LAWRENCE – The University of Kansas Department of Spanish & Portuguese will welcome Raquel Salas Rivera, 2018 Poet Laureate of Philadelphia and CantoMundo Fellow, for a presentation at the Hall Center for Humanities and a poetry reading at the Raven Book Store on April 23.
As a person of mixed ethnicity and heritage born in Mayagϋez, Puerto Rico, and based in Philadelphia, identifying as queer and nonbinary, Rivera writes poetry that pushes political conversations about race, code-switching, sexual/gender identifications and oppressive social and economic pressures predominantly affecting marginalized communities.
Recently selected in January as the 2018 Poet Laureate of Philadelphia, Rivera has a civic responsibility to engage and empower Philadelphia neighborhoods through poetry, readings and other special community projects. They were selected because of their activism in support of the Philadelphia LGTBQIA+ community and the poet’s eagerness to engage with Philadelphia as a sanctuary city for migrants and immigrants. They want to start a series of poetry readings called “We Too Are Philly,” inspired by Langston Hughes poem “I Too Am America.”
“I have been following Raquel Salas Rivera’s poetry for quite some time. When they were named the 2018 Poet Laureate of Philadelphia, I was not surprised. This city has a large Puerto Rican community with an old history, and Rivera’s new title brings to the fore Puerto Ricans’ history and contributions in Philadelphia; and more importantly, recognizes the moving quality and political force of Puerto Rican poetry,” said Santa Arias, Spanish & Portuguese department chair and co-chair of the Colonialism Seminar.
In their capacity as a doctoral candidate of comparative literature at the University of Pennsylvania, Rivera will speak at the Hall Center for the Humanities Colonialism Seminar, discussing their poetry within or in the context of anti-colonial interventions on Puerto Rico before and after Hurricane María. The seminar series examines the history and legacy of colonialism in Latin America and the Caribbean. This event is restricted to KU graduate students, faculty, and staff.
Rivera also will give a poetry reading at 7 p.m. April 23 at the Raven Book Store, 6 E. Seventh St. They will read from Puerto Rico een Mi Corazón, a collection of broadsides of contemporary Puerto Rican poets, in English and in Spanish, co-edited by Rivera. Copies of the book will be sold, and 100 percent of sales will be donated directly to Taller Salud to assist Puerto Rico in recovering from Hurricane María. The event is free and open to the public.
“We’re so thrilled to host a reading by such an inspiring activist and poet,” said Danny Caine, Raven Book Store owner. “Raquel Salas Rivera does important work, and we’re honored to play a small part in bringing them to Lawrence.”
The poetry reading is sponsored by the Department of Spanish and Portuguese, Department of English, Center for Latin American & Caribbean Studies, Center for Sexuality & Gender Diversity, Office of Multicultural Affairs, the Graduate Association for the Department of Spanish & Portuguese, the Latin American Graduate Organization and Latin American Student Union.