Photo Credit- Brian Berger, Instagram: bab623
Emanuel Xavier was born in Brooklyn, New York, and became involved in the ball scene as a homeless gay teen. Over a span of twenty-five years, Xavier has received recognition as a spoken word artist from national colleges and universities. He has been named an LGBTQ Icon by The Equality Forum and has been presented a New York City Council Citation Award. Xavier has received an International Latino Book Award, Lambda Literary Award nominations and American Library Association Over the Rainbow Books selections for his collections which include: Pier Queen, Americano, If Jesus Were Gay, Nefarious, Radiance and Selected Poems of Emanuel Xavier. He is also editor of Me No Habla With Acento: Contemporary Latino Poetry, Bullets & Butterflies: queer spoken word poetry and Mariposas: A Modern Anthology of Queer Latino Poetry. He is the recipient of a Gay City Impact Award and The Marsha A. Gomez Cultural Heritage Award. Xavier founded the Penguin Random House LGBTQ Network and is on the Board of The Publishing Triangle. The author and editor of several books, Xavier continues to read his work across the country.
"I would like to be remembered as someone who dared pursue his passion despite many hardships and all the challenges faced making that dream come true. My work may not be the most prolific or profound, but it is a genuine voice representing many queer Latinx stories. Our experiences may be unique but, if you read between the lines, we share a universal truth." — Emanuel Xavier
by Emanuel Xavier
(from Selected Poems of Emanuel Xavier)
This poem is very dear to me because it was written as a tribute to the ball House scene, which I have been part of and provided me with the thick skin I needed to survive in the world and as a spoken word artist. The first time I had the opportunity to read it publicly in front of the community was at a memorial event for Pepper LaBeija from Paris Is Burning. However, my most memorable and personal moment with this poem was when my ‘sista’ Willi Ninja (also from Paris Is Burning) was on his death bed at Mount Sinai hospital in Uptown New York City. I would visit him often and one day he asked me to read this poem for him. I knew then that it would be the last time I would see him alive. It was as if he had asked for me to read him his last rites. These were the final words I ever said to him. He passed away a few days later.
Selected Poems of Emanuel Xavier
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”It feels shallow to say these poems are beautiful, as if that's the best art could aspire to, so I'll say that and add by beautiful I mean, if you can be taken through this life, and pull this from your heart to offer us, this trip through a life and a city and the people here, then yes, this book is beautiful, majestic, a triumph for the way poetry can take the small story of a person, and the enormous one, of a country, or two or three, and make these songs that explain each to the other. The result is a powerful testament to Xavier's poetic talents and his legacy." — Alexander Chee, fiction writer, poet & journalist
For the first time ever, a selected poetry collection spanning over two decades from Emanuel Xavier, renowned LGBTQ poet and one of the Latinx community’s treasures.
When he first emerged as a Nuyorican Poets Café slam poet in the 1990s, Emanuel Xavier quickly took his place as one of the first openly queer, celebrated, controversial and significant poets of the era. Now, more than twenty years later, as a former homeless teen and a hate crime survivor, Xavier still stands as one of America’s most inspiring and powerful voices.
“A superb poetry collection that renders compelling imagery in a singular voice.” — Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
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Listen to an exclusive podcast conversation with
Emanuel Xavier on Queer Words
“If the Bible were to be rewritten in contemporary times from the viewpoint of a queer Latinx poet/former pier queen who came of age in the Ball scene, then Emanuel Xavier would be one of its scribes. In Xavier’s own words, ‘There are gods amongst us in these ghettos so black, so fierce, so brown, so beautiful.’ This collection is a necessary one that gives voice not only to Xavier’s journey of becoming a poet and survivor but also to the forgotten, discarded and invisible.” — Pamela Sneed, poet & activist
“Walking With Angels” by Emanuel Xavier (from Selected Poems of Emanuel Xavier)
I was out on the streets during my teens in the mid-80s when AIDS was rampant. I lost many friends along the way and, those who survived, have been living with HIV for decades only to now have to live through the COVID-19 pandemic. Both diseases have largely affected the people of color communities and, though I am personally an atheist, I believe in spirituality and hope we someday find a cure for these epidemics. This was written for a close friend. I participated several times in AIDS Walk New York which was the inspiration for this poem, hence the title.
