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The AmeRícan Poet: Essays on the Work of Tato Laviera


Essays on the Works of Tato Laviera

Edited by Stephanie Álvarez and William Luis

Published 2014

486 pages; 6 x 9

ISBN: 978-1-878483-66-9 (paperback) 

Price: $30.00 paperback

About this book

The AmeRícan Poet: Essays on the Works of Tato Laviera is a collection of thirteen essays, an introduction and a forward by fifteen established and emerging scholars. Known as a Nuyorican poet, Laviera is more appropriately celebrated as an AmeRícan writer of national and international prominence. As a whole, the essays discuss diverse aspects of Laviera’s life and substantial body of work that includes five published collections of poetry, twelve written and staged plays, and many years of political, social, literary and healthcare activism. They focus on Laviera’s use of language; relationship to writers from the island (Luis Palés Matos, José Luis González, and Luis Muñoz Marín) and mainland (Langston Hughes and Walt Whitman); his concern for mestizaje; Afro-Latinoness; music, sound and rhythm; utopian spaces; code switching; Civil Rights and feminist movements; Mexican migrant students and homeless people, among others. Uniquely, the anthology features a testimonio composed of interviews in which the author speaks in English, Spanish and Spanglish, four unpublished poems, and the play King of Cans. As the AmeRícan poet, the collection confirms Tato Laviera’s much deserved reputation as a major poet in any language.


Table of Contents


Stephanie Álvarez

Introduction. The Life and Rebirths of Tato Laviera

William Luis

I.  Language, Voice, and Music to Matao

The Poet as Earwitness; Reading Sound, Voice, and Music in Tato Laviera’s Poetry Frances Aparicio

Tato’s –ao: The Poetics of Eye Dialect.  

Juan Flores     

Texts in Espanglish: El nideaquínideallá Language

Edrik López

II (Re)Creating and (Re)Defining His Own Space(s)

Latinas Sing: Tato Laviera’s Message to/About Women After Civil Rights Collapse.

Susan Campbell

Tato Laviera: Walking Bridges in an AmeRícan Utopia

By Analisa De Grave, University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire

“AmeRícan” in the Context of American Poetry

Steven Schneider

Insular Interventions: Tato Laviera's Dialogic Dialogue with Luis Muñoz Marín and

José Luis González

Maritza Stanchich

III  Creative Acts of Healing

Acts of Resistance:  Creativity, Coalition and Consciousness in The King Of Cans

Jacqueline Lazú

Azucarao: Tato Laviera and the Poetics of Health Promotion 

Glenn Martínez

Barrio, Body, Beat: Tato Laviera and the Holistic Rhythm of Mestizaje

Israel Reyes

La palabra, conciencia y voz: Tato Laviera and the Cosecha Voices Project at University of Texas—Pan American

Stephanie Alvarez and José Luis Martínez

IV Afro-Latinoness

Speaking Black Latino/aness: Race, Performance, and Poetry.

Lawrence La Fountain-Stokes

Kalahari or the Afro-Caribbean Connection: Luis Palés Matos and Tato Laviera

Antonia Domínguez Miguela

V Poems

“I am a Wise Latina” 

“La Guarachera del Mundo”



VI Drama

The King of Cans

Works Cited



About the Editors

Stephanie Alvarez is Assistant Professor of Spanish and Director of Mexican American Studies and at The University of Texas-Pan American. She is the recipient of the American Association of Hispanics in Higher Education’s Outstanding Latina/o Faculty in Higher Education Award (2011) and The University of Texas Board of Regents' Outstanding Teaching Award (2009). She is co-founder with Tato Laviera and José Martínez of Cosecha Voices: Documenting the Lives of Migrant Farmworker Students. Cosecha Voices aims to empower migrant farmworker students by creating a space in which they develop and perform their own written and digital testimonios. She is the author of several essays on and the confluence of Latin@ identity, language, literature, culture, education and empowerment in various edited books and journals such as Hispania, Journal of Latinos and Education and CENTRO: Journal of the Center for Puerto Rican Studies, among others.

William Luis is the Gertrude Conaway Vanderbilt Professor of Spanish at Vanderbilt University. He is the author of numerous books, including Literary Bondage: Slavery in Cuban Narrative (1991), Dance Between Two Cultures (1997), and Looking Out, Looking In: Anthology of Latino Poetry (2013). Luis is the recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship in 2012. He is the Director of Vanderbilt’s Latino and Latina Studies Program and Editor of the Afro-Hispanic Review. Born and raised in New York City of a Chinese father and an Afro-Cuban mother, Luis is widely regarded as a leading authority on Latin American, Caribbean, Afro-Hispanic, and Latino U.S. literatures.


Tato Laviera’s poetry celebrates working class people and their culture, regardless of ethnicity. He is the inheritor of the Spanish oral tradition, with all of its classical formulas; the African oral tradition, with its wedding to music and spirituality; and the performance imperative of the Beat poets… In The AmeRícan Poet we have the most extensive and thorough analysis of the work of this American poet to date. Nicolás Kanellos, University of Houston

AmeRícan Poet: Essays on the Work of Tato Laviera represents a fitting celebration of Tato Laviera…Collectively, the essays present Laviera in his most multi-faceted light: poet and playwright; activist; community leader; master teacher; a spiritual, compassionate and generous citizen of the world… This is an exceptional, engaging, informative scholarly anthology that honors both Tato Laviera’s life and work. Jose L. Torres-Padilla, SUNY Plattsburgh

Illustrious scholars who learned a lot from the poet, playwright, philosopher – y super buena gente que era Tato – pay fitting tribute by analyzing his many talents and celebrating his profound wisdom…To read these chapters and his poems and play is to embrace a bi-national treasure who gave voice to our embattled present, and to celebrate his prophetic vision of our contributions to a multilingual, multicultural and multiracial future. Ana Celia Zentella, University of California – San Diego