In the writing world, April is a big deal. April is National Poetry Writing Month and El Paso is kicking the month off by bringing a huge name in the literary world to our wonderful Sun City.

JZ lookin' casual and cool
JZ lookin' casual and cool

On April 3rd, multi-time world slam poetry champion and current Dallas Poet Laureate, Joaquin Zihuatanejo, is going to be hosting a writing workshop AND reading his new book, Occupy Whiteness, at the legendary El Paso art space, Power At The Pass.

Legendary art and film studio, Power at The Pass (F.A. Montejano)
Legendary art and film studio, Power at The Pass (F.A. Montejano)

Joaquin will lead a writing workshop with The Barbed Wire Open Mics writing workshop series, WRITE/WORK, before switching gears and opening the space up for a reading.

For any literary heads or writers, the workshop is all about whats underneath the words of a poem.

Flyer for Joaquins visit to El Paso (F.A. Montejano)
Flyer for Joaquins visit to El Paso (F.A. Montejano)

"In this interactive, generative creative writing workshop, two-time World Poetry Slam Champion, Joaquín Zihuatanejo, will challenge attendees to think about what lies beneath the surface of a poem. We will concentrate on what's being said just below what's written. Call it the underlying architecture and how it extends from the poem to the entire manuscript. We will dig deep to mine the stuff that glitters. And we will pull from the images created on the surface to generate poems that are so deep they are unfathomable. The workshop will include poems performed by Joaquín, and the stories of their generative moment. But the workshop will also include a guided meditative series of moments that will lead to expressive prose pieces that we will then mine for verse. Sound intimidating? Trust us, it won't be as award-winning teacher and inaugural Dallas Poet Laureate, Joaquín Zihuatanejo, will be there to guide us through every step."

Joaquin calls it "A Walk In The Woods" and is looking forward to seeing new faces come out to celebrate the book and explore their words in new ways.

After the workshop, Joaquin will stick around to answer some questions before his reading from "Occupy Whiteness," his latest book.


Joaquín Zihuatanejo was recently named the inaugural Dallas Poet Laureate for 2022-2024. Hailed as “The People’s Poet” by The Dallas Morning News, Joaquín credits his Abuelo, who was the first person to place a book in his hands and challenge him to read aloud, as his first teacher and the source of his poetic inspiration. He received his MFA in creative writing from the Institute of American Indian Arts in Santa Fe, New Mexico. His work has been published in Southwestern American Literature, Yellow Medicine Review, Sonora Review, among other journals and anthologies. His poetry has been featured on HBO, NBC, and on NPR in Historias and The National Teacher’s Initiative. His new collection of poetry, Occupy Whiteness, is out now from Deep Vellum Publishing. Joaquín was recently named a Poet Laureate Fellow by the Academy of American Poets and received a $50,000 prize in honor of the good work he has done in Dallas as their first poet laureate. Joaquín has two passions in his life, his wife Aída and poetry. Always in that order.

About Occupy Whiteness:

Joaquín Zihuatanejo’s new collection, Occupy Whiteness, is an act of rebellion that reclaims spaces and highlights a history of erasure of Brown life. Starting from long form works of literature by straight, white men, Zihuatanejo occupies their pages, erasing words and sections, leaving only his erasure behind¾the white space that remains inside and around the erasure becoming a colonized space. A white space colonized by Brown verse.

An unflinching look at the present day, the collection is haunted and blessed by the image of ancestors who braved the river and the desert to travel into border states for the opportunity of freedom. These are poems meant to agitate and create unease, to make the reader realize that neither the author nor the immigrant children he describes are Other. Through poems, interspersed micro essays, full length essays in translation, and photography from the border, Zihuatanejo poignantly depicts this equally beautiful and brutal place we call home.

Book Blurb for Occupy Whiteness:

“Here’s a comprehensive list of everyone who should get this book:


I had to take it slow, in brief sessions, because it’s so evocative. It will take you places. It took me back to the barrios of LA when I was a young outreach counselor.

It took me to every long drive up and down the CA coast where we see farm workers and their back breaking labor in real time as they bend over the crops next to the freeway that we will all buy cheaply because of their labor. (Most of us thoughtlessly and without due gratitude.)

It took me to the border where a few weeks ago Texas state troopers prevented Border Patrol agents from helping a drowning mother and two little kids as they tried to swim across the Rio Grande.

It took me to the inside of the heart of the colonizer…you WILL Occupy Whiteness. Not an easy read but a necessary one for all of us. And if you think you don’t like poetry, think again…this important little manifesto just might convert you.”

-Corie Skolnick

Author of Orphan

Additional Book Blurb for Occupy Whiteness:

“Joaquín Zihuatanejo’s Occupy Whiteness is a bold and incredible feat of poetry by a singular poet. His voice boils down novels into lyrical, bare experiences of a Dallas childhood marked by complex questions of family and masculinity. A bilingual book, photographs and essays are peppered throughout to complicate the world with people. They are alive, speaking, and paving the way to say, ‘Brown is / thunderous / pastoral / beautiful / a plentiful landscape / steeped in sacrifice.’ What’s left are snapshots of a family learning to overlay their life on a new landscape. The poems startle me with their arrival and often ask difficult questions that still leave me in beautiful places. This is a remarkable book that will stay with you.”

-Sebastián H. Páramo, PhD

Author of Portrait of Us Burning

Catch Joaquin at Power at The Pass located on 1931 Myrtle Ave on April 3rd from 3pm-8pm.

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