New York Times Magazine: “Already My Lips Were Luminous”

Selected by National Book Award winner Terrance Hayes for the New York Times Magazine. 

“I do not know the language of that place” underscores this poem’s striking balance of ambiguity and mystery. Much is said in the white spaces, caesuras, breaks. The unpunctuated five lines of the first stanza unspool suggestively creepily. The hands in car guts have a visceral intensity. The halting final couplet prompts a pause, a silence, a reread.

Thank you Terrance and thank you New York Times. Special shout out to Matthew Zapruder for his encouragement.

 

 

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Fierce as Fuck: The Future of Poetry Is Brown & Queer. A BITCH Magazine Interview

From the Harriet Blog, via the Poetry Foundation:

At Bitch MagazineIn “Fierce as Fuck: The Future of Poetry Is Brown & Queer,” Soraya Membreno talks with Vickie Vértiz, author of Palm Frond With Its Throat Cut (University of Arizona Press, 2017); and Vanessa Angélica Villarreal, author of Beast Meridian (Noemi Press, 2017).

Click here to read the full interview.

palm beast image

New on KCET, Youth Resistance and Los Angeles Photography

From my latest article on Artbound KCET:

“The week of November 14, 2016, nearly 4,000 students from about 18 schools in the Los Angeles Unified School District participated in walkouts against the president elect’s selection. As in the 1960s and ‘70s, students gathered at landmarks like Mariachi Plaza, Lincoln Park and city hall for rallies. In photos circulated across news and social media, one student was seen holding a sign that said, ‘I can’t make my parents proud if they’re not here.'”

Read the rest of the story here. Gracias a Rafael Cardenas, Tim Toyama, Xela de la X, and Melody Soto, and of course, the curators and staff at the Vincent Price Art Museum at East Los Angeles College. Check out: Tastemakers & Earthshakers: Notes from Los Angeles Youth Culture, 1943 – 2016The show is on view at the Vincent Price Art Museum through February 25, 2017.

Below, the Bell Gardens High School Lancer Scroll documents walkouts against the first Iraw War. (From the Vertiz family archives).

Lacer Scroll First Iraq War.jpg

 

 

“Ruda: Ten Remedies,” a play in Anthropoid

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Image from Anthropoid website.

 

A tia gives limpias and embroiders magic. A short play published in late December, “Ruda,” an experimental play inside a litany of remedios.

Many thanks to Melissa Sipin-Gabon for this opportunity.

Excerpt:

TÍA: Someone gave you mal de ojo.

CHATA: A cabron. Why?

TÍA: Why else? Because they’re jealous.

CHATA: Of what?

TÍA: Ay mija. Everything. Your godmother especially.

CHATA: (Disappointed, but not surprised) So what do I do?

TÍA: Come. [Tía walks out to her small, raised bed garden. Chata follows as Tía picks rosemary and rue stems. The light outside is bright. They walk back inside.]

We’re gonna pray.

Hybrid reading/lecture at RaceCraft: A Symposium, Thursday, October 20

RaceCraft: A Symposium: A[…]* genealogy to the contemporary craft movement

Barbara And Art Culver Center Of Arts, 3834 Main St., Riverside, California 92501

Free and open to the public. Limited seating. To reserve a seat, navigate to: <https://artsblock.ucr.edu/Performance/RaceCraft-symposium

Slow. Sustainable. DIY. Green. Local. Anti-mainstream. These are some of the keywords associated with the contemporary craft movement. Enabled by technology and new media, craft culture has been described as a combination of traditional artisanal craftsmanship, punk culture, and a DIY sensibility. It often positions itself as a response to the problems of globalization, hyper-consumerism and environmental degradation. Crafting is now, in the words of the maker-activist Betsy Greer, “craftivism,” a politically active site of social change.

12 – 12:10 Welcome by Sarita See
12:15 – 1 Presentation by Aram Han Sifuentes
1:15 – 2 Presentation by Marie Lo
2 – 2:30 Coffee Break
2:30 – 3:15 Hybrid reading/lecture/presentation by Vickie Vertiz
3:30 – 4:15 Presentation by Bovey Lee
4:30 – 5:30 Roundtable with all speakers and
Clare Counihan and Jan Christian Bernabe

But has “green” become the new white?

Despite its activist and inclusive ethos, the contemporary craft movement has been dominated by a neoliberal model of middle-class whiteness. Localism and lifestyle choices have become valorized as the primary modes of social change. People of color are often invisible in the craft movement, except as victims of globalization and exploitative labor practices who need to be saved by first world crafters.

RaceCraft explores crafting not as a lifestyle choice but as an effect and response to systemic forms of discrimination. In this context, being “crafty” is not just a DIY attitude and aptitude; it is an enabling subterfuge that doubles as critique, in which the constraints of production are not just aesthetic but also racial. RaceCraft seeks to situate craft within global and local histories of exclusion, colonialism, dispossession and subjugation. We have invited speakers who explore the tensions and fissures of “craft” discourse and that expose its neoliberal underpinnings. Finally, RaceCraft seeks to deepen our current conversations about craft so as to generate new frameworks for thinking about the transformative possibilities of craft, one that takes into consideration, racial justice in relation to “green” modes of sustainability, political activism and community building.

