Wednesday, June 1, 2011

David Romero's Diamond Bars: The Street Version (plus a free download!!!!!!)

As my struggle continues, as I battle with everyday life and the unexpected events that have changed my course, I am beginning to see the need for stretching my poetic muscles as I get back to writing. I am not just going to be able to compose a masterpiece poem right off the bat just as I can’t go run a marathon before building up to it; I need to warm up- stretching and conditioning- for the big race. It may be a bit of a corny metaphor, but it fits.

Part of the stretching is of course attending great readings, like Murray Thomas’ reading at the Barnes and Noble in Long Beach, or reading great books like David Romero’s Diamond Bars The Street Version. I have been fortunate enough to do both and to write a review for Diamond Bars. For this, David has been gracious enough to give me over 3 months to overcome life’s little potholes and speed bumps in order to write this.

Diamond Bars attempts to give “street cred” back to the suburban kid and shows the world that art can come from suburbia too. Romero asserts “There’s art everywhere! The place is an exhibit.” In essence, Romero defies the common criticism of neighborhoods with “Blue skies/ Wide streets/ Green, clean-cut grass.” He point-blankly refutes the opposition’s idea of where poetry comes from and allows the wide streets of his childhood to create the spaces for each of his poems- each poem sprawls across the page, does jumping jacks on the driveways, skips across the manicured lawns until they have written their words in chalk across the entire sidewalk of LA, washing all the asphalt in their color. No margin of the page is off limits, no style untouched, and no language is off limits, which seems only fitting. The language of the streets and not the scholar finds its home on the pages of Romero’s collection. Each experience feels real and each finds beauty in the “nine to five,” the simple joy of drinking a fountain soda, or the endless traffic of southern California -“Silhouette smiles of the rising sun/ In my rearview” can bring back the fondest of memories. Political, passionate, and proud, David Romero’s collection brings poetry to people that may have thought they didn’t like poetry, and no poet will dispute the power in that.

So now you can’t wait to read it, right! Well you are in luck! David is offering a 1 day, free download at:

Don’t miss this!

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Dorothy Barresi and her "Cathedral of expletives"

Last Thursday, as I continue on with my exploration of this post-grad slump and clamor my way up the walls out of the poetry barren ditch I have fallen into, I attended another reading at my alma mater and listened to the fabulous Dorothy Barresi. Now I realize that by only attending readings in my safety zone, I may not seem as though I am actually clamoring up any walls at all, but rather staying in a place of comfort and familiarity. I argue that when in a post-grad slump, you find any way you can to claw, dig, fight your way out of it. My brilliant artist for a cousin, Phyllis Ginter, tried to post the following on the blog, (but it didn't like her that day). She wrote, "You'll hit those slumps from time to time. The tedious tasks of life, like pesky day jobs, laundry and grocery lists can pull your focus away from your art, but you can pull it back. You've already started. Go listen to good poets. Listen to bad poets. Jiggle your brain cells by checking out the best of other art forms. Go someplace you have never been before. An unfamiliar place. It doesn't have to be exotic, it can be really ordinary. What are the stories in that place, what is the feeling? You know what I mean?" And many dear poetry friends have given similar advice, so I say, attend whatever reading you can, no matter where it is, as long as it gets you back out there.

So, Dororty Barresi... well, she's absolutely fabulous. She seamlessly roves from humorous, imaginative poetry to lyrical stylings that touch on all the realms of life. Death and mysticism, questioning the world, playful, smart, witty, from Religion to being a mother and even connecting "Grendel's Mother" in with it all; it seems there is no subject, no feeling she can't conquer. I am in the process of reading her latest book, American Fanatics, and have heard only fabulous things from people regarding it. It's not often that every person I talk to about a single book all give it rave reviews, so I am eager to soak it all in.

