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Marcelo Hernandez Castillo wins GLCA New Writers Award

Rochester, N.Y. — BOA Editions is proud to announce that Marcelo Hernandez Castillo is the winner of the 2019 Great Lakes Colleges Association (GLCA) New Writers Award in Poetry for his debut collection Cenzontle (BOA Editions, 2018).

GLCA’s judges prased the collection with the following statement:

“Castillo’s narrative itself couldn’t be more timely and significant: it’s a story of undocumented immigrants, border crossing, transgression, and the tantalizing fictions and facts of the American dream. From the opening poem, one is immediately drawn into the lush, honed music of these lines, which imaginatively translate states of dislocation, high anxiety, grief, and desire into a distinctive, urgent voice. The title word itself is Nahuatl for ‘four hundred years’ – likely alluding to the approximate time of colonialism in the Americas. But it also refers specifically to a type of mockingbird, a bird in south-central Mexican and Aztec mythology, with four hundred voices. The second-person intimacy, the use of white space, the very idea of the mockingbird and its multiple voices and songs infuses the entire collection with mystery, beauty, and wisdom. To read these poems is to participate in a journey – and an unexpected one towards illumination and the complexities of longing and belonging. Castillo’s sweep is large but his voice is particular and clarified. This is mature, engaged poetry.”

Marcelo Hernandez Castillo was born in Mexico and immigrated to the United States at age five through the mountains of Tijuana. He is a CantoMundo Fellow and is the first undocumented student to graduate from the University of Michigan’s Creative Writing MFA program. He cofounded Undocupoets, for which he was awarded the 2016 Barnes & Noble Writers for Writers Award from Poets & Writers. His poems, essays, and translations have appeared in PBS NewsHour, New England Review, Gulf Coast, Indiana Review, Southern Humanities Review, and BuzzFeed, among others. He lives in Marysville, California, with his wife and son. For more information about Marcelo Hernandez Castillo, visit

Now in its 50th year, the New Writers Award confers recognition on promising writers who have published a first volume in one of the three genres: poetry, fiction, and nonfiction. Winners for the GLCA New Writers Award are selected by faculty members of creative writing and literature from GLCA’s 13 member colleges in Ohio, Michigan, Indiana, and Pennsylvania. This year’s poetry judges were David Baker of Denison University, Joe Heithaus of DePauw University, and Lynn Powell of Oberlin College. Winners of the New Writers Award are invited to present at GLCA Member colleges between September 2019 and April 2020 to give readings, sign books, and talk with students and faculty members.

Castillo is the second BOA poet in two years to win the GLCA New Writer’s Award. Chen Chen won the award in 2018 for his debut collection, When I Grow Up I Want to Be a List of Further Possibilities (BOA Editions, 2017).

Congratulations, Marcelo!

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