The work of the symposium speakers is featured in the affiliated online exhibition hosted by the Center for Art and Thought, co-curated by Marie Lo and Sarita See and assisted by intern Martina Dorff. To explore the exhibition, navigate to: <http://centerforartandthought.org/work/project/racecraft

Sponsored by: UCR Department of Media and Cultural Studies, Center for Art and Thought, UCR College of Humanities, Arts and Social Sciences (CHASS), the City of Riverside, & UCR Department of Ethnic Studies. Special thanks to the The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts and the California Institute of Contemporary Arts ; and Martina Dorff.

*Deletion is the author’s. To fully claim this knowledge around resourcefulness, I insist we affirm these ways of knowing as “geneology” and not “alternative.”

Writing (US)Americ(k)a(s) with Aja Couchois Duncan, Hugo García Manríquez, Jen Hofer, y Amarnath Ravva

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Avenue 50 Studio together with Writ Large Press and
and Litmus Press present:

Writing (US)Americ(k)a(s)

October 15th | 8pm
at Avenue 50 Studio
131 N Avenue 50 | Highland Park CA 90042

Litmus Press, in celebration of two recent releases—Restless Continent by Aja Couchois Duncan and Anti-Humboldt by Hugo García Manríquez—is curating a number of readings around writing (us)americ(k)a(s).
Aja Couchois Duncan
Hugo García Manríquez
Jen Hofer
Amarnath Ravva
Vickie Vértiz

The country is a fiction, a narrative of legalese, piety, and slaughter.
The country is a positioning, its geographic bounty.
The country is a fingering of continents, a cordillera stitching the western expanse.
The country is the slip of skin on which we write ourselves: the warriors and wounded, the chained and transported, the subsequent generations of, those who cling to its mythos as if a sail.

Juan Gabriel: How he helped families love their queer children– in HOY magazine

In Friday’s print edition of HOY magazine in Los ANgeles, reaching thousands of hispanohablantes, I discussed how our working-class immigrant families loved their queer children and neighbors in a way that would not have been possible without Juan Gabriel. Read the whole story in Spanish here, page 13!

A HUGE “gracias” to translators Roman Lujan and Jen Hofer for their help in making the article sparkle like a bead on JuanGa’s Bellas Artes jacket. And to Aida Salazar for her mother’s story.

Excerpt from, “Ayudo a familias aceptar a sus hijos”

En tiempos de violencia y pérdida, hay que reconocer que Juan Gabriel hizo posible el ser gay, auténtico y amado. El poeta Eduardo C. Corral contó en Facebook cómo su papá lo aceptó cuando se enteró de que su hijo era gay: “Con los años, Juan Gabriel se convirtió en parte de muchas familias mexicanas. Sí, se burlaron de él. Pero allí estaba. En nuestros hogares. […] Se convirtió en una presencia […]. En mi casa. Esta familiaridad con ser gay ayudó que mi padre siguiera amando a su hijo.”

Su presencia en nuestros hogares se debe a nuestras madres u otros familiares, a quienes las canciones de Juan Gabriel les partía el corazón. Con letras como estas, no hay duda del porqué: “Sé que tú no puedes, aunque intentes olvidarme. Siempre volverás, una y otra vez.” Mujeres como mi mamá llamaron llorando a sus hijas e hijos, a sus hermanas y vecinas,  cuando anunciaron la muerte del Divo de Juárez. “Lo voy a ir a alcanzar”, me dijo mi madre. “Lo tengo que conocer, chata.” Y así, millones de nosotros todavía lo quieren conocer. Otras llevamos  flores a la funeraria de Santa Mónica donde llegó su cuerpo, a su estrella en el paseo de la fama de Hollywood, a su estatua en el Distrito Federal, pero más que nada, ponemos su música. “Háblame de ti. Cuéntame de tu vida.”

Con su tema “Te lo pido por favor” nos enseñó a ser amigos y a apoyar quienes tienen alguna necesidad. La letra dice: “¿Cómo te puedo pagar todo lo que haces por mí? ¿Todo lo feliz que soy? ¿Todo este inmenso amor? Solamente con mi vida.”  La presencia de Juan Gabriel también acompañó a la gente gay que ha sido rechazada por  su familia de sangre y ha tenido que  que construir familias de corazón. Por ejemplo, la comerciante Chavelita, originaria de Jalpa, Jalisco, vivía en la ciudad de Maywood en los ochentas, y se hizo amiga de hombres gay y trans que conocía a través de su tienda de decoraciones. Sus reuniones eran fiestas en la sala de su casa, en la que seis hijas e hijos esperaban ansiosamente el show drag. Abundaban las boas, el lápiz de labios rojo, los tacones dorados y los aplausos. Los intérpretes se movían y bailaban igual que  sus artistas favoritos, como Amanda Miguel, Donna Summer y, sí, Juan Gabriel. Las canciones de el Divo eran algo de todos los días, tanto que todos estos  amigos se decían “querida”. “Ay, querida, no me digas.” “Sí, querida.” El traje de lentejuelas que Juan Gabriel estrenó en Bellas Artes y la manera en que giraba hicieron posible que un drag show ocurriera en la sala de una familia. Al mismo tiempo la existencia de gente gay y trans hizo posible que Juan Gabriel fuera siempre efervescente y luchador.

From the Stacks at the Poetry Center

 

 

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Getting ready for the final reading at the Poetry Center. Photo: Hannah Ensor

 

Everyone should visit the generous, lovely staff at the University of Arizona, Tucson’s Poetry Center. A tremendous thank you to: Tyler, Wendy, Laura, Julie, Renee, the two Sarahs, Aisha, generous docents Marc and Tony, and of course, the inimitable, Hannah Ensor.

