Postcolonial Love Poems, which made her the first Latina poet and second Latinx poet in history to win the Pulitzer Prize. Today, she continues her language revitalization work, preserving the Mojave language, as well as write and encourage other Latina and Indigenous poets to share their voice.
Natasha Carrizosa is a “Mexiafricana” poet, writer, and teacher whose work focuses on her childhood, adolescence, multicultural identity, and life as the daughter of an African American mother and Mexican father. She has published three poetry collections including mexicafricana, heavy light, and crown, all to critical acclaim. In addition to performing her work, giving lectures, and leading creative writing workshops across the country, she created and currently runs Natty Roots & Rhyme, a nationally recognized poetry open mic series based out of Arlington, Texas.
Originally from Brooklyn, Aja Monet is a poet, spoken word artist, songwriter, blues musician, and political activist of Cuban and Jamaican descent. Throughout all of her work, she blends her love of poetry and music to explore themes of Black womanhood, liberation, policing, family, and more. So far she has published four poetry collections, chapbooks, and multimedia projects including Chorus: A Literary Mixtape, The Black Unicorn Sings, My Mother Was a Freedom Fighter, and most recently, Amoako Boafo. She’s been writing poems since the age of eight and at 19, was named the youngest winner of the Nuyorican Poets Café’s Grand Slam. Her next project will be her debut music album, when the poems do what they do, due to release in June 2023 and featuring numerous guest stars.
Ariana Brown is a Black Mexican American poet and educator who’s most well-known for her debut full-length poetry collection We Are Owed. The book, as well as her chapbook Sana Sana and other works, powerfully explores her complex connections with Blackness and Latinidad, as well as themes of colorism, racism, misogynoir, prejudice, and language in both adolescence and adulthood. In addition to writing poetry, she leads creative writing and revision workshops, offers weekly writing prompts on social media, and continually fights against anti-Blackness in the Latinx community and raises the voices of Black, Indigenous, and Afro-Latinx writers to bring both visibility and liberation across the diaspora.
Marisa Tirado is a Chicana, Puerto Rican, and New Mexican poet, novelist, and educator originally from Chicago. She often writes on themes of language, Latinx culture and diaspora (specifically Mexican and Puerto Rican), pop culture, protest, family, and identity. Last year, she published her debut poetry chapbook Selena Didn’t Know Spanish Either which tackles Latinx identity, assimilation, cultural connection, and language through the lens of beloved Tejana singer Selena, which won the 2021 Robert Phillips Chapbook Prize upon its release. Besides writing, she’s also known as the co-founder of Protest Through Poetry, a collective of BIPOC activist poets that bring artists from all over the globe to host writing and publishing seminars, workshops, opportunities for grassroots organizing, and political protest demonstrations. Her next projects include a full-length collection of poetry focusing on the theme of cousinhood and a novel set in New Mexico.
Elizabeth Acevedo is a Dominican American poet and novelist best known for her New York Times best-selling young adult novel-in-verse The Poet X, which follows a young Afro-Latina teen navigating a complex family life while finding her voice through poetry. It won the National Book Award and she made history as the first writer of color to win the Carnegie Medal which goes to an outstanding English-language book for children or young adults. She was named the Young People’s Poet Laureate by the Poetry Foundation last fall. She has since written two more YA novels With the Fire on High and Clap When You Land and released a children’s book, Inheritance, inspired by her poem, “Hair”. She will publish her highly anticipated debut adult fiction novel Family Lore later this year.
Yesika Salgado is a Salvadoran poet based in Los Angeles best known for her three best-selling ppoetry collections: Corazón, Tesoro, and Hermosa. She often writes about family, culture, identity, place, body politics and positivity, womanhood, love, relationships, and moving through the world as a self-described “fat, fly, brown” poet. Among her many accolades, she has been named a National Poetry Slam finalist and a Long Beach Slam Champion, and received the 2020 International Latino Book Award in Poetry.
