Friday, July 10, 2015

Noche de Palabras, Redux!



Last week, I read at a wonderful event, Noche de Palabras, in Brownville. I had such a fantastic time! I was honored to be the featured reader at this event. There we are, all smiles, above. All of the readers! From the bottom left -- Linda Romero, Amy Becker-Chambless, Ana Hinojosa (I think that was her name!), McAllen's new poet laureate, Priscilla Suarez, Roberto de la Tore. On top, from left -- the owner of the cafe!, little old me, Rossy Lima Padilla the event organizer extraordinaire, Julieta Corpus, and Lupita. What a wonderful night!

My dad and Bruno joined me, too, so that made it even more fun to have my family there with me. 

To be honest, it was one of the better poetry readings I've ever had the pleasure of being a part of. Brownsville is such a lovely town, and it seems as though the people are eager for the arts. And the readers? Fantastic. It was about 50/50 English/Spanish, and the atmosphere was really just inspiring and supportive. I even sold a few books :-D And I tried out my new Slue Foot Sue poems! Afterwards, we stayed to listen to some music and throw back a beer. 

Sorry you missed out? Well, not to fear, here are a few videos :)


Noche de palabras, noche de poesía. Aquí una de las poetas de la noche.Katie Hoerth
Posted by Expresiones Literarias en Español on Tuesday, July 7, 2










Cultura, raíces, dioses y leyenda. Rossy Evelin Lima Padilla adornó la noche con su hermosa poesía.Y Katie Hoerth cerró la noche.
Posted by Expresiones Literarias en Español on Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Monday, June 29, 2015

Manuscript Mania... Bleh.

Today's blogpost is going to be a rambling mess of my talking about the disarray that is my current poetry manuscript. You've been warned.

Since finishing Goddess Wears Cowboy Boots, I've been having some serious issues getting my barrings straight on the next manuscript. This isn't a new phenomenon for me. In fact, I tend to feel a sense of loss and sadness when wrapping up a book-length project, followed by anxiety to figure out what the next book is going to be about. Maybe it's because people are always asking me, at readings, at work, in workshop, "So, whatcha workin' on now?" or "When's the next book coming out, Katie?" and, well, to be honest, I'm the type of person who's hugely motivated by the idea of end goals.

So, when that end goal is nebulous? I kind of freak.

That's how it's been for me these past few months. Goddess Wears Cowboy Boots was a huge undertaking, and even after ruminating on the theme of feminist goddesses for the duration of my writing which was over two years, I felt that I wasn't QUITE ready to let it go. Let it go, Katie. Seriously. Let it go.

This summer, my main goal, to be completely honest, was to shape my manuscript, figure out what it was all about. For the first month (May) my poems were mostly memoirish, based off my recent experiences with pain, disability, and healing. But meh. I'm really not a very interesting person. And not only that, but I really don't want my condition to define who I am as a poet, much less as a person. So getting some space from that I think was a mental necessity.

So I moved on, began writing different kinds of poems, too, alongside those. At a loss, I went back to the whole idea of writing what you know. And what do I know? Well, revisionist myth, of course.

Enter. More Eve poems. Ugh. I thought I'd been banished from the Garden of Eden when I finished The Garden Uprooted! Apparently not. Then I wrote a small batch of fairy tale poems, which, too, is familiar ground also explored in The Garden Upooted. Meh. Same poem over and over again much?

Then, in early June, I stumbled upon a call for submission for Wild West persona poems from Dos Gatos Press. I love the work they put out, and something in me really wanted to submit to this anthology even if I'd never explored that theme before and had nada. I started looking at interesting women heroes from the wild west and wrote two persona poems I was pretty ok with. Good enough for a submission!

But as I was doing my "research" (ok, reading wikipedia articles don't judge), I read a retelling of the Pecos Bill legend, and low and behold, he had a girlfriend/wife that I'd never heard of. Her name is Slue Foot Sue, a wild child of rural West Texas who among other things rides a giant catfish up and down the Rio Grande. The really weren't many legends about her, aside from those relating to her relationship with the infamous Pecos Bill. Hmmm...

So, I figured what the hey. If there's no folklore about her, then why not write some? And so was born my next project :)

I've got about 15 or so poems about ol' Sue. They're rough, but her story (or, rather, lack of story) has been inspirational. In a sense, I'm creating her narrative, her epic, of her life before she met Bill. And you know what? In my story, she's stronger, faster, and fiercer than he'd ever hope to be. I'm writing her epic in a mixture of blank verse and sapphic meter, though I think I'm going to stick to BV to really give it that umph... maybe just a few lyric poems here and there in sapphics.

It's been fun, and it's helped me to develop a central theme to work towards on my next book. I'm thinking of something along the lines of "The Lost Chronicles of Slue Foot Sue and other legends" and sprinkling it with some of my other revisionist myth poems that didn't make it into Goddess.

So phew, ok, now I know what to tell folks when they ask me what I'm working on. Instead of blumbering out "Oh, you know, women, vagina, feminism, body, Texas, revisionist myth, more vagina" I can actually create a coherent sentence. That's probably a good thing.

:-D Onward!


Thursday, June 18, 2015

Workshops.

Life's been pretty darn nice lately.

It's summer and I have all the time in the world to write. Typically, what that means is I stare at my computer and get angry with myself for not having enough ideas. This summer, though, that's not happening at all. I've been writing writing writing.

I've also been participating in several different forms of online workshops, which is helping me immensely, too, to keep on track with not only developing new material, but also revising and polishing my work, which I find just as important (if not more). So the two different types of workshops I participate in are a Skype-type workshop, live with a small group of poets, and then, an online poetry forum called Eratosphere.

The first type of workshop is fairly new to me. I think it was around March that one of my Facebook friends, Terry, from Houston posted something about wanting to start an online poetry group. I'm always up for something new, so I asked him if I could join. It turned out to just be him and one other poet, also from the Houston area. Our workshops are fairly informal. We "meet" online once every two weeks for about two hours. We each read a poem and then the other two poets discuss it, giving suggestions for improvement. It works out pretty nicely because we're all good sports, practicing poets, and open to criticism (super important!). It's been hugely beneficial for me for a couple of reasons -- first, it keeps me writing. Every two weeks, I feel the need to have SOMETHING to show for myself. Second, it helps me gauge the reception of my work. Now, Terry and Laura are super nice and never tell me something sucks, but they're more enthusiastic about some pieces than others, which is good to be aware of. Third, it gives me direction for revision and a sense as to how readers view my work. And lastly, it helps me to see and reflect on other poets' writing processes. Terry, Laura and I are all very different in terms of our poetics. I'm a formalist. Neither of them dabble in formal poetry -- Terry's work is very modernist/minimalist with swathes of philosophy woven in. Laura writes colorful imagist work with bits of regionalism mixed in. I think that's a good thing, though. We learn from one another.

The other workshop group I participate in is Eratosphere. I've been an on again, off again member there since 2011. The only reason I end up going away is just because being an integral member of this community is very time consuming, but I always find that my time there is well spent. The poets there are very serious about their craft, so they make me be serious about my craft, too, paying attention to each syllable and sound. It feels good to be back!

Anyway, workshopping makes my work better. I'm so glad that this summer, I've been able to jump in and get some feedback, talk to other poets, and ultimately, learn and grow in my craft. There's nothing better. So between writing, conversing with other poets, critiquing, revising, polishing, and writing some more, my days are pretty occupied.

I would like to add some kind of a face-to-face local aspect to my workshop regiment, but I've really honestly never had much luck in that department here. I've tried starting my own workshops, and while I'm good at drumming up a team, no one stays committed to it. I've tried joining other peoples' workshop groups, but it looks like they have a similar type of problem. So bleh. Maybe someday I'll find a group of dedicated poets to workshop with, but until then, I am doing pretty darn good with online workshops. We shall see.

