This post is part of my Notable Latin American Poets series. Click here to read more. There are affiliate links to independent booksellers throughout.
Mexico has an illustrious poetic past and – although your run-of-the-mill Mexican poetry round-ups may paint a different picture – women have been in the thick of it for centuries, from the writing of Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz right through to the work of Rebeca Uribe, Pita Amor, and Rosario Castellanos. (The latter is so renowned in literary circles that there’s a library named after her in Mexico City.)
However, important as these dominant figures of the Mexican literary world are, there are many contemporary Mexican poets equally worthy of attention, including several indigenous writers working in Zapotec and Tsotsil.
Here are just 31 notable Mexican poets that you should be reading right now, many of whom were generously recommended to me by Robin Myers and Cristy Hall.
Obligatory pre-post note: Lists are problematic and this is not exhaustive. I would encourage you to check the Mapa de escritoras mexicanas to discover more notable and contemporary Mexican poets, as well as the Poesía mexicana contemporánea blog! Furthermore, you can read the work of many of the poets mentioned below (and more) in the Nueva York Poetry Review’s first print title, and find lots of their work online for free at Poesía Mexa.
Contemporary Mexican Poets
Oaxacan-born Natalia Toledo – daughter of painter Francisco Toledo and sister to Dr Lakra – is a prolific poet who writes about women and the natural world (among other things) in both Isthmus Zapotec and Spanish. She’s been quoted as saying that poetry “saves more lives than paracetamol”, and is the author of four poetry anthologies and two short story collections.
Start with ‘Huipil’
Then read The Black Flower and Other Zapotec Poems (Phoneme, 2016; translated by Clare Sullivan)
Xel-Ha López Méndez
Born in Guadalajara, Xel-Ha López Méndez’s poetry is sometimes terse and sparing, other times sprawling, but always written in a free verse which works its way to the profound by way of the mundane; by way of Marlon Brando or Bob Dylan; by way of losing a passport or losing an abuela. She’s the author of two poetry anthologies.
Start with ‘Acariciando a charly miau después del trabajo’
Then read Crónicas de un nuevo siglo (Ediciones Ambar, 2016)
Briceida Cuevas Cob
Born in Campeche, Briceida Cuevas Cob, a poet working in Maya and Spanish, has been publishing standalone anthologies of her work since the mid-90s. Her poetry, which is intimate and concise, zooms in on everyday indigenous women and explores the tensions between the traditional and modern. She’s published three collections of bilingual poetry.
Start with this from U yok’ol auat pek’ ti kuxtal pek’ / El quejido del perro en el universo
Then read Ti’ u billil in nook’ / Del dobladillo de mi ropa (CDI, 2008)
Coral Bracho was born in Mexico City and has been a published poet since 1977. She is, understandably, prolific in the world of Mexican poetry and her poems are richly descriptive, managing to encapsulate entire universes by way of exquisitely chosen (or invented) words.
Start with ´Water of Jellyfish’
Then read Firefly Under The Tongue (New Directions, 2008; translated by Forrest Gander)
Originally from San Juan Chamula, Chiapas, Enriqueta Lunez writes sensual poetry in Tsotsil. Her near-erotic verse, which regularly centres on the female body, is often undercut by the lingering pain of colonisation, imposed religion, and loss of tradition. As she writes (in Clare Sullivan’s translation) “no one wanted to be mestizo”.
Start with ‘I am not the land of the sun’ (the third one down)
Then read New Moon/ Luna Nueva/ Yuninal Jme’tik (Ugly Duckling Presse, 2019; translated by Clare Sullivan)
Monterrey-born, Scotland-based poet and translator Juana Adcock often works bilingually, taking on subjects like geopolitics and the (literal) anatomy of violence in Mexico. She’s the author of two poetry collections: Split – a look at love, borders, and late capitalism – and Manca.
Start with ‘Juárez/Ecatepec’
Then read Split (Blue Diode Press, 2019)
Isabel Zapata – co-founder of Ediciones Antílope, translator, and poet – was born in Mexico City. Her poetry frequently touches on feminism and the natural world and is marked by curiosity and the use of free verse. She’s the author of two poetry collections.
Start with ‘Nebulosa’
Then read Una ballena no es un país (Almadía, 2019)
Poet and essayist Sara Uribe was born in Quéretaro but is a self-proclaimed norteña por adopción. In Antígona González, which exists in dialogue with Sophocles, she takes an uncompromising look at gender violence, while her work as a whole is concerned with politics, the body, and ethics.
Start with ‘Instrucciones para contar muertos’
Then read Un montón de escritura para nada (Dharma Books, 2019)
Per her own website, the poetry of Mexico City-born Rocío Cerón incorporates sound experimentation, performance, and video. Her work is, at its core, experimental, existing constantly in dialogue with the definition of poetry as an artform. As she’s said in the past “each poem is its own organic entity.”
