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  • Laura Villareal

Introducing Unique Niche, a new review column focused on small press books

Poetry lovers, if you've spent any time reading book reviews in the last few years you've likely come across one by Diego Báez. He's been a reviewer for Booklist, a board member for National Book Critics Circle, and has published poems in a number of places. I have personally enjoyed reading his capsule reviews on Poetry Foundation's Harriet Books. This is just a small list of ways he's contributed to the literary community as a poet and critic.

I first met Diego (virtually) while we were part of National Book Critics Circle's Emerging Critic Fellowship in 2020. In the Emerging Critics Zoom meetings, I grew to know Diego as a thoughtful critic. His reviews often demonstrate a poet's love of language through their lyrical and attentive criticism. Those qualities, of course, will be apparent as you read his reviews. During our time as Emerging Critics, I also learned that like me, he is a Rutgers University—Newark alum and worked with the incomparable writer and critic Rigoberto González. Witnessing Rigoberto's commitment to community and work as a literary citizen as a young writer influenced the trajectory of my work. If I had to venture a guess, I'd say it likely influenced Diego's as well.

So it is with great excitement that I announce Diego's next project as a book critic, Unique Niche, a review series that will focus on small press books by Latinx authors.

In the first installment of Unique Niche, Diego writes about The Loose Pearl by Paula Ilabaca Núñez, translated by Daniel Borzutzky which won the PEN Award for Poetry In Translation. The judges of the PEN Award, said the following of the book: "The Spanish of Ilabaca Nuñez is neatly and brilliantly rendered so that the anguish of experience comes through; Borzutzky extends the legacy of revolutionary Chilean poetry through this deft work, adding to a complex national and global conversation about what poetry can do for and in the social and political spheres, and how translation raises words and bodies to the stage.”

Diego's review will go live on May 24th so stay tuned.


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