Meanwhile, long distance workshops are suiting me pretty nicely :)

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Noche de Palabras



So, I had a pretty eventful weekend! Rossy Lima Padilla invited me to read at the first Noche De Palabras event at Hueso del Fraile in downtown Brownsville. Brownsville's about an hour and a half drive, so I'm typically pretty reluctant to make the trip out there for a short reading, but what the heck, I thought, I'm on vacation!

The event was truly bilingual -- so often, there's just one or two poets who read a piece in Spanish and the rest is in English, including the M.C's intros and words between readers. But this reading was a little different, and it was really refreshing. My Spanish is actually pretty ok believe it or not -- I'm able to understand it, but I don't grasp it well enough to write in it. So of course, my poems were in English, but the other poets were about half and half. I really appreciated the change to hear some quality poetry in Spanish.

The evening's featured reader was Chris Carmona, who is a good friend of mine. He also edited my first book, The Garden Uprooted! So, it was nice to hear his new work and see what he's been up to these past few months. His style is Beat, which is kind of the opposite of what I do. Come to think of it, so many of the valley poets write in that Beat style. I'm the odd formalist out. It's all good. We as poets have more in common than we do differences, and it's always good to experience and get to know work that's different from your own. It makes me consider different points of view as a poet, which adds depth and complexity to my own work. There is always something new to learn.

Anyway, I read new work. Fortunately for me, I've been writing a lot of new material these past couple of weeks, so I figured this venue, a little on the quiet and low key side, would be a great space to try out a new piece or two. In front of a big crowd, I would be too nervous to read new poems that I hadn't practiced. In fact, that Friday, I read drafts of work! Totally unlike me!

The coolest news of the evening was that Rossy, the organizer, invited me back next month to be the featured poet. What an honor! So be on the lookout for an official announcement about that, but it will be in early July (the 10th, I think?).

In other Katie news -- I ran a 10k! And you know what else? I came in 1st place in my age/gender division! Wowowowow. I am so unbelievably impressed with myself. And it wasn't some rinky dink race either; there were over 1000 participants, 44 in my age/gender division. So, that's pretty awesome. The race itself was special for a couple of reasons -- first, it was a run across the South Padre Island/Port Isabel Causeway, so the views were spectacular. Second, it's something I've always wanted to do ever since I first heard about this run, but I'd always been lazy or scared. And third, I ran the race with none other than my own Pops! He, too, kicked some serious ass. Above, that's me, crossing the finish line. B took this wonderful shot which I think pretty much sums up my current mood and state of mind. It's no exaggeration to say that I was smiling the entire run, despite the incline on the causeway, the hot, South Texas sun, and the lack of water stations. None of that mattered when I was looking out at the bay, high on endorphins.

For a while there when I first got sick, I didn't think I would be able to run again. Now, I'm more determined than ever to live life to the fullest for as long as I can. We were made to thrive!






Monday, June 1, 2015

Beyond Arts Magazine



Squeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee!
Read the full article here ... just click on the June 2015 issue.
That's me! That's me! That's me! LOL.

It's so surreal to see my face on a magazine, to explore my work through the lens of a reader, to read about myself in someone else's words! But my goodness. I am so grateful to Alyssa for writing this article and for doing such a marvelous job with both the photos and the story itself. I especially like that she emphasized my feminism, because I think that's particularly cornerstone to my identity and my work. Such smartness.

Lately, life has been charmed, truly. I'm writing like a mad woman each day. I'm talking poetry with others. I'm reading. I'm thinking. I'm musing. I'm making crazy progress. I'm dreaming. Don't wake me.

Friday, May 29, 2015

Beautiful Scars Book Release

The erudite scholar, Ted E, Bear, contemplates a book of poetry


A few nights back, I had the pleasure of attending Edward Vidaurre's release of his latest (and third) poetry collection, Beautiful Scars. The event itself was a wonderful time -- a cozy coffee shop setting, inspiring and warm company, and of course, just damn good poetry. It was a laid back evening of celebration for Edward's amazing accomplishment and for our little poetry community as well.

I really admired the way Edward presented himself and his poetry. His reading was essentially a conversation with the audience. It felt like (and really was) like having coffee with a good friend. He talked about his past experiences with poetry and literature, his humble beginnings, and how his journey to becoming a writer was somewhat unconventional (but is it, really?). It was so enlightening and heartening to hear him talk about his work in such an accessible, honest, and down to earth way. His message was one that poetry is meant to be enjoyed by the people, and however it touches you, that's its true meaning. That's a beautiful sentiment.

Anyway, during the reading my back was bugging me something fierce, so I felt all awkward standing there while everyone else was sitting down. But whatever, I wasn't about to let my pains get in the way of enjoying my evening. Besides, I had to stay through until the end so I could buy my copy!

That evening, I came home exhausted, so I left the book on my coffee table. It wasn't until last night that I picked it up. And you know what? I read the entire book in one gulp. It was that good.

The book itself tells a rough narrative of the speaker's life experiences, the grit and dirt of life, love lost and rediscovered, the death and birth of loved ones, the losing and the finding of self. Some poems take place in East L.A, and we see homelessness, riots, poverty. Some take place in South Texas along the Rio Grande River and we see a richness of place that's unmistakable. My favorite poem in this collection is "Eloy, the Lion," which, interestingly enough, Edward also said at the reading it was his most difficult poem to write. It takes the reader on a journey of coming to terms with loss through grief and sadness, but it ends with Eloy, the speaker's step-father, entering heaven. Rubbing elbows with this poem are a series about the speaker's young daughter, so in a sense, Eloy lives on. 

The images are always surprising. One minute, the speaker is an owl, the next, he's an organ donor on the side of the road. There's haikus, there's spanglish, there's blues all intermixing to illustrate the universal human condition -- its capacity to love, its capacity to grieve. 

Anyway, if you can't tell, let me just spell it out. You should read this book. It's accessible, beautiful, and a journey through an emotional landscape like no other.

Congratulations, Edward Vidaurre, on another compelling collection of poetry. I am looking forward to hearing more from this authentic voice in American poetics. 

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Blurbing



My last few days have been, well, let's just call them adventurous.

A cat had kittens in my attic, and said kittens fell into the wall. B took a sledge hammer to the wall, and by some miracle, I found two squeally, scared and hungry little buggers. We've trapped the mom kitty, and she's at the vet clinic right now getting spayed. The next step is finding homes for the little ones. 

Anyway, this evening I took a break from my kitten antics and sat down to get to a task I'd been looking forward to for awhile, writing my first blurb for another poet, PW Covington, for his upcoming poetry collection, soon out from Slough Press. PW and I had the briefest of conversation about his project at this year's Valley International Poetry Fest. My first collection, The Garden Uprooted, was with Slough Press, also, so I was delighted to hear he was "joining the family" so to speak. And that's us, pictured to the right. Chris Carmona, editor of Slough Press, is at the far left, then PW, then Dr. Cummins, who really doesn't figure into this story at all, so.... and then of course, there's me.

Then, he asked me if I'd blurb his book :-D 

How exciting, right? So it's making me rethink and consider what the function of blurbs are, what makes a good one, and most importantly, how to put one together.

From what I understand, blurbs are like a mix between a review and a summary. They're short, concise, and of course, laudatory. When I write book reviews, I like to think of them as explaining HOW I read the book rather than if I liked the book, so I thought that maybe blurbs could have the same function -- a brief explanation of what the book is about, what it does, and how it fits into the discourse of poetry.

