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By Stalina Emmanuelle Villarreal

A multidimensional exploration of art, identity, and consciousness, unveiling the experience of Latinx, Afro-Latinx, and Indigenous art through poetry and visual expression.

Publication Date: June 25th, 2024

Paperback ISBN: 9781646053070
eBook ISBN: 9781646053223


Through free verse, personal photographs, and prosaic gestures, Watcha by Stalina Emmanuelle Villarreal serves as a watching manifesto that unfolds, layering genres and media.

The reader becomes a spectator of a gallery that curates Latinx, Afro-Latinx, and Indigenous art through ekphrastic poetry. On occasion, the viewer sees theoretical or anecdotal prose contextualizing art observation through introspection. With the codeswitching between English and Spanish as well as with the political implications of the artwork and personal history, the book’s trajectory charts a vast terrain that ranges from an artistic standpoint, to border crossing, to belonging, to portraiture, to self-portraiture, to abstraction, to death, to a call for action. Watcha invites inquiry, a space for sight, memory, and consciousness.


Watcha ignites the poetic imagination with its self-defining ‘photographic progression’ of bilingual experience in sight and sound. At the interface where speech impersonates the attributes of contemporary Latinx visual works, Villarreal’s poems deftly code-switch between English and Spanish and spoken amalgamations that produce mesmerizing tempos, fugitive chords, and durational attitudes. With barbed humor and a critical eye, Watcha makes triumph the ‘reciprocity of energy and flow’ to relate the unfurling, all at once, of cultural belonging, family connection, lyric intimacy, and our common indebtedness to sensation.” —Roberto Tejada, author of Why the Assembly Disbanded

“There’s nothing like this book. Stalina Villarreal is an unique and important new voice in ChicanX literature. Here is depth, clarity, beauty, and honesty in an enriching bone broth of style and craft. Villarreal is an original, the striking tail of the comet, a resonating chord from the song of self within the music of The People, La Gente: ‘ . . . gente / que sólo quiere ser gente.’ Intellectually rich, these ekphrastic poems and memoirist prose pieces watch our fractured world with a listening eye/I/¡Ay! Here is the world barrio re-imagined, along with its often-unwitnessed lives, stripped to bare image and act from ‘fact’ and ‘fiction.’ Its beauty is in its truth—as seen from an other. Here is history. Her story. ‘ . . . A reclaiming / of Cortes’s slave / by birth in freeing / ancient smoke / entre mujeres, entre / mujeres, entre mujeres / and a contemporary cigarette.’ ‘Some art survives the artist while some artists survive the art.’ This bilingual code-switching book demonstrates both. Stalina is SMART. Watcha.” —Lorna Dee Cervantes, author of Emplumada and April on Olympia

“Experimental as it is deftly methodical in examining La Frontera, queerness, politics, family, gender, and the very idea of visibility, Watcha brings me back to the verse of Pachucho, rucas y vatos, only on the poet’s terms: ‘entre mujeres, entre / mujeres, entre / mujeres, entre mujeres’and ‘rhinestones / on the eyelashes.’ Welcome to a new kind of ‘Quantum Watching:’ Retratos y comentario are woven expertly technical language without sacrificing lyric form. Pues, ¡Órale! Watcha, friends: once you read a Stalina Villarreal poem, you’ll come to recognize the chale, ‘no flags or stars’ and testimonio as solely her own.” —Rosebud Ben-Oni, author of If This Is the Age We End Discovery

“Deftly integrating poetry and photography, Watcha invites readers to listen, to really see, and to think about the interplay of image and word. Villarreal’s translanguaging in tandem with the images communicates the complexity of doing that, of deep watching. Look out! Watch out! See here! All could translate the title of this impeccably crafted poetry collection. I say, ‘Wachate’ for this poet’s voice—unleashed and fierce—will surely continue to call us to action, to thought. Watcha asks readers to deep watch and listen with their whole being, inserting images that linger. The ekphrasitic poems nudge readers to watch deeply to consider the photographs of Laura Aguilar or the prints of Celeste de Luna as social justice works of our time.” —Norma Elia Cantú, author of Canícula

Biographical Note

Stalina Emmanuelle Villarreal (she/they) sees, hears, feels, and communicates across mediums and cultures. She’s a deep-watching ekphrastic poet, a photographic flash essayist, a broad-stroke sketch artist, a sonic improv performer, a sound-sensitive literary translator, and an assistant professor of English. Their bilingualism stems from her 1.5-generation experience being both Mexican and Xicanx. Their poetry can be found in the Rio Grande ReviewTexas ReviewThe Acentos ReviewDefunkt Magazine, and elsewhere. Their published translations of poetry include Enigmas by Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz, Photograms of My Conceptual Heart Absolutely Blind by Minerva Reynosa, Kilimanjaro by Maricela Guerrero, and Postcards in Braille by Sergio Pérez Torres.

Stalina is the recipient of the Inprint Donald Barthelme Prize in Poetry. Her visual poetry—spanning queer erotica, interactive digital art, and video installation—was part of the Antena@Blaffer exhibit at University of Houston’s Blaffer Art Museum. She is currently writing ekphrastic elegies about her interpretative drawings of portraits and a memoir about her photographs of nature—revealing her ability to look backward and within, to write new ways forward.