Joaquín Zihuatanejo, the first poet laureate of Dallas, was honored in a ceremony on April 6th at City Hall, where Mayor Eric Johnson also declared April as Poetry Month in Dallas. Madison Rojas, who attends Greenhill School, was named the Dallas Youth Poet Laureate.
Joaquín Zihuatanejo, “a former prize-winning slam poet-turned-teacher-turned-motivational speaker,” grew up in East Dallas. After graduating Woodrow Wilson High School, Zihuatanejo attended the University of North Texas and received a MFA from the Institute of American Indian Arts.
As an adult, he entered the slam poetry scene, according to KERA’s Jerome Weeks. “In 2008, Zihuatanejo was the Individual World Poetry Slam Champion, and the following year, the World Cup of Poetry Slam Champion in Paris, France. Since then, Zihuatanejo has quit regular teaching to tour, performing at spoken-word events, speaking at TEDx talks and conducting workshops in poetry.”
Zihuatanejo has also written six poetry collections. His most recent, Arsonist, won the 2017 Anhinga-Robert Dana Prize for Poetry. Zihuatanejo and his work have also been featured in Prairie Schooner, Huizache, Sonora Review, NBC-DFW, HBO, and NPR.
The city decided to name a poet laureate after a collaboration between the Dallas Office of Arts and Culture, the Dallas Public Library, and local publisher Deep Vellum Publishing.
The two-year appointment comes with a $20,000 dollar honorarium and in the future, it will become a one-year appointment. Zihuatanejo also received a $2,000 advance from Deep Vellum to go toward building his seventh published poetry collection.
Read more about Joaquín on his website.