So that's how I tried to approach the task of writing this blurb. I hope I got it right. I spent yesterday afternoon reading the book, and this afternoon I took a swing at writing about it. PW and I have vastly different styles of writing -- I'm formalist, he's Beat. What our work DOES have in common, though, is a sense of place and regionalism. I admire his collection, particularly for how honest it is, how it kind of just strips away the crap and gets to the stark realness of contemporary life.

It feels a little different to be on THIS side of the blurbing. I always felt so horribly awkward asking other poets for blurbs, and I was astonished by their generosity. But you know what, on this end, it actually feels really good to do this kind of work. I enjoy seeing what other poets are doing because it inspires me to rethink the way I write and see the world. So this was a pleasure -- it made me stick my neck out, occupy someone else's sonder, and then, of course, articulate why and how things work.

All good things.

So, blurbing? You're not so bad. Maybe with my next book, I'll put on my big girl panties and ask some other authors for blurbs. Maybe. It's still awkward. Bleh.


Monday, May 18, 2015

So It Begins -- My Summer Vacation

Ah, yes...

It's about that time of the year when my world slows to a halt, when the craziness of busy schedules, to-do lists, and responsibilities go away, and I'm left with no more excuses not to write.

It's summer.

Today was my first official day of vacation, my first full day. I'm off, for sure, from now until the middle of July, and if my classes summer classes don't make, until the end of August. It's an interesting feeling -- the pressure of work and teaching falls away, but the pressure to write, to produce, to make the most of my time of rest builds up. I can't waste a perfectly good two/three months of writing time, of me time.

Last week, I eased into my new writing routine, and it's actually been going pretty well. I'm writing in the mornings and then doing other writer-related business in the afternoons, like editing, submitting, and blogging. It's a pretty good system.

So what are my goals for this summer?

I don't think they're necessarily very tangible, and that scares me a bit to be honest. I'd like to say, "I'm going to finish manuscript X by the time I return to work" or maybe be halfway done with it, but I don't know what "it" is just yet. It's all very nebulous at the moment. I know that my next project is a book of poems (duh). I know that the book is centered around narratives of the body. But beyond that, I'm not totally sure where I'm going with this.

Anyway, I need some goals, so here they are:

1. Have a solid concept of your next manuscript before returning to work
2. Write everyday. No excuses. You don't have an excuse anymore.
3. Be productive with your writing time. Make each session fruitful, even if that fruit is a page of jibberish. Make headway everyday.
4. In terms of a number of poems, one a week is too few. One a day is too many. So, be somewhere in between.
5. Create at least one new prose piece before the summer ends
6. Maintain a healthy submission schedule of one at least two submissions per week
7. Blog. At least one per week.
8. Participate in the poetry community! Online AND in person. Workshop weekly. Read in public/sign books monthly
9. Revamp your creative writing syllabus for the fall, but do this towards the end of the summer of course :-)
10. Be healthy, of body and mind.

Ten's a nice round number, isn't it?

Those summer goals are doable. I can do this. I can have a productive, fun, and relaxing summer. I can breathe a little. I can enjoy myself.

My summer is already starting to come together, looks like! I've got a few events lined up, too, which will keep me busy, active, and overall, happy. I'll be reading at a Poetry Pasta and Vino May 30th, at El Hueso del Fraile on June 5th, and signing books at Boots, Books, and Brew on June 20th.

I'm also running a 10k next month. Yep, you read that right. F off, spinal stenosis! :-D

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Valley International Poetry Festival 2015 Reflections



National Poetry Month has come and gone.
The Valley International Poetry Festival has come and gone.
The spring 2015 semester has come and gone.

It's always an interesting time of the year for me, May is. There's this strange peace to it, and at first it always feels a little eerie because I'm so used to being ridiculously busy. This week, I'm finalizing my grades, and then I'll be off with absolutely no schedule, no to-do list, no obligations for at least two and a half months, maybe more if my summer classes don't make. What am I going to DO with myself? Why, write of course!

Anyway, I want to take a moment to look back at the crazy month that was April before setting goals for the next little chapter of my life. I survived, which was a pretty amazing feat come to think of it! Last month, I presented at AWP, attended the TIL awards banquet in Houston, wrote and read a poem at a friend's wedding, and of course, participated in VIPF. Not to mention working. And writing! Though I didn't QUITE meet my NAPOWRIMO goal, I'm pretty darn proud that I was able to maintain a semblance of a writing routine in the craziness of April. I wrote twenty-two shitty first drafts of poems. Not bad!

When I last left off, I was basking in the afterglow of the anthology release party. So, I'll pick up there, the following day, on Friday, April 24.

The next day, Mary Ann Escamilla and I were set to the task of hosting a Poets in the Schools event at UTPA. Daniel arranged for two of the featured poets to join us, PW Covington and Shirley Rickett. Before the reading, we arranged to meet up with the poets for a informal lunch in the student union so we could all get to know one another, powwow about the event, and of course, just shoot the breeze. It's always fun.

Then, at around 2, we all headed over to the classroom. Our readings are never terribly fancy or formal, but I kind of like that about them. We had a handful of students join us as audience members, and one was even brave enough to read a piece at the "open mic" or maybe I should call it an open podium :) One thing that always surprises me is how varied everyone's poetry is. PW shared his Beat poetry with us, smooth, prosy, and filled with these short blasts of lyricism. Shirley, on the other hand, shared a lot of nature poetry, but nature poetry that branched (hah) off into issues of culture, migration, and language. Her poetry is tight, succinct, dense, and always beautiful. I was wrangled into a reading a piece, too, just because we didn't have many takers on the open mic and, well, it's not too hard to convince me to be the center of attention once in awhile. There we are in the picture, the merry bunch of us! From LEFT, Javi Tovar (?), PW Covington, Cesar Deleon, Laura Pena, ME, and Amy Becker Chambless.

Anyway, after the reading I headed home for some much needed respite. I laid on the sofa, did a little writing, kissed my cats... the usual Katie routine. Though, before long, it was time to head over to The Flying Walrus, a bar in downtown McAllen, for our poetry slam.

When I arrived, the bar was actually still closed, and Daniel and some of the other poets were setting up the stage. It probably looked really unfeminist of me, but I pulled up a chair, kicked up my feet, and watched the men do all the hard work. I'll blame it on my back, which actually is a pretty valid excuse because I'm not supposed to lift anything more than ten pounds :D I digress.

The readings got started in short order, and I was fortunate to participate in the "college readings" as university faculty. It was a little special because my former professor and current colleague, Emmy Perez, introduced me and said how proud she was of me :) At my first VIPF, when I was still her student, she said the exact same thing! I was just thinking about that... it was just after my first chapbook was published back in 2010. I'm digressing again.

Next up were the featured poets -- Shirley and PW again, and then Amalia Ortiz, who's an MFA student at UTPA and also a renowned slam poet.

Now, I'm not a slam poet. And I don't mean that in a pretentious way at all. I admire poets who can slam, and I think it's an amazing form of art that reaches out to a wider audience. I don't believe there's this divide between slam and academic poetry, though, and I think Amalia's performance proved just that. She performed some amazing work, intermixing feminist issues with Greek mythology and pop culture/current events. I left inspired.

By the time the actual slam was getting going, I was starting to feel a little achy, so I ended up leaving a little early. A newbie (At least a vipf newbie) was crowned the champion, so that is awesome to hear we've got some new blood in the mix!


Of course, Saturday was the main event. My first reading was scheduled out on South Padre Island, which is about an hour and a half drive from my house! Yikes! And guess who got up late? Yeah....

Anyway, B and I went together because after the reading, I promised we'd stop at his favorite burger joint. The reading was at Paragraphs on Padre, which is probably my favorite venue in all of the festival (the only place that comes close is Schneider's, which wasn't a venue this year anyway). It's the cutest, coziest little bookstore with the most charismatic and friendly owners. I just love it there. This reading felt more like a conversation than anything else, which was really cool! I know in the picture I'm staring off into the sun. I also sold a handful of books, and, as per always, spent my riches on, you guessed it, more new books. Woohoo!

