Thursday, January 31, 2013


Photo by Josh Darr

I'm so happy to read that Youth Lagoon will be releasing its second album, Wondrous Bughouse, in March.  Youth Lagoon's, The Year of Hibernation, was one of my favorite records of 2011.  I listened toit ad infinitum, "Bobby" and "Daydream" being a couple of my favorites.  Such a beautiful album.

Listening to YL's new single "Dropla" makes me happy and sad and everything in between.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013


I am so grateful to report the following: my manuscript, The Yearning Feed, won the 2013 Ernest Sandeen Prize for Poetry from the University of Notre Dame Press.  Thank you to the judges, Joyelle McSweeney and Orlando Menes, respectively.  I'm excited, excited, excited--Boom!

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Hotel Migrante in Mexicali celebrates 3 years.

It finally happened, and I think I'm gonna be sick.  After all of these years, it finally happened.  I lost a little black notebook.  Straight up dropped it on the bus (I think).  No major breakthrough ideas in it.  Just "To-do" lists.  Names of bands.  Songs.  Random thoughts.  Book titles.  Quotes.  Words.  More words.  Damn, I'm pissed.  Need to call MTS's lost and found, but not until Tuesday.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Friday, January 11, 2013

Iceage's 2011 release New Brigade was a beast.  Can't wait for their new record to drop in February via Matador.

Monday, January 7, 2013

           My island is trouble:
           I have found wet grass in my armpits
           and yellow paint in my navel since you left

So goes the opening stanza of Frank Lima's poem "Ode to Love."  I recently found a copy of Lima's Underground with the Oriole at the San Diego State University library.  I checked it out and rushed home to crack it open.  My excitement for Frank Lima's work has always been inspired by his book Inventory: New and Selected Poems, but I have never read his work within the context of an earlier collection.  

I was first given a copy of Inventory by Steve Dickison, Executive Director of the SFSU Poetry Center in 2000 or so.  I was an intern, and in the midst of a lull in the office, I was captivated by a brown grocery bag filled with books near a desk.  Stacked on top was a book cover with a portrait of Frank Lima painted by Elaine DeKooning.  Of course I had no idea who he was at the time.  The somber though dangerous look on the young man's face struck me immediately.  Steve Dickison caught me in this momentary freeze-frame and insisted that I take the book, and what a generous and momentous offering it was.

I've read Inventory countless times since, and I never tire of Frank Lima's zany and beautiful lines--always new, always fresh.  Early works like "Scattered Vignettes," "Mom I'm All Screwed Up," and "Abuela's Wake" taught me never to shy away from the details even when the violence and heartache in the work suffocates beyond belief.  How can one probe and sniff through the wreckage of  a family broken with such intensity, so originally?  And his love poems, those strange and infectious creatures:

        I will wrap myself in toothpaste every morning and bring 
        you your favorite coffee for I will be your cup
        how can I become famous when I am so distracted?

        There is a tiny creep in the room that steals my cigarettes
        I won't kill him because I'm in love and nothing else matters

                         from Ode to Love

Underground with the Oriole was a slender volume first published in 1971, and now, just thin enough to carry around in my secret pocket like a "frozen gas."

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Student Authors and Critical Reflection

My teaching partner, Pat Holder, and I were really proud with the anthology our students produced fall semester.  Literal and symbolic borders were the themes discussed and analyzed as we talked about topics like immigration, institutional powers, Arizona's SB1070 and HB2281, etc.  Students read books used in the TUSD Ethnic Studies Program  and wrote editorials on these readings and the state superindentent's decision to dismantle the program.  Readings included Bell Hooks, Gloria Anzaldua, Sherman Alexie, Junot Diaz, Mumia Abu-Jamal, Sandra Cisneros, Luivette Resto, Luis Alberto Urrea, and many, many others.  We also read Zinn's A People's History of the United States and Bradbury's Fahrenheit 451 as a class, and utilized the fotonovela--inspired by Chicano artist, Harry Gamboa and ASCO--to explore various themes in F451.  In addition to this, we visited the border, invited notable speakers, namely David Shirk of University of San Diego's Trans-Border Institute and San Diego/Tijuana art crew Cognate Collective.  Finally, our partnership with the Museum of Contemporary Art, San Diego (La Jolla) proved to be an enriching experience, especially after having our book-release party showcased at the museum.  It was beautiful night with some heavy moments.  

The publication below is made up of flash fiction, personal narratives, photographs, editorials, personal maps, and fotonovelas.  At the book party I counted two instances when separate audience members let go of a few tears. Needless to say, Pat and I were very proud with our students willingness to challenge themselves to dig deep and to introduce their voices into the public/political discourse related to critical issues like education and immigration. 

A big thank you to the individuals and organizations that helped us with this project!

You can read an excerpt of one of our student's editorials here that was recently published at La Prensa San Diego.

Friday, January 4, 2013


The new year has arrived, and I'm looking forward, simply forward, I hope.  There is so much I'd like to accomplish this year, but first, health, always health, as my dad says.  I wish everyone a beautiful year with lots of good health, illumination, and persistent curiosity.

Below are three books I've recently read.  I have to write a little something more about Cadillac Men here though.  Cadillac Men is a timely collection written by poet Rebecca Schumejda with pitch-perfect dialogue performed by characters in a stuffy pool hall who chalk up enough wisdom, heartache and perseverance to steer us right into the new millennium.  One cannot fake dialogue like this, and Schumejda's, honed by her days as a pool hall owner in New York's Hudson Valley with her husband, should be the standard-bearer.  Cadillac Men brings us memorable characters like Bobby Balls-In-Hand, Mikey Meatball, and Shakes.

Here is an epigraph used to begin section 5 in the collection.  It's a quote from a character named Aristotle.

"No man is ever really free.  Every man's got his cell.  Mikey Meatballs got his lies, No That Pocket George got his secret.  You got your words.  Wally's cell is a pool table.  And your husband, when he leans into the table, he's got those steel bars in his eyes too."

One of my goals early this year is to write a review of the book.

(click images)

And Reversible Monuments: Contemporary Mexican Poetry!  Poems by Natalia Toledo, Antonio DelToro, David Huerta, Maria Baranda and so many others in this delicious collection have been an inspiring read.

I'll sign off with a poem by Lew Welch whose poems rock clarity like no other.

[Apparently Wasps]

Apparently wasps 
work all their only summer at the nest,
so that new wasps work
all their only summer at the nest,
et cetera.

All my lizards lost their tails, mating.
Six green snakes ate all my frogs.
Butterflies do very odd things with their tongues.

There seems to be no escaping it.
I planted nine tomato plants and water them.
I replaced my rotten stoop with a 
clean Fir block.

Twelve new poems in less than a week!

Best wishes in 2013!

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