Darlene Pagán associated storytelling with the forbidden from an early age. She told her brother and sister ghost stories that kept them up at night or sent them crying to their parents. She had them convinced that if they left money and candy on a particular rock near a patch of blackberries, gnomes might visit them in the months to come. The gnomes never visited and Darlene learned to keep her stories to herself. That early training was connected to another story: her parents.
Darlene was born in Chicago, Illinois to a Puerto Rican father and a mother of German descent, who were forbidden from marrying by their parents. Between the race riots in Chicago after the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. and the intolerant and conservative attitudes of suburbia towards an interracial couple, Darlene’s parents struggled to find their place in the world. They moved frequently and tried their hand at a variety of jobs, from construction and factory work to managing a stable that boarded more than thirty horses. Her upbringing is reflected in the wide range of settings and contexts in her poems.
Darlene earned an associate’s degree in Human Services and for two years, answered phones at a suicide hotline. She spent another two years working at a women’s substance abuse program. Those experiences taught her she was not cut out for a life as a social worker, and with one semester left to complete her bachelor’s degree, she changed her major from social work to English since she had inadvertently taken nearly every English class Aurora University had to offer. In 1995, she moved to Dallas, Texas, to earn a PhD in the Humanities, and followed that with a summer in Guanajuato, Mexico, to study history and literature. Her academic work included translating Mexican poetry into English and writing about feminist theory and ethnic women authors. In 2001, she moved to Oregon after landing her first full time teaching position at Pacific University, where she met her husband, and eventually had two sons.
In addition to poetry, Darlene writes essays about a variety of topics, including family, health and wellness, and disability. Her essays have earned national awards, including “In the House of Lovers” (Literal Latté) and “The Blue Shangri-La” (The Nebraska Review). She recently completed a memoir titled, The Safest Place to Fall, about the challenges she faced dealing with chronic family illness, and how it made her question herself as a woman, a mother, a wife, and writer.
When she is not writing, teaching, mothering, or otherwise engaged with work and family, Darlene enjoys swimming and hiking, walking the beach and the woods. She especially loves to sing, and in her next life, she will sing the blues for her bread.