Each poet was asked a few question in a short interview accompanying the poetry, and almost always the questions included “How do you define Latin@ poetics?”
I enjoyed reading the answers — and here is what I would have said if asked:
A good place to start would be with Ilan Stavans’s statement that Latin@ literature (including poetics) is about “the tension between double attachments to place, language, and identity.” I would add to that a double attachment to loss and dealing with loss: what do you lose in order to gain something? And what do you gain when you lose something?
Also, I find that Latin@ poetics involves constantly (re)negotiating an identity that is and will always be fragmented. Writing as a Latin@ in the US means having to ceaselessly fashion a center that will more or less hold despite all the different forces pulling you in all sorts of directions. That inability to find protection (at least for long) in the illusion that a complete and stable identity is possible seems to me to be a huge part of what defines Latin@ poetics: identity is a constant renegotiation, and we know it. This, of course, is part of the human condition, but I think Latin@ poets have no choice but to address it head on.
At the same time, Latin@ poetics for me is just poets writing about their experience as people living in the world, part of which (but only part of which) involves being Latin@.
I loved encountering Alberto Rios and Gary Soto in college, and later discovering Sandra Cisneros and Ricardo Paul-Losa, and more recently Ada Limon and Eduardo C. Corral. I love these poets first as poets, not because they are Latin@. At the same time, I can’t deny they resonate so much with me at least partly because of our shared background.
And there you have it.