Category Archives: Featured Writer

José Olivarez’s “A Mexican Dreams of Heaven” and “My Family Never Finished Migrating, We Just Stopped”

Two poems by José Olivarez are featured in The Adroit Journal: “A Mexican Dreams of Heaven” and “My Family Never Finished Migrating, We Just Stopped”

Issue Twenty-Four: José Olivarez | The Adroit Journal

In this  Oct. 16,  2018 interview in the New York Times, Olivarez is joined by Latinx writers Julissa Arce and Jose Antonio Arce to discuss “immigration, belonging, and mental health: “3 Writers on the Emotional Toll of Being Undocumented.”


Essay by José Olivarez: “Maybe Poetry Could Save My Life”

In this essay published in The Medium in September 2018, José Olivarez discusses his shift in his understanding that education is related to power, his early reading of work by Latinx writers, and his beginning as new poet. He also discusses the role of mentoring newer poets and how that influences his current writing.

From the essay: “Maybe I could write the stories I was craving to read. Maybe I could save myself by writing.”




Interview with José Olivarez: The Paris Review

Jose Olivarez and his book-Citizen Illegal

Jose Olivarez-Paris Review

In this Paris Review interview, published in August 2018, José Olivarez discusses his poem, “There Are No White People in  Heaven,”  gentrification and the importance of writing poetry that speaks to his own generations. He states:

“A lot of the poems are about my family, my experience as a first generation Mexican-American Chicano, and I wanted to write poems that were not shameful, not ashamed. I wanted them to be poems that my brother wouldn’t be embarrassed to show his co-workers, that my mom could share with the family, with her co-workers, that my students would want to give to their friends. I didn’t want them to look at the poems and think wow, José is so ashamed of us, or, José is so sad to be a part of us. I am very proud of my people, where I come from, and my community. ”

The interview is titled after a poem by Olivarez, the first of two poems in The Adroit Journal, also featured on this OpenLab site.

The interview:

There Are No White People in Heaven: An Interview with José Olivarez

Rowan Ricardo Phillips’ The Ground

Heaven-Photo: Farrar, Straus, and Giroux

In a discussion with poet Lawrence Joseph about his work on his debut book of poetry, The Ground, (FSG, 2012) Phillips discusses  his work as a translator and a literary critic and how these affect his creative lens. He also discusses the importance of myth, story, and disturbances of the natural world in his work, stating: “There’s something monumental and terrifying about myth when it’s allowed to become again something more than a euphemism for fiction––as in “that’s just a myth”––and it creeps with conviction into your belief system.”

The Ground will be available in the City Tech bookstore.

Rowan Ricardo Phillips: Heaven

Heaven-Photo: Farrar, Straus, and Giroux

In Rowan Ricardo Phillips’ second collection of poetry, he considers:”Who the hell’s heaven is this?” and follows with an inquiry that ends with poetic uncertainty. According to Alan Gilbert in Bookforum, “Phillips’s emphasis on letting the strange remain strange, letting difference remain difference, because social and political progress entails learning to speak across differences as much as similarities.” Also a teacher, Phillips shared his process of these poems, offering  drafts from his own notebooks via social media at the time of the book’s publication.

Heaven will be available in the City Tech bookstore.

Featured Speaker: Rowan Ricardo Phillips

Rowan Ricardo Phillips, photo: BlueFlower Arts

We are pleased to announce this year’s guest speaker, poet and essayist Rowan Ricardo Phillips. Phillips is author of two poetry collections published by Farrar, Straus and Giroux: Heaven (2015) and The Ground: Poems (2013).  Phillips is the the recipient of a 2015 Guggenheim fellowship for poetry, the Whiting Writers’ Award, the PEN/Joyce Osterweil Award and the GLCA New Writers Award for Poetry, and the Anisfield-Wolf Book Award for Heaven, an award that recognizes  works that contribute to our understanding racism and cultural diversity.


Phillips’ poetry and writing has appeared in The New Republic, The New Yorker, Poetry, Granta, and The Paris Review. He is a contributing writer for Artforum Magazine and has written extensively online about soccer for The New Republic and The Paris Review, where he also contributes a column on basketball. In addition to his work in the field of poetry, Phillips writes literary criticism, art criticism, literary sports writing, and non-fiction. The author of the influential critical study of poetry When Blackness Rhymes with Blackness, Phillips is also the translator of Salvador Espriu’s story collection Ariadne in the Grotesque Labyrinth as well as numerous other works from Catalan, Spanish, and Italian.


Born in New York City in 1974 Phillips earned his BA at Swarthmore College and his PhD at Brown University. He has taught at Stony Brook, Princeton, Harvard, and Columbia. A Fellow of the New York Institute for the Humanities at NYU, he divides his time between New York City and Barcelona.

Mary Gaitskill’s The Mare

Mary Gaitskill’s recent novel The Mare, published in November 2005, tells the story of Ginger, a married woman in upstate New York, and Velvet, a Dominican girl from Williamsburg and Crown Heights, Brooklyn, who comes to live with Ginger and Paul intermittently through the Fresh Air Fund. As Ginger and Velvet begin to depend on and find depth through their evolving relationship, the differences between their lives are illuminated and challenged; while an unwieldy horse offers an opportunity for Velvet and Ginger to prove to themselves and others the power of individual determination and of learning how to offer and receive love.The Mare will soon be available in City Tech bookstore.The book has received critical acclaim including:

Mary Gaitskill’s Don’t Cry

Mary Gaitskill Don't CryIn her third book of short stories, Don’t Cry, Gaitskill continues her exploration of human failings and confusions in ten short stories. These works take a turn with a deeper exploration of mothering and the bewilderment of violence and its effects. The volume contains the story “The Arms and Legs of the Lake.” Don’t Cry will soon be available in the City Tech bookstore. (Image: Amazon)