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 during a pivotal moment in Detroit’s history and founded the community-driven student organization, WayneSLAM.
While in Detroit, Benjamin led the Citywide Poets writing collective at the Detroit Public Library and served as a Writer-in-Residence in more than twenty Detroit Public Schools. He mentored and coached hundreds of student-writers over the ten years he taught in schools and developed original K-12 curricula used in classrooms across the state. He also led professional development for ELA and Art teachers at the Detroit Institute of Arts.
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, with Hennepin Theatre Trust and the Minnesota Stats Arts Board. The event connected groups and individuals working at the intersection of health and the arts.
Benjamin’s academic focus is in Community and Economic Development with a specialization in Program Evaluation. Because of the interdisciplinary design, he attends classes in both the Humphrey School of Public Affairs and the Carlson School of Management.
With more than a decade of nonprofit experience behind him, Benjamin’s career ambition is to creatively problem solve the social and systemic challenges of the day. He currently serves as an Advancement Associate at Northside Achievement Zone (NAZ) in North Minneapolis.
My poems are driven by working-class American portraiture. Themes of masculinity, class, heritage, and violence are central in my work because these are the challenges I spend the most energy trying to understand. As a young man, I looked toward poetry as a tool to navigate the fray. The narratives I explore in verse populate the block or catch the bus or occupy the back of the classroom; they hope to serve as primary text for everyday experience. My work is guided by the urgency of this historical moment and is informed by the rapid physical and cultural changes impacting the lives around me. As buildings can disappear, so too can stories; my work seeks to document the complicated nature of these changes. Much of my work is lyrical, as I tend to consume poetry’s sonics. I am enamored by the sound of language and my poetics aim toward musicality as a constructive tenet. I want my poems to make the reader’s head nod; I want to create a congregation out of thin air.