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NCWN Online Class Instructor Spotlight: Reyes Ramirez

We’re excited to have Reyes Ramirez lead our next NCWN Online Class: “Poetry that Blurs the Persona and the Personal” on Thursday, May 16, from 7 – 8:30 pm.

Ramirez (he/him) is a Houstonian, writer, educator, curator, and organizer of Mexican and Salvadoran descent. He authored the short story collection The Book of Wanderers (2022), a 2023 Young Lions Fiction Award Finalist, from University of Arizona Press’ Camino del Sol series, and the poetry collection El Rey of Gold Teeth (2023) from Hub City Press. His latest curatorial project, The Houston Artist Speaks Through Grids, explores the use of grids in contemporary Houston art, literature, history, and politics. Reyes has been honored as a 2020 CantoMundo Fellow, 2021 Interchange Artist Grant Fellow, 2022 Crosstown Arts Writer in Residence, 2023 Intercultural Leadership Institute Fellow, 2023 Dobie Paisano Fellow, and awarded grants from the Houston Arts Alliance, Poets & Writers, and The Warhol Foundation’s Idea Fund.

We recently asked Ramirez about what he’s reading, poetry written through persona, what registrants can expect from his class, and how he spends his free time.

NCWN: What are you currently reading?

RR: I try to read a good mix of genres and forms. Here’s what I’ve finished lately:

  • Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston
  • Woodcuts of Women by Dagoberto Gilb
  • Portraits As Animal by Victoriano Cárdenas
  • Quererme En La Luz by Farrah Fang
  • Yaguareté White by Diego Báez
  • Lotería by Esteban Rodriguez

As of this writing, I’m reading Reel to Real: Race, Class, and Sex at the Movies by bell hooks. 

NCWN: What do you enjoy about writing or reading poems written through personas?

RR: I love how putting on a mask, literal and figurative, can allow artists to access their craft in ways they couldn’t otherwise, whether it be luchadores, musicians, dancers, painters, writers, etc. What does it mean to wear this mask? To channel another voice? How does it influence your language? What liberties or constraints do we find or overcome? 

NCWN: What’s one poem written through a persona that you love? 

RR: “The Zeppelin Factory” by Rita Dove. All of Thomas and Beulah, really. The “Barbie Chang” poems in Barbie Chang, such as “How Alone Barbie Chang’s Mother,” by Victoria Chang are also great.

NCWN: What’s one thing you hope attendees will take away from your class?

RR: That poetry can be a way to channel empathy between the poet, the reader, and the voice. To me, this is a grand responsibility and perhaps our greatest power since we are often misled to believe that empathy is an ending or the goal when it is, in fact, only the beginning to change and action. 

NCWN: Tell us something about you that’s not writing-related. How do you spend your free time?

RR: I watch a lot of Judge Judy and Kitchen Nightmare reruns and video game playthroughs while making different vegetable/bone broths and trying new beers/breweries. I’ve also started sketching more regularly now that I don’t hate how bad I am at it. 

There is still time to sign up for Reyes Ramirez’s NCWN Online Class: “Poetry that Blurs the Persona and the Personal” on Thursday, May 16, at 7 pm, but hurry! Registration closes May 15.


Poetry that Blurs the Persona and the Persona

Poets write through personas to thoroughly explore a topic, illuminate an unheard voice, or venture into uncharted waters, among other reasons. In this class, we will be reading and writing poetry that inhabit personas both based in reality and the imagined, whether it be historical/pop culture figures, family members, animals, objects, or even alternate versions of the self. We will blur the line between the self and the voice, if the two can be separated, to see how far poetry can take empathy and/or scorn in order to, ultimately, create an entirely new consciousness. Readings can include work by FJ Bergmann, Eduardo C. Corral, Rita Dove, Frank X. Walker, Victoria Chang, John Berryman, Javier Zamora, and more.