Alzando su Voz: A Bilingual Poetry Reading with Puerto Rican Poet Nicole Cecilia Delgado

by Nicole Rodriguez, Production Editor

On Thursday, Oct. 7, students and faculty filled the seats of Hayden 100 to attend a bilingual poetry reading and conversation with Puerto Rican poet Nicole Cecilia Delgado. The event sponsored by Student Engagement, the Multicultural Center, Fuerza Latina and the Critical Race and Ethnic Studies Program, discussed issues related to art, bookmaking, poetry, activism and resistance in contemporary Puerto Rico.

English professor and fellow Puerto Rican Cristina Pérez Jiménez, Ph.D. opened up the event with an elaborate, informative introduction of Delgado. She also shed light on the current context of Puerto Rico in terms of coloniality and austerity in order for listeners to better understand the focus of Delgado’s work.

Delgado is widely regarded as one of the leading Puerto Rican poets of her generation, NICOLE RODRIGUEZ / THE QUADRANGLE

Following Pérez Jiménez’s introduction, Delgado read excerpts from her poetry book Periodo Especial and an essay, A Mano/By Hand in her native tongue Spanish. To aid monolingual English speakers, projections of the English translations of Delgado’s work were displayed.

“For those of you that are monolingual English speakers, I do want to make a point of not thinking about what you’re not understanding or what you’re missing,” Pérez Jiménez said. “To really think about this as an opportunity for a kind of respect and understanding of the experience of linguistic difference.”

Delgado’s poetry articulates many issues and concerns that have punctuated Puerto Rican lives over the past decade, specifically the island’s economic collapse, period of scarcity and neoliberal austerity and colonial relations making for its economic dependency on the United States.

Although Delgado’s work discusses such grave and heavy topics, it became clear during her reading that she has a way of captivating her audience effortlessly with her wit and wordplay.

“Nicole is also a reverent and defiant,” Pérez Jiménez said. “She manages to convey a liberatory humor in her work, a kind of surprising and delightful lightheartedness derived from her sharp and playful observations about the many paradoxes, ironies and disjuncture of life under colonialism. Tied to this humor, her work also gives us a powerful vision and language to move forward.”

Not only is Delgado widely regarded as one of the leading Puerto Rican poets of her generation, but she is also a translator and book artist. Additionally, she is the founder of La Impresora, an editorial studio in Puerto Rico specializing in small-scale independent publishing – a noteworthy accomplishment seeing as Puerto Rico no longer has a major institutional press.

Poet Urayoán Noel, who also serves as one of her translators, described Delgado’s work with equally high regards.

Delgado is the founder of La Impresora, an editorial studio in Puerto Rico specializing in small- scale independent publishing NICOLE RODRIGUEZ / THE QUADRANGLE

“A big part of Delgado’s work, as both a poet and publisher, is about imagining alternative ways of living: ecologies and economies of poetry rooted in the interpersonal, the collaborative, the open-ended, and the non-hierarchical,” Noel said.

Delgado’s work as a poet and publisher is so influential and impactful as she actively takes on the responsibility of unveiling the hidden history of Puerto Rico.

“I think that the times call for political work,” Delgado said.

“Puerto Rico being a colony, I think that history has been taken away from us and it’s hard, or it’s actually been prohibited at times in history to tell history as it really happened. I think that poets have taken on that responsibility of telling history as it happens, like, under the sheets, or under the bed of official history.”

When asked about what inspires her work, Delgado brightly responded la vida cotidiana, or everyday life.

“I think that in the same way as poetry can be very sacred, it is also present in everyday life and very simple things,” Delgado said.

“I try to seek for that simple language. Whenever you can access deeper meanings using simple language, I think that I achieved what I want to get through with poetry. ”