Poet Of The Week

Micaela Camacho-Tenreiro

     July 10–16, 2023

Micaela Camacho-Tenreiro is a queer Venezuelan-American writer. For her, the poem is an experiment in tenderness. Her writing appears in Connotation Press and Blue Literary Magazine, and is forthcoming from the American Poetry Review. She holds a BA in Hispanic studies from Brown University and received a finalist award in poetry in the 2023 Individual Artist Fellowship Awards from the state of New Jersey. Based in Morris County, New Jersey, she facilitates workshops and open mics with the organization ARTS by the People. Last year, she was named a Brooklyn Poets Fellow for study in I.S. Jones’s workshop “Domestic Gestures.”

Lineage at Breakfast


In the palm of a hand I cannot           hold

lies the trouble, the moon—

a small, unsliced arepa.

Immigrants are from where they are

from; their children are from

elsewhere. Plucked from a

fable already              forgotten,

I’m a song that longs for the cuatro

that made me. To be

summoned by your hands.

One day, I will be what I was,

whatever that was.

The answers in              my instinct.

Not the fragments of Sappho’s poem

laid out across the table

like countries on a map,

but the tidal gaps between them—

the arms of an unsolvable silence

(reaching,)              reaching.


Brooklyn Poets · Micaela Camacho-Tenreiro, “Lineage at Breakfast”

Tell us about the making of this poem.

“Lineage at Breakfast” stemmed, as my poems often do, from a single image: the surviving manuscript fragments of Sappho’s poetry. Laid out across flat surfaces, they create cartographic visuals, and last summer, I became haunted by the spaces, the silences, between them. It made me think of the gaps in my own lineage, the hard-to-trace spiderwebs of migration that I’ve inherited. How could I relate to history I didn’t know, without flattening its scale, its expansiveness? This poem is not the answer, but rather the journey that this question took me on.

What are you working on right now?

The “marketable” answer would be that I’m working on my first collection, Lavender Hymn, titled after a poem that’s forthcoming from the American Poetry Review. The answer that excites me more, however, is that I’m working on getting to know myself as an artist. This involves discovering which environments and practices foster play and curiosity, as well as unlearning the perfectionism instilled in me by a childhood of rigorous ballet training. I’m challenging myself to be more interdisciplinary in my work—to incorporate image, sound, object, place and movement.

Most importantly, though, I’d say that I’m working on being kind.

What’s a good day for you?

What a marvelous question! A good day begins early in the morning, after a long night of sleep, with good coffee—preferably a lavender latte. I get to read, write, spend time with loved ones, pull tarot / oracle cards, eat plenty of fruit and visit a body of water. I don’t need to do all of those things in order to have a good day—just one or two will suffice. Lately, I’ve been working on cultivating my micro-practices, on creating as many pockets of joy as possible. It’s been going pretty well.

What brought you to the New York area?

I’m from here! I was born in Manhattan, and my family moved to central New Jersey when I was a toddler. I went to college in Providence, and although I adore Rhode Island, I moved back in-state after graduating to be closer to my family, and to live with my partner. I’m not sure that we’ll stay here long-term. My partner has family in Florida that she would like to be closer to, and I, personally, dream of moving to South America—but we certainly enjoy being here right now.

When it comes to the arts, people champion New Jersey because of its proximity to New York. However, it feels really important to celebrate local culture as well! My county, Morris County, has a really vibrant arts scene, and so does the Jersey Shore, where I spent a lot of time in high school at slams and open mics.

Where’s home for you? How long have you lived there? What do you like about it? How is it changing? How does it compare to other places you’ve lived?

After graduating in 2022, I moved to Jersey City—and quickly realized, much to my surprise, that I am not a city person. So, three weeks ago, my partner and I moved to Wharton, a small town in the northern part of New Jersey. I like its quietness, its proximity to parks and bodies of water, its overwhelmingly Latinx population. Downtown, there’s so much Latin food—Colombian, Mexican, Peruvian, Ecuadorian, Costa Rican … you name it! Essentially, it’s a more diverse, and slightly more rural, version of the suburbs I grew up in. It reminds me of Providence in the sense that I’m really happy here, and have the space to be creative.

Spent any time in Brooklyn? If so, when and where? Share with us your experiences, impressions, etc.

I’ve never lived in Brooklyn, but I did do a run of thirty or so shows of American Ballet Theatre’s The Nutcracker at the Brooklyn Academy of Music when I was twelve! Most of my Brooklyn experience then was confined to the subway, the theater and the nearby Connecticut Muffin: I was traveling by myself, often late at night, and knew better than to wander.

When I was fifteen, my mom worked at the Park Slope Armory YMCA. Sometimes on weekends, I would drive in with her to spend the day riding the subway and walking through Prospect Park. Brooklyn sunlight is gorgeous. That’s the detail I remember most clearly.

These days, I have a few beloveds based in Brooklyn, which gives me good reason to visit semi-regularly. I get the sense that there’s a lot of cool people here? I want to make friends with everyone I pass on the street!

What does a poetry community mean to you? Have you found that here? Why or why not?

A poetry community is a network of folks who deepen each other’s love for the form. It consists of the people—organizers and audience alike—that make readings and workshops happen, as well as those with whom you entrust your work.