What was so perfect about me attending this reading were some of the things Dorothy talked about after during the question and answer period. She talked about when she first sits down to write and how it always begins with "the terror of the blank page." Being a full-time teacher and mother, she knows all too well about finding time to write. She usually only finds time in the "off-season" of teaching. To keep her writing brain going, she keeps a language journal. When she said this, I was elated! I've done this for years and just felt like a word geek. But she uses hers to "shop around for a cool idea [so she] can begin hacking something out." It is a place where all the language she loves can come together whether it be a word from the Bible or an expletive that she loves so, they inspire her to begin to writing again, to help her get over that terror.

Dorothy also talked about the revision process, vital as we all know, and apparently she is never happy. She endlessly revises, moves commas and lines, words, anything. She calls it an "ugly process." Ironically though, she writes in lines, not full sentences later broken. She also says " it is emotionally healthy to share your work," but she herself opts not to do so. Instead she finds "pleasure in burrowing in there [the place of solitude where she writes]."

So as I continue my "quest," I find that I am not so alone and that even fabulous, successful writers like Barresi, they too get lost sometimes in the real world. We just have to find inspiration wherever we can, whether like Barresi who is continuously inspired by her students, or listening to any poets we can find, shopping through a language journal, or exploring a new place and figuring out it's story; it's all a process, and I guess this is just all part of mine.

Thanks for all of the response and please continue to follow. Look for the upcoming review of David Romero's Diamond Bars The Street Version.

Friday, February 25, 2011

How do you get out of a post grad slump? A dose of Webb and Koertge twice before bedtime.

Last night, nearly nine months after graduating with my MFA in Poetry, I returned to my alma mater, Cal State Long Beach, and attended my first poetry reading since graduating. It was a long time to go with no poetry in my life, but I knew if I wanted to get inspired, this was the reading to attend: the HIP Poetics hosted reading featuring two Southern California greats Ron Koertge and Charles Harper Webb. Each time I see them read, I am reminded why they have successful careers, dozens of books between them, and a slue of admirers nation-wide – they are creatively brilliant and have imaginations that dwarf my own to the size of a microscopic bacteria.

The vision of Webb and Koertge show us that creativity is found in so many crevices of life, even “The Three Stooges,” “Superman,” and classic fairy tales of trolls and billy-goats Gruff. Humor and enjoyment can be extracted from anything and turned into a poem that reaches beyond surface laughter. Webb and Koertge’s poems transport us into another realm of depth, sarcasm, religion, and mysticism where dark truths can be unexpectedly found in the act of moving, Vikings, and Lois Lane’s Diary and all the while, I chuckle along.

During the reading, Webb addressed a question he had been asked earlier in the evening: What makes writing fun? His answer wasn’t an idea I had forgotten entirely, he had taught it to me when I first began seriously writing, but it had seemed to have sunken down into the moldy corners of my brain. To paraphrase, he said the fun is in discovering something new, something that you weren’t expecting- a combination of words, language, and sounds that surprise you.

For a writer trying to re-find her mojo, her muse, her Duende, no words could mean more and as I write this, I find myself rediscovering the pure enjoyment of getting thoughts and words down onto paper, however ineloquent they may be. How could I have forgotten the feeling of something I preach to my composition students everyday- writing is fun. Discovering a recipe of words and syllabics that make my tongue work, the waft of language in the air that makes the ear yearn to hear more is as gratifying as finding the mythic comfortable strapless bra (all of the ladies reading this are agreeing with me right now; it’s a myth).

So if writing is so great, how do we get ourselves into this post grad slump?

After the reading, I got to chatting with a fellow Long Beach MFA grad, Eric Morago, (who recently published his debut collection What We Ache For- Go Buy It!), and he told me that I should get back onto the proverbial writing horse, bring back Formaldehyde, attend a reading at least once a month, something. I told him I doubted anyone would care about the rantings of a frustrated writer, but he encouraged me that I am not alone, that there are numbers of us out there trying to balance everyday life with the act of writing outside of mandated workshop deadlines. So in the midst of paying back student loans and maintaining the multiple jobs it takes to do so, I ask you, how do you get out of a post-grad slump? Advice encouraged.