Creative Writing MFA Alumni Spotlight: Francisco Aragón ('03)

Author: Paul Cunningham

"I was affiliated with [University of Notre Dame], but I wasn't teaching; I was a full-time arts administrator. I was able to cultivate more meaningful and substantive initiatives that led to a more national footprint. That was when I [and Letras Latinas] began to collaborate with the Library of Congress, the Smithsonian American Art Museum, the Folger Shakespeare Library, the Poetry Society of America. I would be remiss if I didn't mention how crucial Letras Latinas' ties are with Notre Dame's Creative Writing program. We typically tap MFA students to introduce our visiting poets as well as conduct our oral history video interviews."


— Francisco Aragón, Poets & Writers

A 2003 alum of the MFA in Creative Writing program at the University of Notre Dame, Francisco Aragón was recently interviewed by Emily Pérez for Poets & Writers.  From sharing the origin story of Letras Latinas (the literary initiative at Notre Dame's Institute for Latino Studies) to big-picture ideas for the future, there's no denying that Aragón has and will continue to support established and emerging voices in contemporary Latinx poetry. Currently, Letras Latinas is celebrating its 20th anniversary and, in Fall 2022, the intiative was recognized by the Poetry Foundation with a $40,000 Equity in Verse Grant. Since being awarded the prestigious grant, Letras Latinas has been able to continue producing Curated Conversation(s): A Latinx Poetry Show and hosting major poetry events like "Latinx Poetics: A One Day Gathering," which featured Sheryl Luna, Adela Najarro, ire'ne lara silva, José E. Limón, and Orlando Ricardo Menes. The poets were also introduced by Notre Dame MFA students Kristyn Garza ('23), Alaina Johansson ('24), and Emiliano Gomez ('25).
In the Poets & Writers interview, Aragón mentions further plans for fundraising, his desire to bring U.S. Latinx poets to U.K. poetry festivals in 2025; and a new anthology (Together We'll Be a Song) co-edited with Laura Villareal, an associate of Letras Latinas and co-editor of the Letras Latinas Blog 2. From book reviews to interviews, the blog has placed a spotlight on many noteworthy poets and translators including Éric Morales-Franceschini, Yvette Neisser, Xavier Cavazos, Amanda Berenguer, Kristin Dykstra, Joshua Garcia, Gary Soto, and many others. When Pérez asks what advice Aragón would give to his younger self, he answers, "Be prepared to teach yourself to cultivate relationships, because you never know who you might meet who might have ideas for future collaborative partnernships. Also, you might meet someone who might eventually become a donor." 
A collection of poetry and prose exploring the poetic legacy of Rubén Darío, After Rubén (Red Hen Press, 2020) is Aragón's third and most recent full-length book. Juan Felipe Herrera calls After Rubén "[r]are for it's intimate, deep voices and expansive, chromatic treks." Describing his lines as "pulsating" and "sonically charged," Ada Limón recognizes the poems as speaking to both "individual Latinx experience and the universal desire to belong, to be heard." Noting the translatory aspects of the collection, Carmen Giménez likens Aragón's new poems to "ekphrastic re-visions" of Darío's original poems, calling them "illuminat[ing]" and "daring."
In the true spirit of community, Aragón also recently traveled to Kansas City for the annual AWP conference and gave an inspring reading at Notre Dame's Creative Writing MFA Alumni & Faculty offsite event.  He was joined by other distinguished MFA alumni including Lily Hoàng, Susan Blackwell Ramsey, Marcela Sulak, and others.
Francisco Aragon AWP

"Letras Latinas' mission is to amplify and support our storytellers-poets, playwrights, fiction writers, essayists. As long as our community is producing storytellers, and as long as we live in an environment in which communities are battling being erased—think about the political climate we're currently in in the U.S., with the attempted banning of library books by LGBTQ and Black voices—I don't envision the scenario where it's 'mission accomplished'"

— Francisco Aragón, Poets & Writers

Francisco Aragón is the son of Nicaraguan immigrants. A native of San Francisco, California, he holds degrees in Spanish from UC Berkeley and NYU. Upon his return to the U.S. in 1998 after a decade in Spain, Aragón completed graduate degrees in creative writing from UC Davis and the University of Notre Dame. In 2003 he joined the faculty of the University of Notre Dame’s Institute for Latino Studies where he established Letras Latinas. A CantoMundo fellow and a member of the Macondo Writers’ Workshop, Aragón is the author of three books: Puerta del Sol and Glow of Our Sweat were published in 2005 and 2010, respectively. His third book, After Rubén, was published in 2020. He was also the editor of the anthology, The Wind Shifts: New Latino Poetry, which was published in 2007. His Tongue a Swath of Sky, his fourth chapbook, was released in 2019. Previous chapbooks include Tertulia, In Praise of Cities, and Light, Yogurt, Strawberry Milk. His poems and translations have appeared in various print and online journals, as well as over twenty anthologies. His work as a translator includes four books by Francisco X. Alarcón, as well as work by Spanish poets Federico García Lorca and Gerardo Diego. More recently, he’s been rendering versions of the Nicaraguan poet, Rubén Darío. He has read from his work widely, including at universities, galleries, and bookstores. He’s been a featured poet at the Split This Rock Poetry Festival as well as the Dodge Poetry Festival. Aragón spends the fall and spring semester on the Notre Dame campus where he teaches courses in Latinx poetry and creative writing. ​Otherwise, he currently resides in Hawaii.

Originally published by Paul Cunningham at on February 20, 2024.