Here are my selections from the stacks at the Poetry Center during my recent residency!

The Wind Shifts: New Latino Poetry edited by Francisco Aragón

A Beautiful Marsupial Afternoon by CAConrad

Troubling the Line: Trans & Genderqueer Poetry & Poetics edited by TCTolbert and Tim Trace Peterson

What I Say: Innovative Poetry by Black Writers in America edited by Aldon Lynn Nielsen and Lauri Ramey

The Poetry of Arab Women: A Contemporary Anthology edited by Nathalie Handal

The Poetics of Space  by Gaston Bachelard

The Complete Poems of Jean Genet by ManRoot Magazine

Catalog of Unabashed Gratitude by Ross Gay

Night Sky With Exit Wounds  by Ocean Vuong

The Service Porch by Fred Moten

The Taxidermist’s Cut by Rajiv Mohabir

Off-Season City Pipe by Hedge Coke

How the End Begins by Cynthia Cruz

Other People’s Comfort Keeps Me Up At Night by Morgan Parker

A Third Instance by Rosa Alcalá, Graig Watson, and Elizabeth Whitehead

The Lust of Unsentimental Waters by Rosa Alcalá

Undocumentaries by Rosa Alcalá

187 Reasons Mexicanos Can’t Cross the Border by Juan Felipe Herrera

Sing by Hedge Coke

 

Macondo Writers’ Workshop 2016– open mic recordings

Thanks to Joseph Rios, here is a sample of the open mic at Macondo Writers’ Workshop 2016 in San Antonio. It starts with Carribean Fragoza and ends with yours truly reading the MOZ fans tribute poem, “Lover’s Letter.” Much love to Laurie Ann Guerrero for all her hard work, and to Alex Espinoza and Tim Z. Hernandez for their teachings.

And of course, the beautiful Joe Jimenez writes about teaching the young writers at this link.

“I’d be lying if I said I never am starstruck, which is a wonderful idea in and of itself, that a star might strike our bodies, touch our muscles and bones, an impact on the red flesh of heart, skin and eyes that look upon the world. Scientifically, being struck by a star isn’t such a beautiful event or perhaps it is. Incineration. Going back into the nobility of the universe, its gases, its dark mass, its heat, each a possibility of scientific beauty and God. And that’s some of the wonder of Macondo – possibility. Both can exist, more. All at once.”

Photo by Macondista Xochitl Julissa Bermejo: clockwise: liz gonzalez, Tischa Reichle, Carribean Fragoza.

SGV LA Macondo writers_credit Xohitl J Bermejo

Entropy–adding to an epic poem with epic girl drama

“Susi stopped being my best friend once she got bangs and a hickey.
Because I’ve heard her say it, I can hear her thinking: Ugh, what a wetter.
Are all your outfits from the swap meet?”

Today at Entropy, read about drama at the bus stop with a girl’s momma. Maybe it was me. You’ll never know. Big shout out to Gina Abelkopf for the chance to share.

 

(Photo: Han Link, 1970. Corner of Florence and Eastern in Bell Gardens.The Foodland parking lot where Toys R us stands now. From the City of Bell Gardens archive.)

15A

“Conditions” by Jen Hofer– a translation

“— ninety thousand children crossing the border in the last three years what thirst what listening what refuge what desert harbor what desert keeps at bay what keens what dims what signals we cannot read what enforcement what filament what unmoved substrata what bleeds unregulated despite the body what will not bend will not sleep will not touch lightly with fingertip or tongue tip what we carry in a pocket radiating thudding what we lose in neglect what we lose in death what accidents build while we look the other way”

From Jen Hofer’s, “Conditions”

Read Jen Hofer ‘s poems, “Conditions” at PEN America here. I was honored to work with  the wonderful Mexican poet Román Luján to translate it into Spanish as “Condiciones,” in consultation with Jen. Thank you to PEN America and TC Tolbert for publishing this work.

Poetry Center Award, Summer Residency at the University of Arizona, Tucson

Vertiz U of AZ press

Vickie is thrilled to have been selected by Natalie Diaz for the 2016 Summer Residency at the Poetry Center. Stay tuned for event details on the culminating reading in August.

About the residency: Since 1994, the Poetry Center’s Residency Program has offered writers an opportunity to develop their work. The Poetry Center will award one residency each summer for a poet to spend two weeks in Tucson, Arizona developing his/her work. Writers at any stage of their careers may apply; emerging writers are welcome. The residency includes a $500 stipend and a two-week stay in a studio apartment located within steps of the Center’s renowned library of contemporary poetry.

Finally your dreams don’t bite: new poems at Omniverse

I’m the Aztec God of War. Relentless ash, the devil at my elbow. I consume lick-flames hotter than your vieja. But I hold your hand. Love you like you are the only one. The last piece of steak in chile verde. The last slice of chocolate flan. That’s how you left me, gordo.

En el zócalo y sola. A creature that can do anything.

-From “Portrait as a Couple: Mexico City.” Click here for more poems.

Southeast Los Angeles writing featured at AWP 2016

 

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The 710, Long Beach Freeway runs through Bell Gardens and dozens of southeast cities in LA county. (Photo: Hal Link, 1970, City of Bell Gardens Archive)

Join me as I moderate two panels at the #AWP16 writers’ conference happening in LA this year! Latinx writers from all over the southland will share our prose and poetry on the following panels, THURSDAY, March 31, 2016:

Panel R225. From New Wave and Punk: Musical influences on Latino Literary Aesthetics.  

