ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – Mary Oishi began writing poetry as a child to process and express her emotions in a creative way, without the expectation of making it her career. Now as Albuquerque’s Poet Laureate, she’s helping people find their own way through the artform.
One of her passions has been helping other people find their voice and their inner poet. “If you can use language, you can use poetry. It’s not a special thing that only very talented people can do, I think all of us can do it,” Oishi said.
Having experience in performing at and producing Albuquerque poetry events, Oishi is using those skills and knowledge to reach people who might be intimidated by trying poetry. During her two-year position as Albuquerque Poet Laureate, Oishi hosts Poets at the Libraries, a series of readings at each of the library branches with featured poets and readings by community poets who live nearby. “I believe that if people get out and listen to poetry more, then that helps you to develop your own voice, and read poetry and listen to it,” Oishi said. “I’ve seen people blossom from coming out for their first read to winning slams.”
As of right now, Poets at the Libraries takes place virtually. Oishi hopes to begin meeting and having performances at Albuquerque libraries once it is safe to do so. More information on the program and how to participate is available at the Albuquerque Poet Laureate website.
Oishi was born and raised in Pennsylvania but has been living in New Mexico for over 20 years. She moved to New Mexico for a position at KUNM in 1999. “I fell in love with Albuquerque. My friend Michelle Otero said, ‘It’s not where you were born, it’s where you plan to die that’s your real home,’ so I consider Albuquerque my real home,” Oishi said.
Oishi has been writing poetry since high school and used it as a way to process difficulties in her life. “I went through a lot of things in my life being half Japanese and growing up with people who were in a very racist area, as well as the people who raised me had a lot of ignorance around white supremacy. It really helped me to be able to have that outlet and to also read other poets because poets tend to tell the truth. They’re not propagandizing, they’re speaking the truth,” Oishi said.
Oishi is the author of Spirit Birds They Told Me and co-author of Rock Paper Scissors. She is one of twelve U.S. poets in translation in 12 Poetas: Antologia De Nuevos Poetas Estadounidenses, a project of the Mexican Ministry of Culture. Her poems have appeared in Mas Tequila Review, Malpais Review, Harwood Anthology and numerous other print and digital publications.