Y is for Yrene Santos (1963- )

Yrene Santos is a poet, essayist, performer and educator from the Dominican Republic. She was born in 1963 in Villa Tapia. Santos studied Performing Arts in the Escuela Nacional de Bellas Artes y Educación at the Universidad Autónoma de Santo Domingo, and completed a master’s degree in Hispano-American literature from The City College of New York. She lives in New York, where she works as a professor of literature at City College, York College and St. John’s University. In her book chapter, “El Incansable Juego/The Untiring Game/Dominican Women Writing and Translating Ourselves,” Isabel Espinal notes that Yrene Santos is part of a “tradition of Dominican writers living in the United States who have been overlooked in literary histories and commentaries” (97).

Her dedication to fostering and connecting Caribbean and other literatures of the Americas is manifested through a variety of influential cultural associations and events that Santos has initiated. She is one of the founders of the Tertulia de Escritoras Dominicanas de Nueva York, which brings together Dominican women writers and provides a space of intellectual and creative collaboration. Santos is also a member of the Latino Artists Round Table (LART), led by Cuban author Sonia Rivera-Valdés and she is the co-founder, with Carlos Velásquez Torres and Carlos Aguasaco, of The Americas Poetry Festival of New York, a multilingual festival that has brought poets from different parts of the world together in New York City since 2014. 

Upon receiving a tribute at the 2019 Feria Internacional del Libro Santo Domingo, Santos expressed: “como educadora y madre, es mi responsabilidad orientar, motivar e inculcar lo mejor de mí a las nuevas generaciones de jóvenes, ayudándolos a construir sus sueños.” (As an educator and a mother, it is my responsibility to motivate and instill the best in me upon the coming generations of young writers, helping them to achieve their dreams).

Among a rich variety of issues, Santos’s poetry delves deeply into the inner self and the complexities that shape individuals’ lives in both intimate and public spaces, and how poetry intervenes. “La Poesía se Desangra” pays tribute to the power of language in poetry, its precision, and its transformational qualities, as captured in the final verses: “La poesía / Volcán inocuo / haciendo reverencias a lo desconocido / La poesía / Piedra / Selva / Rio de Pájaros” (No creo que yo esté aquí de más, 173). 

“Poetry / Innocuous Volcano / Bowing to the unknown / Poetry / Stone / Jungle / River of birds” (verses trans. by Marta Fernández Campa).

Santos is the author of a great number of poetry collections, including Desnudez del silencio (1987), Reencuentro (1997), El incansable juego (2002); Por si alguien llega (2009); Después de la lluvia (2009); Me sorprendió geométrica (2013); Por el asombro (2015); Septiembre casi termina (2016); and the essay collection, Ensayos críticos sobre escritoras dominicanas del siglo XX (2002). Her work has also been included in collections including Tertuliando/Hanging Out (1997), Conversación entre mujeres del Caribe Hispano (1999) and, most recently in the anthology of Dominican women poets, No creo que yo esté aquí de más. Antología de poetas dominicanas 1932-1987 (2018), edited by Dominican author Rosa Silverio.

Marta Fernández Campa

More about the author

Yrene Santos’s brief biography, “Yrene Santos: Poeta y Maestra Homenajeada,” is written in Spanish and hosted on the website Pasion Cultural.

Santos’s poem, “Mundo Lleno,” is available to read in the original Spanish and translated into English.

Scholar Isabel Espinal’s 2018 dissertation, Kiskeyanas Valientes en Este Espacio: Dominican Women Writers and the Spaces of Contemporary American Literature, examines Santos’s work.

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