1:30 pm to 2:45 pm, Room 505, LA Convention Center, Meeting Room Level

 With special guest Michelle Gonzales from SpitBoy, Daniel Chacon, Carribean Fragoza, musicologist Marlen Rios, and Vickie Vertiz.

From all corners of Los Angeles and across this country, punk and New Wave music have influenced Latino writers for decades. This multigenre panel is equal parts reading, discussion, and listening party. Through poems, essays, and stories, the panelists highlight how, as listeners, they blend literary aesthetics with New Wave and punk sounds to tell new stories.

3:00 pm to 4:15 pm

Room 410, LA Convention Center, Meeting Room Level

Panel R252. Mistaking Planes for Stars: Los Angeles Writing from Freeways to Flight Paths.  

 With Vickie Vertiz,  Aida Salazar ,  Steve Gutierrez,  and Melinda Palacio.

From Bukowski to Viramontes, working-class writing in Los Angeles is a longstanding tradition. Latinos are the largest ethnic group in the county, bringing avant-garde aesthetics to literature. However, many of our stories have yet to be told. This reading highlights cutting edge poetry, story, and performance by working-class and queer Latinos from a little-known part of Los Angeles: the southeast. From railroad yards to factory floors, writers share their work of grit and heart.

See you there!

How Bell Gardens is Banking on Bicycle Club Casino’s Luxury Hotel

The sign illuminates eight lanes of the neighboring 710 Freeway. In contrast to the new monument to luxury, the gritty Long Beach Freeway leads into the post-industrial heart of Southeast Los Angeles. Thousands of eighteen-wheelers trucking in the majority of exports into the United States from the Pacific Rim make this the busiest highway with the most accidents in the state. The transported goods that make their way into every store across the country all pass by the Bicycle Club and the thousands of families who live along it.

Read the rest of the story here.

Protesters and police arrive at the soft opening of the Bicycle Club_photo Vickie Vertiz.jpg

Cha Cha Nail Covers Take Over the World

Cha Cha Covers even the virgens! photo: Ana Guajardo

This story is part of KCET Departures’ series of articles and essays on the Informal Economies of L.A. and how local entrepreneurs create new opportunities outside of formal economic establishments. Read the whole story here.

“Don’t wait for everything to be perfectly aligned. I had to earn money and invest in my packaging. Earn more money and grow my inventory. If you wait for all the stars to align it never happens.” –Ana Guajardo, Cha Cha Covers CEO

Cha Cha Covers has 18,300 thousand followers (and growing) on Instagram. The photos feature glossy long nails encrusted with tiny jewels and images of the Virgen de Guadalupe–glamour and faith together at last. Her Etsy shop has over 2500 reviews and gets you one step closer to owning a set of papel picado nail decals. People can’t get enough of the playful and pop culture nail covers. Business is booming online and in person for Ana Guajardo and dozens of other local Latina and POC vendors.

At the Artistas y Empresarios Art Sale (AyE Sale) in Boyle Heights, Ana and her daughter, sold everything from nail decals to newer merchandise, like pencils embossed with the lyrics, “Bidi bidi bom bom” and “Some Girls Are Bigger than Others.”

[Raza loves them some Selena and Morrissey.]

Worth Gold: Feminism and Leadership at the Miss Bell Gardens Pageant

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Bell Gardens City Council members with the 2015 Miss Bell Gardens Court. Photo: City of Bell Gardens

“All the court members agreed it was a great experience. One princess, Vanessa Perez from UC Irvine said:

I’ve lived in this city all my life. I’m proud to be from here and to get more involved.’

Mayor Jennifer Rodriguez sums up that though the pageant and competition, “may seem like something small… it’s going to be a life-changing experience.”

Read the full story here: Worth Gold: Feminism and Leadership at the Miss Bell Gardens Pageant”

     Thank you to city staff members Angie Contreras, Ana Ramirez, and pageant director Sylvia Blush for working so hard to honor our young ladies this year.

 

royal court hand out - final photo

The Time is Now: Radical Feminism at Rock Camp in Southeast LA

Excerpts from the KCET Departures’ essay, “The Time is Now for Chicas Rockeras in Southeast L.A.”:

After the “Radical Body Love for Young Riot Grrls” workshop led by facilitator Gloria Lucas, one of the campers said, “I love my body!” Volunteers also said they heard girls say, “I’m not ashamed to be round. No soy gorda.”

crsela comadres huddle photo credit melissa ramirez

Chicas Rockeras is the kind of group that all families, politicians, nonprofits, and teachers should know about and support immediately. Like the Southeast Los Angeles Colectivo, like the Alivio Open Mic, like Communities for a Better Environment, Chicas Rockeras is made up of people from the southeast and their allies who are stepping up and organizing their communities, not waiting for anyone to come and save them.

Rock on Chicas! Visit www.chicasrockerassela.org to support this radical program.

 

chicasrockeras at the lockers

Lost Girl: Tales of Loving and Leaving El Monte

Having narrowly escaped death, what Benita had to say couldn’t wait. The day she found her old journal in a taped-up box in her father’s garage, she hurried home to type up the sweet, unfiltered diary of an El Monte high school girl.

