MDC’s Miami Book Fair and National Poetry Series Announce 2020 Paz Prize for Poetry Winner

Miami, Sept. 15, 2020 Miami Dade College’s (MDC) acclaimed Miami Book Fair, in collaboration with the National Poetry Series, is pleased to announce the 2020 Paz Prize for Poetry winner, Mexican-American poet Alejandro Pérez-Cortés for his manuscript Ima y Coli son el árbol que nunca fue semilla / Ima and Coli: The Tree That Was Never a Seed. The book, selected by judge José Kozer, will be translated by writer and editor Sean Manning, and published in both English and Spanish by Akashic Books.

“His manuscript, now book, Ima and Coli: The Tree That Was Never a Seed, comprises a voice that I consider poetic and that should be cared for and listened to with true interest,” said José Kozer, poet and judge of the 2020 edition. “A voice that encompasses all, one that seeks to integrate, remake, and modify normative language when necessary, and to distort language that allows a better perception of the present and of everything that is historically behind a contemporary poet.”

Pérez-Cortés was born in Colima, Mexico, where his many poems and short stories have been published in newspapers since 1996. His work was included in the anthology Cage of Verses / Jaula de Versos” published by the literary workshop “Chessboard / Tablero”, that was coordinated by local poet Efrén Rodríguez. Pérez-Cortés’ first English poems are included in the anthology Soundings from the Salish Sea, A Pacific Northwest Poetry Anthology (Edmonds, Washington). He currently teaches Spanish in North Creek High School and Bothell High School in Washington State.

Named in honor of the late Nobel Prize-winning poet, Octavio Paz, the Paz Prize for Poetry was launched in 2012 and recognizes a previously unpublished poetry book written in Spanish by a poet residing in the U.S.

“I still remember the day Octavio Paz was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1990. I was in high school and our Literature teacher had us read the beautiful poem ‘Sunstone’ to celebrate the fact that Octavio Paz had earned the Prize, 30 years ago this year.  Six years later, my first poem was published in a local newspaper in Colima, Mexico; I never imagined that I would earn a prize with Octavio Paz’s last name in the title,” Pérez-Cortés said. “I am honored to be the first Mexican immigrant (and a son of Colima) to be recognized in this way. My manuscript: Ima and Coli: The Tree That Was Never a Seed / Ima y Coli el árbol que nunca fue semilla is my own genesis and chronology of Colima. I want to express my gratitude to poet José Kozer, the National Poetry Series, and the Miami Book Fair for taking pride in spreading the voices of the Spanish speaking poets of the United States.”

Past winners include Dinapiera Di Donato, Carlos Pintado, Legna Rodriguez Iglesias, and Johanny Vazquez Paz. More than 200 poets have submitted works for the Paz Prize in Poetry.

“It is intensely gratifying to be able to introduce a broad spectrum of poetic voices through the Paz Prize,” said Lissette Mendez, Miami Book Fair’s director of programming. “These poems are available in both English and Spanish, and it is fascinating to experience their unique cadence in both languages. Discovering a new poet, who might have gone unnoticed due to language barriers, is even more marvelous. There aren’t many books that offer this unique translation.”

The National Poetry Series was established in 1978 by Daniel Halpern and James Michener to ensure the publication of five collections of poetry annually through participating publishers. More than 175 books have been awarded since the Series’ inception. Board members include Julia Alvarez, Sandra Cisneros, Cristina Garcia, Mitchell Kaplan, Campbell McGrath, Pablo Medina, Gary Soto, Ilan Stavans, and Luisa Valenzuela.

Miami Book Fair
Widely recognized as the largest and finest literary gathering in the U.S., the Miami Book Fair’s eight-day festival features readings and conversation with the world’s most renowned authors and more than 200 booksellers and exhibitors across various genres and interests. Book lovers are also treated to culinary presentations, live music, dance and theater performances, interactive art projects, fun and educational activities for children, and more! In addition to the annual festival, the Miami Book Fair builds community and promotes reading and writing throughout the year with activities open to all, including creative writing courses taught by local and visiting authors, literary gatherings and happy hours and Read to Learn Books for Free, a partnership with The Children’s Trust that distributes more than 160,000 free books a year to children in Miami-Dade County.

Miami Book Fair is made possible through the generous support of the State of Florida and the National Endowment for the Arts; the City of Miami; Miami-Dade County Department of Cultural Affairs and the Cultural Affairs Council, the Miami-Dade County Mayor and Board of County Commissioners; Miami-Dade County Public Schools; the Greater Miami Convention and Visitors Bureau; the Miami Downtown Development; and the Friends of the Fair; as well as many corporate partners. Miami Book Fair: Building community, one reader at a time.

About Miami Dade College
Miami Dade College is the most diverse institution in the nation. There are 174 nations and 69 languages represented in its student body. The college’s eight campuses and outreach centers offer more than 300 distinct degree pathways including associate and baccalaureate degrees, career certificates and apprenticeships. Baccalaureate degree offerings include biological sciences, engineering, data analytics, information systems technology, education, public safety, supervision and management, nursing, physician assistant studies, film and others. MDC is the recipient of many top national awards including the Aspen Prize. As Democracy’s College, MDC changes lives through accessible, high quality-teaching and learning experiences. It is the home of the Miami Culinary Institute, the Miami Animation & Gaming International Complex, the Miami Fashion Institute, the Eig-Watson School of Aviation, The Idea Center, the Cybersecurity Center of the Americas, the Cloud Computing Center, the Center for Learning, Innovation and Simulation, the School for Advanced Studies, and the New World School of the Arts, to name a few of its most innovative programs. MDC has been named among the nation’s “Great Colleges to Work For” since the program’s inception. The College embraces its responsibility to serve as an economic, cultural, and civic leader for the advancement of our diverse global community. Its alumni and employees contribute more than $3 billion annually to the local economy, and MDC graduates occupy top leadership positions in every major industry. MDC is renowned for its rich cultural programming. It is the home of the Miami Book Fair, Miami Film Festival, the National Historic Landmark Miami Freedom Tower, the Tower Theater, Dyer Building, Koubek Center Mansion and Gardens, the Lynn and Louis Wolfson II Florida Moving Image Archives, the Museum of Art and Design, a sculpture park and a large campus art gallery and theater system. MDC has admitted more than 2,000,000 students and counting, since it opened its doors in 1960. More than 120,000 students are currently enrolled. For more information, visit   

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Miami Book Fair contact: Lisa Palley, 305-642-3132  or Deyanira Navarrette, 305-495-7168,