What did winning the Andrés Montoya Poetry Prize and, as a result, having your first book published mean to you? What effect did it have on your writing career?
Winning this prize has been an honor, and it immediately impacted my writing career, which to me is more of a way of living than a profession. I've been introduced to a wide community of Latino writers that I had not met or, in some instances, even known about, poets such as Brenda Cárdenas, John Murillo, Paul Martinez Pompa, and Silvia Curbelo, who selected my manuscript Tropicalia for the prize and whose aversion to po-business I find sort of punk rock and inspiring. I feel as if I've joined this vast array of art makers, all of us unified by some facet of Latino/Hispanic culture—perhaps language or music, perhaps the politics of displacement or gender. We are our own distinct voices, but the Andrés Montoya Poetry Prize draws us into an unexpected harmony. Although I lived in Miami for a big portion of my life, and I'm of Cuban descent, I've never felt all that Latino, so my arrival to this sphere of writers is filled with a sense of discovery.
A part of her answer is disheartening. Her admission that she didn't even "know about" some Latino poets makes me sad. Hell, it pisses me off. A poet is a reader first. How can she claim to be a poet and not know what her contemporaries are writing? And yet, she's soon going to asking Latino poets to buy her book, to get to know her work. And I will. Because I support Latino/a poets. Because Latina/o poetry thrills me as a reader and provides me with fuel to keep the creative fires burning.
But I see this again and again in our community. So many young Latino/a poets don't read books published by other Latina/os.
Here's some some advice: Read. Read. Read. Read. Read. Read. Read. Read. Read. Read. Read. Read. Read. Read. Read. Read. Read. Read. Read. Read.