We had the good fortune of connecting with Luivette Resto and we’ve shared our conversation below.

Hi Luivette, where are your from? We’d love to hear about how your background has played a role in who you are today?
I was born in Aguas Buenas, Puerto Rico and proudly raised in the Bronx. Even though I have lived in Los Angeles for 19 years now, I carry the Bronx and Puerto Rico with me. The island is my first home but growing up in the Bronx in the 80s and 90s taught me invaluable lessons about resilience, confidence, and fearlessness. I think of these things when I walk into a faculty meeting, when I speak Spanish, and when I teach my students about literature and the difficulties of grammar. I remind them that I didn’t speak English when I entered kindergarten. That I codeswitch regularly. That I grew up as my family’s translator. Many of them are in the same position. They know that feeling of having to speak one language with family and having to switch gears at school. I can tell they appreciate the empathy and compassion.

Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
I wrote my first poem in 7th grade and didn’t write another one until college. It took me a long time to call myself a poet. What I am most proud of is setting an example for my children. I grew up with guidance counselors who made me take an extensive questionnaire and the results of it provided me with possible future careers. Poet/artist/writer was not listed. My children are the ones who motivate me the most. I want them to know that they will always have options. That they can study more than one thing. Be more than one thing. Change paths even in their 40s. Professionally, what brought me to poetry is the encouragement of professors and mentors from Helena Viramontes at Cornell to Martín Espada at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. The poetry road is not easy, especially being a bilingual woman of color. I was blatantly told in graduate school by a Pulitzer prize winning professor that there was no place for bilingualism in poetry. At 22 years old and in my first semester of a six semester MFA program, I wanted to drop out. If it weren’t for Martín’s encouragement that I did belong there, I would have left UMass. One of the best lessons I have learned is to stop comparing myself and my journey to others. For awhile I kept feeling like a failure because I wasn’t publishing or writing as much as my peers or that I couldn’t apply for residencies because childcare isn’t available at many of these residencies. After some time, I learned that we are all going at our own pace. I hope that when folks read my work that they see themselves in some way. That they are comforted or feel heard/seen like I did when I read Judith Ortiz Cofer, Sandra Cisneros, and Dorothy Parker for the first time.

If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
In the past when friends visited me, they wanted to do the typical LA tour, so I ended up taking them to the Hollywood sign, Kodak Theatre, Griffith Observatory, Santa Monica pier, Venice Beach, etc. However, my favorite places to take them to is the central coast, driving along PCH. I really enjoy Solvang, Santa Maria, and the San Luis Obispo area. They are not too far away from LA, and it shows people more than what they see on TV or films.

The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
I want to shout out my LA poetry community. For 19 years they have become some of my closest friends and co-conspirators. I have been blessed to work, read, write, laugh, and revise alongside some of the most beautiful and giving artists. For instance, Luis J. Rodriguez published my first poetry collection and believed in me and my words. He provided me with the space and welcomed me into the Tia Chucha family. Luis likes to remind me that after 19 years Los Angeles is my home just as much as New York City. That it cares and holds space for me too, and he is absolutely right.

Website: luivette.com

Instagram: lulubell.96

Twitter: https://twitter.com/LuivetteResto

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/luivette.resto

Image Credits
Reynaldo Macias and David Romero

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