April marks an important month for poetry lovers, readers, and writers—National Poetry Month! The month-long celebration was originally created by the Academy of American Poets to recognize the importance of poets in our culture and everyday lives. It has been honored every year since 1996 and 2022 is no different and we’re all about celebrating Latina poets. But growing up, many of us probably only learned about dead white male poets in school. Even now, you can Google “famous poets” and the top results all feature white men whose work you were probably forced to read. So seeing Latina poets today like Elizabeth Acevedo persevering, pursuing their creativity, and making art of their own through poetry despite its white history is nothing short of inspiring.
The poetry books on this list are just suggestions to get you started on building your own collection. Some poets featured here have even written multiple books or have more coming out soon. While these collections are different in style and composition, they all explore and question the poet’s identity, culture, and what being a woman’s place in the world can look like besides what they’ve been told. Read on to learn more about 15 poetry collections by Latinas that seek to inspire, educate, and uplift our community.
Loose Woman by Sandra Cisneros
In the ten years after Chicana author Sandra Cisneros published her cult-classic novel The House on Mango Street, she released a collection of short stories and three books of poetry, including Loose Woman. Sensual, empowering, and gorgeously written, the collection explores love, sex, and relationships through a feminist Latina lens. Can women be in love and also independent? Can they have sex simply for pleasure without feeling guilty because of their family or religious beliefs? How can a woman show care through Latinidad and the people she comes from? Cisneros explores this and more through this must-read poetry book.
Dreaming of You by Melissa Lozada-Oliva
Guatelombian (Guatemalan-Colombian) American poet Melissa Lozada-Oliva has gained her following online through her poetry that explores the intersections between feminism, immigration, and Latinidad. Dreaming of You is her recently published novel in verse, a fiction book told using forms of poetry. It follows a fictional version of Melissa bringing famous Tejano singer Selena Quintanilla back from the dead using a USB drive, her period blood, some Fabuloso, and just a little bit of magic. Switching back and forth between Selena’s adjustment to the land of the living and Melissa’s own personal life, Dreaming of You is a hilarious and bittersweet ode to the icon.
Lessons on Expulsion: Poems by Erika L. Sanchez
Before Mexican-American poet and novelist Erika L. Sanchez became known for her critically acclaimed YA novel I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter, she first published her debut collection of poetry Lessons on Expulsion: Poems. Lyrical, haunting, and powerful, the book explores what it means to live in a world of borders, both physical and internal. Not only does Sanchez urgently tell the story of her life, but also the story of her undocumented Mexican parents, sex workers, working-class laborers, and anyone who has been forced to live a life of grief, shame, violence, and xenophobia in America.
Corazón by Yesika Salgado
Corazón is the first book in a stunning poetry trilogy written by self-proclaimed “fat, fly, brown poet” Yesika Salgado. Born in L.A. to Salvadoran parents, Salgado explores the complexities of love in all its forms, from sexual to romantic to familial, and whether, as a fat woman, she’s worthy of it. You may have seen many of Yesika’s viral posts featuring pieces of her poetry or her books and zines online but as the OG, Corazón is definitely the best place to start reading her work.
Mujer de Colore(es) by Alejandra Jimenez
Postcolonial Love Poem by Natalie Diaz
Postcolonial Love Poem by Natalie Diaz was the 2021 winner of the Pulitzer Prize, making Diaz the first Latina poet to receive the honor. Throughout the collection, the Mojave American poet/former professional basketball player highlights Native American issues that have been ongoing for centuries, including loss of their land, access to water, and erasure of their languages, cultures, and communities. But she also holds space for moments of joy and family bonding, making the Indigenous experience more than what they suffer.
We Are Owed. by Ariana Brown
Black Mexican American poet Ariana Brown doesn’t hold back in her debut full-length poetry collection We Are Owed. In some ways a thematic sequel to her chapbook Sana Sana, this collection explores Brown’s complex connections with both Blackness and Latinidad and how she’s combatted anti-Blackness from the very Mexican community she initially hoped would protect her. Using the language and style of anthems, demands, and advocacy, she fights back against centuries-long prejudices and paints a better future for herself and other Black Mexicans.