B and I spent the afternoon on the beach, and I missed my next reading in Harlingen, which is just as well. I didn't really want a fast-paced day, so taking a slow walk along the beach and having a leisurely lunch at Burgerfi was pretty much the perfect way to spend the day.  Plus, that night, of course, was the pachanga! Oh, there I am, enjoying my quinoa burger, onion rings, and IPA!

When I finally make my way back to the upper valley, I head into the McAllen Chamber of Commerce, the venue for the pachanga. I'm greeted by friendly faces and delicious vegetarian tamales. Is there anything better? No, no there is not. Before the readings begin, we all share a wonderful dinner and conversation. I had the pleasure of sitting and chatting with Odilia Rodriguez!

The actual Pachanga readings went off without a hitch. The featured readers took the stage first. It was the first time I'd had a chance to hear Cindy Rodriguez read her work, and my oh my. Needless to say, I had to get my grubby little hands on a copy of her book before the night was over! I actually bought a bunch of books at the pachanga that evening, and sold out of all of mine, which is good and all, except, well, I didn't have anything to READ off of at the pachanga! I had to recite a poem from memory, which I wasn't entirely confident about because I hadn't done that in awhile. But I was able to do it just fine B-) Here I am with Daniel Garcia Ordaz, founder and organizer extrodinaire. He introduced me in the kindest of way, mentioning my award and making me feel all warm and fuzzy. I said that I got my start here at the festival! And it was true. Me and this festival? We go way back to when I was a clichéd baby poet who didn't know her anapests from a hole in the ground.

The coolest thing, I think, about the pachanga, is that you get to hear EVERYONE, all of the featured poets, share a single poem at the mic. Again, so much range in styles, voice, and approaches, but it's so inspiring, too! We're all poets. We're all sharing our view of the world. And there's something essentially beautiful about that.

By the end of the night, I was exhausted. I was glad to head home, hop into bed, and spend my Sunday just relaxing :)

So another VIPF is in the books. This year, I was just an enthusiastic participant rather than an editor or an organizer, but seeing the festival from that end was just as wonderful. I simply enjoyed it. Plain and simple. I reconnected with old friends. Met new people. Talked poetry. Felt like I was a part of a community. All good things. All essential things. I can't wait for April to come around again!

Friday, April 24, 2015

Napo 22 and VIPF BEGINS!


So it begins! The Valley International Poetry Festival!

Yesterday, we kicked it off with a lovely anthology release celebration and reading at the Mission Historical Museum. It was, in one word, magical. Truly. We sat out on the lawn and had a beautiful little picnic and poetry reading as the sunset. The only way it could have been better? If there was wine.

I was honored to have three poems in the anthology this year, and I read one of them at the reading. Always, though, the best part of the event is reconnecting with old friends and meeting new ones. Some of the highlights of the night were meeting Laura Pena, my long-distance critique buddy, chatting up Shirley Rickett and checking out her new poetry collection, Transplant, and holding the new anthology, Boundless, in my hands.

The fun continued today at UTPA, where Mary Ann Escamilla and I hosted a poetry reading with PW Covington and Shirley Rickett for the campus community. It was relaxed, laid back, and a little low key. Tonight, we'll be at The Flying Walrus for a poetry slam! Will I slam? No. I never slam.

Anyway, onto NAPO:

Today's prompt was to write a response to a famous poem.

I just scrolled through The Poetry Foundation's website for a bit until I came across a "famous" poet -- you know the kind, the ones we read back in high school.

So I came across Yeats, his poem, Politics.

And it made me think about all the creepy old men who stare at women, like the speaker in this poem. I don't know, I have an odd relationship with COM...they're everywhere. They're harmless. Sometimes, they're kind of sweet, but most always, they're creepy and make me feel uncomfortable.

And so, here's my response, a bit more, hmm, postmodern/feminist:

Creepy Old Men

How can I, a creepy old man
Standing there at the podium,
Fix my attention on anything
But the curl at the corner
Of his smile, the naughty glint
In the corner of his eye
As I, engrossed in the words
That roll off his tongue, grasp
At a single lock of my hair
And twist it around my finger.

He knows what he’s talking about,
Theory and literature. He’s read
Everything and recites knowledge
like a prayer to some distant god
I've never met, will never meet.

And maybe what he says is true,
But he has no idea what it means
to stand anywhere but there, to be
A tulip sitting in a vase of water, 
Eager to slough her cerise petals
to the floor, wilting in quiet contemplation.

I want to be loved. Everybody does
To become body, to tell him
How it feels, whisper wisdom
In his ear and laugh together
At the irony of everything.

But I know what that look means –
He wants my silence.
He wants to feel young again.

He wants to hold me in his arms.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Photo Shoot! and Napo 21


So, I had a new experience recently!

A photoshoot!

Whaat?

My thoughts exactly.

But it actually was pretty fun. There I am, soaking it all in and getting my goddess on! Here's how it all went down:


Last weekend, I had the pleasure of getting interviewed for Beyond Arts Magazine. They cover all the arts events and happenings in the RGV, San Antonio, and Austin. It's actually a pretty nifty little magazine. Anyway, they wanted to do a little story on me and my award/book. Coolness, I say, and agree, not really sure what I was all getting into.

The interview goes well enough. I meet with Alyssa, the writer, at a local coffee shop on a Sunday afternoon, and she asks me smart questions about my book, my influences, and feminism. We have a great little chat, and then, as we're about to say our goodbyes, she asks me, "Oh, are you down for a photo shoot a little later in the week? We'll need some pictures for the magazine."

In my mind, I'm thinking it's just going to be Alyssa, taking a couple of pictures of me. So I say, sure, what the hey, I'm down for that. "Great," Alyssa replies, "meet me at The Cubby Hole and wear a dress and some cowboy boots."

...

Ok.

Now I'm getting a little nervous. A bar? In a dress? With cowboy boots? Ok, so the PERSONA in my book is a pretty fierce, powerful goddess. Me? Well... I'm a mortal, which means I'm a little self-conscious, shy, and, well, awkward. But it's too late, I've already agreed. There's no backing out. 

So, on the day of the photo shoot, I get dressed and B, there for moral support, takes me to the bar. And who's there to great me? A team of photographers. Pros. With fancy equipment. My nerves at this point are through the roof. The first words out of my mouth as I get out of the car are: "I've never done this before! I'm not a model!" but the photographers are totally cool about it and are filled with advice and encouragement.

The whole shoot takes almost two hours. They have me pose in about a million different ways, doing different things, always showing off my fancy-smancy cowboy boots. I try to look powerful in the pictures, mighty, goddess-like. It's just the strangest experience ever! Having a group of people fawning over everything I do, the way my hair lays on my shoulders, my the angle of my arms, the tilt of my head, my smile. Other than a few Marilyn Monroe moments with the wind and my undies, I think it went off without a hitch! By the end of the shoot, I think I'm getting the hang of it, starting to feel more like a goddess and less like a shy, nervous, introverted author. 

Anyway, I'm looking forward to seeing the finished product! I am thinking the article will run in next month's edition of the magazine. We shall see!!!!

Today kicks off the Valley International Poetry Fest, so I am beyond excited about this. See the full schedule here! The Boundless Anthology is going to be released at the Mission History Museum, and I have three poems included. Woohoo! I will likely blog about it more tomorrow.


Here's my Napo 21!

