'I was taught to be deferential': José Olivarez on learning to give himself permission to tell his own stories

José Olivarez first encountered poetry as a high school student during a time when he had a lot of questions. What he discovered was that poetry isn't necessarily about getting answers, so much as it's about refining the questions we already have.
José Olivarez's debut collection of poetry, Citizen Illegal, is out now. (joseolivarez.com)
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José Olivarez is a poet who lives and works in Chicago. He first encountered poetry as a high school student during a time when he had a lot of questions. What he discovered was that poetry isn't necessarily about getting answers, so much as it's about refining the questions we already have.

In his debut collection of poetry, Citizen Illegal, Olivarez​ writes about his Mexican-American identity, the first generation immigrant experience, fitting in and finding your people. Tom Power speaks to Olivarez about discovering poetry as an avenue of expression, why he doesn't translate the Spanish phrases in his book and what he thinks about his work being considered "timely."

Listen to the full conversation with José Olivarez above. 

Produced by Cora Nijhawan


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