Albuquerque grows poets the way Dublin conjures memoirists. Maybe it is the extremes of beauty and pain that rub up against each other here, flint on stone, sparking heartfire—endless horizons, but equally enduring poverty; surviving indigenous cultures, and the abiding sword-echo of the colonial atrocities that necessitated surviving; grand and patient mountains, but also the thousands of nuclear warheads planted beneath; powerful women at their political podiums, and the mudbones of women under the Westside, their murders still unsolved.
Our city’s emotional spectrum is as wide as its sky and dissonant as an air raid siren, a geography of the soul perhaps best navigated by poets. No surprise, then, that our city has raised up so many astonishingly good ones. Around here, poets are celebrities, in the same way musicians might be recognizable in Austin. The city’s poet laureate program creates local superstars like Hakim Bellamy, Jessica Helen Lopez, Manuel González, Michelle Otero. Popups, politics and slams bring others to light: Carlos Contreras, Bill Nevins, Zachary Kluckman.
Among all these seasoned and superb voices now rises a new and powerful one. Just 25 years old, Burque native Mercedez Holtry has already accomplished more than most poets can hope for in a lifetime. She’s given TEDx performances. She’s got more than 100,000 views on Button Poetry, of her performing the poem My Blood is Beautiful. She’s had two books published through Swimming with Elephants Press. She was named a Brave New Voices finalist in 2013, a two-time finalist at the Women of the World Poetry Slam in 2015 and 2018, a National Group Piece Champion in 2016. She was the winner of Modesto’s “ILL List Slam” in California in 2017, and was a featured poet in Mexico City’s “Diverso” an international poetry festival embracing Mexican voices through poetry in 2017. Holtry holds multiple Albuquerque Slam Championships. She’s also an Outreach Coordinator for Warehouse 508, where she organizes poetry events and workshops for kids ages 13 to 19.
All of these experiences led Holtry to see what she believes was a fatal flaw in the local poetry scene—namely that what should have been one community united by a love of words and rhythm has instead, for too long, been a territorial and siloed affair, marked by cliquish exclusivity based on age, ethnicity, race, sex and gender identity. To combat what she saw as marginalized groups marginalizing one another, Holtry formed her own nonprofit in August of last year, a collective of poets called Burque Revolt, with one goal: Creating safe spaces for any and all poets, regardless of their identities or ages, to be heard.
In a piece she penned about Burque Revolt for Forbes magazine last fall, Holtry describes her group and vision like this: “Spearheaded by a woman and her community of fellow poets—who mainly identify as women—Burque Revolt is Albuquerque’s intergenerational poetry organization that connects youth, college students and adults using the power of spoken word and writing. Burque Revolt honors the stories of women, people of color, LGBTQ, youth and any and all intersections of those identities, which is why the organization’s leaders have created spaces for these specific identities to express themselves through monthly open mics, workshops and slam poetry competitions.”
On Jan. 3, Burque Revolt will hold a fundraiser at Canvas Artistry, starting at 6:30pm, featuring Holtry and poet Eva Crespin. Holtry asks that people visit the Burque Revolt Facebook page for more information.