Hummingbirds

Two hummingbirds outside my window dance
With one another, flit like acrobats
Around the feeder, touching beak to breast
To wing, buzzing with an urgency

To make the other disappear.
I wish they’d trust I’d always fill the feeder
With fresh nectar every day, that mine is a garden
Of plenty, a place of respite from the world outside,

a sanctuary for the thirsty if they’d choose to stay,
that there’s enough for everyone who comes
to sip, to drink, to rest their weary wings.
The sugar water flows, a never ending stream

Of sweetness, energy, nourishment, but still,
They dart around the feeder with a thirst
to drink in everything before the bounty ends.

The hummingbirds swoosh through my garden
Every year with an urgency that life is short, to soak
Up all the nectar, visit every cluster of petals
Flashing bright against the darkening sky

Of spring, to drink until their blood becomes
A river of sweetness, of sugar.  Perhaps
They just can’t understand endlessness,
Plenty, they’ve lived their short lives
In a dance with death, starvation always
Threatening to stop their hearts, the buzz
Of their wings, the glitter of their feathers
As the sun rises in the morning.
And so they fight, compete with one another,
Let the weaker and the smaller go thirsty,
To find another garden or their end.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Napo 20

Today truly was just a freewrite. I'm beyond busy, which maybe comes across in this poem :-P

The prompt was to write a pastoral. I went for a quick walk in my horribly overgrown backyard. I got bit by a few desperate mosquitoes. I saw some hummingbirds battle over the last drops of nectar in the feeder. I destroyed a few spiderwebs with my forehead. Meh.

Napo 20

The weeds take over if you let them,
Drown out everything you’ve planted
Carefully, in a moment when your life
Was something less chaotic. No,
This isn’t the clean, neat garden
You’d planted, complete with herbs,
Chocolate mint, tarragon, and sage
Growing in their tiny garden boxes,
Gardenias, lavender, phlox, blooming
In their flower boxes, the fruit trees
trimmed to maximize efficiency.

No, it’s absolutely overgrown – the rain
Kept coming and you were too busy
To tend to it, to clip, mow, or weed,
And now the garden is beyond repair –
Overrun by whatever took root.
But somehow, beauty finds a way
to thrive, in the swooshing
Of overgrown blades of grass, in the dandelions
Feathery petals, in the vines
That reclaim the fence, spreading
And growing without the help
Of your hands. Somehow, the leaves
All fall where they need to. Somehow,
the earth waters its own with the same storms
that rattled you awake last night, feeds
the hungry mouths with what's left behind.
Somehow, when you loosen your grip
on the world, it doesn’t fall apart.
It keeps spinning, living,
breathing, blooming, thriving. 

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Napo 19

Today's prompt was to write an erasure poem. I've never done that before, so this was, well, interesting? That's a good word.

I took a women's health article about weight loss, and chiseled this nonsense from it:

There may be no magic pill for weight loss, but dietician Julie Upton, MS, RD, of Appetite for Health stays on top of the science behind taming your appetite naturally. Here, she deciphers recent research and shares six foods that will keep your appetite in check.

Feel like you need some help with hunger management? You're not alone. Most of my clients who struggle with weight loss or maintenance also struggle with hunger. Of course, it's no coincidence — it's hard to walk around feeling famished, particularly when you're faced with the temptation of high-calorie treats everywhere you turn. No wonder willpower wilts!

The good news is that several new studies have identified compounds in certain foods that trigger the release of hormones in the stomach that help you feel full and neurotransmitters in the brain that suppress appetite and reduce cravings. Eating more of these foods can help keep your hunger in check, even as you cut calories to peel off pounds. It's a weight loss win-win!


Apples

An apple a day may keep extra pounds away, according to research that shows this fruit contains filling soluble fiber as well as ursolic acid, a natural compound that has been found to boost fat-burning and may promote lean muscle mass. In one study, researchers from the University of Iowa note that animals given ursolic acid supplements increased their muscle mass and energy expenditure (or calorie burn). And a study that was done on people and published in the journal Appetite shows that women who added three small apples (total calorie cost: 200) to their diet per day lost a little more than two pounds in 10 weeks — more than dieters who did not include the fruit in their diet.

A medium apple has 95 calories and 6 grams of fiber; a small apple has 75 calories and 3.5 grams of fiber. Be sure to eat the whole apple, as the ursolic acid as well as beneficial antioxidants are concentrated in the skin.

Beans (. . . and peas, lentils, and chickpeas)

Beans, peas, lentils, and chickpeas are a triple threat against hunger because they contain a lot of fiber; are excellent sources of slow-to-digest protein; and have a low glycemic index to keep blood sugar and carbohydrate cravings in check. A recent meta-analysis published in the journal Obesity indicates that people who ate about one cup (5.5 ounces) of legumes felt 31 percent fuller than those who didn't eat these fiber-filled foods. Another study, published recently in the Journal of Human Nutrition and Dietetics, reports that overweight people who ate a bean-rich diet lost nearly 10 pounds in 16 weeks while simultaneously improving their blood cholesterol levels.


Eggs

Here's some egg-citing news: eating a breakfast that's rich in protein (20 to 30 grams) suppresses ghrelin, a hormone that stimulates your appetite, while elevating peptide YY and GLP-1, two hormones that enhance satiety, according to research. One study in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition suggests that when subjects ate eggs for breakfast (versus equal-calorie breakfasts of either cereal or croissants), they consumed up to 438 fewer calories over the entire day. In fact, studies have found that an egg breakfast may help control hunger for a full 24 hours. (To keep blood cholesterol in check, you can enjoy one egg yolk per day and use egg whites for the additional protein they provide.)

Greek Yogurt

Need a reason to go Greek? A landmark study, published in Nutrition, Metabolism & Cardiovascular Diseases, reports that among more than 8,500 European adults, those who enjoyed a serving or more of European-style yogurt every day (either low-fat or full fat but with less added sugars compared to US varieties) were 20 percent less likely to become overweight and 38 percent less likely to become obese during the six-year follow-up compared to those who ate less than two servings of yogurt each week. How could thick and creamy Greek yogurt whittle your middle? The researchers believe that the protein, calcium, and probiotics may all play a role.

Plain Greek yogurt is your best bet because it's strained to lose the watery whey and some of the natural sugars. It has roughly twice the protein as traditional yogurt (a cup of plain Greek yogurt packs 24 grams of protein, as much as four large eggs) and half the sugar (with only about eight to nine grams of natural dairy sugars and no added sugar).

Mangos

Mangos are not only delicious, they're also diet-friendly. A study in The Journal of Nutrition and Food Sciences suggests that mango-eaters weighed less and had better diets than those who missed out on mangoes. This stone fruit contains many bioactive ingredients, including mangiferin, a compound that has been shown in preliminary research to help reduce body fat and added to the diets of rodents prevented weight gain and improved blood sugar and insulin levels when the animals were fed a high-fat diet to promote weight gain. control blood sugar levels. Research published in the British Journal of Nutrition reports that mango

A cup of sliced mango has just 100 calories and 3 grams of filling fiber. Say mmm, mango!

Pistachios (. . . and other nuts)

Go ahead, get a little nutty! Despite being high in calories (160 to 170 calories per ounce), nuts can be very slimming. Studies show that nut lovers are thinner than those who avoid or rarely eat nuts. Why? Nuts keep you fuller longer; their calories aren't fully absorbed by the body, and nuts provide a modest boost to your metabolism, according to research.


In-shell pistachios provide a unique advantage for waistline-watchers. A preliminary study from Eastern Illinois University suggests that people who snacked on in-shell pistachios consumed 41 percent fewer calories than those who ate shelled pistachios. The authors say the empty shells might be a helpful visual cue about how much has been eaten



Monday, April 20, 2015

Napo 18

Today's Napo is about my grandmother. I inherited a lot from her -- my name, my chubby feet, my stubbornness. Probably most marked, at least recently, has been my spinal condition, though. My mom and my grandma never got along, so I never really got to know her very well before she passed away. 

