Participant Spotlight: Javier Zamora

Posted by on January 16th, 2018

Javier Zamora’s first full-length collection, Unaccompanied, debuted in September of 2017 with the kind of fanfare most poets only dream of. But he remembers when, just seven years earlier, he attended the Napa Valley Writers’ Conference as a novice.

“I was 20 years old, a sophomore in college, and someone there  believed in me enough to grant me a scholarship,” he recalled. “The support I received from everyone, teacher, students, staff,  was the wind I needed to believe my words could fly.”

The workshop Zamora joined that year with Brenda Hillman was his first ever; in 2011, he returned to Napa to work with Major Jackson. Poems he first wrote at the conference appear in Unaccompanied.

“In a very literal way, the time and space provided by the conference helped me plant the seeds to what would become a book seven years later,” he said.

From Napa and his undergraduate years at the University of California at Berkeley, Zamora went on to publish a chapbook, Nueve Años Inmigrantes, in 2011, and then earn his MFA from New York University.

Currently, Zamora is a 2016-2018 Wallace Stegner Fellow and holds fellowships from CantoMundo, Colgate University, MacDowell, the National Endowment for the Arts, Poetry Foundation, and Yaddo. The recipient of a 2017 Lannan Literary Fellowship, the 2017 Narrative Prize, and the 2016 Barnes and Noble Writer for Writers Award,  Zamora’s poems appear in Granta, Poetry, The Kenyon Review, The New York Times, and elsewhere.

Unaccompanied documents Zamora’s emigration from El Salvador at the age of nine, crossing the border solo on foot before reuniting with his parents, who had arrived in the U.S. before him. Through his poems, Zamora humanizes the polarizing immigration debate.

“The poems are written in a searching, confessional style, in which their author recalls his life as though he is in conversation with the people who helped to shape it,” said The New Yorker in its profile of Zamora.

KQED Arts hailed Zamora’s “courageous offering,” saying, “Unaccompanied is a collection populated by deserts, border violence, a family’s desperate claim to survive, and the conjuring up and remembrance of a country left behind.”

Read more:
Visit Javier Zamora’s Web site
Sample a selection of Zamora’s poems via the Poetry Foundation Web site
Hear Zamora’s collection featured in a recent NPR piece on “3 Books That Capture America in Poetry

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