Raina J. León
Originally from Philadelphia, Raina J. León is a Black and Afro-Boricua writer, poet, archivist, and educator. Working across visual art, poetry, fiction, and nonfiction, her impressive body of work explores themes of grief, liberation, identity, religion, storytelling, motherhood, and Black womanhood. So far, she’s published four collections of poetry including black god mother this body, Canticle of Idols, Boogeyman Dawn, and sombra : (dis)locate as well as two chapbooks profeta without refuge and Areyto to Atabey: Essays on the Mother(ing) Self. Besides her own creative pursuits, she founded the Latinx-centered literary journal The Acentos Review and currently teaches at Saint Mary’s College and the University of Southern Maine.
Melissa Lozada-Oliva is a poet and educator of Guatemalan and Colombian descent based in Massachusetts whose work explores identity, feminism, magic, womanhood, death, and culture through a Latina lens. In 2015, she won the National Poetry Slam Championship for her spoken word poem “Like Totally Whatever” which also went viral online and on social media. Since then, she’s released two books including peluda, a poetry collection about hair removal and assimilation, and Dreaming of You, a novel-in-verse that follows the narrator bringing famed Tejana singer Selena back to life with magic, only for a domino effect of frightening events to follow. Her next project is another novel, Candelaria, focusing on a family of Guatemalan women led by a single abuela, as well as working on a film adaptation of Dreaming of You.
Rio Cortez is a poet and children’s book Black Puerto Rican author based in Harlem who is best known for her best-selling picture books The ABCs of Black History and The River is My Sea. She has also released a poetry chapbook, I Have Learned to Define a Field as a Space Between Mountains, which won the Toi Derricotte & Cornelius Eady Chapbook Prize. Last year, she released her debut poetry collection, Golden Ax, which received recognition from the 2022 National Book Award for Poetry and the Pen America Open Book Award on their longlists. Throughout all of her work, she explores themes of body, history, memory, slavery, family, and identity through a Black Southern lens.
Ada Limón is an American poet of Mexican descent who made headlines last year as the 24th Poet Laureate of the United States by the Library of Congress, making her the first Latina and Chicana poet to receive the honor. Throughout her career, she has published seven collections of poetry including Lucky Wreck, This Big Fake World, Sharks in the Rivers, Bright Dead Things, The Carrying, The Hurting Kind, and most recently, Shelter: A Love Letter To Trees. She has won many awards for her groundbreaking, powerful work including the Autumn House Poetry Prize, the Pearl Poetry Prize, the National Book Critics Circle Award, and was a finalist for the National Book Award for Poetry. She currently teaches at Queens University of Charlotte and, in her role as Poet Laureate, is using her term to encourage of love of reading and writing poetry across many generations all over the country.
Sonia Guiñansaca is a queer, femme, and nonbinary Ecuadorian poet, organizer, speaker, and activist focusing on the undocumented migrant experience. In both their creative pursuits and political and social justice work, they bring together political policy and the arts to bring about social change. Centering on migrant rights, LGBTQIA+ rights, climate change, and marginalized genders (specifically queer, trans, and nonbinary), they have founded and led many organizations and initiatives for undocumented writers. As an author and editor, they published their debut poetry chapbook Nostalgia & Borders and co-edited the critically acclaimed anthology SomeWhere We Are Human featuring undocumented writers (the first of its kind). They are currently working on their second chapbook #PapiFemme and debut memoir. Just like in their community work, they explore themes of gender, queerness, migration, trauma, borders, social justice, climate justice, and liberation.
Jessica Helen Lopez
Jessica Helen Lopez is a writer and poet known for her current work as the City of Albuquerque Poet Laureate and 2012 and 2014 champion titles from the Women of the World City of ABQ. She has released multiple collections of poetry including Always Messing with Them Boys, Cunt. Bomb, and The Language of Bleeding, which focuses on themes of family, identity, culture, and womanhood. Her many awards and accolades include the Zia Book Award and a Pushcart Prize Nomination. In addition to her writing, she founded La Palabra, a poetry collective for women and femmes, serves as a Chautauqua Scholar with the New Mexico Humanities Council, and teaches at the University of New Mexico in Chican@ Studies, Institute of American Indian Arts, and Native American Community Academy.