Luis Omar Salinas was an important American poet and one of the pioneers of Chicano Poetry. Born in Robstown, Texas he spent most of his life in California, moving to Fresno in the late 1960s where he became a prominent member of the “Fresno School” of poets associated with Philip Levine and Peter Everwine. His first book, Crazy Gypsy, was published in 1970 to great acclaim, and in 1973 he co-edited From the Barrio: A Chicano Anthology with Lilian Faderman, Prof. of English at Fresno State. Salinas published eight books of poetry, many chapbooks, and his poetry was widely anthologized. He received the Stanley Kunitz Award from Columbia Magazine, The Earl Lyon Award from Fresno State College, A General Electric Foundation Award, The Flume Press Chapbook Award for 1991, and he was invited to read at The Library of Congress. Salinas lived for his poetry, and as it developed and matured with each book, his work remained as arresting and inventive as it was at the beginning. After a career of almost forty years, he died in Fresno in 2008. Luis Omar Salinas was, and continues to be, one of the leading voices in Chicano Literature as well as an important and essential voice in contemporary American poetry.
“This was in the 1960s, and he was giving me work enormously original, powerful...but the vision itself, Latino surrealism, gave an unusual edge to his work. His experience gave his poetry magnifi ed authority....This man had a gift.”
—Philip Levine, from the obituary in the Fresno Bee, 5-29-08
“Vallejo, Hernandez, Don Quixote: they are the kin of Luis Omar Salinas, a kinship of spirit rather than imitation. As a Chicano raised in a Texas border town, he has always known that concentrated sense of life that gets exposed at the margins of things—a field, a town, a living to make or lose. There is much sadness and joy in Omar’s poems, often intermixed, but mostly there is an abiding compassion for those so exposed to the world that they have only their own nakedness to offer it. And perhaps this is more than kinship, it is community.”
“Luis Omar Salinas is one of the most important and essential poets of the twentieth century. Elegy for Desire is a cultural statement, a political view of America, and a brave and deep celebration of the life of a writer.”
“From the earliest beginnings of Chicano Literature encounters, every occasion where Chicano writers have gathered, be it poetry readings, cantos, festivales, etc...no one has ever disputed the fact that Luis Omar Salinas es el mero Chingón de la poesia chicana. This has been not only the opinion of his fellow poets but that of critics as well.”
I cannot think of another poet, Latino or otherwise, as daring with love poetry, as fierce in his honesty, as nimble with line, image, and mood.”
—Juan Felipe Herrera