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Connecting through Poetry

Alumnae News

Alum invites middle schoolers to campus for Ada Limón reading on April 30

Dariana Guerrero ’17 (at right) and her friend, middle school teacher Mary Guerrero, at El Taller café and bookstore in Lawrence, Massachusetts, which Mary owns.


Published April 8, 2024

Dariana Guerrero ’17 has two reasons to be excited about attending U.S. Poet Laureate Ada Limón’s April 30 reading on campus.

One is the chance to hear from a fellow Latina writer who has achieved the position of national poet laureate.

“Representation matters,” says Guerrero, a spoken word artist and former classroom teacher who now works for an environmental justice nonprofit. “Being able to see yourself and your narratives—even just a slice of your language and your culture—can mean a world of difference.”

The other is the chance to share the experience of Limón’s reading with middle school students from Guerrero’s hometown of Lawrence, Massachusetts. Those students—whose trip to campus Guerrero helped make possible—are among the 800 young people that Smith’s Boutelle-Day Poetry Center is hosting at the event in John M. Greene Hall.

Guerrero, who is the first in her family to have attended college, says poetry helped her find her way after she transferred to Smith from Stonehill College. “As an English language and literature major and a creative writing concentrator, I spent a lot of time in the poetry center,” says Guerrero, who published her first poem while she was at Smith. “Poetry was an avenue that gave me space and a sense of liberation.”

Since graduating from Smith, Guerrero has sought ways to share her love of poetry with others. After noticing that many past participants in the Boutelle-Day Poetry Center’s annual High School Poetry Prize came from schools in affluent towns, Guerrero suggested that the center extend its outreach to more schools.

As part of those efforts, she helped secure an invitation to Limón’s reading for Lawrence public middle school students taught by her longtime friend, Mary Guerrero (no relation).

Ada Limón

U.S. Poet Laureate Ada Limón

Photo by Lucas Marquadt

Jennifer Blackburn, program and outreach coordinator for Smith’s poetry center, credits Dariana Guerrero with helping the center connect with a more diverse group of students.

“Poetry is all about engagement,” Blackburn says, “and Dariana’s contact with us has moved us to rethink how we can make our outreach to schools more accessible and inclusive.”

Engagement is also part of Limón’s mission as poet laureate.

In a special Zoom session that the Smith poetry center offered to teachers in mid-March, the acclaimed writer described her plans for embedding poetry in public spaces, and fielded questions about ways to help students pay attention to how poems resonate with their own experience.

In preparation for Limón’s reading at Smith, Mary Guerrero has been giving her sixth and seventh graders at the Bruce School in Lawrence poems to read and respond to with their own writing.

Many of her students are bilingual first- or second-generation immigrants from Spanish-speaking countries.

“Poetry can help students connect to their community and develop who they are,” Mary Guerrero says. “I want my students to realize that, like Ada Limón, they can use their own experience to write. I want them to share their writing and hear the power in their writing. I want them to realize that their experiences and perspectives are important.”

Details about Limón’s reading at Smith are available online.