José Olivarez


José Olivarez is the son of Mexican immigrants. His debut book of poems, Citizen Illegal, was a finalist for the PEN/ Jean Stein Award and a winner of the 2018 Chicago Review of Books Poetry Prize. It was named a top book of 2018 by The Adroit Journal, NPR, and the New York Public Library. Along with Felicia Chavez and Willie Perdomo, he co-edited the poetry anthology, The BreakBeat Poets Vol. 4: LatiNEXT. He is the co-host of the poetry podcast, The Poetry Gods. In 2018, he was awarded the first annual Author and Artist in Justice Award from the Phillips Brooks House Association and named a Debut Poet of 2018 by Poets & Writers. In 2019, he was awarded a Ruth Lilly and Dorothy Sargent Rosenberg Poetry Fellowship from the Poetry Foundation. His work has been featured in The New York Times, The Paris Review, and elsewhere. Source

Getting Ready to Say I Love You to My Dad, It Rains

i love you dad, i say to the cat.

i love you dad, i say to the sky.

i love you dad, i say to the mirror.


it rains, & my mom's plants

open their mouths. my dad stays

on the couch. maybe the couch opened


its mouth & started eating my dad. 

i love you dad, i say to the couch,

its tongue working my dad like a puppet.


i hear the rain fall & think the city is drinking.

or making itself clean. i am here

with my dad & the TV & the TV drones


on & on, so i'm not sure i hear it--

my dad grunting and nodding,

not the mushy stuff i was expecting,


neither of us cry, no hug or kiss.

a grunt & a nod.  i love* you dad,

i say to my dad.  we sit together


and watch TV.  outside it rains. my dad

turns the volume up. the city is drunk.

the city is singing badly in the shower.


i killed a plant once because i gave

it too much water. lord, i worry

that love is violence.  my dad is silent


& our relationship is not new or clean.

i killed a plant once because i didn't give

it enough water. my dad & i watch TV


on a rainy day. we rinse our mouths 

with this water.


*America loves me most when i strum a Spanish song. mi boca guitarrón. when i say me estoy muriendo, they say that's my jam.





Literary Movements:


Anthology Years:




Intersectionality & Culture

Poems of Place

Literary Devices:


a figure of speech in which words repeat at the beginning of successive clauses, phrases, or sentences


the attribution of human characteristics or behavior to a god, animal, or object


the attribution of human qualities to a non-human thing