Benita Morgan Bishop self-published “Lost Girl from El Monte,” comprised of diary entries written between 1975 and 1977, just a few weeks after she walked out, unharmed, from a car wreck in 2003. At the same time, her father was in the hospital, dying from complications from a severe fall. In the midst of so much fear and loss, Benita worked on her first book knowing every day was precious.

Benita beautifully captures the raw innocence of her youth in the memoir and its follow up, “Escape from El Monte.” The book covers feature juicy old English typeface, a surfer girl emerging from the ocean, and a photo of Benita as a 1970s pin-up girl in a Bob Mackie bathing suit, posing in front of a shuttered theater.

To read the entire essay, click here.

Benita in Bob Mackie magic bathing suit

A Man in His Backyard: sightseeing in City of Commerce with author Stephen Gutierrez

The essay is like driving through the streets of southeast LA: past its modest homes, past the Citadel Outlets, past parks and schools that made gold medal swimmers and writers like Steve. Of course the journey ends with stuffed churros– how else could it go?
Thanks to Steve for his stories and rivers that sound like freeways.

Vertiz teaches free classes in Boyle Heights, sponsored by the Center Theater Group

HOY Los Angeles newspaper wrote a feature on Vickie Vertiz, detailing her desire to teach creative writing, her upcoming book, and her political roots.

Read the great Sergio Burstein article in Spanish here.

The free workshops will cover nonfiction, play writing, and poetry. The Creative Writing Circles are held at three Boyle Heights libraries from January to June 2015. For more information aCreative Writingbout The Shop, click here.

Latina Leadership in Bell Gardens, a new KCET essay

“In the parking lot of the Food-4-Less supermarket on the corner of Atlantic and Slauson, two high school students stood near the sliding door entrance registering people to vote. The young women wore jeans and T-shirts (Garcia was probably in a Grateful Dead shirt), their hair gathered loosely into ponytails. Their temples beaded with sweat, both because of the weather and from asking complete strangers to sign state-issued documents.

They spoke to people in Spanish because that’s what they grew up speaking to their parents and neighbors. One of those teenagers was a then-sixteen-year old Assemblymember Garcia, a junior at the time. The other student was me.”

Read the entire essay here about Asm. Garcia’s developing leadership and strategies to work with community to make change.

On KCET’s Departures, “Bell Gardens? That’s Indian town!”: 1980s Pow Wows and Cultural Persistence

My family has lived in Bell Gardens since 1976, but we never drove past a pow wow at a local park. Gatherings that are sometimes open to the public, sometimes sacred ceremonies; they’re hard to miss. Those big and bright gatherings with dozens of pop up tents in green and blue, people of all ages in adornments ready to dance, singers around a drum for hours on end, folks preparing fry bread tacos and others in line to buy them.

But one block from our house is the Indian Revival Church, at the corner of Gage Avenue and Specht Street. I never went inside, though everyone was friendly enough when I passed. I walked next to it a hundred times on my way to the mini market for tortillas and walking to school. Pastor Robert Stewart told me the church was founded in 1956 by Arthur Stoneking and reminded me that many of his parishioners don’t participate in pow wows, of course. The building is located on a busy corner with a tricky crosswalk where cars barrel over the 710 overpass. Click here to read the entire essay.

 

BG pow wow flyer photo

What You See, What You Take With You, in UCLA’s Parrafo magazine

Along with many talented writers, the awesome Sesshu Foster among them, Vickie published a poem in Parrafo magazine’s Los Angeles issue. Read an excerpt from her poem below and click the link for the whole enchilada.

 

 “What You See, What You Take With You”

AFTER MARISELA NORTE’S PHOTOGRAPHS OF LOS ANGELES

 

 

On the Broadway bus with Marisela, her French diamond  lips
Composition notebooks and fancy uñas

A chola’s drawn-in dragon eyebrows warn us at the Walmart in Pico
In my skin, Jefitos      fade blue on my chest
Donuts and doctors and acrylic tips   tiendas y más tiendas
Open a n d c l o s e d              closing
Closer, chula
There’s something I’ve been meaning to tell you…

 

Visit the magazine to read the full poem.

A Lover’s Letter to Morrissey

(as shared by Dr. Melissa Hidalgo at Cal State San Bernardino and at the National Association Chicana/Chicano Studies Conference, 2014)

Because we craved permission to be despondent in English

Desperate for words to hide erections for other boys

behind Trapper Keepers, to document Kotex leaks in our journals

We needed

To be maudlin about being untranslatable

To do this in private, in the company of someone with rank

We hunted for you in crates, battled mold and being broke

Scraped pennies from grandparents who collected cans to feed us

We needed to hear your 50s guitar, the key of sorrow

Fans of Juan Gabriel twirl

We shake farsantes, know posers when we see them

You our savior for the disconsolation of being

Mexican and born here or not, our duplexes south of the 60 freeway

No Movement murals cushion a daily gray sky, ninety-nice cent interchanges

To your voice, we work our lives away in UPS trucks, as perfect receptionists, in community college for eight years

You taught me to hate the queen

I already hated the church for making me dirty, we were instant friends

You showed me to want public transit death, as long as we were together

We saved you from the has-been dollar bin

We’re your American Manchester Day Dream, empty tire factories, soot-covered eyelids, cracked front teeth and bleeding lips

We fondled your open shirts and built a country around you

of sidelong glances and glum gladiolus

When you first saw our tight black jeans and creepers,

You caught us like that tiger, recognized our crestfallen brown eyes,

lined in black, our red lips

Knew closely our penchant for racing Chevys down Slauson with no headlights

We were your wistful twins, nostalgic that boy we won’t share

You saw us make love in cemeteries

Gave us trim sideburns, Las Vegas Elvis beats made us jump like beans

We are fatalists by nations on all sides

Death-happy because it constantly raps at our door

In the carcinogenic heart of this Manchester

Our black lungs sing with you

Because every time we listen

It’s our last day, too

<>

Originally published in Brooklyn & Boyle Magazine, February 2014, Abel Salas, editor

KCET Communities: “Pioneers of Artistic Revolution: Making Art and Space in Southeast L.A.