Start with ‘Five movements from a mid-air gesture’
Then read Diorama (Deep Vellum, 2014; translated by Anna Rosenwong)
Although she was born in Guanajuato, Amaranta Caballero has been based in Tijuana for close to two decades. Her poetry explores the painful, the private, and the personal, as well as touching on topics of urbanism – always with an eye for the playful, linguistically.
Start with ‘Opción multiple’
Then read Todas estas puertas (Tierra Adentro, 2008)
Diana Garza Islas
Diana Garza Islas was born in Santiago, Nuevo León. Her work touches of wide-ranging topics like death, grief, sexuality, and the body, and is regularly fragmentary, experimental, and intertextual.
Start with ‘Tan huesolita que te ibas’
Then read Caja negra que se llame como a mí (Bonobos, 2015)
Perhaps best known as a prolific Mexican novelist with over a dozen novels to her name, Carmen Boullosa is also a poet with almost twenty published poetry collections. She has previously stated that reading “poetry recharges my batteries”. Her own poetry is lyrical and desire-filled, often marked by long, fragmentary poems born from a Latin American feminist tradition.
Start with ‘Bermuda Triangle’ (the third one down)
Then read Hatchet (Hamartia) (White Pine Press, 2020; translated by Lawrence Schimel)
The poetry of Dolores Dorantes – a writer and activist who was born in Veracruz but raised in Ciudad Juárez and currently lives in exile in El Paso, Texas – has been described as “radically humane and beautifully incisive.” Her sometimes abstract prose poems touch on topics such as migration, femicide, and eroticism and she’s the author of nine published poetry collections to date.
Start with ‘Intervenir (Fragmento)’
Then read Style (Kenning Editions, 2016; translated by Jen Hofer)
Translator, teacher, poet: Juana Karen was born in Chiapas in either 1977 or 1979, she isn’t sure which and that’s OK. She writes in ch’ol, although her poems – which talk of indigenous tradition, nature, and womanhood – have also been translated into Spanish. She won the 2020 Indigenous Literature of America award.
Start with ‘Soy un mujer ch’ol’
Then read Ipusik’al matye’lum/ Corazón de selva (Pluralia Editions,
Querétaro-born Yolanda Segura – who has excellent hair – regularly deals with the complexities and concept of identity in her often-fragmentary poetry, while many of her poems spool out from one central idea-bobbin, whether that’s the colour red or the concept of personhood. She’s the author of four published poetry collections.
Start with ‘Un cuerpo que trabaja y sin embargo’
Then read per/so/na (Almadía, 2019)
More Contemporary Mexican Poets
María Cristina Hall (Mexico City): ‘The time I realized I wasn’t white’ (the second one down)
Julia Piastro (Mexico City): ‘Colonia Juárez’ (the second one down)
Irma Pineda (Oaxaca): ‘Sun’ (the second one down)
Paula Abramo (Mexico City): ‘(Falsa) Frontera’
Nadia López García (Oaxaca): Ñu’ú vixo/ Tierra mojada (Pluralia, 2018)
Xitlálitl Rodríguez Mendoza (Jalisco): ‘A Jon’
Yelitza Ruiz (Guerrero): ‘Tianguis’
Martha Mega (Mexico City): ‘Brief’ (the second one down)
Tedi López Mills (Mexico City): ‘Untitled’ (the third one down)
Mónica Nepote (Jalisco): ‘Malaparte’
Gabriela Puente (Puebla): ‘El miedo en el sofa’
Carla Faesler (Mexico City): ‘Roswell’
Maricela Guerrero (Mexico City): ‘Brasier’
Elisa Díaz Castelo (Mexico City): ‘Ultimate Cause’
Esther M. García (Chihuahua): ‘Ejercicio 254’
Tania Carrera (Mexico City): Espejos (Editorial Gato Negro, 2013)
Jonathan Vincent HarringtonOctober 20, 2021 at 4:50 pm
Hello Lauren Cocking. I am a writer and translator and have lived in Yucatan for over 20 years. I have published a full-length translation of Feliciano Sanchez Chan’s book, Seven Dreams, originally written in Mayan and published in English and Mayan by New Native Press. You may also wish to check out the anthology LIKE A NEW SUN (Phoneme Media, edited by David Shook) which features my translations of Bricieda Cuevas Cobb. I every much enjoy your blog. Jonathan Harrington
LaurenOctober 21, 2021 at 4:20 pm
Thanks Jonathan! I’ll certainly keep my eyes peeled for LIKE A NEW SUN 🙂
xel-haSeptember 7, 2022 at 1:31 am
Dear Lauren, it is wonderful that you really took the time to read carefully everyone of us, thank you for your eye and your heart.
RonJanuary 31, 2023 at 9:39 pm
Is there a comparable list of male poets?
LaurenMay 12, 2023 at 6:13 pm
Yes, pretty much anywhere else on the internet.