On May 1, Nepantla: An Anthology for Queer Poets of Color was released by Nightboat Books. Edited by Christopher Soto, the project began as an online poetry journal with Lambda Literary in 2014 and gained the attention of thousands of readers internationally. In the anthology, approximately one hundred years of queer of color literary history, beginning with the Harlem Renaissance, are preserved.
The Rumpus wanted to celebrate this wonderful book and Pride, so we invited Christopher Soto to share and write about books that have recently been released by queer poets of color who are included in the Nepantla anthology. We hope you’ll read their work in the anthology, and then check out these books!
If They Come for Us by Fatimah Asghar (Penguin Randomhouse, August 2018)
So this book technically isn’t out yet but it’s a much-anticipated debut. Fatimah is a living renaissance person! She has had poems published in basically every literary journal ever. She is the writer and co-creator of the Emmy-nominated web series Brown Girls. She is a member of Dark Noise Collective, a multi-racial and multi-genre group of badass poets. Only a few more weeks until her debut poetry collection comes out and I cannot wait!
Indecency by Justin Phillip Reed (Coffeehouse Press, May 2018)
Justin is a Saint Louis-based poet who describes himself as “a three-time high school expellee and an ex-college dropout,” and this is his debut collection of poems. Publishers Weekly said, “Reed’s visceral and teasingly cerebral debut probes black identity, sexuality, and violence and is inseparably personal and political.” His is definitely a voice to know.
Cenzontle by Marcelo Hernandez Castillo (BOA, April 2018)
Marcelo is an indispensable voice to queer and migrant communities. He is a co-founder of the Undocupoets Campaign and the first undocumented student to graduate from University of Michigan’s prestigious MFA program. His poems are tender and sonic and imagistically stunning. From the title poem, Marcelo writes “Because the bird flew before / there was a word / for flight // years from now / there will be a name / for what you and I are doing.”
Para Las Duras/For the Hard Ones: A Lesbian Phenomenology by tatiana de la tierra (Sinister Wisdom Press, April 2018)
tatiana holds a very special place in my heart. My mentor during my undergrad schooling was a queer Latina poet named Griselda Suarez, and she introduced me to the work of many latinx queers. tatiana and Griselda were friends and I eventually went out to a reading of tatiana’s at USC where she was singing and reciting multilingual poems, from English to Spanish. Her spirit was the poetry and her poetry connects me to something greater than what’s on the page, it connects me to the life of a wilder, more free consciousness. Her poems allowed space for the queer latinx poets of today and I’m grateful this book has been reprinted (with pictures and essays, too).
We’re On: A June Jordan Reader by June Jordan (Alice James Press, September 2017)
June is a role model for many of us literary activists. She worked in multiple mediums from poetry to essays and this book covers June in her different forms. She spoke on issues of race, gender, police violence, and education. She founded “Poetry to the People Workshops” at UC Berkeley, where she also taught. I recommend this book for literary activists who are looking for possibility models.
When I Grow Up I Want to Be a List of Further Possibilities by Chen Chen (BOA, April 2017)
Chen’s writing makes me laugh, makes me smile, makes me cry—I experience the whole range of emotions that one wishes to experience while reading poetry. This is his debut collection of poetry. Chen takes the everyday and makes it come to life, bringing details and thoughts from the farthest reaches of the mind to the forefront in honest and dazzling ways.
Of Mongrelitude by Julian Talamantez Brolaski (Wave Books, April 2017)
When reading Julian I never know what is going to appear in the next line, what fragments of images and feelings will create a constellation or poem. Julian writes about gender, indigeneity, and whatever is on his mind, and plays in a country band when not at a poetry reading. I go to Julian’s poems because there I so often find this life I cannot see on my own.
The Complete Works of Pat Parker by Pat Parker (Sinister Wisdom Press, October 2016)
I am enamored with Sinister Wisdom Press because they do so much work to preserve the voice of queer poets of color whose work too often runs out of print or is lost to the archives. This complete works of Pat Parker, a poet whose work I came to know pretty recently, helps to preserve her legacy. She passed away in 1989 and this collection highlights her prose, plays, and poems. She was vital to black and feminist literary spaces throughout the 1970s and 1980s and her work continues to be vital now.
Reacquainted with Life by KOKUMO (Topside Press, September 2016)
KOKUMO has one of the most unflinching and unrelenting voices in poetry. She won a Lambda Literary Award for Transgender Poetry for this book of poems. She is a Chicago based writer who dedicated her book: “Ta Harriet, Nina, Sylvester, Madame Sata, my mama Sandra Baker, n evry dark-skint femme who built dis world then was called too ugly ta live n it.”
And to close out this awesome list, we had to include the anthology itself, available for purchase now!
Nepantla: An Anthology for Queer Poets of Color (Nightboat Books, May 2018)
In 2014, Christopher Soto and Lambda Literary Foundation founded the online journal Nepantla, with the mission to nurture, celebrate, and preserve diversity within the queer poetry community, including contributions as diverse in style and form, as the experiences of QPOC in the United States. Now, Nepantla appears for the first time in print as a survey of poetry by queer poets of color throughout US history, including literary legends such as Audre Lorde, James Baldwin, June Jordan, Ai, and Pat Parker alongside contemporaries such as Natalie Diaz, Ocean Vuong, Danez Smith, Joshua Jennifer Espinoza, Robin Coste Lewis, Joy Harjo, Richard Blanco, Erika L. Sánchez, Jericho Brown, Carl Phillips, Tommy Pico, Eduardo C. Corral, Chen Chen, and more.