As part of  an ongoing project about the importance of the 710 corridor in Los Angeles, Vickie Vertiz contributed an article about the arts, teachers, and artists in Southeast Los Angeles, where she grew up. She names a few writers who also document the lives of the people in Southeast L.A., such as Steve Gutierrez’s short stories in Live from Fresno y Los and in Hector Tobar’s book, Translation Nation. 

While the 710 freeway is considered the backbone of commerce in Southern California, the Southeast L.A. region is rich with writers, visual artists, amazing public school teachers, and community art activists. Read the article here.

 

Bell businesses. Photo credit: Cynthia Herrera

Bell businesses. Photo credit: Cynthia Herrera

 

El Monte Forever: A Brief History of Michael Jaime-Becerra

As the third installment of  the  Tropics of Meta series, East of East: Mapping Community Narratives in South El Monte and El Monte, in collaboration with the South El Monte Arts Posse, Vickie Vertiz contributed the essay, “El Monte Forever: A Brief History of Michael Jaime-Becerra.” The project is an  anthology about the diverse histories, communities, and cultures of the California cities of El Monte and South El Monte, created by a wide range of scholars, artists, poets, activists and other community members. Visit the project website to read the essay and other entries.

Vertiz Hosts UC Riverside MFA Reading Series

Join Vickie Vertiz this school year as she hosts UC Riverside’s graduate student reading series. Come hear crisp stories, dangerous poems, and legends about sorrow, robots, and much more.

Featured readers from UCR:
Aleksandr Peterson, Derrick Ortega, Amanda Ruud,  and more.

Special guests: Chad Sweeney, and Cal State San Bernardino MFA students: Tristan Acker, K.L. Straight., Elisha Holt, Isaac Escalera, Heather Reyes, Andrea Fingerson and Ryan Garcia.
+ open mic

Where:

Cellar Door Books 225 Canyon Crest Dr. Suite 30A/B, across from Jammin’ Bread, Riverside, Ca 951-787-7807

When:

Friday, Nov. 15, 2013, 7:30-9pm, Free event

Facebook page:

https://www.facebook.com/events/666003433421735/?ref_dashboard_filter=calendar

Mark your calendars for future reading dates:

January 16, 2014
Cal State University San Bernardino

March 7, 2014
Skylight Books

May 15, 2014- Second Year Student Final Reading
Culver Art Center

ROAR SHACK- It Takes a Year

Vickie will join the Roar Shack Reading Series in July for their Live Write!

Live Writing is a thrilling feat of writerly improvisation. As you arrive, you get to vote on a prompt. The winning prompt will be revealed to four intrepid authors – two of us and two of you audience types, onstage for all to see! Then the Live Writers will each read their just-written words, and the audience gets to vote! The winner will develop the work into a finished piece to be read at the next show.

ROAR SHACK
A Partnership with
Portuguese Artists Colony
Presents: It Takes a Year

Sunday, July 14, 2013 at 826LA
4 – 5:30 p.m.

Roar Shack is a collective of writers and artists, and over the coming months we’re going to bring you voices. Some of us come from fiction, some from memoir, some from poetry, and from music and performance and just about anything that leaves its own blood on the page. We want to bring you what you may not be getting much of. Won’t you join us?

The next show is July 14, 2013 at 826 LA in Echo Park (http://826la.org/) from 4-5:30 pm.

We dare you to miss this lineup:

Amy Boutell: Amy Boutell’s short stories have appeared in Post Road, New Letters, Nimrod, and Other Voices, and her first novel, The Invention of Violet, was a finalist for the 2012 Pirate’s Alley/Faulkner Society Novel-in-Progress competition. She holds an MFA from the Michener Center for Writers and has received support from the Norman Mailer Writers Colony, the Ragdale Foundation, and Summer Literary Seminars. She lives in Santa Barbara and works as an instructor at UCSB’s Writing Lab.

Brittany Michelson: Brittany Michelson’s short fiction and CNF is published in The Whistling Fire, Bartleby Snopes, Flashquake, Effluvia, Sleet Magazine, Speech Bubble Magazine, Backhand Stories, Bat Terrier, Glossolalia Fiction, Every Day Fiction, Toasted Cheese Literary Journal, and other online journals. Her short story “The Experiment” was included in Speech Bubble Magazine’s “Best Of” anthology, and her short story “Postpartum” was a Story Of the Month winner in Bartleby Snopes. Print work is published in PoemMemoirStory Magazine, If & When Literary Journal, an anthology by Bona Fide Books, and The Poetry Of Yoga Vol. 2. She is a private homeschool teacher and teaches one college composition class.

