Back Library of America to launch Latino Poetry initiative with a major grant from the NEH

The National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) has awarded Library of America $849,449 in partial support of Latino Poetry, a national public humanities initiative planned for 2024–25. The project, directed by the nonprofit publisher and cultural institution in partnership with the National Association of Latino Arts and Cultures and arts organizations, museums, and libraries nationwide, comprises signature events in Chicago, Los Angeles, Miami, San Antonio/Houston, New York City, and San Juan, Puerto Rico; scholar-led public conversations in 75 public libraries around the country; online resources and a media archive; and a groundbreaking anthology edited by poet and scholar Rigoberto González, professor of English at Rutgers University, who will also serve as Principal Humanities Advisor for the project.

Latino Poetry seeks to center the rich and diverse voices of the Latino poetic tradition and bring them into conversation with current debates about democracy, equality, history, race/ethnicity, language, immigration, identity, and the purpose and promise of our nation, profoundly engaging the themes and goals of NEH’s larger More Perfect Union initiative. 

The program will bring together Americans of varied backgrounds around the country to learn about, read, discuss, and share insights into Latino poets and poems. With the guidance and participation of prominent scholars and poets, the programming will examine the extraordinary breadth and range of Latino poetry, its complex engagement with American history, and its ongoing relevance to our national life.

The centerpiece of the project will be Latino Poetry: A New Anthology, edited by González, the first anthology to embrace the entire tradition of Latino poetry in all its many strands and from its sixteenth-century beginnings to the present. Published in the authoritative Library of America series, it will stand as a permanent legacy of the project.

Latino Poetry will be a multifaceted celebration and exploration of a vibrant poetic tradition that predates 1776, 1620, and 1619, and looks forward to a more inclusive and capacious American future,” says LOA president and publisher Max Rudin, the project’s director. “What can Latino poetry tell us about what America has been and who we might, as a nation, become? We’re profoundly grateful to NEH for this opportunity to work with gifted individuals and cultural organizations around the country to foster a national conversation about American poetry, culture, democracy, and history.”

Latino Poetry draws upon the editorial and publishing resources of Library of America; the cultural resources and networks of the National Association of Latino Arts and Cultures; the programming expertise of the Miami Book Fair and CasaCuba, the Chicago and Los Angeles Public Library systems, the National Museum of Mexican Art, the Museum of the City of New York and the Clemente Soto Velez Cultural and Educational Center, Guadalupe Cultural Arts Center in San Antonio, and the Puerto Rican Endowment for the Humanities in San Juan, among others; and the national outreach to poets, poet-scholars, and the poetry community of the Academy of American Poets, Cave Canem, Poetry Society of America, and the National Book Foundation.  

A note on language: While English is the lingua franca of the initiative, Spanish will be a central presence throughout: Spanish poems and songs published, read, musically interpreted, and archived in the original and in translation; bilingual introductions at events and on the website; and poets’ language and vocabulary choices, their expressive use and significance, centered as a key theme for exploration and discussion.

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