Joseph Rios

2017 Notable Debut Poet by Poets & Writers Magazine;
2017  Finalist Ruth Lilly and Dorothy Sargent Fellowship

Photo credit: Amy Haberland

Photo credit: Amy Haberland


I write and speak, always, from a well-read, learned blue collar perspective. I am interested in discussions about the ways in which people of color and particularly Latinx and Chicanx folks have been kept out of the upper echelons of the literary world and how our literatures have and continue to be acts of subversion in content and form. I can do this by talking about my work and its many influences through the Chicana/o, Western, and African American canon. 


‘Voice’ and ‘epic’ are words that are distributed loosely in the poetry world. But I use them with all heat that I can muster. Joseph Rios does for Xican@ poetics what Jean Toomer’s Cane did for the Harlem Renaissance: he radicalizes it into an undeniable modernity. And like Toomer, Rios uses all the genres at his disposal. He uses the epistle, the dramatic dialogue, epigrams from popular culture, and even has a Romantic touch. Pablo Neruda hoped for a poetry that could feed us with the bounty of bread. Rios’s audiences, his carneles, want to know if poetry can fix a broken down Cherokee. That is what the poet, in the shadow of machismo and financial pragmatism, is up against. — Willie Perdomo

Rios draws readers into a combination coming-of-age story and satire of academic pretension in his audacious debut."— Publishers Weekly (starred review)



Joseph Rios is the author of Shadowboxing: Poems and Impersonations (Omnidawn). He is from Fresno's San Joaquin Valley. He's been a gardener, a janitor, a packing house supervisor, and a handyman. He is a recipient of scholarships from the Community of Writers Workshop at Squaw Valley and CantoMundo. He is a VONA alumnus and a Macondo Fellow. In 2015, he received the John K. Walsh residency fellowship from the University of Notre Dame. In 2016, his debut poetry collection was chosen by Claudia Rankine as a finalist for Omnidawn's first book prize. He was named one of the notable Debut Poets by Poets & Writers Magazine for 2017 and was a finalist for a Ruth Lilly and Dorothy Sargent fellowship. He is a graduate of Fresno City College and the University of California, Berkeley. He lives in Los Angeles.