Yael Villafranca


At Kundiman, I found the home I didn't even know I wanted and had been searching for. I found a gathering of beautiful souls full of strangeness and passion—for poetry and language and craft, yes, but more than that, these people were dedicated to the transformative force of art coupled with action. They recognized their roles as artists; they owned themselves as poets. As someone who was only about a year into discovering poetry, less than a year into writing it, and the youngest person at the retreat, I wasn't comfortable owning my identity the way my peers were; I felt like I hadn't earned it. But from every person I interacted with at Kundiman, I learned in so many different ways that responsibility is born with each word I write, and ownership is simply making the choice to take that responsibility without conditions or apologies. The community at Kundiman challenged me to take responsibility. They made me want it. They showed me how much I still have to learn and how much is possible, within my reach if I so desire and choose. I left the retreat wanting to dream wider and deeper, wanting to be brave. Just wanting more. I'm not good at being fearless. But I now have the family I never knew I needed, inspiring me to try. I treasure this family, the experiences I've had with them, and the ones to come. And for all of these gifts, I will always be grateful.