Sasha Pimentel

Pimentel2

“A writer is about finding beauty in words, not in self.”

Atop the Education Building on the 9th floor in the Creative Writing Department of the University of Texas at El Paso is Sasha Pimentel, the poet and professor.

The best way one can accurately describe her is as the only person that can simultaneously crush your dreams and inspire you that anything is possible. The speech she gives to her students every semester explaining the difficulty and simultaneous satisfaction of a writer has become something some look forward to in her classes.

To explain it simply, she is a poet. An immigrant writing since childhood, exemplifies the clash of culture that El Paso itself is built of. Pimentel, born in Manila, Philippines, moved to Saudi Arabia, to New Jersey, to Fresno until coming to El Paso.

“El Paso is at the center of everything in that way. It’s at the center of language, it’s at the center of two different states, it’s at the center of two different countries, it’s an amazing place to be,” Pimentel said.

“El Paso is everywhere in my writing,” she said. And that view, this city, is has an impact. Whether people want to acknowledge it or not, there’s so much there on the border, in El Paso, in Juarez, that it demands to be heard.

“At all times I’m looking at El Paso and Juarez at the same time and when you see that kind of breath of, when you feel how little you are, right? Because you are looking into another country as you write, it humbles you as a writer and it causes your images, it causes you to seek images that are open and compassionate and just seek bigger than themselves.”

Pimentel began writing as a child, by reading classics such as Shakespeare’s plays and eventually getting into more contemporary poets.

“Philip Levine, first and foremost.” Pimentel worked very closely with the poet laureate during her time in Fresno. Yousef Komunyakaa is another poet Pimentel greatly admires, but has tons of “poetry gods.”

Pimentel travels to so many places around El Paso, taking in the culture and finding inspiration from all around the Sun City.

“Ode, the bar. Number one. It has a poetry name,” was her response, but also mentioned several places around the Sun City, “Tabla, Hoppy, and Althea Park are more favorite hangouts.”

Aspiring poets see in a poet like Pimentel that writers can be found at these really cool spots around El Paso. There’s this notion that writers all hang-out in little groups, avoiding other people, and are in corners of little obscure bars.

Her career has been highlighted with several awards being selected by Pulitzer Prize-winning judge Gregory Pardlo as winner of the 2016 National Poetry Series winner of the 2011 American Book Award, selected by judge James Bertolino. Chosen by Philip Levine, Mark Strand, Charles Wright, Joy Williams and John Guare as a finalist for the 2015 Rome Prize in Literature (American Academy of Arts and Letters), and Winner of the 2015 University of Texas System’s Board of Regents’ Outstanding Teaching Award.

– By Antonio Villaseñor-Baca

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