This conversation began quite organically: at CantoMundo 2014, with J Michael’s Martinez’s sonic-powered laughter ringing through Opening Circle. Over the course of the next few days the six of us—Diego Báez, Darrel Alejandro Holnes, J. Michael Martinez, Juan Morales, Octavio Quintanilla, and yours truly ended up talking about hair metal, thrash metal, the marriage and funeral in “November Rain,” this funny take on “Sweet Child of Mine,” Keanu Reeves in that Paula Abdul video (more on that later), and the intergalactic strangeness of Gwar. (Remember Gwar? Remember the nightmares you had because of Gwar?) In one way or another, our poetry has been influenced by power ballads, and we decided to explore this relationship in more depth. We hope, by the end of this conversation, you’ll find your own inner power chord…—Rosebud “7TrainLove” Ben-Oni
It gives me great pleasure to present the second conversation between CantoMundo poets in a 3-part series: Marcelo Hernandez Castillo and Darrel Alejandro Holnes. Let’s begin with a note from Marcelo on conversing in a pecha kucha. —Rosebud Ben-Oni
Darrel Alejandro Holnes and I set out to participate in a discourse that outlines some of our aesthetic interests and similarities and, perhaps, to bridge some of the points of variation through which Latin@ poetry seems to intersect. Eventually, I proposed to reconsider the connotations around the terms “discourse” and “conversation.” I wanted to experiment with the limits of what we can call a conversation, so I proposed to Darrel that we enter into a type of discourse that offers both a lyrical associative gesture and an exercise in collaboration. Terrance Hayes has translated a formal structure of presentation called a Pecha Kucha (from the re-appropriated Japanese word for “picture”) into a poetic form in his book, Lighthead. The form derives from architecture students fed up with having to sit through PowerPoint presentations for hours. In effect, they devised a new form: 20 x 20. The presentation consists of 20 images that all must contribute to the advancement of the overarching theme, and you have 20 seconds to talk about each one. Pecha Kuchas became a worldwide phenomenon, with people from different disciplines coming together to speak for 20 seconds about their specialty. “Pecha Kucha Nights,” as Terrance explained to me, were a chance to construct interdisciplinary conversations through the medium of association.
This is the first of a three-part series featuring conversations on poetics, identity and writing among CantoMundo poets. I first met poets Ruben Quesada and David Tomas Martinez at the CantoMundo Fellowship Retreat this past June. After a weekend of readings at the Emma S. Barrientos Mexican American Cultural Center, some of the fellows went out to a bar for our last night; Erika L. Sánchez, David and I, along with author Brian Kornell, piled into Ruben’s car and we continued a discussion we’d been having all along at the retreat: Latin@ identity and poetics. Over beers later at the bar, we discussed everything from Hitchcock to basketball to code-switching (I also might’ve accused David of being a clandestine bullfighter, but that’s another story) At the end of the night, running across a busy street in the rain back to Ruben’s car, the banter that had developed between Ruben and David became a sort of incantation that led me to think more deeply about what it means to be a Latin@ poet in 2013. It is with great pleasure that I introduce Ruben Quesada and David Tomas Martinez to start off this series. —Rosebud Ben-Oni
Rosebud Ben-Oni: What led you to poetry?
David Tomas Martinez: The honest answer as to why I got into poetry? Because I didn’t know any better, because going to college was as improbable as making a living through poetry, and my parents, who were not college educated, didn’t have the authoritative stance they normally have. Honestly, as a teenager, I didn’t think I was going to live past 23, so why not take a chance? Also, I had what all writers have, a strong sense of ego coupled with crippling bouts of self-criticism and doubt; in other words, I wanted to prove myself to others, but believed I was special enough to prove myself. I look back, and I have done a lot of crazy stuff, but it was by far the craziest.