“Do work that matters. Vale la pena.”
-Gloria E. Anzaldúa
I am at a crossroads between crying from pride and laughing because of joy. Ready to let someone share this incredible journey of being a McAllen Poet Laureate, and being tremendously grateful for this experience that has changed my life and taught me so much about my wonderful community. We are a community living through so many transitions that must be documented as we live them, from this side of the Rio Grande Valley border to el otro lado.
I often think of Gloria E. Anzaldúa and the legacy she has left for us, the bonds she has given me with other Valley writers and community activists, and her courage to speak from the heart and soul about her experiences in el valle – the heridas that remain with us even now. To me, this platform representing our community was at times overwhelming, mostly because there were so many opportunities and goals I set for myself. But more often than not, I found how our vibrant literary and arts community had already found ways in which to approach these projects – which made my job that much easier!
There are so many who have mentored me and taken me under their wings along the way, it is almost impossible to list all without failing to forget my peeps! But I can certainly list a few who have inspired me, opened up venues and networks to learn about political and social changes our gente are experiencing, and helped me find my voice along the way: Daniel Garcia Ordaz, Erika Garza Johnson, and Lady Mariposa (their craft for documenting our stories through poetry and letting me learn from them has had the most impact on me as a poet); Olga Valle-Herr (for paving the way as our city’s first poet laureate); Emmy Perez, Dr. Stephanie Alvarez, and Dr. Rob Johnson (their academic and social work, both on campus and in our region, has opened up dialogues that have had a tremendous impact on our region); Kate Horan (who has taught me so much about literacy, how it impacts communities, and has provided me with unconditional support); Jan Epton Seale (Texas Poet Laureate and a mentor as I transitioned into my role as my city’s poet laureate); Dr. Norma Elia Cantú (who has been a literary madrina to so many of us in el valle – I don’t think you understand how much your support and encouragement is valued); and most definitely, our community activists, artists, and organizers who are instrumental in bringing to light social issues one must be vocal about (Sister Norma Pimentel, John-Michael Torres, Veronica Gabriela, Celeste De Luna and many, many others). You all have truly been a blessing!
I have a tendency of going off topic, so let me reel it back in and focus! After having been notified of who was selected to take over as McAllen Poet Laureate, I am typing out this post as an informal announcement. It is my greatest pleasure to announce that not one, but two, of the greatest voices and mentors in our community have been selected to take over the next couple of years! They already have a plethora of projects planned, such as organizing readings, festivals, workshops, writing new literature, etc. They really don’t need much of an introduction…but I definitely will post their bios!
As 2018 McAllen Poet Laureate
As 2019 McAllen Poet Laureate
Rodney Gomez is the author of Citizens of the Mausoleum (2018), Baedeker from the Persistent Refuge (2019), and the chapbooks Mouth Filled with Night (winner of the Drinking Gourd Chapbook Prize from Northwestern University), Spine (selected by Ada Limón as winner of the Gloria Anzaldúa Poetry Prize), and A Short Tablature of Loss (selected by Eduardo Corral as winner of the Rane Arroyo Prize). His work has appeared in Poetry, The Gettysburg Review, Blackbird, Pleiades, Denver Quarterly, Puerto del Sol, and other journals. He is the son of migrant farm workers and the first in his family to attend college. A proud member of the Macondo Writers’ Workshop and the Chocholichex writing collective, he was educated at Yale, Arizona State, Berkeley, Cornell, and the University of Texas-Pan American. He reviews poetry and nonfiction for Latino Book Review and works at the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley. He lives with the love of his life, Sara, in McAllen.