When Bob Dylan was announced as the recipient of the 2016 Nobel Prize for Literature, there was some kerfuffle over whether or not a musician deserved such an honor, but for poet Levi Romero, the recognition made perfect sense.
That’s because Romero was first introduced to the concept of poetry through songwriting. In middle school he scribbled song lyrics and practiced rhymes, emulating an older cousin.
He said poetry itself was not part of his school’s English curriculum, so it wasn’t until he was introduced to the songwriting of Bob Dylan that he began to see his lyrics transformed into poetry.
“The word ‘poetry’ was something that was very foreign to me,” Romero said. “What I was experimenting with was writing verses which I used to call song lyrics. . . . Eventually, I got introduced to poetry, really, through the music of Bob Dylan.”
In high school, Romero began to learn about poetry more seriously, studying the works of Emily Dickinson, Walt Whitman, Robert Frost and others. He said that education provided him with the more traditional foundation that would serve him well later.
He credits a high school guidance counselor with his first introduction to Chicano poetry and the use of vernacular, colloquialisms and the everyday language around him in poetry.
“For me, it really blew the doors open of possibility of how I could express myself through language,” he said.
With his foundation rooted in the works of his high school curriculum and his introduction to Chicano literature, Romero went on to develop his own unique style steeped in the culture around him.
Romero said he doesn’t sit down with a specific poem in mind. Rather, his writing process is rooted in a subconscious reaction to the experiences he is having and influenced by his multi-cultural and multi-linguistic upbringing.
With such specific roots, Romero said initially his publishers expected his books to reach a more narrow audience of individuals, those with similar backgrounds and experiences. So when his second book, “A Poetry of Remembrance: New and Rejected Works,” sold out within a month, everyone was surprised.
“It wasn’t just Chicanos that were buying the book, all ethnicities were buying the book and I think that is very telling of the audience that is accepting and inspired by Chicano writing,” he said.
Romero will read from his work at 7:30 p.m. on April 11 at Aquinas College’s Wege Ballroom, 1700 Fulton St. E, as part of the Contemporary Writers Series The event is free and open to the public.
*Photo courtesy of Aquinas College