christopher soto (loma)
Introduced by Willy Palomo
For me, it is unquestionably sacred to be in the presence of someone who has survived the many faces of death only to transform their anguish into deepest love, forgiveness, and the fury in support of fellow outcasts.
Facing domestic violence and bigotry at home, Soto spent much of his youth searching for a true home. “By the age of 16, I had more dead friends & relatives than I wanted to count,” Soto writes, “Rory killed himself, James overdosed on meth, Ashley died in her sleep, Grant was hit by a car, Arif was shot, Tio Tonio overdosed on cocaine, Abuelo Papo had a heart attack, Abuelita Ana was just old, the list goes on...” And yet, somehow, even in the furnace of heartbreak and loss, Soto wrote and wrote and wrote. Poems that would eventually get them accepted into NYU, one of the most prestigious MFA’s in the country, where they graduated in 2015.
Soto has since used his platform to struggle for the dignity and survival of their communities. In 2015, they co-launched the UndocuPoets campaign with Marcelo Hernandez Castillo and Javier Zamora to end citizen-based discrimination in poetry contests and book prizes.
In 2016, they published sad girl poems through Sibling Rivalry Press and toured to end queer youth homelessness. In 2018, they published Nepantla: An Anthology Dedicated to Queer Poets of Color. They are a queer Latin@ punk prison abolitionist, currently living in Brooklyn, New York.
Soto’s poetry is an exemplary case of the expansiveness of the Salvadoran experience. In the chiseled punk lyric of “Myself When I’m Real,” Soto weaves together allusions to jazz musician Charles Mingus, Salvadoran poet and icon Roque Dalton, Mexican artist Frida Kahlo, and indigenous Brazilian warrior woman Tuira Kayapó in a poem about the fragility of love. In “Those Sundays,” Soto nods to African-American poet Robert Hayden in an elegy about domestic violence, queerness, and their lost lover, Rory. In “In Support of Violence,” Soto writes in the voice of two hundred Indian women who killed their rapist on the courtroom floor of Nagpur in 2004.
What strikes me is people like Soto—queer, punk, diasporic—are not often imagined in the Salvadoran canon, yet the most brutal parts of Soto’s story are like the stories of many Salvadorans, outcast, searching for home, narrowly triumphing over death.