Texas Poet Laureate educates and inspires at writing workshop, poetry reading


2020 Texas Poet Laureate Emmy Pérez visited Texas Woman’s University on Wednesday, Nov. 13, to lead a daytime writing workshop followed by an evening poetry reading. Pérez was “so moved by questions from aspiring writers” in the workshop that she was inspired to share a few of her earliest poems at the beginning of the reading. She then led the audience along a journey of her life and work that was both chronological and geographical, as she moved from California to New York and then New Mexico before finally landing in her mother’s home state of Texas, all while evolving as an artist and educator. 

Pérez draws much of her inspiration from her personal relationships and natural surroundings. Her experiences working with Native American reservation communities, female prison inmates and young people in juvenile detention centers have shaped her work. Her travels along the Texas borderlands and Rio Grande Valley informed her most recent collection, "With the River on Our Face."

She noted that many of her ideas come to her while exploring the outdoors. “I wrote a lot of my poems outside, sweating,” said Pérez of a poem composed during a bike ride through the Santa Ana National Wildlife Refuge in South Texas. 

During the event’s follow-up question and answer session, Pérez advised aspiring poets and artists in the audience to “find your community.” She urged those who are shy about letting others read or hear their work to “try to do things that are uncomfortable because they are almost always rewarding.” 

State Representative Lynn Stucky, DVM, was among the approximately one hundred students, faculty, staff and guests in attendance. The event was sponsored in part by the Texas Commission on the Arts.

Pérez’s term as State Poet Laureate will officially begin in March 2020. She is the recipient of a 2017 National Endowment for the Arts poetry fellowship and a member of the Macondo Writers Workshop founded by Sandra Cisneros for socially engaged writers. In 2017, she co-founded the Poets Against Walls collective. Pérez currently resides in McAllen, where she is a professor of creative writing at the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley. She also serves as associate director of the university’s Center for Mexican American Studies.

Page last updated 10:10 AM, November 18, 2019