Zoe Ruiz interviews our musica guest, Alex Maslansky: Zoë Ruiz is the Saturday Editor for The Rumpus and staff member of FOUND. Her work has appeared in The Rumpus, Two Serious Ladies, and Trop. Currently she’s working on her interview project “Learn People Better” and curates READINGS, a Los Angeles based reading series. She lives in Los Angeles and when she is not writing, she teaches yoga.

Xochitl-Julisa Bermejo: Xochitl-Julisa Bermejo (so-chee who-lisa ber-may-ho) is the creator and curator of Beyond Baroque’s monthly reading series HITCHED, a founding editor of The Splinter Generation, and was nominated for a 2010 Pushcart Award. Her work has been published in The Los Angeles Review, PALABRA, CALYX and The Acentos Review, and she is the winner of the 2013 Poets & Writers California Writers Exchange. She received an MFA from Antioch University Los Angeles. In August 2011, Xochitl-Julisa volunteered with the Tucson-based direct humanitarian aid organization, No More Deaths. Poems from her manuscript, The Mediation for the Lost and Found, are inspired by her time in the Arizona desert. She teaches high school English and drama in Arcadia, CA.

Live Write winner Caitlin Myer: Her short stories have been published in literary magazines such as Joyland, Things That Are True, and upcoming in Eleven Eleven. Her first novel, Hoodoo, was serialized on Fiction365. She is the founder of the San Francisco-based literary reading series Portuguese Artists Colony, and she lives wherever she puts down her suitcase.

Live write guest Vickie Vértiz: Vickie Vértiz was born and raised in southeast Los Angeles. Her writing explores the intersections of feminism, identity, and Latino sub-cultures through everyday beauty. Her writing is widely anthologized, found in publications such as Open the Door, from McSweeney’s and the Poetry Foundation. Her poetry collection, Swallows was just released by Finishing Line Press. She is a candidate for a Master of Fine Arts degree at UC Riverside.

Sunday, July 14
4-5:30 p.m.
826LA
1714 W. Sunset Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90026
(213) 413-3388

PARKING: There is a large lot behind 826LA and the rest of the businesses on that block. Sunday parking is free!

Swallows Book Release Parties, Bay Area, June 7-9th

Come celebrate the official release of Swallows, my poetry collection just out from Finishing Line Press.

Friday, June 7th
ScholarMatch & McSweeney’s offices, 849 Valencia Street at 19th St., from 7-8 pm
Featuring Maya Chinchilla, Emilie Coulson, Kenji Liu, Aimee Suzara and special guests.

Saturday, June 8
At Aimee Suzara’s Finding the Bones book release
Eastwind Books, 2066 University Ave, Berkeley from 5-7 pm.

Sunday, June 9
At Arisa White’s A Penny Saved book release
Pegasus Books, 2349 Shattuck Avenue, Berkeley, from 7:30-9 pm.

The first book release party was on:
Saturday, May 18th from 12 pm- 3 pm at North Legg Lake, hosted by South El Monte Arts Posse, Aimee Suzara, Kenji Liu, and myself for poems about sassy family pets, lucky cereal bits and being broke in college, with cameos from flying girls.
bookbday-01
I will also be reading in the San Francisco Bay Area on:

Vértiz Featured on KCET’s Departures

As part of the reading series “LAnguage” at the Last Bookstore
hosted by Mike the PoeT Sonkensen, Vickie Vértiz was featured in an article
on KCET’s “Departures” website.

Vickie is thrilled to be included in such an amazing group of women,
including Gloria Alvarez, Marisa Urrutia Gedney, Rachelle Cruz, Zoe Ruiz,
and many other talented poets.

This month’s “LAnguage” reading is Sunday, March 24, 2013, 5-7 PM.
Last Bookstore, 453 South Spring Street at 4th Street. A free event.

Other readers at LAnguage include:
Kenji Liu, Armond Kinard,
Michael C. Ford, Joe Gardner
& singer-songwriter
Jaz James

Vickie will be reading from her latest collection of poetry Swallows, and new
material, recently featured on Juan Felipe Herrera’s website, as LoWriter of the Week.

To view the Facebook event, click here.

The Next Big Thing- Swallows

First I’d like to thank Arisa White for inviting me to be a part of The Next Big Thing, a blog-tagging project for writers who recently published a book. Arisa’s latest collection, A Penny Saved, is a riveting example of her multi-faceted, brilliant poetry.

What is the title of your book?


Swallows

What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?


“I’m named after my sister, a ghost for whom our mother makes birthday cakes
Out of Styrofoam discs, a name I make up another life for
every day.”

(from “Tocaya,” the first poem in the collection)

What genre does your book fall under?

Swallows is a collection of narrative poems, a short story in each of them.

Where did the idea come from for the book?


The poems were written over many years and were not conceived together.
When I organized the poems chronologically (as in, when they occurred in my life), I noticed an arc. I saw an abridged hero’s journey that emerged naturally from the work.

Although the poems are mostly autobiographical, I do take some flights of fancy. As a poetry teacher recently told me, “Poetry is nonfiction,” and so this book is as well.

How long did it take you to write the first draft of the manuscript?


It took ten years to complete the poems, and during that time I took classes with Willie Perdomo, Ruth Forman, and Lorna Dee Cervantes to work on many of the poems you’ll find in the book. I’m still making last minute changes to the manuscript.

Who or what inspired you to write this book?