So this poem is a little bit about that. I'd like to write more about my grandma Grace, about our relationship that really isn't one, and yet, how she shapes the way I move in this world still. 

Today's prompt was to write a poem about things I know for certain. When it comes to my grandma, that list is pretty short, but hmm...

Napo 18

Things I Know About Her

I know you had to be beautiful once,
We all were in a moment in time
When the sun danced on the tip
Of your nose, when your skin
Smelled of raspberries, your hair
Like gardenias, when you wore spring
Across your shoulders like a shawl.

I know your life must have been marked
With beauty, five daughters, each one
A heavy blessing you had to carry yourself.
I know you gave my mother
Her narrow, piercing eyes, her mouth
That became stone, her grimace.

I know you gave me your name
And I carry it on my back, a cruel
Joke, Grace, as I stumble through life.

I don’t know if you were good,
Or evil, I don’t know if simply
Did the best you could, or perhaps
You could have given more 
of yourself, your tired, heavy body.
I know that you gave me your spine –

each crick, each twist, each crack,
My mom said you’d be delighted
That I’ve stumbled into your footsteps,
Fallen into the same crevice of pain,
A cycle of pills, stiff muscles, days wasted
In the hospital, only to claw my way back
into the sunlight. There’s so much I don’t know,

And if you were still here, I would ask
How you got through it all, rose
From your bed each morning,
hoisting the huge weight of earth
Onto your twisted, tired spine. 

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Napo 16 and 17

At the poets' table! From left -- Edward Vidaurre, Emmy Perez,
myself, Sergio, Nayelly Barrios, Celina Gomez, and Chris
My love, B, was behind the camera, which is his usual spot.
So, yesterday was pretty special. I was honored to read a poem at the wedding of my friends Rodney Gomez and Sara Herrera. Being invited to do this was just so humbling. When Rodney told me about his plans for this evening, my heart melted. I eagerly agreed.

The only problem? I don't really write love poetry. I'm a feminist poet, and, well, us feminists have a pretty conflicted relationship with love poetry, because so often it comes across as objectifiying -- written by a male subject to an unmoving female object. Bleh. Or it comes across as cliched, overly sentimental, gushing and bleh. So, in short, although I love the idea of love and love poetry, it's just something I find difficult to do well. Or maybe it's just that love is such a powerful force in our lives as human beings that it's so difficult to find words that give it justice.

Anyway, this event was a perfect opportunity for me to try my hand at writing some love poems, but hopefully, in my own voice. This past year has put a special kind of pressure on my life with my health issues, and B's been having some personal struggles, too. So I thought to myself, what can I say about love? What might ring true from my experiences, being married now for 10 years, having endured good and bad times?

I came to the conclusion that love, the kind I feel anyway, can't have a reason or a pretense, it has to be simply for the sake of itself. There can't really BE a reason you love someone, because that reason can be pulled out from under you like a rug. You have to love without hope or expectation.

And then, that reminded me of what B does out in our garden. Regardless of the season, he's always there, tending it, taking care of it, loving it, no matter if it's a time of plenty of a time of decline. He does it because he loves it, that's all. When there's fruit or flowers, he loves that, too. When the garden is mostly just naked branches, he takes care of and loves those twigs and dead leaves. He simply loves the company of our garden.

And I like to think he feels the same way about me, too.

Anyway, so I wrote a little series of poems for Rodney and Sara about a gardener tending his plants throughout the seasons simply because he loves them. No reason. No expectation. No pretense. Just simple love. And that's the love that I think will get you through the decades. If B loved me for my body, well, it's broken now. If I loved B for his fancy car (ok, maybe I did back when I first met him), he's sold it so we could pay the rent back when we were young and broke and stupid. Love needs to be simply for itself. Because, you know, if you work at it, that'll always, always be there.

The wedding itself was gorgeous. I attended the ceremony and the reception. Sara, the bride, is Catholic, and I always feel so awkward at Catholic services because I never know what to do and end up looking silly (I'm a Baptist). The reception was held at the history museum, which was such a cool venue! Rodney, the ultimate romantic, wrote a book of poems for Sara and gave them out as wedding favors. It was titled Fair Weather Machine, which is absolutely lovely. Regardless of the storms, he's always got sunshine because of Sara. Awwww....

The poetry reading itself was just after dinner. I gulped down some wine. Rodney had also invited Celina Gomez, Nayelly Barrios, and Edward Vidaurre to read. Each of us read at least one poem from Rodney's book. I read the eponymous poem, just because I loved it so much, in addition to my own poem. Edward read a really sexy poem which got the crowd hooting and cheering. It was pretty much perfect.

The poems I wrote for the wedding are actually Napo 10-14, though those are rough drafts. These two poems are ones I wrote after the wedding, inspired by all the love in the world. There is so much to celebrate, and you know, it's kind of miraculous.

Napo 16

At the Wedding

His was a carefully choreographed dance – first,
Lift your hands in prayer, then kneel and close your eyes,
Fill up the chalice of wine, serve the communion bread
On a silver platter, ask the couple if they’re willing,
If they understand all that’s to come, the marriage
That he blesses with a prayer that rolls from heart
To tongue to congregation. The incense rises
To the ceiling, illuminates the rays of light

that glace the bride’s bare shoulders. Her voice
is like hesitating raindrops before the storm.
Her fingers quake as the groom slips the ring on,
His own words swift and faltering like wind.
When their lips meet, shy and trembling,

They taste the uncertain musk of earth.


Napo 17

Lying in Bed, Listening to a Thunderstorm

Lightning rips apart the stillness
Of the moments before dawn outside
my bedroom window. Gusts of wind
rush into the cracks. Clouds obscure
any traces of the sunrise, a slate wall
of gray and black that swirls in
off the gulf. It’s spring, the season
where rainstorms rattle me awake.

I lay in bed, my body still beneath the covers
Wonder for a moment where I am,
Who I am, a wet leaf in the center of the storm,
Until his arm wraps around me like a stream
Of sunshine and he pulls me into his warmth,
His breath warm like gentle summer breeze.

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Napo 15

Today's prompt was to write a poem about urgency. I didn't have too many ideas, so I kind of pulled this one out of nowhere. I'm going to revise this one and work it out some more, but I want to write a poem about a little girl hearing the ice cream man's song, and it proclaims spring's resurrection, kind of comparing the little girl to Mary Magdalene and the ice cream man to the resurrection. Meh. This draft doesn't include all of that, so... I'll work at it :)

Reawakening

The world was dead, quiet, not a single bird
Or cricket sang. The nights were long, endless,
winter hadn’t loosened her grip yet.
The season was for mourning, coming to terms
With the reality of a lifetime of slate skies,
The cold and lifeless ground, crocuses
Forever sealed inside their bud like closed fists.
So when, early in the morning, I stepped out
Barefoot onto the cement outside,

I had to suspend my disbelief at the warmth
Of spring’s fingers on my face, the smell
Of life, the sound music slicing the early
Morning silence. A harbinger of spring,
I screamed across our thawing lawn,

Dad, it’s the ice cream man!

Friday, April 17, 2015

Napo 14

A tiny anecdote about my day before I share this poem:

I often blog about trying to write fiction. I am trying. My best. But it's hard, you know?

I've written a handful of stories over the past two years, and now, I'm just getting to the point of submitting them. In fact, one of them was just published in The Thing Itself! I am so incredibly proud of that, because it means that my efforts aren't futile, but to be completely honest, it's amazing how fiction comes so, UNnaturally to me, compared to poetry anyway.

Or maybe I struggled this much with poetry, too, only it's been so long ago that I don't remember?

Anyway, today was kind of funny.

