Romance department hosts Latina Poetry Night
Students and faculty gathered to listen to and read poems written by Latina poets.
On Wednesday, March 23, people gathered in Shiffman 219 to listen to students and faculty read poems written by Latina poets with piano accompaniment by Alyssa Zylberger ’25. In celebration of women’s history month, Prof. Zoila Castro (ROMS), Prof. Lucía Reyes de Deu (ROMS), Prof. Elena González Ros (ROMS), and academic administrators Katie Dickinson and Ellen Rounseville organized the inaugural Latina Poetry Night.
The event aimed to highlight Latina women’s courage to express themselves through powerful poetry, help students practice their Spanish, celebrate the beauty of the Spanish language, and showcase the value of the arts. Castro first proposed the idea of a poetry night, and she reached out to past and current students for volunteers. Students could either recommend a poem or pick from a list Castro prepared. Originally, they intended to have more readers, but some volunteers had to cancel due to COVID-19-related issues.
As a bilingual event, Castro gave an opening speech in English, and Reyes de Deu gave one in Spanish. Then, Reyes de Deu introduced the first group of poems which were published during the first half of the 1900s. She said that the first three poems “are a hymn to female freedom and autonomy. All three poems describe a cage that limits women’s freedom, and the three poets propose to free themselves from it.” Sarah Eckstein Indik ’24 presented two poems: “Hombre pequeñito” (“Little Man”) by Argentine poet Alfonsina Storni and “Conversación entre Viajeros” (“Conversation among Travelers”) by Mexican poet Rosario Castellanos. Annette Pinstein ’25 read Puerto Rican poet Julia de Burgos’s poem, “Río Grande de Loíza” (“Loíza’s Big River”).
Reyes de Deu said that the second group of poems “celebrates the poetic word as an expression of profoundly feminine feelings.” She explained that “the first deals with the relationship between a mother and her son, and the second with literary creation and the power of the word.” Castro recited Peruvian poet Blanca Varela’s “Casa de Cuervos” (“House of Ravens”). Lea Zaharoni ’25 performed “Gozos Cibernéticos” (“Cyber Joys”) by Nicaraguan poet Gioconda Belli.
Finally, Reyes de Deu explained that the last poem “rebels against rules and expectations imposed on a young Dominican woman who sees herself as someone she is not. The poetic word gives her the power to reclaim her identity.” Michaela McCormack ’23 presented Dominican-American poet Elizabeth Acevedo’s poem, “Hair.”
The Justice asked Castro what she thought of the students’ performances. She recognized how difficult it was to stand in front of an audience and present a poem in their non-native language, and despite that, the students did a great job, and she deeply appreciated their hard work. The student speakers had varying levels of experience when it came to performing poetry. For example, this was McCormack’s first time reciting poetry, while Pinstein had previous experience from participating in Poetry Out Loud and memorizing poems for French class at her high school.
The poems students picked also appealed to them for different reasons. McCormack explained that “as a Black person who’s had a similar relationship with my hair, the poem kinda fits really well.” They liked how the poem dealt with the dynamics of racism, discrimination, and colorism and found hair to be a central issue.
On the other hand, Pinstein chose the de Burgos poem because she liked the references to the river, the structure of the poem, and the natural imagery. She described the poem as “evocative.” When the Justice asked Pinstein why this kind of event is important, she said, “It’s good to have this kind of art on campus and to celebrate art that we feel represents us…[This event] hopefully [helps] people to feel seen [and] to see themselves reflected in art.”
The Department of Romance Studies hopes to make Latina Poetry Night a tradition and to continue creating similar events.