Emmy Pérez, Texas Poet Laureate 2020, has lived in the Texas borderlands for the past 19+ years, the first six in El Paso where she has family roots before she moved to McAllen where she currently lives. She is the author of the poetry collections With the River on Our Face (University of Arizona Press) and Solstice (Swan Scythe Press). A volume of her New and Selected poems is forthcoming from TCU Press, Texas Poet Laureate series.
Pérez is a past recipient of poetry fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts, CantoMundo, the New York Foundation for the Arts, and the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown. In 2019, she received the inaugural Modesta Avila Award from LibroMobile in her hometown Santa Ana, California. She is also the recipient of the Alfredo Cisneros Del Moral Foundation Award and the James D. Phelan Award. She's held residencies at MacDowell, the Ucross Foundation, and the Atlantic Center for the Arts. Since 2008, she has been a member of the Macondo Writers' Workshop for socially engaged writers. She has also served as a member of the CantoMundo organizing committee and judged the 2018 CantoMundo poetry book prize.
Pérez's poetry has been published with the Academy of American Poets Poem-a-Day series and on the Poetry Foundation online. Her work has also been published in Split this Rock's The Quarry: A Social Justice Poetry Database and journals such as Prairie Schooner, North American Review, Indiana Review, and Pilgrimage Magazine. Her poetry anthology publications include Ghost Fishing: An Eco-Justice Poetry Anthology (U of Georgia Press), What Saves Us: Poems of Empathy & Outrage in the Age of Tr--- (Northwestern U Press), Other Musics: New Latina Poetry (U of Oklahoma Press), The Wind Shifts: New Latino Poetry (University of Arizona Press), and others. Her lyric essays have appeared in A Broken Thing: Poets on the Line (University of Iowa Press) and IMANIMAN: Poets Reflect on Transformative & Transgressive Borders in Gloria Anzaldúa's Work (Aunt Lute Books).
In El Paso, she was a member of the Women Writers' Collective. In 2017, she co-founded Poets Against Walls writing collective in the Rio Grande Valley. Her #RascuacheProductions poetry videos help document poets of the B/borderlands.
Over the years, she has served as a creative writing workshop facilitator in community-based programs and adult and juvenile detention centers. And for the past 19 years, she has taught writing at three borderland institutions, beginning at the University of Texas at El Paso (UTEP) and El Paso Community College. In 2006, she began a tenure-track position in creative writing at the University of Texas-Pan American, a legacy institution for present-day University of Texas Rio Grande Valley (UTRGV), where she's currently Professor of Creative Writing and teaches in the MFA and undergraduate creative writing programs. She also serves as Associate Director of the Center for Mexican American Studies (B3 Institute) and is an affiliate faculty member of the Mexican American Studies program. Over the years, she has directed many student-led service learning projects in community-based programs, schools, and detention centers. Since 2008, she has coordinated an annual event on campus she began with students and community members in honor of Gloria Anzaldúa: "El Retorno: El Valle Celebra Nuestra Gloria." In 2012, she received a University of Texas Regents’ Outstanding Teaching Award, and in 2016, a University Faculty Excellence Award in Student Mentoring.
Pérez is a graduate of Columbia University (MFA) and the University of Southern California (BA).