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Kentucky Press poet Yael Valencia Aldana awarded Pushcart Prize in poetry

Yael Valencia Aldana
Black Mestiza Cover

LEXINGTON, Ky. (June 5, 2024) — Kentucky Press author Yael Valencia Aldana has been awarded the 2024 Pushcart Prize for the poem "Black Person Head Bob," which will be featured in the 2024 edition of Pushcart Prize XLIX: Best of the Small Presses. The winning poem, originally published in Torch Magazine in June 2023, addresses how Black people silently yet soulfully acknowledge and “see” each other.

“Black Person Head Bob” is one of the poems included in Aldana’s forthcoming book of poetry, "Black Mestiza" (January 2025, University Press of Kentucky). Founded in 1976, The Pushcart Prize: Best of the Small Presses series is one of the most honored literary projects in America. Each year, literary magazines and small presses from around the globe nominate works of poetry, fiction and creative nonfiction published during the previous year. From the thousands of nominees, only a small fraction receives a Pushcart Prize and is published in the annual volume.

“Honestly, I’m stunned,” said Aldana. “I am so grateful for this honor. It just shows you don’t give up on yourself or your work. This poem was so hard to place and received so many rejections, but I kept trying because I felt it was an important poem about a subtle aspect in the Black community. I decided to send the poem out one more time to Torch Literary Arts before I shelved it, and they accepted it. I am so grateful to Torch and Pushcart for amplifying this poem and giving it a platform.”

In "Black Mestiza," Aldana reckons with her identity as a Caribbean Afro-Latinx woman with Indigenous, Black and white roots and pays homage to the legacy and fortitude of her ancestors. The powerful and prophetic collection is not only a testament to Aldana’s deep-rooted connection to her heritage, but a compelling celebration and expression of pride, recognition and a profound sense of community.

About Yael Valencia Aldana 

Aldana is an Afro-Latinx poet and writer. Aldana, her mother, her mother's mother and so on are descendants of the Indigenous people of modern-day Colombia. She earned her MFA in creative writing from Florida International University and is also the author of the chapbook "Alien(s)." Her work has appeared in Literary Mama and Slag Glass City, among others. She teaches creative writing in South Florida and lives near the ocean with her son and "too many pets." Learn more at

About University Press of Kentucky

The University Press of Kentucky ("Kentucky Press") is the statewide nonprofit scholarly publisher for the Commonwealth of Kentucky. Serving all Kentucky state-sponsored institutions of higher learning as well as six private colleges and Kentucky’s two major historical societies, it was organized in 1969 as successor to the University of Kentucky Press. Kentucky Press is dedicated to the publication of academic books of high scholarly merit as well as significant books about the history and culture of Kentucky, the Ohio Valley region, the Upper South and Appalachia.

As the state’s flagship, land-grant institution, the University of Kentucky exists to advance the Commonwealth. We do that by preparing the next generation of leaders — placing students at the heart of everything we do — and transforming the lives of Kentuckians through education, research and creative work, service and health care. We pride ourselves on being a catalyst for breakthroughs and a force for healing, a place where ingenuity unfolds. It's all made possible by our people — visionaries, disruptors and pioneers — who make up 200 academic programs, a $476.5 million research and development enterprise and a world-class medical center, all on one campus.   

In 2022, UK was ranked by Forbes as one of the “Best Employers for New Grads” and named a “Diversity Champion” by INSIGHT into Diversity, a testament to our commitment to advance Kentucky and create a community of belonging for everyone. While our mission looks different in many ways than it did in 1865, the vision of service to our Commonwealth and the world remains the same. We are the University for Kentucky.