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(Left to right) Marta López Luaces, Lizabel Mónica, Azahara Palomeque, and Mercedes Roffé read their poetry at the Kelly Writers House event.

Credit: Maria Murad

Kelly Writers House hosted its first-ever Latina Poetry Night Monday, featuring a bilingual poetry reading and a discussion of topics including immigration and the art of poetry. 

The event featured four Latina poets: Marta López-Luaces, Lizabel Mónica, Azahara Palomeque, and Mercedes Roffé. Palomeque, the associate director of Penn's master's program in Social Policy, said she came up with the idea for the poetry night from similar events she had attended elsewhere.

“As a poet, I go to New York often, and there is like a group of Latino poets doing amazing work there, and I thought, why don’t we have it here?" Palomeque said. “Kelly Writers House is the perfect place for that, so I proposed the idea and they loved it.”

Credit: Maria Murad

Associate Director of Penn's Latin American and Latinx Studies Program, Catherine Bartch.

Each poet read a selection of her work, and audience members asked questions once all the readings were completed. 

Mónica, a Cuban transdisciplinary artist and Ph.D. candidate in Spanish and Portuguese Languages and Cultures at Princeton University, described how she tries to combine visuals and poetry in her work.

“I take pictures of things and scenes and then I translate those pictures from visual into the reading,” Mónica said.

Palomeque, a Spanish writer, poet, and journalist, talked about the connections between her poetry and her identity as an immigrant to the United States, adding that she only began publishing after she immigrated.

“I work here 9-to-5 and everything is in English," she said. “If I don’t practice Spanish and make an effort, I forget it even though it is my native language. Sometimes I realize I am losing vocabulary and I don’t like it.”

Credit: Maria Murad

The authors' books were for sale at Kelly Writers House.

The poets also shared different outlooks on the writing process. While López-Luaces, a Spanish poet, novelist, and translator, said poetry “just happens," Argentine poet Roffé stressed the importance of using writing strategies during dry periods of creativity. 

“I wouldn’t say that you just sit and wait for inspiration to come, because if you do, it will never come,” Roffé said. “Don’t worry if you work with strategies — you are not going to write something that does not come from you.”

The event was co-organized by the Latin American and Latino Studies Program, the Hispanic and Portuguese Studies Department, and the Penn in Latin America and the Caribbean Steering Committee. While other Latinx poetry events have taken place at Penn in previous years, this was the first organized by Kelly Writers House. 

“I have always really, really loved poetry, so it was really cool to come hear poems written in my native language and in the language I grew up with," College sophomore Jazmín Estevez-Rosas said. Estevez-Rosas said, however, two of the speakers were Hispanic rather than Latina and said she wished there had been more diversity. 

"I feel like it would nice to have a little bit more diversity in terms of the perspectives and more Latinas of color and including more diverse backgrounds between the authors," Estevez-Rosas said.

“It was really exciting to know there was going to be this type of event, especially as a Latina who is interested in literature and poetry," College sophomore Arianna Acevedo-Ithier said. "To see other people who are Latina and able to present their work was very inspiring to see on this platform.”