Jose Hernandez Diaz
Jose Hernandez Diaz
Jose Hernandez Diaz was born in Anaheim, CA. He is a 2017 NEA Poetry Fellow. He studied English and Creative Writing at Cerritos Community College, the University of California at Berkeley, and Antioch University, Los Angeles. He is the author of The Fire Eater (Texas Review Press, 2020) and the forthcoming, Bad Mexican, Bad American (Acre Books, 2024). His work appears in The American Poetry Review, Colorado Review, Huizache, Poetry, The Southern Review, Yale Review, and in The Best American Nonrequired Reading. He teaches generative workshops for The Writer’s Center in D.C., Beyond Baroque, Hugo House, Litro Magazine, the Adirondack Center for Writing, Lighthouse Writers Workshops, and other places.
What excites you about writing? How has it affected your life?
Writing is close to being like a religion to me but without the dogmatic element. Writing has given me hope, purpose and meaning in life. As someone who grew up as a first-gen, low-income Mexican American in southern California, I’ve had to work for everything I acquired. Writing poetry has given me voice to celebrate my culture, speak out against injustices, and explore surreal and absurdist territory in the form of prose poetry. I have been the C student, the community college student, the isolated Brown student at a prestigious university, as well as a fellow with the National Endowment for the Arts. Writing has gifted me with the opportunities to work with a diverse range of folks. My experiences with art and poetry have shown me that success in poetry requires balanced attention to: art, community and craft.
What mindset does a writer need to continue to grow and learn?
It is important to know your favorite styles, voices, and aesthetics, but not be completely closed off to new experiences, readings, and approaches. For example, when I began writing poetry I was primarily writing socially-conscious, identity-based poetry. I was not interested in reading outside of this aesthetic interest. Then, one day, I discovered a book of prose poetry by James Tate at the public library, his selected works, which had a surreal portrait on the cover. I was drawn to the cover and soon discovered prose poetry. Since then, I have been one of the leading voices in American prose poetry having published prose poems in The Yale Review, American Poetry Review, Poetry Magazine, The Southern Review, and elsewhere.
What makes a good writing mentor?
A good writing mentor must listen, inspire, and offer constructive critique and/or praise. I will read your work with an open mind to your unique voice and diverse experiences. Further, I plan to show writers practical insights into the revision, submissions, and publication processes. I have been publishing in the best magazines in the world for over a decade and I know what it takes to write stand out work. Most of the poets I work with remain my friends and colleagues long after any class or workshop is over.
What is your style of feedback?
For feedback I tend to focus on line break, form, voice, aesthetic choices, titles, where to submit, and other areas as necessary. I have been told my style is positive, optimistic, and forward looking: there is always time for improvement and I have experience publishing in over 200 literary magazines and know the styles and aesthetics of diverse journals. Also, I am not afraid to tell you if a poem is done or close to done and guide you toward submissions strategies and hopefully publication.
I can’t tell you how many times students have messaged me to tell me they have been published as a result of my editing, prompts, suggestions where to submit, etc. I have even been published in the same issues with students from my workshops in celebrated journals on various occasions.
If you are into prose poetry, Latinx poetry, or socially-conscious poetry, or line break and form, I have plenty of experience with these elements, aesthetics and forms. Growing up first-gen, low-income I had to work hard and stay positive as I progressed through life. I try to maintain a similar attitude with writing, teaching, and editing. Problems can be worked through and ultimately satisfaction and or publication can be reached.
If you are into prompts or even if you’re not, I have plenty of experience facilitating generative workshops. My prompts range from topics like Latinx experience to surreal prompts. I have had many students tell me they created various new poems with my prompts and countless others have written work from my prompts which was later published.
I know how it is to deal with rejections. I have been rejected by plenty of magazines along the way. I have also overcome and been published in some of the leading magazines in the world. I try to encourage poets to think of the big picture, winding road, persevering to success, happiness, and fulfillment with poetry, craft, and profession. I also have a large social media network and am happy to share submissions opportunities with fellow writers as we build long-lasting friendships and healthy communities.