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José  Olivarez

José Olivarez

Award-Winning Poet & Spoken Word Artist


José Olivarez is the son of Mexican immigrants. His debut book of poems, Citizen Illegal, was a finalist for the PEN/ Jean Stein Award and a winner of the 2018 Chicago Review of Books Poetry Prize. It was named a top book of 2018 by The Adroit Journal, NPR and the New York Public Library. His second book of poems, Promises of Gold, which was recently released, is a USA Today Book Club Pick. Read More >

Along with Felicia Chavez and Willie Perdomo, he co-edited the poetry anthology, The BreakBeat Poets Vol. 4: LatiNEXT. He is the co-host of the poetry podcast, The Poetry Gods.

In 2018, he was awarded the first annual Author and Artist in Justice Award from the Phillips Brooks House Association and named a Debut Poet of 2018 by Poets & Writers. In 2019, he was awarded a Ruth Lilly and Dorothy Sargent Rosenberg Poetry Fellowship from the Poetry Foundation. His work has been featured in The New York Times, The Paris Review and elsewhere. Read Less ^

Speaker Videos

I Loved the World So I Married It

Mexican Heaven


Mexican-American Disambiguation

Getting Ready to Say “I Love You” to My Dad, It Rains

Speech Topics

Promises of Gold

In Promises of Gold, a groundbreaking collection of poems and a USA Today Book Club Pick recently released by award-winning spoken word artist José Olivarez, every kind of love is explored ― self, brotherly, romantic, familial…and cultural. In this inspiring talk and performance of his latest work, Olivarez explores the contradictions of the American Dream with unflinching humanity. He lays bare the ways in which “love is complicated by forces larger than our hearts.” As part of his talk, he’ll also take time for a question and answer session.

Citizen Illegal

The son of formerly undocumented Mexican immigrants, award-winning poet José Olivarez writes poems that use the lenses of immigration, in-betweeness, gender, class and family to examine and praise the world. These are poems written to be shared and to start conversations. In this inspiring talk and performance of some of his poems, he explores the stories, contradictions, joys, and sorrows that embody life in the spaces between Mexico and America. He paints vivid portraits of good kids, bad kids, families clinging to hope, life after the steel mills, gentrifying barrios and everything in between. These poems provide pathways to talking about our communities and the futures we want to imagine for ourselves and our loved ones. Drawing from his book, Citizen Illegal, Olivarez performs poems that investigate the Latinx identity, call out mental health, make you think about gender to ones that teaches love. As part of his talk, he’ll also take time for a question and answer session.

Citizen Illegal Workshops

José Olivarez's poems have been incorporated into curriculums all across the country, including Chicago Public Schools and by education non-profits like Get Lit, Youth Speaks and more. Additionally, his book, Citizen Illegal, has been included on syllabi for Latinx Studies, Creative Writing and English departments at universities across the country. Olivarez has been teaching poetry for over 10 years. During this experience, Olivarez guides teachers and students through poetry and creative writing workshops to help participants tap into their stories with style. He’ll cover his own poetry that investigates the humor, joy and intimacy of the Latinx identity, calls out mental health, makes you think about gender and teaches about love.