Voices of Bettering American Poetry Volume 2 — Christopher Soto

What would you like to see change in the literary world, or how would you “Better” American poetry? Can American poetry be “bettered?”

Get rid of submission fees. They’re classist.

What advice do you have for young and emerging writers, particularly of marginalized identities? What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?

Do something that makes you enough money to live well, if you can. Poverty fucking sucks. Poverty has always been my greatest barrier to writing and reading. Find a way to sustain your financial and social life and your mental health so that you have time to read and write. Come to every poem wanting to play, to work, to feel, to experience something new. Try to surprise yourself with your poetry. Try to outwrite your favorite poets, whatever that means. Don’t take things too seriously. Don’t care about awards or prestige. Read widely. Read frequently. Be kind to yourself, they’re just poems.

What do you have to say to those who would suggest your writing is too “intense” or “upsetting?”

Fuck off.


CHRISTOPHER SOTO aka Loma (b. 1991, Los Angeles) is a poet based in Brooklyn, New York. He is the author of Sad Girl Poems (Sibling Rivalry Press, 2016) and the editor of Nepantla: A Journal Dedicated to Queer Poets of Color (Nightboat Books, 2018). In 2017, he was awarded The Freedom Plow Award for Poetry & Activism by Split This Rock. In 2016, Poets & Writers honored Christopher Soto with the Barnes & Nobles Writer for Writers Award. He frequently writes book reviews for the Lambda Literary Foundation. His poems, reviews, interviews, and articles can be found at The Nation, The Guardian, The Advocate, Los Angeles Review of Books, American Poetry Review, Tin House, and more. His work has been translated into Spanish and Portuguese. He has been invited to speak at university campuses across the country. He is currently working on a full-length poetry manuscript about police violence and mass incarceration. He co-founded the Undocupoets Campaign and worked with Amazon Literary Partnerships to establish grants for undocumented writers. He received his MFA in poetry from NYU.


This interview series is conducted with authors from the anthology, Bettering American Poetry Volume 2. As Bettering’s editors wrote in their call for nominations, “Our efforts will intentionally shift favor so that the literary landscape within this anthology reflects a ranging plurality of voices in American poetry and illuminates the possibilities of sharing space … This anthology represents just one concerted effort to better American poetry, but it is one that we hope will resonate.”

Bettering has sought to delve deeper with the poets selected for these anthologies. These questions are composed collectively by the editors, with the belief that the literary community needs a polyphony not only of poems but of poets’ voices.