In college, I took a class organized by a friend called “Women of Color in the United States.” One assignment was to read excerpts from Loving in the War Years. It was then that I found the words I needed as a Chicana to describe the world around me. In this sense, Swallows began after reading that book. When it first came out (and even today), Cherríe’s writing broke through so many social, cultural, and literary barriers. Cherríe has said that she started to write to save her life; writing from the silences in my own life has also saved me, and the poems in this book come from that place.

Who will publish your book?


The publisher is Finishing Line Press in Kentucky. The book is available for pre-sale here and will arrive in mailboxes in May 2013.

What other works would you compare this book to within your genre?


Given that the poems were written over a decade, I did a lot of reading that influenced the writing. Emplumada by Lorna Dee Cervantes stands out because the voice in her poems affirmed the feminism I practiced in my community and in my writing.

Once I was organizing the collection last year for publication, I was further influenced by reading Bring Down the Little Birds by Carmen Gimenez-Smith. This lyric memoir provided a concept that helped arrange my poems into vignettes about enduring grief, remembering being loved by the men in my family, and coming back to myself.

I also have to mention fellow poet Aida Salazar who first turned me on to the VONA writing workshops. Because of her and my writing group with Maya Chinchilla, Aimee Suzara, Lisa Marie Rollins, and Kenji Liu, my writing has grown in leaps and bounds.

And if I’m lucky and my brain grows a garden, I hope to write poems like Arisa White someday.

What actors would you choose to play the part of your characters in a movie rendition?


The characters in this book include composite versions of my younger brothers, parents, ex-boyfriends, ex-girlfriends, and my half-sister whom I’ve never met. If I had my way and could go back in time, to play my parents I would ask Lupe Ontiveros and Charles Bronson who would have been ideal, may they rest in piece.

For the part of my brothers, I would wave a magic wand and create tan, Chicano (read: expressive) versions of Keanu Reeves and Paul Dano. For the exes, Jack Black and Eva Longoria (for that is indeed the community service range of dating I have done).

To play a version of me in the book, Melonie Diaz would bring the sass needed to hold it down. Finally, I’d cast an early Jennifer Lopez to be the half-sister I’ve never met; she deserves the benefit of the doubt.

What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?

The poems are funny, incisive, and illustrate how a family remembers that forgiveness is a great
healing salve for grief. And even though this family is Mexican, New Wave, and working class in Los Angeles, all families can relate to that journey.

An excerpt from the first poem of the collection, “Tocaya”:

Victoria – I don’t blame you for not staying
It was pure mean-ugly girls through high school
Throbbing lack in college
But grad school made me a carpenter
I have a Master’s Degree in Leaving
Our lineage proud I will always have a job

This is what I know of your face
A pen mark across your feet in yellowed photos
You in a baby carrier, a marigold tablecloth, our turquoise kitchen
waiting for you to run out of breath

The next writers I tag in this project are:
Lisa Marie Rollins
Kenji Liu
Aimee Suzara
Rachelle Cruz

Look for updates about their recent projects next week!

KPFA with Luis Rodriguez and Ching-In Chen, Tuesday, February 11, 2013

Tune in to KPFA 94.1 FM, the Bay Area’s Pacifica station, next Tuesday for “Pinay Poet on Setting the Standard.” Vickie will join award-winning Luis Rodriguez (ALWAYS RUNNING); Lee Herrick (GARDENING SECRETS OF THE DEAD), and Ching-In Chen (THE HEART’S TRAFFIC). They’ll discuss getting their work into the world as writers and cultural workers. They will also read from their most recent publications.

To listen the next day at your convenience, go here or to kpfa.org find “Setting the Standard.”

Reading at Skylight Books, Thursday, Feb. 21, 7:30pm

Join Vickie as she reads from her new book Swallows at Rainbow Gathering 4.
It’s the fourth installment of UC Riverside’s ongoing reading series that invites graduate students from the Creative Writing and Writing for the Performing Arts department to share their work with peers and others. So please, join us for a night of prose and poetry at Skylight Books.

Readers include:

Eric Loya
Sara Borjas
Andrew Waddell
Angela Penaredondo
Crystal Salas
Vickie Vertiz

Where: Skylight Books
1818 N. Vermont Ave., Los Angeles, California 90027
FREE
When: Thursday, Feb. 21, 2013, 7:30pm

An Excerpt from the new collection, Swallows

Tocaya

There’s an i and an e at the end of my name
Mom and Dad did not pick the last vowels
But they did have the concept: breathing, baby, girl
Mom says the black nurse who spelled me
White teeth smacking peppermint gum
My name is a reference to Victoria
My other half who left Loveland Street before I did

Victoria, the older sister who never beat me with her left hand
While she curled her hair with her right
I didn’t tag along with her hoochie friends
To watch Purple Rain through our hair-sprayed bangs
Victoria peeked out from her crib at our teeny house and said, Chale girl,
I’ll catch you later. Coughed her baby lungs into dusty dried persimmons
So I could be the oldest sister to our two younger brothers
So I could beat them with one hand and sip
Strawberry milkshake with the other
She died from pneumonia at a general hospital so I could take
Our younger brother to watch Batman with Spanish subtitles
Drag him to Smiths-loving, pimple-skinned parties
I’m named after a ghost for whom our mother makes birthday cakes
Out of Styrofoam discs, lovingly smothered with real pink icing
Plastic ballerinas every one of her 38 birthdays
Neither of us got to be a chola, or a cha-cha, a new-waver
She left me thick glasses in fourth grade
A name for which to make up another life, every day
Don’t fuck it up…

To get your copy of “Tocaya,” order Swallows here.