Chicago poet to read from his forthcoming book, 'Citizen Illegal'

“There are white people in heaven,” Jose Olivarez said, reading from his poem “Mexican Heaven” during a benefit for hurricane relief for residents of Puerto Rico. “They build condos across the street and ask the Mexicans to speak English.

“I'm just kidding. There are no white people in heaven.”

The line elicited laughter from the audience, who later fell silent as he described Mexicans working in kitchens in heaven.

“I try to write poems that move between a range of experiences and emotions,” said the Chicago-based Olivarez, who will read at Bossy Grrls Pin Up Joint on Friday, May 11, as part of Flyover Fest. Attendees can expect to hear material from his first book of poems, Citizen Illegal, due in September.

“The poems are trying to add to the diversity of stories about life as a Mexican immigrant after crossing the border,” said Olivarez, who has been published in the Chicago Tribune. “It's about what first-generation life can look like and trying to re-imagine it in a number of ways.”