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A PLAY ON WORDS Poetry slam to feature performance artists

Albuquerque’s poet laureate and a UTRGV student featured on the “Russell Simmons Presents Def Poetry” show will perform Thursday and Friday on both campuses of the university.

Amalia Ortiz, who is pursuing a master’s in creative writing, will open for Jessica Helen Lopez, the poet laureate of the City of Albuquerque, New Mexico. The show is titled “Más Palabras: Slam Poetry by the City Poet Laureate of Burque.” Ortiz recently published “Rant. Chant. Chisme.” (Wings Press, 2015) a collection of her work.

“I’d like students to feel a sense of pride in their Latino heritage …,” Ortiz said in a telephone interview last Thursday. “I hope that in hearing our stories they feel inspired to write and share stories of their own.”

The graduate student was featured on three seasons of “Russell Simmons Presents Def Poetry” on HBO and the NAACP Image Awards on FOX.

“They have important messages to relate about issues important to our border communities and the world,” said Emmy Pérez, an associate professor in the UTRGV English Department. “To see them together, I think it will show students what is possible in performance.”

Lopez has been featured as one of 30 Poets in their 30s by Muzzle, an online literary magazine. She is a nationally recognized award-winning slam poet and is the 2012 and 2014 Women of the World City of ABQ Champion.

Both artists describe themselves as Chicana feminist poets.

“They will really make a great impact on the audience,” Perez said. “They write about a lot of similar themes and they have completely different representations, performance styles, so I think they will complement each other.”

Lopez graduated with a bachelor’s degree in creative writing with an emphasis in poetry from the University of New Mexico, where she is an adjunct professor.

Her advice for future poets is, “First, is to write for yourself and then to share it with others. By doing that you are allowing other people to hear your experiences. They can relate to it.”

Lopez and Ortiz will perform at 6 p.m. Thursday in the Student Union theater in Edinburg and at noon Friday in the Student Union’s Gran Salón in Brownsville. Admission is free. The event is part of UTRGV’s observance of Hispanic Heritage Month.

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