Poets read for UndocuStudents Week


Poet Janine Joseph reads several of her poems at the event UndocuPoets: Resistance through the Arts event Monday evening. This event was the first in a series that Undocuhoosiers organized as part of its annual UndocuStudents Week. Cody Thompson and Cody Thompson

President Trump sent an email urging supporters on Monday to sign a petition that would defund sanctuary cities.

The email claimed Attorney General Jeff Sessions has been cracking down on sanctuary cities, or cities that allow undocumented immigrants as residents and help them avoid deportation, but the city of Seattle is slowing Sessions’ progress by suing the administration.

On the same day the email was sent, UndocuHoosiers Bloomington started an event by passing around a tablet with its own petition to create a staff position at IU that supports undocumented students.

The event was called UndocuPoets: Resistance through the Arts. It was in a garage-style building with exposed ceilings and a concrete floor and featured two poets who read their work relating to undocumented activism.

“President Trump’s always going to do a lot of crazy stuff,” said Willy Palomo, co-founder of UndocuHoosiers Bloomington. “This isn’t something shocking or something sanctuary cities aren’t prepared for.”

The poets were Janine Joseph and Christopher Soto, who went first.

He set a chair up on a raised wooden platform and set his laptop on the table in front of him.

His poems varied in length and theme, but some of them included immigration, gender, race, sexuality and incarceration.

At the conclusion of his first poem, about half of the room snapped and the other half clapped.

“And I have been marching for Black Lives and talking about the police brutality / against native communities too, for years now, but this morning / I feel it, I really feel it again,” said he, reading from his poem titled “All The Dead Boys Look Like Me.”

Boxcar Books was selling works by the poets and other writers at the side of the room, which was nearly full. The crowd began to murmur with approval after Soto concluded his poems.

“This border — is not a stitch [where nations meet]. This border is a wound // where nations part,” he read from his poem “Self Portrait as Sonoran Desert.”

During his performance, rain began to fall on the metal roof, so he had to raise his voice over it before it quickly stopped.

Soft yellow light lit the back wall and turned the poets into silhouettes to the audience. He finished his reading and stepped down. He went to Joseph, whispered something in her ear and kissed her cheek.

Joseph followed Soto on stage. She lived as an undocumented immigrant in the United States for 15 years.

“It was tough,” she said. “It was really really tough.”

She read her poem titled “Leaving the Nonprofit Immigration Lawyer’s Office,” to the crowd.

“My brothers had left and my father had left / and my mother, seven times, came and left until the ashes of seven beagles were buried in tins under the largest tree,” she said.

She read from books that she had published, and one poem even included an exclusive hand-written introduction that did not make the final cut.

It was from her poem “Between Chou and the butterfly.”

The poem drew from newspaper articles, immigration files and applications.

“Before anyone finds me I am heartwood exposed / by lightning By the Young Republicans / By newscasters playing Find the Illegal Immigrant / Find the unwed single The crier The Spouse,” she said from the poem.

Between each section, she paused.

“I hear they raid when you’re naked / in bed Packed like a sardine Pillows tucked / around you I hear Like dogs Like Alien Relatives / While you cry and hug They swarm / They ax your back door,” she said from the poem.

The event concluded with a question-and-answer session with the audience.

Every day for the rest of the week will feature one event as part of the 
UndocuStudents Week.

The event Tuesday is called UndocuBlack: A Conversation about Criminalization and Policing, which will be at 6:30 p.m. in Ballantine 310.

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