My Mother Was a Freedom Fighter by Aja Monet
My Mother Was a Freedom Fighter by Aja Monet, who is of Jamaican and Cuban descent, is a stunning love letter to the women of the world and all they do to change the world for themselves and young girls. It’s a love letter to Monet’s childhood in East New York, her school days in Chicago’s South Side, and her travels in Palestine. While she’s not afraid to take on heavy topics like racism, genocide, and displacement, she also beautifully celebrates her experiences as a mother and a Black woman.
The Carrying: Poems by Ada Limón
Mexican-American poet Ada Limón tackles relationships between parents and their children, infertility, and the torn political state of our nation in her most recent poetry collection from 2018, The Carrying: Poems. The book won the National Book Critics Circle Award and was a finalist for the PEN Jean Stein Book Award, cementing Limón’s voice as a must-read. Be sure to check it out before her follow-up collection of poetry The Hurting Kind releases on May 10, 2022!
Haiti Glass by Lennelle Moïse
Haiti Glass is the debut collection of poetry from Haitian poet Lenelle Moïse, which won the PEN Oakland Josephine Miles Literary Award in 2015. Throughout the book, she easily switches between poetry and prose, exploring her experiences growing up as a Haitian immigrant in Boston, witnessing violence first-hand, and unpacking the stories behind pop culture icons like Michael Jackson. This is a deep look into survival, grief, triumph, and joy.
They Call Me by Angélica Maria
They Call Me is Mexican-American poet Angélica Maria’s answer to her own deepest prayers. With humor, an effortless English-Spanish bilingual voice, and a feminist touch, she weaves cultural markers like Frida Kahlo’s unibrow and Aztec princesses with her personal experiences, complex relationship with language, and unique method of storytelling. The book is a quick read but Maria is sure to leave the reader with a sense of fun, music, and brown girl magic along the way.
Despojo by Tatiana Figueora Ramírez
Despojo by Tatiana Figueroa Ramírez is an ode to the poet’s ancestral Caribbean lineage and wisdom, methods of healing, and what survives inside us even after suffering. With powerful language, compassion, and tenderness, she traces her roots and acknowledges the painful parts of her history, both personal and cultural, including sexual violence—all while asking the reader to try and do the same.
Lineage of Rain by Janel Pineda
Poet Janel Pineda honors the legacy of the women in her life against the context of migration and the Salvadoran civil war in her debut poetry chapbook Lineage of Rain. Jumping from her family’s homeland to her childhood home watching her eldest sister make sacrifices for the sake of her younger siblings, the collection seeks to heal the trauma of war, find strength through femininity, and seek a better future for the Salvadoran diaspora than the past they’ve experienced.
The Woman I Kept to Myself by Julia Alvarez
Dominican-American poet Julia Alvarez is well known for her semi-autobiographical and critically acclaimed novels How the García Girls Lost Their Accents and In the Time of the Butterflies. One of the most important Latina writers in history, she has also written two collections of poetry, including The Women I Kept to Myself. Much like García Girls, she switches between the colors, smells, and experiences of her double lives in the Dominican Republic and the U.S to reclaim the woman she’s become. Over the course of 75 gorgeous written poems, Alvarez draws the reader into all her different worlds and allows the reader to reflect on the ones that they occupy.
Inheritance: A Visual Poem by Elizabeth Acevedo
Dominican-American novelist and poet Elizabeth Acevedo is back to bless us with a brilliant new book this year, Inheritance: A Visual Poem! Best known for her award-winning YA novels The Poet X, With the Fire on High, and Clap When You Land, she is turning her most famous spoken-word poem into a fully illustrated keepsake book! With artwork by Andrea Pippins, the poem celebrates Black hair and its place in Afro-Latinidad in all its painful history, pride, and joy. It’s set to be released on May 3, 2022.