Natalie Scenters-Zapico

Drawing inspiration from the border towns of El Paso and Ciudad Juárez, Natalie Scenters-Zapico’s poems transform the violence of gender and cultural stereotypes into songs of resistance, resilience, and lyrical grace.

From the sister cities of El Paso, Texas and Ciudad Juárez, Chihuahua, Mexico, Natalie Scenters-Zapico has published two collections of poetry, The Verging Cities (2016), which won the PEN/Joyce Osterweil Award in Poetry (2016), and Lima::Limon (2019), a finalist for the Griffin Poetry Prize (2020) and the Kingsley Tufts Poetry Award (2020). Scenters-Zapico works at the borders, exploring the territory between the United States and Mexico, English and Spanish, the masculine and the feminine, the psychological and the physical, the violent and the tender. In her poems, this in-between space becomes a site of aesthetic power and possibility, even as it remains a zone of danger, where the self might be lost or violently transformed. Images of the dead haunt Scenters-Zapico’s writing: an archaeologist hunting for fossils instead finds a young woman, “her face already / bone. Her body, scattered”; a speaker laments “the boy I love gone missing, his father found with no teeth / In an abandoned car.” And yet for Scenters-Zapico death is also another border, a space both real and imagined where beauty and terror feel equally at home. A graduate of the University of Texas at El Paso and the University of New Mexico, she has published poems in The Believer, Gulf Coast, Poetry, and Tin House, among other places.

When I got the news that I had won the 2021 Windham-Campbell Prize I nearly broke down in tears on the video call. I kept waiting for the moment they would look at their files and realize they had contacted the wrong person. I can only continue to work to pay this honor forward to my literary and border communities. NATALIE SCENTERS-ZAPICO