I got a rejection letter from a literary journal from a fiction editor. It's a nice rejection with a few suggestions for revision, an encouraging note to try them again. But the curious thing? At the end of the email, it says, "Oh, and by the way, congrats on your big Texas Institute of Letters win..."

:-D

Why, thank you very much. I just thought that was too funny. Poetry I'm good at. Fiction? Well, I guess I still have some alearnin' to do. 

Anyway, here's Napo 14. I'm going to TRY TO get caught up with Napoing this weekend, since I'm actually caught up on grading and everything else (A miracle? I think so).

Today's prompt was to write a social media poem. I don't know what a social media poem is, so I just kind of scrolled through my feed and wrote about the things I saw. I don't know, not feeling too much promise here, but it's good to exercise the old poetry muscle nonetheless.




Social Media Poem

All the beauty, all the ugliness
that turns up on my Facebook wall. I scroll
through it in the morning from my bed,
my lazy finger lifting as I glimpse

the world before I rise – A picture
of a squirrel asleep and curled within
the arms of a stone angel,
A lovesick groom declaring his love for the bride
He’ll marry tomorrow, snapshots of a winterscape
in April that make the Texas spring outside my window
Seem so loud, so bold, so filled with life,
A video of two cats licking one another’s faces,
A tangling of tongues, of fur, of purrs,

The faces of three pups, forgotten in
The animal shelter, their eyes wide, afraid,
The weather forecast predicting hail,
Damaging winds, and thunder
That sweeps across the map before midday,
Depressing news about the oil prices
How another dozen men will be laid off.

As I toss the covers aside, I can’t help but think
about the squirrel, how he looked so peaceful
lying there in the angel’s arms, staring up
towards the sky, and I wonder where
that peace can come from,
what can make an animal that’s made
of fear lay back and close his eyes and dream
Of nuts, of trees with endless branches for hiding,
Of spring that’s bountiful and never ends,
And I figure that the only answer is
He must be dead.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Napo 11, 12, and 13! And an Announcement!

I spent the morning writing. Is there any better way to spend the morning? No. There is not.

Yesterday, I left off with my AWP recap. Today, I want to tell you about what happened the next day, on Saturday, April 11th, which was probably one of the most memorable of my life so far.

I was awarded the 2014 Helen C. Smith Prize for the Best Book of Poetry by the Texas Institute of Letters for my latest collection, Goddess Wears Cowboy Boots.

!!!

Yes, you read that correctly! I had received word about a month ago, but was told not to say anything until it was officially announced at the awards banquet and annual meeting. So, I had to sit on this bit of wonderful news.

Anyway, that's why I had to leave AWP a day earlier than expected. I needed to be in Houston to receive my award. Unfortunately, the reception for the award happened a day early this year, on Friday, so though I missed that, I was at least able to attend the banquet.

So, Friday morning, I wake up at the ungodly hour of 3am to catch a shuttle to the airport. I think, in the past three days, I'd gotten a total of maybe 3 hours of sleep. I running on adrenaline, pure and simple. That and a ridiculous amount of coffee.

By some miracle, mom and I make it to the shuttle and off we go to the airport. I'm half asleep, full of nerves and all that good stuff as the shuttle goes from hotel to hotel, picking up weary writers around downtown Minneapolis to take them to the airport. Two women sit behind me, chatting, when I hear, "Texas Institute of Letters..." I turn around.

"That's where I'm going!" I say, surprised and a little embarrassed.

The woman looks familiar, but it's too early in the day for me to place names to faces. I learn that she's being inducted into the institute. I tell her about my award (ok, maybe I'm not so good at keeping secrets). As we finish our conversation, delighted in the strange coincidence, she tells me her name is Nan. "Nan Cuba???" I ask, suddenly getting my geek on.

She laughs. "Yeah, that's me."

I had seen Nan read a few years ago at TCU as part of the Texas Association of Creative Writing Conference. She was the keynote speaker. I'm a little starstruck. "Oh. My. Goodness! You're like, famous!"

Anyway, Nan is gracious and wonderful and doesn't take my weird behavior the wrong way. I think she's a little flattered. Off we go to the airport! It would be too much of a coincidence that we'd be on the same flight, right? Right. It was. I tell Nan I'll see her in Houston in a few hours and we say our goodbyes at the airport.

Yay, a new friend!

The flight to Houston is... well it's not so bad, really, but my body is about ready to give up. My back is achy. I'm beyond tired. And the worst thing? I get overcome with this terrible nausea. Ugh. But I put on a happy face and try to just focus on the evening ahead. Scratch that. The evening ahead makes me even more nervous. I close my eyes on the plane and try to meditate. It works, kinda.

Did I mention I did yoga at the AWP book fair? And on the plane, too? And that it wasn't the weirdest of things going on?

:-P

Ok, I survive the flight, and in Houston, I say goodbye to my mom who's catching another flight home to McAllen. B, my love, is waiting to pick me up at the Houston airport. Yay! I missed him so!

B and I get some lunch at a delicious local pizza place. Only, by this point, my nerves and nausea get the best of me and I end up tossing my cookies. Oh well. Better now than at the banquet, I figure.

We check in to our hotel and I take a much needed nap. Afterwards, it's time to get fancied up for the banquet, so I do, and yay, by some miracle, I look halfway decent! I put on a happy face and head to the cocktail hour.

Once I enter the room, it's filled with people that look vaguely familiar, but I don't really recognize anyone. I scan the room, and then, standing there with a huge smile on her face is none other than Jan Seale! She gives me the biggest hug ever, and all of the sudden, I'm not so nervous anymore. She takes me around the room, introducing me to all of her friends, which is pretty much everyone who's anyone in Texas letters. Professors. Novelists. Publishers. Journalists. Poets Laureate. I'm a little starstruck. And the amazing part was that they were all wanting to meet me. Little old me!

Jan is amazingly gracious. We sit together at the banquet. When they announce my award, I'm all blushy and dorky. Maybe it was a good thing that the official reception was the previous night, because the other award winners had to give acceptance speeches, and I probably would have just sounded like a giddy, tongue-tied little girl. At the end of the ceremony, I mingle some more. One particularly special person I got to talk to was Norma Cantu. She was the contest judge who selected my book, and it's actually a little special, and here's why:

Back in 2010, I went to a conference El Mundo Zurdo at the University of Texas San Antonio. Among the Mariposas had just been published, my very first chapbook publication. I was really just cutting my teeth as a poet, so to speak. Anyway, after the conference itself, I decided to go to a reading at a art gallery and coffee shop, Gallista Gallery. There were a lot of attendees from the conference at the reading, including Norma Cantu, a leading scholar on Gloria Anzaldua and a badass poet

Anyway, I read a poem at the open mic. I remember it was "The Common Denominator," a little poem about my mom and I feeling uncomfortable but at the same time at home in a culturally diverse nail salon. After my poem, Norma approached me and bought one of my chapbooks. She gave me a hug and told me to keep writing, to keep going, keep striving, that one day, I was going to go far. I'd never forgotten that moment. She was so gracious and kind to me. I know my work was rough around the edges, but she took the time to encourage me.

So, fast forward 5 years later. I have to contain myself not to run up to her and give her a big hug. But actually, it's totally cool, because she's from South Texas and knows that's just the way we are :-) Anyway, I tell Norma the story. She remembers! She says, yes, I remember you, I remember your book, and I remember that reading! It was at Gallista Gallery, no? I turn all red. It's just too much. Too much specialness. I am beyond blessed.

"Just remember to pay it forward," she tells me with a wink.

