National Poetry Prize Winner to Read at Notre Dame

Author: College of Arts and Letters


Letras Latinas, the literary initiative at the University of Notre Dame’s Institute for Latino Studies (ILS), presents an evening of poetry with Dan Vera, author of Speaking Wiri Wiri—winner of the inaugural Letras Latinas/Red Hen Poetry Prize, a national award which supports the publication of a second or third book by a Latino/a poet residing in the United States. The event will take place on the Notre Dame campus on the evening of September 10 with a pre-reading reception and post-reading book signing.

The inaugural edition of the prize was judged by Notre Dame English professor, poet, and ILS fellow, Orlando Menes. In his introduction to Vera’s winning volume, Menes writes: “As a poet driven to reconstruct the fragments of memory, just as an archeologist rebuilds ancient ruins, Vera knows that any possible reconnection to the past depends on a prescient understanding of the copious interplay between language and culture.”

“In many respects, the model for this prize was our Creative Writing Program’s Ernest Sandeen Prize, which is awarded to poets who have published one book,” said Francisco Aragón, an ILS faculty member and director of Letras Latinas. “We also consider it a companion to the Andrés Montoya Poetry Prize, which ushers a Latino/a poet’s first book into the world,” he added.

Born to Cuban parents in South Texas, Vera has been reading to various audiences since the publication of his award-winning book. Last December, Vera was joined by Menes for a special event at the Poetry Foundation in Chicago. In April of this year, he shared the stage with Montoya Prize winner Laurie Ann Guerrero for a joint presentation, as well as classroom visits, at Colorado State University in Pueblo. This coming October, he’ll be a featured reader at the Geraldine R. Dodge Poetry Festival in New Jersey, a three-day event that is the largest of its kind in the United States.

“It’s been a whirlwind of sorts since the book’s been out. Dialoguing with a wide range of people on some of the subjects the book touches, including immigration and how we navigate dual cultures and languages, has been great,” Vera said. “But most meaningful, I think, has been meeting students—I’m thinking of my time with Laurie in Pueblo. The whole experience, really, has been a singular grace. I’m really looking forward to my visit to South Bend.”

During his time at Notre Dame, in addition to his public reading, Vera will interact with students in two classes. He’ll be welcomed by Associate Professor Marisel Moreno in her Migrant Voices course, offered by the Department of Romance Languages and Literatures, and Aragón’s Latino/a Poetry Now, a Latino studies course. Vera will also sit down for a video interview for the Letras Latinas Oral History Project.

The Letras Latinas/Red Hen Poetry Prize is a partnership with the independent literary press based in Pasadena, Calif., which, for over 20 years, has been publishing works of poetry, literary fiction, and nonfiction.

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.

More event information is available here.

Contact: Francisco Aragón,