Emmy Pérez: from the borderlands to the Midwest

Author: Evelyn Gonzalez

Emmy Perez Photo

Letras Latinas, the literary initiative at the University of Notre Dame's Institute for Latino Studies, is pleased to present Emmy Perez, who will be performing her poetry on campus on Tuesday, November 7, at 7:30 pm in room 210 of McKenna Hall. There will be a pre-reading reception at 6:15 PM at Galería América outside of 230 McKenna Hall (mezzanine level). A book signing will follow.


A California native, Chicana poet Emmy Pérez has served as a writing mentor at various detention centers in New Mexico, El Paso, and the Rio Grande Valley. Pérez is also an associate professor of English at the University of Texas, Rio Grande Valley, where she teaches in their undergraduate and MFA programs in creative writing.


In 2016 she published, With the River on Our Face (University of Arizona Press), a poetry collection based on the communities along the borderlands of Texas and the Southwest. “Emmy Pérez comes from a rich lineage of Latinx poets who write about and from the U.S./Mexico border. But what I especially enjoy about her work is her meticulous attention to the flora and fauna of the borderlands, said Francisco Aragón, the ILS faculty member spearheading Pérez’s visit and director of Letras Latinas. He adds: “In an interview published shortly after the publication of her book, she has this beautiful passage about rivers:”


A river is a pulse, a pulse that gives life. An ever-changing community of pulses whose existence is determined by gravity, pulls, and continental divides. Living things are drawn to it for its water and food, for travel, for sacred ceremonies. A river is also something deliberately controlled and tamed by animals and people.


Pérez is a recent recipient of a National Endowment for the Arts fellowship in poetry. Her work has been featured in the Academy of American Poets Poem-a-Day series and the online archive at the Poetry Foundation. Her work has also appeared widely in literary journals and anthologies, most recently in IMANIMAN: Poets Writing in the Anzaldúan Borderlands (Aunt Lute Books). In 2016 she published, With the River on Our Face (University of Arizona Press), a poetry collection based on the communities along the borderlands of Texas and the Southwest.


During her time at Notre Dame, Pérez will also meet with two classes. She will be visiting an undergraduate course on Latinx poetry taught by Aragón and a graduate course taught by English Professor Orlando Menes. In addition, Pérez will be interviewed by creative writing MFA candidate, Jean Yoon, for the ILS Oral History Project, as well as have lunch with other MFA candidates.


Letras Latinas, the literary initiative at the Institute for Latino Studies, enhances the visibility, appreciation, and study of Latino literature both on and off the campus of the University of Notre Dame. The initiative emphasizes programs that support newer voices and fosters a sense of community among writers.


Since its creation in 1999 the Institute for Latino Studies has played a vital role in fostering understanding of the U.S. Latino experience. Building upon the history of Latinos at Notre Dame and the outstanding intellectual legacy of Julian Samora, a pioneering Latino scholar and professor of sociology, the Institute supports scholarly initiatives in Latino studies as a key component of Notre Dame’s academic mission.