quick sliver red
needles i stole
in a black
for a night
to me like
a rat on glue
meant to kill
breath my father
never liked my
our cereal was
like the moles
in the front yard
gum on their teeth
tiny jaws can only
extend so far
that’s why i
i’ve ever stolen
in a suitcase
once my mouth
is sewn closed
i better hear
What does the title, “Emerging poet,” mean to you?
That title means two things to me: 1) a poet who is still discovering themselves, or 2) a poet who is starting to be recognized by the larger American poetry community. (I make the distinction of American because it’s easily forgotten that a lot of amazing poetry is being written elsewhere that may not be translated or may not find a larger audience.)
Do you consider yourself an “emerging” poet? Why or why not?
I consider myself part of the first definition because I believe it’s the job of the poet to continuously explore their own identities and existence. Stopping this process is not becoming “established” but instead stagnate. The second definition is less important to me, so no. The term is connected to a system of gatekeepers that are usually cis-gender straight white men who tend to overlook work by people who do not look or sound like them. This is beginning to change yet the definition of “emerging” may take a longer time to rid itself of this context.
What do you think it takes to be “recognized” in the poetry community?
In the community there seems to be a number of publications that every “established” poet must get their work in. This begins the process of being “recognized” and then hopefully getting access to publishers and other connections through the poetic gatekeepers. It has taken me some time to realize how I have internalized this system due to its influence on some writers I admire, yet now I actively challenge those thoughts and am working towards a broader definition of what it means to be part of the larger poetry community (sans all the fancy publications, awards, etc.).
How do you think power politics shape the poetry community?
This is hard for me to answer because I have isolated myself to a corner of Twitter in which poets who are queer and/or POC discuss their work and support each other. This is where my poetry community lives and breathes and whatever happens in the shadowy towers elsewhere must remain there (until we come and dismantle them, of course).
What does community mean to you?
A community must be open to share and support. Like I mentioned above, I find this most lively on Twitter where concerns can be brought up and addressed in a way that tends to be open and understanding. I also appreciate when publications take part of these conversations because they tend to be run by awesome poets who want to help others get their voice out there. A community is ever-changing so making sure that it is accessible to poets who have just started writing or tend to not send out work is crucial. Their opinions need to be heard no matter what.
S.G. MALDONADO-VÉLEZ is a Puerto Rican poet who is attending the MFA program in Poetry at University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign. Their work can be found in the following publications: The Moon Zine, the monitor and Zoomoozophone Review. You can follow s.g. on Twitter @M00NP0ET and a podcast about genderqueer POC they co-host, The They/Them Podcast, on SoundCloud.