Student News: Paloma Sierra named Emerging Poet Laureate of Allegheny County

Paloma Sierra, MFA Dramatic Writing ‘21, was named Emerging Poet Laureate of Allegheny County as part of City of Asylum’s first Poet Laureate Program. Inspired by the Laureate Fellowships at the Academy of American Poets, Paloma will be collaborating with City of Asylum to create free poetry programming during her term of service.

Paloma’s achievement is of no surprise to Associate Professor Rob Handel. “Paloma is among the most tenacious and radically disciplined artists I know. Her analytical relationship with language gives her work immediacy, her calibrated sense of irony gives it bite, and the pressure she puts on formal boundaries — who says the lights must be turned on during a play? — gives it a reckless irreverence,” said Handel.

Paloma has had her work developed here at the School of Drama as well as Poetic Theater Productions and Nuyorican Poets Cafe. Her verse dramas, poetry, and translations are published in Bridge: The Bluffton University JournalPersephone’s Daughters, and Sampsonia Way.

Q & A with Paloma Sierra:

Do you have a favorite comfort dish?
Fried rice and fried plantains.

When did you know you were a writer?
Maybe, at a very young age. Before I knew how to write words, I traced the alphabet over and over as a hobby.

Are there any influences in your writing?
My poetry is influenced by Puerto Rico’s Trova and Bomba traditions, as well as my childhood growing up to Salsa.

What kind of material do you gravitate toward as a writer or reader (or both)?
I enjoy reading and writing poetry. I am currently researching choreopoems.

What is a choreopoem?
“Choreopoem,” a term coined by Ntozake Shange, is a theatrical form that combines poetry, movement (dance) and music.

What is it about choreopoems that attracted you?
To me, poetry has close ties to lyricism, music, and oral expression, and is meant to be performed. I explore these aspects of poetry in my writing, and am always happy to learn how other writers have undertaken a similar approach.

What are you working on now?
I recently finished translating Janelle Lawrence’s play Trenzas into Spanish; and book-writing Close (But Not Too Close!), a 15-minute online musical about online dating, with lyrics by Julia Koyfman and music by Dusty Sanders. I am currently working on writing my thesis play.

Read Paloma’s choreopoem “BuT yOuR eNgLiSh Is So GoOd!“

To learn more about Paloma, visit her website at