I’m a neurodivergent person who struggles with building relationships. I’m very good at surface interactions, so I have a lot of poetry acquaintances, but not many intimate connections. Right now, my poetic inner pod consists of exactly three people: my mentor, my best friend and a student I mentor at the university I work for. Community is something I’m trying hard to cultivate, but I’m still in the early stages of the process.

I’d like to mention that what my relationships lack in quantity, they certainly make up for in quality. I couldn’t ask for three better people to be in poetic community with—especially my best friend, Xochi Cartland. We talk poems at least twice a week, every week, during my drive home from work. When we workshop pieces, there’s such a deep level of trust that I don’t struggle, as I usually do, with defensively rejecting, or wholly internalizing, critique. I think that I’ve grown tremendously as an artist this past year, and I owe that to the working relationship that Xochi and I have built.

Tell us about some Brooklyn poets who have been important to you.

I didn’t know how tender I could be in a poem until I came across Aracelis Girmay’s work. I’ve been a fan of Shira Erlichman since reading “Ode to Lithium #600” on the Brooklyn Poets website in 2016, when she was Poet of the Week. Last month, I met Francisco Márquez, a fellow Venezuelan, at a reading in Jersey City; his work was melancholy and luminous and he said something about sadness being a symptom of paying attention that I’ve been thinking about ever since.

Who were your poetry mentors and how did they influence you?

Andrew Colarusso—another Brooklyn poet, actually—pushes me to own up to the fact that I am the author (and usually the speaker) of my poems. Being honest about that makes me a better writer, and a better person. He exposes me to work I might not otherwise encounter, and is forever teaching me how to read. His writing, stylistically, is very different from mine, and it inspires me to really use language as a material—to get experimental, to get my hands dirty.

He’s not a poet, but I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the Mexican author (and boxer!) Luis Miguel Estrada Orozco. He taught the only fiction course I took at Brown—it was conducted in Spanish, which was really special to me—and I consider him to be the first professor that really believed in my writing. His encouragement meant everything to me, and is a big part of why I’m still writing today.

Tell us about the last book(s) and/or poem(s) that stood out to you and why.

In the “Domestic Gestures” workshop, we read “Abuelo, Mi Muerto” by Aracelis Girmay, and I’ve reread that poem at least once a week since. There are so many things I love about it—too many to list, though I’ll name a few! For starters, Girmay weaves the bird motif so skillfully—the “family feather” in the last stanza is such a heart-wrenching image because of the crows, the hawk, the rooster and the pigeons that precede it. I’m impressed, in general, by the way the poem captures an urban landscape by emphasizing its natural elements. The questions the speaker deploys feel so desperate; they evoke not only a sense of loss, but the accompanying sense of being lost. The first two lines—“Abuelo, I’ve walked three nights / in the last city you breathed in”—hit me especially hard. My own abuelos died in Venezuela, and I’m not sure when I’ll get the chance to do what the speaker does here.

What are some books or poems you’ve been meaning to read for years and still haven’t gotten to?

Everything by Federico García Lorca, Zong! by M. NourbeSe Philip, I Remember Nightfall by Marosa di Giorgio, Los peligros de fumar en la cama by Mariana Enríquez, Madwoman by Shara McCallum, La ciencia de las despedidas by Adalber Salas Hernández and Crush by Richard Siken.

Describe your reading process. Do you read one book at a time, cover to cover, or dip in and out of multiple books? Do you plan out your reading in advance or discover your next read at random? Do you prefer physical books or digital texts? Are you a note-taker?

I like reading two books at a time—one in verse and one in prose. Right now, I’m reading Of Being Dispersed by Simone White (another Brooklyn poet!) and Woman Hollering Creek by Sandra Cisneros. I take my time with my books. When reading poetry, I usually read each piece two or three times before moving on to the next. Choosing my next read is a great pleasure of mine, and I enjoy it better when it happens in the moment, based on how I feel and what I need, rather than according to some preconceived plan. I prefer physical books. I’m a slow reader, and an even slower writer, so I only take notes when I’m reading for a class, a workshop or a writing group.

What’s one thing you’d like to try in a poem or sequence of poems that you haven’t tried before?

For the past few months, I’ve been wondering about what it would mean to dance, or choreograph, a poem. As a ballet-turned-salsa dancer, I think a lot about partner dynamics, and I’m curious to map that onto verse. What would it mean to consider the poem a dance between speaker and reader, and for that to be the starting point of a piece, or body, of work?

Where are some places you like to read and write (besides home, assuming you like to be there)?

My current go-tos are beaches, parks and coffee shops with lots of natural light. I’m excited to start going to my local library, too!

What are some Brooklyn spaces you love? Why?

In March, my mentor Andrew Colarusso opened a bookstore in Ditmas Park! I love Taylor & Co. Books because it’s cozy and has an unparalleled book selection and stupendous programming for folks of all ages. The place is truly a community hub. I’m also a huge fan of the Brooklyn Museum, and can’t wait to make my way over to the Brooklyn Poets space!

Fill in the blanks in these lines by Whitman:

I celebrate presence,

And what I promise you is mine,

For every kindness you grant me as good will find its way back, like a boomerang, to you.

Why Brooklyn?

The poets!