My work is an exposition of working-class portraiture. Themes of masculinity, class, heritage, and justice are central in my work because these are the challenges I spend the most energy trying to understand. The conversations that take place in verse might also be found around the block or on the bus or occupied in the back of the classroom; they hope to serve as primary text for everyday experience. My work is also guided by the urgency of this historical moment and is informed by the rapid changes impacting the ecosystem around me. As buildings can disappear, so too can stories. My work seeks to document the complicated nature of these changes. I am enamored by the sound of language and poetics aim toward the lyric and musicality as constructive tenets. My poems are meant for the ear but not always for the stage. I want my poems to make the reader’s head nod. I want to create a congregation out of thin air.
Benjamin Alfaro is a writer, educator, and organizer from Michigan. He is the author of the new poetry chapbook Fantasma (Finishing Line Press, 2018). Benjamin was awarded a Kresge Arts Fellowship in 2017 and his poems have most recently appeared in TriQuarterly, Southern Indiana Review, Michigan Quarterly Review, Duende, and Blood Orange Review.
Benjamin has been featured on HBO, Yahoo, VICE, and NPR for his writing and teaching. His work with InsideOut Literary Arts helped launch the Detroit Youth Poet Laureate program and Louder Than a Bomb: The Michigan Youth Poetry Festival. He received his bachelor’s from Wayne State University in Urban Studies and founded the community-driven student organization, WayneSLAM. His research focused on urban spatial dynamics and his senior capstone was entitled Equitable Metrics in Eminent Domain and Land Takings.
While in Detroit, Benjamin led the Citywide Poets writing collective at the Detroit Public Library’s Main Branch and served as a Writer-in-Residence in more than twenty Detroit Public Schools. He mentored and coached hundreds of student-writers during his tenure with InsideOut, developing original K-12 curricula that is currently being used in classrooms across the Midwest. He also led professional development, consultation, and facilitation training for Michigan teachers at the Detroit Institute of Arts, and nationally at the Urban Word Pre-Emptive Education Conference in 2015.
Currently a graduate student at University of Minnesota, Benjamin is pursuing a professional degree in Arts and Cultural Leadership. He recently curated A Dose of Art: Promoting Healing and Wellness in partnership with Hennepin Theatre Trust and the Minnesota State Arts Board, connecting groups and individuals working at the intersection of health and creativity. Benjamin’s academic focus is in community and economic development with a specialization in program evaluation. Because of his program’s interdisciplinary design, he attends classes in both the Humphrey School of Public Affairs and the Carlson School Management.
He currently serves as an Advancement Associate at Northside Achievement Zone (NAZ) where he supports fundraising and strategic planning efforts for the organization and its 45+ community partners. The mission of NAZ is to end generational poverty and build a culture of achievement in North Minneapolis where all low-income children of color graduate from high school prepared for college and career-ready. Prior to this position, Benjamin served in an assistant role at Hallie Q. Brown Community Center in Saint Paul, a nationally recognized human services organization whose 90-year legacy is intimately tied to the historic Rondo neighborhood.
With more than a decade of nonprofit experience behind him, Benjamin’s career ambition is to strategically and creatively problem-solve the social and systemic challenges of the day. His research interests include public health impacts of gentrification, resistance to neoliberal paternalism in social policy, radical philanthropy and the role of foundations in racial equity, and innovations in land use and design.