Jennifer Givhan


Jennifer Givhan is a Mexican American poet and novelist with ancestral ties to the Ysleta del Sur Pueblo Indigenous peoples of the Ysleta region of El Paso, New Mexico. Givhan grew up in Southern California’s Imperial Valley to a nurse mother and high school science teacher father. At seven years old, she told her parents she was going to be a writer, to which they replied that she would go on to write the next great American novel. As she got older, however, the idea of a “great American novel” and the way they generally emphasize white, male stories became something she wanted to challenge. Though her small rural town on the Mexicali border had no real access to the greater literary community–there wasn’t much in the way of workshops or slams–her raw passion for writing would propel her toward studying literature in college where her professors would recognize and help cultivate her talent. During this time, she earned a Master’s degree in English literature and creative writing from California State University, Fullerton and an MFA in poetry from Warren Wilson College. Givhan’s writing is deeply entwined with her Mexican and Indigenous heritage and explores themes of family, motherhood, and female identity, often with hints of magical realism or science fiction. To date, she has published two novels and four collections of poetry, and she continues to work as a mentor through multiple nonprofits and organizations. She lives in Albuquerque, New Mexico with her family.


Photo Credit: J. Andrew Givhan

Protection Spell (Riot’s Eye)

They’re chasing my boy, his

dreadlocks streaming


behind him like bed sheets

from the second-story


window of a house fire


He and the asphalt



I watch and I watch

like a black hole swallowing


a baby universe. (This is the last

of the gunmetal dreams.)


I wring the blood

from my ribcage


my world in your chest, child.


When I was a child

I believed God held us


like a paper bag

to the mouth of a panic attack


How I’m holding

a city like my boy,


my boy to my own

siren wail—


How the wind-as-breath

moved us, bent our


tallest trees

to snapping, like our songs


on our knees.





Literary Movements:


Anthology Years:




Mental Health

Poems of Place

Literary Devices:


A device in which the last word or phrase of one clause, sentence, or line is repeated at the beginning of the next.


the attribution of human qualities to a non-human thing


a comparison between two unlike things using the words “like” or “as”