Palabra Pura is the monthly bilingual poetry series of the Guild Literary Complex. Now in its ninth year, the series emerged in response to a perceived need: with one of the largest Latino populations in the U.S., Chicago is home to vibrant literary communities writing in Spanish or English—but there was no regular venue where these writers could meet, share work in their language of choice, and be inspired by each other.
At Palabra Pura, which usually takes place on the third Wednesday of the month at La Bruquena restaurant in Humboldt Park, poets share their work in Spanish, English, Spanglish, or whatever variation they prefer. Explanations or translations are helpful but never required. Each month is hosted by a different guest curator who invites two other poets to share work related to a particular theme. Recent themes reflect the range of topics that might be explored in an evening: "Mutant Body/Cuerpo Migrante," "Blood, Family, and Tears/Sangre, Familia y Lágrimas," and the weirdly compelling "Rooster-Footed Devils." The open mic that begins each evening has included the occasional piece in Romanian, Haitian Creole, or another language. The message of Palabra Pura is this: your language is welcome, however you choose to define it. In that spirit, the poems presented here appear in the languages in which they were written, without translation.
Nearly 150 writers have been featured at Palabra Pura; ten of them appear here. Born in Chicago, Puerto Rico, Uruguay, Mexico, Cuba, and other places, these talented poets reflect the diversity of languages, cultures, experiences, and esthetics that has enriched the series over the years. The “palabra pura” or “pure word” takes many forms, and these poems are but a small sampling of that.