“Like Panama, the country of her childhood, Bessy Reyna’s poems provide a channel, a way to bridge east and west by reconciling the warring needs of the body, the mind and the heart. Whether Reyna is dancing with a stalk of sugar cane in Hartford, Connecticut, or in her birthplace of Cuba, poem after poem is as lively as a salsa. Like chewing sugar cane, her poems ultimately reward with their hard-won sweetness, with the taste that leaves us wanting more.” —Vivian Shipley
Bessy Reyna is the author of two bilingual books of poetry, The Battlefield of Your Body (Hill-Stead Museum, 2005) andMemoirs of the Unfaithful Lover/ Memorias de la amante infiel (tunAstral, A.C., 2010, Toluca Mexico). A chapbook of her poems, She Remembers, was published by Andrew Mountain Press in 1997. Her Spanish language writing, published in Latin America, includes a poetry chapbook, Terrarium (Instrucción Programada de México, 1975), and a collection of short stories, Ab Ovo (Instituto Nacional de Cultura, Panama, 1977). Her poetry can be found in numerous anthologies, includingEl Coro: A Chorus of Latino and Latina Poetry, In Other Words: Literature by Latinas of the United States, The Arc of Love: Lesbian Poems and The Wild Good. She is a contributor to Gathered Light: The Poetry of Joni Mitchell’s Songs (Lisa and John Sornberger, Eds. 2013) and Penelope: Antologia de Cuentistas Centroamricanas (Consuelo Meza Vasquez, Ed.)
Born in Cuba and raised in Panama, Bessy is a graduate of Mt Holyoke College and earned her Masters and Law degrees from the University of Connecticut. For nine years she was a monthly opinion columnist for The Hartford Courant and was a frequent contributor to Northeast, the Sunday magazine of the Hartford Courant. For several years, she conducted radio interviews with poets appearing at Hill-Stead Museum’s renowned Sunken Garden Poetry Festival in Farmington, CT. Currently, she writes an arts-and-culture page for the Hispanic newspaper Identidad Latina and an opinion columnist for www.CTLatinoNews.com. A former Master Teaching Artist for the Connecticut Commission on Culture & Tourism, she is a frequent lecturer and guest artist at colleges, libraries and museums. She has performed her poetry internationally; taught writing workshops in many venues; and served as a judge for poetry competitions, including the Connecticut Book Award for Poetry.
Bessy’s awards include First Prize in the Joseph E. Brodine Poetry Competition and artist award grants from theConnecticut Commission on Culture & Tourism and the Greater Hartford Arts Council. She is the recipient of the Connecticut Center for the Book Lifetime Achievement in Service to the Literary Community Award (2009), the American Association of Hispanics in Higher Education Outstanding Latina in the Literary Arts and Publications Award, the Pioneer Award at the Inaugural Diversity Awards presented by the Vice Provost for Multicultural and International Affairs at the University of Connecticut (2006), a Living Legend Award from Saint Joseph College Department of Social Work, and the One Woman Makes A Difference Award from the Connecticut Women’s Education and Legal Fund (2007). In 2001, she was named Latina Citizen of the Year by the State of Connecticut Latino and Puerto Rican Affairs Commission. In 2012 she was one of ten women honored by the CT Women’s Hall of Fame. Bessy was inducted into the Immigrant Heritage Hall of Fame (IHHF) in 2017.
Bessy is available for readings, lectures and workshops. Please email Susan Holmes for information.
She Thinks of a Photo
She thinks she was there once,
a little girl with long blond curls
and no shirt.
She thinks she stood next to a tall palm tree.
She thinks there was a photo.
At times, she can still see the beauty of the sky,
clouds about to burst, the ocean in the distance.
She thinks she was smiling,
her face not yet printed with permanent
frowns under passionless clouds.
She wonders if she is dreaming.
There is no one left to tell her otherwise.