Dallas Poet Laureate Visits Greenhill


Photo Courtesy of Greenhill Communications

Dallas Poet Laureate Joaquín Zihuatanejo meeting with Assistant Head of School Tom Perryman’s Literature of Human Rights class.

Eitan Hahn and Hayden Sampson

Joaquín Zihuatanejo, the first Dallas Poet Laureate, visited Greenhill at a drop-in workshop and slam poetry recitation on Jan. 24 in the Montgomery Library.

The Poet Laureate is someone appointed by the government to write poetry that represents that city, state or country.

Among the students and faculty members in attendance was senior Madison Rojas, the first Youth Poet Laureate. Both Zihuatanejo and Rojas spoke on their writing practices and literary leadership in the Dallas community.

In the first half of the visit, Zihuatanejo led a writing activity with the various students and faculty.

“[In the past], when I would do a writing activity with students, no one wanted to share,” Zihuatanejo said. “Today, we had about three or four poets raise their hand and share their poems. I have to say, despite the fact that these were just crafted today, they were all extraordinary.”

After sharing, the participating students and faculty organized chairs into a circle. Then, they asked Zihuatanejo numerous questions involving poetry, his past experiences and more.

“What’s exciting about this two-year window is that I get to lay the foundation and the framework that others can build on to make it even bigger, better and stronger,” Zihuatanejo said.

Zihuatanejo visits many high schools around Dallas County to spread his message. His last high school visit was Bowie High School on Jan. 19. He also visited 30 Dallas public libraries in 30 hours, an attempt to promote reading and writing poetry.

Zihuatanejo’s newest project he’s working on is a book called Occupy Whiteness and is estimated to be published in December 2023. The book will encapsulate his parent’s immigrant experience, which will be controversial to some, he says.

“Not everyone is going to like my new book. People say all the time, you know, I love talking, I love your poems. Not everyone’s going to love this. And you know what? That’s okay,” Zihuatanejo said. “It’s okay if they feel this fire inside of them when I’m talking about what I’m talking about in this new collection, because that fire is called life.”

Zihuatanejo also says that there is a change in culture and environment in our community, which in part is due to the new wave of teenagers.

“I didn’t make the new rules, young folks did. Y’all invented woke and safe spaces and I love it, I love it. Because we have to think before we speak now,” Zihuatanejo said.

“Because of your young people. Y’all did that. You’re making the world a safer, more beautiful place,” he said.