The power of poetry: Celebrating voices from El Paso on a global scale

El Paso News

EL PASO, Texas (KTSM) — The power of poetry is uplifting voices in the El Paso area and being celebrated at the highest level.

Sasha Pimental, an acclaimed poet who lives in the area, is curating this month’s Poem-A-Day series for the Academy of American Poets and is featuring five poets from the border.

“Poem-A-Day is from the Academy of American Poets, as in the academy in my field,” Pimental said. “It’s an original and daily digital series.”

Today’s featured poem is by Aldo Amparan, the first poet from the area and the University of Texas at El Paso’s Department of Creative Writing’s Bilingual MFA Program to debut on poets.org.

“He’s a star in the poetry world, and he’s our star from El Paso,” said Pimental.

Amparan’s poem is titled “Aubade at the City of Change” and describes the binational and bicultural experience of living on the border.

“When he writes this poem and talks about this city — here — in which someone is searching,” said Pimental, “that’s El Paso and that’s Juarez, and that consciousness reaching out across the country.”

The reach of the poems extends beyond our border and is adding diverse voices to the canon of poetry.

Poets featured alongside Amparan — winner of the 2020 Alice James Award and National Endowment for the Arts recipient — include winners of the National Book Award, the Pulitzer Prize and the Guggenheim fellowship.

Pimental said it’s important to include poets from BIPOC (Black, Indigenous and people of color) communities because poetry is so often thought of in terms of elite and primarily white male poets.

“It really matters to me that I’m curating this collection from the Borderland because that perspective of seeing another country — or what I don’t think of as a different country — but the same lands that people tell us is another country,” said Pimental.

From Shakespeare to Seuss, poetry creates a sense of structure in an otherwise chaotic world, whether that be a mix-up between lovers and fairies in A Midsummer Night’s Dream or a troublemaking cat in a hat.

Pimental said we can find a sense of belonging between the lines.

“Inherent to the poetic form is this white space and we crawl across it with language. So if that’s true in the form, that has to be true between human beings,” she said.

The Poem-A-Day series features the poems in written and spoken forms, which create an intimate experience to hear the words from the poet.

In an age where we’re reluctant to get too close or be exposed to another person’s breath, hearing a poet inhale and exhale between words can seem hauntingly human. 

“Even if it’s delivered in your inbox, it comes in audio form and you understand that poetry is not this abstract thing, but a thing that a human wrote that’s spoken inside a body and a mouth against our ears,” said Pimental. 

Contemporary American culture is welcoming poetry in modern ways with the readings of poet Amanda Gorman at iconic events like the presidential inauguration and the Super Bowl. 

Despite political divisions and social distancing, words can sometimes transcend resistance.

“Words are free of the body, words are free of boundaries and restriction,” said Pimental. “Anyone can use words to call out a sense of belonging or to call out to others.”

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