Manuel Iris, Cincinnati’s new Poet Laureate, meets the public — and will read some of his work — 6-8 p.m. Thursday at downtown's Mercantile Library at a reception that will also include the city's outgoing laureate, Pauletta Hansel. This will be Iris' first official act since he was appointed by City Council last month, and it is free and open to the public. The Mercantile is on the 11th floor of the building at 414 Walnut St.
Iris, 34, came to the United States in 2006 in pursuit of a Master’s Degree in Spanish from New Mexico State University. In 2013, he graduated from the University of Cincinnati with a doctorate in romance languages and literature. In March, Iris released his newest book, Translating Silence. Before coming to the U.S., he was living in Mérida, Yucatán, where he was born and raised. It was while in Mérida that Iris published his first book. He was only 20 years old at the time.
He has achieved a following in Mexico. A few weeks ago, the Mexican telenovela Por Amar sin Ley mentioned Iris’ name in a brief scene,
After graduating from UC, he was hired by the DePaul Cristo Rey High School in Clifton as a Spanish instructor. He loved school, and switched to teaching English literature. Iris and another teacher, Pat Brennan, co-coach the school's poetry slam team.
During his time working at the high school, Iris has also been able to publish two books. Translating Silence, his latest, is his first in English and features translations of poetry from his earlier books. His work aims to do what he believes poetry should do, he says: “Find the extraordinary in the ordinary.” For instance, in his poem “Ars poetica,” Iris finds beautiful the extraordinary stubbornness of a yellow leaf fighting to stay attached to its branch through bad weather. Others might find that ordinary. He writes about it: “I watch her battle/against wind and rain,/against gravity... Her persistence/does not deserve oblivion./ That is why/I put her here,/in this verse/from which she will not fall.”
To find out more about Iris and his poetry, you can visit his blog at bufondedios.blogspot.com.