Carnegie Mellon University

Leslie Sainz, Poet and Managing Editor, New England Review

A Fresh Cuban-American Voice for Poetry

“I aspire to communicate the truths and obsessions of the human experience,” says Leslie Sainz (DC 2013). As a poet with many prestigious recognitions to her young name, interrogating power is the primary goal of her writing.

Often the subject that both inspires and haunts her is her family’s exile from Cuba. From her poem “Gusano”:

           Abuelito      will resuscitate 
his pride        with a telegram 
            addressed to Fidel: 
Feliz Cumpleaños. 
      I hope you never have another. 

“That story has lingered with me for quite some time,” Leslie says. “Even after channeling it into a poem and having the honor of having that piece published, my grandfather’s boldness and brashness is still something that I feel in my bones.”

Giving voice to the immigrant experience from a distinctly feminine, Cuban-American perspective is the theme you’ll see most often across her body of work, and her unique voice is widely recognized. Leslie received a 2021 National Endowment for the Arts Poetry Fellowship and is a two-time National Poetry Series finalist. Her work has appeared in Kenyon Review Online, AGNI, jubilat, Narrative and Black Warrior Review, and she has received numerous prizes, scholarships and fellowships.

In addition to writing poetry, Leslie is the managing editor of the New England Review, a prestigious literary journal that publishes original poetry, short stories and works of nonfiction. She focuses on the production and promotion of each issue to spotlight excellent new writing, while continuing to contribute her voice to the landscape of contemporary poetry.

“[I took to] poetry specifically because I've experienced firsthand, the exceptional, spiritual quality that poetry carries and incites,” she says.

Story by Elizabeth Speed