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Author Spotlight: Jose Hernandez Diaz

March 2024 | Acre Books | 82 pages

ISBN: 978-1-946724-73-1


How did your relationship with your family influence your writing?


The first section has a couple dedications to my family, specifically, my parents. My parents immigrated from Mexico to California so I am always conscious of their sacrifice and vision for my siblings and I. Being Mexican American it is easy and an honor to write about family including cousins. Nowadays, my best friends are my siblings and cousins and parents. It can, however, be difficult to write about hard times with family and sometimes I feel odd about them reading those types of hardship poems but they have to be written.




What is your current obsession? Short lines, slant rhymes, couplets, trees, etc.


I am currently still obsessed with prose poetry but am also obsessed with odes. Inspired by Neruda’s “Elemental Odes” I like to write odes to everyday images from my life including “Ode to the Pinata,” “Ode to Agua de Jamaica,” “Ode to the Tacos from Guisados in Los Angeles, CA,” “Ode to Immigrant Workers,” etc. I think we are often looked down on as Latinos by the larger society as a whole, so my “odes” are a way of celebrating and acknowledging the worth of my community.

Did another artform influence this work? Painting, music, dancing, etc.


This book is influenced by the paintings of Frida Kahlo, Diego Rivera, Jean-Michael Basquiat, Pablo Picasso, Joan Miró, Jackson Pollock, Leonora Carrington, the music of Chicano Batman, Thee Sacred Souls, Rage Against the Machine, Durand Jones and the Indications, Ramon Ayala, The Mars Volta, MF DOOM, the ballet of Mexican Prima Ballerina Elisa Carrillo Cabrera, the piano of Frederic Chopin.




Outside of writing, what are some of your passions or hobbies?


Boxing. History of Painting/Art, Mexican Food, Surfing videos, Rap, Rock, Banda, Música Ranchera, karaoke, poesía en español, family time with my sobrinos, green tea matchas with boba, coffee, libraries, bookstores, watching Lakers, Rams, Dodgers.




How did you get into writing? Can you pinpoint a memory where it all began for you?


My high school English teacher Mrs. Weir saw something in me. At the time I was getting bad grades and getting suspended playing football and she encouraged me to try harder. She was the first one to call me a “writer.” I ran with it. Got straight A’s. First time I felt someone who I wasn’t related to believed in me in an honest way.




Do you have any advice for new and emerging writers? Is there anything you wish you knew?


It is a marathon not a sprint. Prolific writers are first prolific readers. Teaching is just as prestigious as writing and publishing. Treat others with respect to get respect back. Cruelty and jealousy have no part in art or poetry. Read. Edit. Submit. Repeat.




If you could have a dinner party with anyone living or dead, who would it be and why? What would you serve for dinner?


I would love to have a dinner party of In-N-Out with James Tate, Ada Limón, Jenny Zhang, Erika L. Sanchez, Terrance Hayes, Alberto Rios, Marosa di Giorgio, Octavio Paz, Homero Aridjis, Rosario Castellanos, José Emilio Pacheco, Wallace Stevens and Mina Loy.



William Carlos Williams is synonymous with plums. If you had to choose one fruit and one animal/plant/celestial body that would forever remind people of you, what would you choose and why?


The Jaguar and the Mango. Because it is a prose poem I wrote (and published in Poetry Magazine) after Laura Villareal posted a similar prompt about a fruit and animal. In fact, just last week a high school class in Scotland messaged me via Twitter and told me they read this prose poem and they asked me questions about it.


Jose Hernandez Diaz is a 2017 NEA Poetry Fellow. He is the author of The Fire Eater (Texas Review Press, 2020) Bad Mexican, Bad American (Acre Books, 2024) and The Parachutist (Sundress Publications, 2025). He has been published in The American Poetry Review, The Yale Review, The London Magazine, Poetry Wales, The Iowa Review, Huizache, The Missouri Review, Epoch Magazine, The Nation, Poetry, The Progressive,, The Southern Review, and in The Best American Nonrequired Reading. He teaches generative workshops for Hugo House, Lighthouse Writers Workshops, The Writer's Center, and elsewhere. Additionally, he serves as a Poetry Mentor in The Adroit Journal Summer Mentorship Program.


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