Alberto Ríos

Acclaimed Poet & Memoirist
Short Story Writer
National Book Award Finalist
Poet Laureate of Arizona

Readings &
Lecture Topics
  • Poems of Public Purpose
  • The Border Is What Joins Us
  • The Environment and Social Justice
  • An Evening with Alberto Ríos

Biography

“Alberto Ríos is a poet of reverie and magical perception, and of the threshold between this world and the world just beyond. With humor, compassion, and intelligence, Ríos’s poems overlay a child’s observation and imagination onto our society of daily inequity, poverty, and violence. The light of memory shines on culture, language, family, neighbors, and friends saving them all in stories that become legends, a light so sensual and full it is ‘swallowed into the mouth of the eye, / into the throat of the people.'”—National Book Award Judges’ Comments on presenting the National Book Award finalist medal to Alberto Ríos

“Ríos’ poems follow a path of wonder and gently move us to emotional truths that grab our breath and link our inner and outer landscapes. His alchemy works a transformation in the inner vision, turning us toward the deeper mystery of life itself.”—American Book Review

“Ríos’s project, indebted to magic realism but rooted in naturalism, proves ambitious. He deftly uses the couple—members, he says, of his ‘extended family’—to explore liminal spaces: they live in a border town surrounded by invisible walls, a place where the divide between body and soul, and body and body, narrows” —The New Yorker

Alberto Ríos is the author of fourteen books and chapbooks of poetry, three collections of short stories, and a memoir. He has garnered acclaim as a writer who uses language in lyrical and unexpected ways, also containing elements of magical realism, to reflect on his Chicano heritage. The son of a Mexican father from Tapachula, Chiapas, and an English mother from Warrington, Lancashire, Ríos was raised on the American side of the city of Nogales, Arizona, on the Mexican border. Growing up in Spanish-speaking family in a community where he was forced to speak English in school, led Ríos to develop a third language: “Growing up on the cusp of two cultures…undoubtedly influenced and broadened my view of what is possible in the world. For example, Hispanics and a variety of other cultures believe that humans are partners to the world rather than rulers of it. In English, one might say, I dropped the glass, while in Spanish, that same moment might be articulated as, The glass, it fell from me. English assumes human responsibility for the dropped glass, whereas Spanish assumes the glass itself is something of a sentient participant in the action. For me, this allows the world and its ways to be an active and unpredictable part of my work.” Ríos artfully captures this dual awareness in his poetry and prose.

His books of poetry include Not Go Away Is My Name (2020); A Small Story About The Sky (2015); The Dangerous Shirt (2009); The Theater of Night (2006), winner of the 2007 PEN/Beyond Margins Award; The Smallest Muscle in the Human Body (2002), a finalist for the National Book Award, all published by Copper Canyon Press; and Whispering to Fool the Wind (Sheep Meadow Press, 1982). His three collections of short stories are The Curtain of Trees (University of New Mexico Press, 1999); Pig Cookies (Chronicle Books, 1995); and The Iguana Killer (University of New Mexico Press, 1998). His memoir, Capirotada (University of New Mexico Press, 1999), about growing up on the Mexico-Arizona border, was designated as the One Book Arizona choice for 2009 and awarded the Latino Literary Hall of Fame Award.

Ríos is the recipient of the Western Literature Association Distinguished Achievement Award, the Arizona Governors Arts Award, fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation and the National Endowment for the Arts, the Walt Whitman Award, and his poems have been included in The Norton Anthology of Modern Poetry as well as in over 250 national and international literary anthologies. His work is regularly taught and translated, and has been adapted to dance and both classical and popular music. Ríos hosts the PBS show Art in the 48, which showcases artists and arts organizations in Arizona. He is the Regents Professor at Arizona State University, where he serves as the Katharine C. Turner Endowed Chair in English. In 2013, Ríos was named Arizona’s first poet laureate. He is a former chancellor of the Academy of American Poets.

Rios resides in Chandler, Arizona.

Short Bio

Alberto Ríos, award-winning writer and Arizona’s first poet laureate, is the author of thirteen books of poetry, three collections of short stories, and a memoir. The son of a Mexican father from Tapachula, Chiapas, and an English mother from Warrington, Lancashire, Ríos was raised on the American side of the city of Nogales, Arizona, on the Mexican border. Ríos is the recipient of the Arizona Governors Arts Award, fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation and the National Endowment for the Arts, the Walt Whitman Award, the Western States Book Award for Fiction, and his poems have been published in 250 other national and international literary anthologies. His work is regularly taught and translated, and has been adapted to dance and both classical and popular music. He is a chancellor of the Academy of American Poets and resides in Chandler, Arizona.

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