the story behind the book | kate tuttle

The art of parenthood

david wilson for the boston globe

When the Globe caught up with poet Oliver de la Paz, he was in his car, waiting in a school pickup line. De la Paz, who teaches at Holy Cross, was a poet long before he became a father, but in his most recent work he grapples with the beauty and difficulty of both roles.

His children feature prominently in de la Paz’s current manuscript in process, from which he’ll read as the headliner of this year’s Lesley University Winter Series. “It’s about parenting and the struggles that I’ve encountered,” he said. “But also mostly about how remarkable my kids are.”

As much as children can expand a writer’s subject matter, de la Paz is aware that writing about one’s own kids can be fraught. “This isn’t my story,” he said. “My kids have first say in whether or not they want this out there. I also have to acknowledge and respect that they are in the process of becoming who they are.”


Poetry, de la Paz said, can provide a way to survive and connect in a difficult world. In a time of political and social division, the poet has a particular job to do. “It’s a role that I have always thought about,” de la Paz said. “It has to be said that the ability to think figuratively, to think metaphorically, is the ability to empathize and to get someone else to understand your meaning.”

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“Especially as the father of three biracial sons, I’m worried constantly,” he added. “And poetry offers solace, it offers urgency; it doesn’t necessarily offer comfort, but it does offer a deeper understanding for me.”

De la Paz will read at 6:30 p.m., Jan. 6, at Lesley’s Marran Theater, 34 Mellen St., Cambridge.

Kate Tuttle, president of the National Book Critics Circle, can be reached at