And that's really the sentiment I left the evening with. I owe my success to so many different people who's supported me, encouraged me, and shown me love through all the steps in this crazy journey as a writer. It's all lead up to this moment, so many people have helped to build me into the poet I am today. It's just, overwhelming how much goodness there is in the world, in the hearts of others. From my first poetry instructor, Emmy Perez, who taught me the foundations, to all the classmates in my MFA workshops like Rodney Gomez, Joe Haske, Lady Mariposa, whose feedback, support, and reactions helped me hone my craft, to Steven Schneider, who helped me take my poetry seriously, one step further to putting together a thesis manuscript, who believed in me early on, to Maria Miranda Maloney, my first publisher who told me, yes, you're worth it and yes, I'm going to take a chance on you, to Christopher Carmona, my editor at Slough who picked up my first full manuscript and made me feel like a "real" poet, to Chuck Taylor, the publisher who gave me the green light to be myself, to Edward Vidaurre, who, buddy, first called it that one day I'll be Texas Poet Laureate (I'm working on that, Edward), to Daniel Garcia Ordaz who ushered me into the Valley poetry community with open arms, to Linda Romero, for being an awesome friend and critique partner, to Jan Seale, who's taken me under her wing and mentored me through wild world, to Jerry Craven for bringing me into the Lamar University Press family, for championing my work in a way no one had before, and of course, to Norma Cantu for encouraging me early on, and then, again, at this stage in my poetry career. There are so many others I've missed. I owe my success to everyone who's ever read my poems, critiqued them, encouraged me in big and small ways. This is just a tiny cross-section of everyone I need to thank. Of course, most of all, my parents, my family, my love, B, without whose support I'd be flailing in the wind.

I love them all. Dearly. Truly.

It's been a wild journey so far. My cup is overflowing with love, with joy, with success, and most of all, with gratitude. I'm the poet I am today because I stand on the shoulders of everyone who's come before me. I'm incredibly, incredibly fortunate, and sometimes, well, all the time, it's just overwhelming.


Now, I need to figure out how to spend that $1200 burning a hole in my pocket B-)




Ok, enough sappiness, here are the poems:

Napo 11

Summer

In summer, there is always more. You feast
on everything the season has to offer –
the sun’s embarrassment of riches streaming
down to feed the flowers, large as dinner
plates, already drunk on their own nectar,

tropical rainstorms tumbling ashore
to wet the fertile, sodden soil, the days
that almost seem to never end. You spend
them in your garden, clipping, digging, planting
with an urgency to make the most of plenty.

Your garden drinks you in, the sweat that rivers
down your back, the soft touch of your hands
the dirt beneath your fingernails. For love,
you toil with a smile as bright as June,

dreaming of those cool and humid nights.

Napo 12

Fall

Her love in autumn’s just as beautiful –
It enters with a sigh of satisfaction
At the heavy, heaving branches filled with fruit
That you created hand in hand together.

You stop to pluck one, hold the blazing fire
Of an orange in your calloused palm,
A star that’s made of life, of sweat, of love,
Of everything the two of you can offer.

You peel it, let the flesh dissolve atop
Your tongue, and taste the sweetness of tomorrow.
You’ll savor this together underneath
October’s sky that rumbles, warns the world

Of what’s to come. Breathe deep, take in the smell
of fallen leaves returning to the earth.

Napo 13

Winter

The few who love in winter know a love
that’s unlike any other. Every petal
fell to the earth months ago. The fruit
has been devoured, savored. Branches hang,

naked, brittle, but you come to listen
to the beauty of them rustling in the wind.
A cup of cocoa in your hand, you wander
through the garden, tend what’s left to tend

with gentle streams of water. Now, you run
your fingers through the soil because you’ve grown
accustomed to the smell of earth on skin.
She’s nothing left to offer but herself.

May your marriage always be of this --
loving simply for the sake of love.


Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Napo 10

Alrighty! Let's recap some more. 

My AWP 2015 experience.

After our panel, Celina and I decided to hang out together. We headed to a panel featuring (gasp) Ana Castillo! The panel was put together by Feminist Press and featured her and one other author. Unfortunately, (or maybe fortunately?) we were late because our own panel's conversation went on a little long, and so by the time we found the place and walked in, Ana had already read. But we did catch the conversation afterwards, which was just as enlightening. The main thing I took away from this panel was that a lot of women really don't feel like they have permission to write. One woman asked Ana who gave her that permission, and Ana said, quite frankly, she gave it to herself.

How can we do that as women? Give ourselves permission to be this outspoken, out there writer? I think supporting one another is hugely important, encouraging other women to be brave and bold, but my goodness, at the end of the day, I think it's just a matter of allowing ourselves that space and freedom. In a world that silences women, it's hard to do, but, if Ana can do it, then it's possible. I teared up. I got goosebumps. I had to go up and meet Ana after the panel... (again, I met her for the first time back in 2007).

So Celina and I get up the courage to go and say hello, but once we get there, we're blabbering idiots and Ana Castillo looks a little annoyed/worried. Oh well. At least we left without regrets! :D

Anyway, after that, we head out to lunch. And then to the bookfair. Which was huge, overwhelming, scary, and beautiful. The best part? As we were walking through the aisles, we hear a voice call us over. 

Hey! Hey! You ladies? Katherine? Celina? You were just speaking at a panel, no?

We turn around. 

Yeah...

I just wanted to say "hi." You're like, famous and stuff. 

Celina and I look at each other, blush, and laugh. Famous and stuff? Well, alrighty then! 

:D

That was probably my most favorite moment at AWP.

Anyway, we spent most of the afternoon at the bookfair. My back was starting to hurt, so I needed to take a little breaksie anyway. I wanted to meet so many more people, but I just didn't have the energy, either physical or mental, to do too much. I was happy to at least find the editor of Free State Review and thank him for his amazing comment at our panel (and he gave me a free t-shirt! Score!). So many more people I wanted to bug! But oh well. Next time. There WILL be a next time.

Oh, did I mention?

I brought my mom to AWP. Yes. I'm THAT nerd.

Anyway, if you follow my blog you know I have some health/mobility issues, so mom coming with was a real blessing. She didn't attend my panel or come with me to the actual conference, but she was hanging out at the hotel, helped me through the airport craziness, and made sure I was able to find my way around and get where I needed to go. Did I ever mention that I have the world's most amazing mom?

So, after an afternoon of... that, Celina and I decided to check out an offsite reading together at a nearby pub. How cool is that? I call my mom and see if she wants to join us, and what do you know? She does!

So the three of us trek over to the Yes Yes Books celebration. It. was. awesome. Truly. One of the best readings I've attended in my life. Danez Smith was my absolute favorite. New poetry crush? You know it. I wanted to buy his book, but they were totally sold out. Phooey. 

Anyway. After the reading, I was tired and achy. It was time to head back to the hotel. After all, the next day was going to be just as full of events and craziness, starting with a 4am shuttle ride to the airport to catch a plane! :-O But I'll tell you all about that tomorrow. 

Meanwhile... Napo 10?

I cheated a little with 10 in that, well, I kind of revised 9 and reworked it. I'm thinking to turn this little thing into a series of poems about the four seasons, comparing gardening to love/marriage. This topic is heavy on my mind lately. I was invited to read some poetry at a friend's wedding this weekend, which I'll blog more about soon, too.

Anyway:


The Gardener’s Song

Spring

Everybody falls in love in spring.
It’s easy with the pollen in the air,
sun peeking through the slate clouds, shy
at first, a smile held back, about to burst

into radiance. The naïve come
eager to work their clean hands through the soil.
Your garden gloves are stiff, a price tag dangles
From your sunhat. Pansies fill your arms

with blooms in every shade of love, mauve
of tongue, pearl like skin the sun has never
touched, or golden like the way her voice
feels against your ear. You tuck the seeds

into the earth and wait, water, dump
Miracle Grow, although the earth’s already
wet with dew and love. The first bud opens
its petals, slips into the lips of March.

The world is different now. Her flowers bloom
in every corner of your lovesick mind.