Miguel Algarín was born in Santurce, Puerto Rico, on September 11, 1941. When he was nine years old, he moved with his family to New York City. He received a BA from the University of Wisconsin in 1963 and an MA in English literature from Pennsylvania State University in 1965.
Algarín published his first poetry collection, Realidades, in 1970. He was also the author of Survival Superviviencia (Arte Publico Press, 2009); Time’s Now/Ya es tiempo (Arte Publico Press, 1985), which received the 1986 American Book Award from the Before Columbus Foundation; and On Call (Arte Publico Press, 1980), which received the 1981 American Book Award. In the introduction to Survival Supervivencia, Ernesto Quiñonez writes, “Miguel Algarín dives down into an urban underclass, he gets inside their skin, burrowing his feelings and when he comes up for air, he stuns us with empathy.”
In 1973, Algarin cofounded the Nuyorican Poets Cafe, a multicultural venue championing art and performance by underprivileged artists. A leading figure of the Nuyorican movement of the 1970s, he is also the coeditor of Action: The Nuyorican Poets Cafe Theater Festival (Simon & Schuster, 1997), Aloud: Voices from the Nuyorican Poets Cafe (Henry Holt, 1994), and Nuyorican Poetry: An Anthology of Puerto Rican Words and Feelings (William Morrow, 1975). He was also the translator of Pablo Neruda’s Song of Protest (William Morrow, 1985).
In 2009, Algarín became the first Latinx writer to win the Before Columbus Lifetime Achievement American Book Award. He taught at Rutgers University for over thirty years, and died in November, 2020.