How to Be a Good Savage and Other Poems

The latest in the Seedbank series, the debut in English of a groundbreaking Indigenous poet of the Americas.
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The latest in the Seedbank series, the debut in English of a groundbreaking Indigenous poet of the Americas.

In a fiercely personal yet authoritative voice, prolific contemporary poet Mikeas Sánchez explores the worldview of the Zoque people of southern Mexico. Her paced, steely lyrics fuse cosmology, lineage, feminism, and environmental activism into a singular body of work that stands for the self and the collective in the same instant. “I am woman and I celebrate every vein,” she writes, “where I guard my ancestors’ secrets / every Zoque man’s word in my mouth / every Zoque woman’s wisdom in my spit.”

How to Be a Good Savage and Other Poems examines the intersection of Zoque struggles against colonialism and empire, and those of North African immigrants and refugees. Sánchez encountered the latter in Barcelona as a revelation, “spreading their white blankets on the ground / as if they’ll soon return to sea / flying the sail of the promised land / the land that became a mirage.” Other works bring us just as close to similarly imperiled relatives, ancestors, gods, and archetypal Zoque men and women that Sánchez addresses with both deeply prophetic and childlike love.

Coming from the only woman to ever publish a book of poetry in Zoque and Spanish, this timely, powerful collection pairs the bilingual originals with an English translation for the first time. This book is for anyone interested in poetry as knowledge, proclaimed with both feet squarely set on ancient ground.

The How to Be a Good Savage and Other Poems audiobook read by Mikeas Sánchez, Wendy Call, and Shook will be available everywhere you listen to audiobooks on January 9, 2024.
Listen to samples here.



poetry, woman poet, trilingual, bilingual, English, Spanish, Zoque, mexico, Chiapas, Indigenous, translated, identity, immersion, internationalism, activism, community, communal, feminism, feminist poet, Ecology, environmentalism, Indigenous rights, Indigenous autonomy
Publish Date
8.5 × 6.5 × 1 in
15 oz

Mikeas Sánchez

Mikeas Sánchez is the author of How to Be a Good Savage and Other Poems. She is one of the most important poets of the Indigenous Americas, working in Zoque, a language spoken in southern Mexico.


Wendy Call

Wendy Call is co-editor of Telling True Stories: A Nonfiction Writers’ Guide and Best Literary Translations, author of the award-winning No Word for Welcome, and translator of two collections of poetry by Mexican-Zapotec poet Irma Pineda.



Shook is a poet, translator, and editor whose work has spanned a wide range of languages and places.

Praise and Prizes

  • “Milkweed’s Seedbank series is one of the most exciting and visionary projects in contemporary publishing. Taking the long view, these volumes run parallel to the much-hyped books of the moment to demonstrate the possibility and hope inherent in all great literature.”

    Stephen Sparks
    Point Reyes Books
  • “Through its cultural-linguistic contribution to narrative diversity, Milkweed’s Seedbank series is a vital tool in imagining the futures possible for humanity beyond the anthropocene. Bringing works from Greek, K’iche’, German, Russian (and more!) whose authors are deeply rooted in their homelands, each voice encountered has resonated with me on a seemingly cellular level—shifting and changing both who I am and can be. I will continue to press these books into the hands of compassionate readers and cannot wait to share the forthcoming titles in the project!”

    Erin Pineda
    27th Letter Books
  • “Milkweed as a publishing house has long been championing literary works both fictitious and true to life centered around culture, nature, and environmentalism. The Seedbank series serves as both a marvelous introduction to the books Milkweed provides and as a collection of essential stories that ought to be on everyone’s radar. The words behind these front covers highlight life-changing experiences, knowledge, and ways of life from communities that are seldom otherwise heard from in the publishing world through an authentic cultural lens. What I’ve read from the Seedbank line is phenomenal, and I look forward to spending time with future works in the series.”

    Andrew King
    Secret Garden Books