Women to Watch: Poet, Danyeli Rodriguez Del Orbe


An Afro-Latinx spoken word artist, New York native, and paralegal from San Francisco De Macoris, Dominican Republic. Danyeli is a bold advocate for women’s health, immigration rights, and racial/cultural uplifting. Read below to learn more about her.

How did you get into poetry and what style do you usually perform in?

When I was a child, I used to find poems on the internet, print them, and gift them to my mom for Valentine’s Day, birthdays, and Mother’s day. Growing up, I never liked songs for their beat but for their lyrics. I’d crank up my CD player and imagine myself as the muse for romantic bachatas and Spanish pop ballads. I believe the combination of listening to so many love songs and my hopeless romanticism made me a poet.

What inspires you?

Love. Migration. Loss. My culture. The diaspora. I write to remain vulnerable in a world that works overtime to harden us. My community often struggles with issues of race, gender, and migration, and I want to share the kind of writing that I did not have access to growing up. Young Dominican women inspire me to create visibility for us in the writing world.

What book are you reading right now?

The Zahir by Paulo Coehlo

What do you do when you’re not working?

During the day, I work as a family law and immigration paralegal, but I come home to poetry. I read and write poems before bed, in the morning, on my lunch break, on weekends. If it were up to me though, I’d spend my days where my heart belongs, swimming at the beach, writing poems on the sand, and watching the sun set in the horizon.

What do you hope for your people?

To continue breaking the generational traumas that lead us to develop a complicated and violent relationship with blackness. I would love to see that narrative shift to an understanding that Dominicans are black bodies still recuperating from five hundred years of enslavement, colonization, and extreme violence. But I also hope for enlightenment, a rapid one—one that stops the violence we inflict on our Haitian comrades and Dominicans of Haitian descent.

What is something about your identity that has shaped who you are as a creator?

 I navigate the world as an intersection of all my identities. I cannot speak about being a woman without talking about my blackness and I cannot discuss my blackness without highlighting my Dominican background. They exist all at once. However, I think migrating truly shaped who I evolved into as an adult. I cannot imagine who I would be had I not migrated to New York at 8 years old.

What artist do you look up to most and why?

I truly admire Alysia Nicole Harris. She was one of my earliest introductions to spoken word. I admire her strength and fearlessness on stage. She is never afraid to be vulnerable, to cry, to have her voice shake, to lay her pain for others to see and grow from. The first time I watched her perform live I thought, “If I ever perform poetry, that’s the kind of artist I hope to be.” Ironically enough, I performed at a festival she was headlining two years ago. Because of her, I continue to find the courage to write and perform.

Do you have an alter-ego, and do they help you with what you do?

I think my alter ego is the young girl I repressed for so long. That girl comes out on stage, writes love poems for people who do not deserve them, cries for them but reclaims her power over and over again.

Describe the first time you realized that language/words had power?

When I came out as undocumented in 2013. While shopping in New York City, I stumbled upon a coming-out event where undocumented folks were sharing their immigration stories. A few steps from them, anti-immigrant protesters carried signs denouncing “illegal aliens.” In a moment of rage, I signed up to share my story and came out as undocumented for the first time. From then on, I have shared my story at community events, rallies and school. Coming out of the shadows liberated me. Allies and other undocumented students shared their resources and I was able to find work, learn about my rights, and eventually receive legal representation for my own immigration case. By the time I graduated college, I was helping people apply for their green cards, citizenship, and any other immigration relief. Words changed my life and that’s why I continue to write. Hoping that if someone feels as lost as I once did, they find comfort in my poems, in my words.

How can people follow your work?

Currently, I am working on making my work more accessible, so you might find it hard to find my poems online. However, the best way to keep track of upcoming projects issue through my Instagram and Youtube.


Written by:

Ebe is a freelance writer from Lagos, Nigeria, currently lives in Austin, TX.

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