The following titles by Emanuel Xavier have been finalists for an
International Latino Book Award
“A provocative voice of the Latinx liminal space, Xavier takes turns seducing and alerting the reader with a fearless sensuality and a knowing lack of regret. A much-needed, streetwise collection living at the intersection of raw desire and a deep compassion for a marginalized people.” — Ed Morales, journalist, filmmaker & poet
“From the heartbreak of childhood abuse to the beauty of unconditional love for a life-saving rainbow community and Nuyorican underclass so vividly portrayed in poetic street scenes, Emanuel Xavier takes us on his life’s journey spanning years of award-winning poetry. Laying bare truths of oppressive conventions that, if left unchallenged, would lay waste to creativity and the remarkable diversity of life. Selected Poems by Emanuel Xavier are raw metaphors, aesthetic beauty, history, passion, and so much more. Emanuel Xavier is one of the seminal poets of the Nuyorican Literary Movement.” — Nancy Mercado, poet & activist
“Emanuel Xavier’s is a blasphemer, and a guerilla poet, whose verses can hurt like bullets. His Selected Poems can be read as the autobiography of a Latinx poet who desperately fights to break from “the mentiras” his parents fed him as he grew up in el barrio, which he acknowledges as his true country. But el barrio can be a cruel world, and Xavier’s subjects are queer people, the transgendered, the powerless and invisible outcasts the American Dream discards as unrecyclable trash.
Echoes of Allen Ginsberg’s ‘Howl’—in their audacity, their urgency— can be heard in Xavier’s early poetry; but, by the time he arrives at the final poems in this collection, Emanuel Xavier’s anger, and outrage, have been surprisingly replaced by a poignant wisdom. The journey he has so vividly evoked is that of a hero.” — Jaime Manrique, novelist & poet
“For three decades, Emanuel Xavier has been our poet of the streets, of the balls, of the pier, through our loves, lives lost, and in the growth and ruin of our city. Finally, a new generation has a chance to breathe through his collected poems, a monument to our past, our collectivity and our hearts.” — Sarah Schulman, author & activist
“Thank goodness we at last get the Selected Poems of Emanuel Xavier! This collection pulses with the necessary urgency we've come to expect from this luminary poet. While reading you can feel the clarity of his voice speaking up to you from the page with its razor-blade precision offering insight and humor navigating the multifaceted truths of this world.” — Sam Sax, poet
"Xavier is an accessible poet, but one who is unwilling to sacrifice the differences that make up our tangled identities for the sake of legibility or popularity. Blurring page and stage, lyric and narrative, humor and heartbreak, his poetry finds beauty in the most despised, a luminosity or radiance that is the other side of struggle and abjection, energy transferred at the limits of the page, where our bodies converge." — Urayoán Noel, poet QueerForty.com
"This is an amazing collection that perfectly encapsulates Emanuel Xavier’s growth as a man and as a poet." — Out in Print
"Xavier promotes a vital project within his poetry, the continuation and representation of multifaceted Latinx lived reality." — a&u Magazine
“In sharing his voice, Xavier also lets rise the voices of those we do not often see or hear, those who have been cast aside by society. Desire and compassion merge as we read and we find ourselves checking our inner feelings. At the same time, the past, the present and the future merge within us just as the poet moves from the poetry of anger and rage to the poetry of wisdom.” — Amos Lassen
“Through these transcultural and multilingual legacies of Nuyorican history, which queer masculinity and break tradition, Selected Poems asks us to confront those words that are always “sacred and worth remembering.”“ — Harriet Books