I’ve encountered a few unexpected moments on the way to becoming a writer. After I published my first book of poems in 2009, I was surprised with the sense that I needed to take on a new voice, a new technique. Most folks would tell you to stick with what’s worked, or—more insistently—that you should keep to what you know, that you should write out of your authentic place. “Authentic” is a much-bandied-about word in writer circles, but I’m not sure anyone really knows what they mean by it. In any case, I felt like I wanted to try the sort of experimental writing that made my heart race when it was done well. I admired it because I didn’t understand it.
So I did a lot of reading. For two years, I read everything I could get my hands on both in print and online—poetry collections, chapbooks, journals, anthologies, criticism, book reviews, theory. I followed poets on Twitter, 20 years my junior, who were starting innovative presses and e-zines. I not only read blogs, I read the comment sections of blogs, where the meatiest—some would say the nastiest—debates were happening. I once found myself sitting alone at a table in a decrepit Denver ballroom, which was sagging with Christmas lights though it was April, as I sipped red wine and waited for a packed house of Hot Young Poet Things—those who had never known a world without the internet—to present their work. If you perceive some anxiety about my age coming into play, you wouldn’t be wrong. I knew no one and was sporting the only gray hair in the room. At least I had an iphone to look busy with.
In the midst of this re-education project, I got called for jury duty in downtown L.A. Surprise! I was launched into an alternate universe, full of odd-sounding legalisms and morgue photos and testimony about gang tattoos. My jury experience became the basis for my chapbook of experimental poems, O Dear Deer,, although I hadn’t planned on writing about the trial, which seemed too raw, too complex. Wasn’t it wrong—sort of unholy—to experiment with so much grief? But I realized that, the more fragmented the lines, the more they spoke to human brokenness. I didn’t try to recount the events that led to the trial in my poems. Instead, I became fixated on deer, antlers, trees. Where clarity would have collapsed under the weight of its own detail, abstraction made room for what was truly authentic: the fact that nothing would ever be the same.
My books are available at Amazon and, locally, at Webster’sFine Stationers. Please join me at two upcoming readings, where I’ll be introducing the poems from O Dear Deer, :
Two Heads are Better Productions Presents the Kulture FaCtory’s Sundays at Ellouise, 55 Waverly Drive, Pasadena, Sunday, September 18th at 4:00 PM, $5 cover charge. This appearance is a “10 for 10” reading, which means you’ll get to hear 10 of us read for 10 minutes apiece—short but wide and sweet. It also happens to fall on my birthday!
Webster’s FineStationers, 2450 N. Lake Ave., Altadena, Saturday, October 15th at 6:00 PM. This reading is happening in conjunction with one of Webster’s regular wine pairing events, "Latin Wines for a Passionate Evening," which will be held from 4:00 to 6:00 PM, so that’s added incentive to come out and have some vino with your verses. They'll keep pouring wines through the poetry reading, and there'll be food, too!