Emily Pérez

Emily Pérez

Emily Pérez is the author of What Flies Want, winner of the Iowa Prize, as well as House of Sugar House of Stone. She co-edited The Long Devotion: Poets Writing Motherhood. A CantoMundo fellow and Ledbury Critic, her work has been supported by Hedgebrook, Bread Loaf, and Jack Straw.

She graduated with honors from Stanford University and earned an MFA at the University of Houston, where she served as a poetry editor for Gulf Coast and taught with Writers in the Schools. Her poems have appeared in journals including POETRY, Diode, Bennington Review, Painted Bride Quarterly, Crab Orchard Review, Calyx, Borderlands, and DIAGRAM. She teaches English in Denver where she lives with her husband and sons.

2024 Jack Straw Alumni Poetry Series:

In What Flies Want, disaster looms in domesticity: a family grapples with its members’ mental health, a marriage falters, and a child experiments with self-harm. With its backdrop of school lockdown drills, #MeToo, and increasing political polarization, the collection asks how these private and public tensions are interconnected.

Before I Learned to be a Girl

I used to howl around the eaves,
a wind unwound. I used to bridle
like a groom atop a stallion, cowing
pirates into spilling bullion. Never
buckled like a shoe, but shooed the
shorn beyond the barn so I could hoard
the golden fleece. I fleeced the flock,
a picky phoenix culling coppers
from their pockets. I pockmarked
concrete castles with a fist, I frisked
the guards and gunmen. I manned
the gunwale, gunned down the
siren song until I heard my sternum thrum.
Wound my way around the Capes
and through canals, threading narrow
courses like a needle, needling
all my naysayers and needing
nothing but my own fine fire.

2013 Writers Program

Sound Clips
  • Emily Perez - Portrait
    Reflections from a Border Town in South Texas - Emily Perez