Maria talks with U.S. Poet Laureate Juan Felipe Herrera, writer/police officer Chato Villalobos, artist/activist Anthony Marcos Rea, educator/writer Natasha Ria El-Scari, and novelist Wayne Courtois.
The son of migrant farm workers, Herrera was educated at UCLA and Stanford University, and he earned his MFA from the University of Iowa Writers’ Workshop. His numerous poetry collections include 187 Reasons Mexicanos Can’t Cross the Border: Undocuments 1971-2007, Half of the World in Light: New and Selected Poems (2008), and Border-Crosser with a Lamborghini Dream (1999). In addition to publishing more than a dozen collections of poetry, Herrera has written short stories, young adult novels, and children’s literature. In 2015 he was named U.S. poet laureate.
In a 2004 interview at CSU-Fresno, Herrera noted the influences of three distinct Californias—the small agricultural towns of the San Joaquin Valley he knew as a child, San Diego’s Logan Heights, and San Francisco’s Mission District—on his work: “all these landscapes became stories, and all those languages became voices in my writing, all those visuals became colors and shapes, which made me more human and gave me a wide panorama to work from.” Influenced by Allen Ginsberg, Herrera’s poetry brims with simultaneity and exuberance, and often takes shape in mural-like, rather than narrative, frames. Critic Stephen Burt praised Herrera in the New York Times as one of the first poets to successfully create “a new hybrid art, part oral, part written, part English, part something else: an art grounded in ethnic identity, fueled by collective pride, yet irreducibly individual too.”
In 2012, Herrera was named California’s poet laureate, and the U.S. poet laureate in 2015. He has won the Hungry Mind Award of Distinction, the Focal Award, two Latino Hall of Fame Poetry Awards, and a PEN West Poetry Award. His honors include the UC Berkeley Regent’s Fellowship as well as fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference, and the Stanford Chicano Fellows. He has also received several grants from the California Arts Council.
Herrera is also a performance artist and activist on behalf of migrant and indigenous communities and at-risk youth. His creative work often crosses genres, including poetry opera and dance theater. His children’s book, The Upside Down Boy (2000), was adapted into a musical. His books for children and young adults have won several awards, including Calling the Doves (2001), which won the Ezra Jack Keats Award, and Crashboomlove (1999), a novel-in-verse for young adults which won the Americas Award. His book Half The World in Light was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle prize in 2009.
He has taught at California State University-Fresno and at the University of California-Riverside. He lives in California.
Chato Villalobos is a 13 year veteran of the Kansas City Missouri Police Department. His assignments included East Patrol Division, Fraud Investigations, Homicide Detective and has spent his last 7 years in Community Policing at the Westside CAN Center. Chato was recently recognized with a Proclamation from the mayor regarding the work he does with the Westside community through community policing. Chato is also a member of the Latino Writers Collective, the Union Cultural Mexicana, and is currently serving his 5th year on the board of directors of the Guadalupe Education Systems.
2016 Rocket Grant recipient Anthony Marco Rea discusses his project, Where We No Longer Gather: Liberty Memorial, Penn Valley Park and Public Queer Looks a site-specific, public engagement project intended to explore the historical and conceptual roles this former Queer space played in the construction of community for the individuals who gathered there in the 1980’s and 1990’s.
To visit the circle drive was like being in a parade – made up mostly of men. People would line the drive in parked cars, with windows down and doors open to share music being played for all those nearby. Anthony Rea’s boyhood memories of this place being a sort of celebration have been confirmed by others who shared their own experiences with him. It is that celebration, that sense of place making and community that he is looking to explore in this project.
As homophobic city ordinances, hate crimes and the AIDS crisis transformed the lives of many during the 80’s and 90’s, they also transformed the public Queer space of the Liberty Memorial and Penn Valley Park. Rea’s interest in this location is personal, artistic and historical – there are very few records, visual or written – other than news stories and connected police reports – that document this history, the time period and its context. This project is an attempt at a document of a community that no longer gathers. It is a record of a celebratory Queer space existing outside of bars or clubs (social or drinking) – one that occupied the public realm and fostered friendships, relationships and other types of communion for Queer people.
Anthony Marcos Rea was born and raised on the Westside of Kansas City, MO as a result of a desegregating public school system through the mid 1990’s. He conducted studies at The University of Missouri at Kansas City where he studied under Photographer/Professor Bill Gaskins until his migration to Chicago in 1999. Continuing his studies at The School of the Art Institute of Chicago with a focus in Photography, Performance, Video & Visual Communication, Anthony received his BFA in 2002. www.anthonymarcosrea.com
Natasha Ria El-Scari
The Only Other (Main Street Rag) released June 2016 is Natasha’s second book of poetry. This collection charges readers to consider the perspective of the “other woman” which is a voice that is often spoken for but never heard from. Heart wrenching, aching and breaking, Natasha challlenges readers perception and the complication of love. Natasha Ria El-Scari is a writer, Cave Canem fellow, and educator for over a decade. Her poetry, academic papers, and personal essays have been published in anthologies, literary and online journals. She has opened for and introduced many great writers, singers and activists, and has been featured at a host of universities and venues nationwide. Born and raised in Kansas City, Missouri, Natasha has a BA from Jackson State University and a MA from the University of Missouri-Kansas City. Natasha’s Black Feminist approach is reflected in her writing, poetry and performance pieces. Natasha brings the fire! She is a divorced mother of two awesome children. Once asked in an interview what makes her unique she replied, “…most people lie to themselves, but I like to reveal myself.” www.natasharia.com
Wayne Courtois talks about A Celebration of Queerness, an annual LGBT event Friday June 17 from 7-9pm at The Writers Place, 3607 Pennsylvannia Ave. KCMO. Hosts for the evening are Charles Ferruzza and Wayne Courtois. Other readers include Robin Wayne Bailey, Mark Manning, Michelle Pond, and Nick Sawin. The program will include music and a reading of memoir, poetry, fiction, and nonfiction from area writers. This event includes a reception and the Bongotini Band! www.writersplace.org
A graduate of the MFA Program at the University of North Carolina-Greensboro, Wayne Courtois is author of a memoir, A Report from Winter; a novel, Tales My Body Told Me; and two erotic novels, My Name Is Rand and In the Time of Solution 9. His short fiction and poetry have appeared in journals including The Greensboro Review, Harrington Gay Men’s Literary Quarterly, Assaracus, Jonathan, and The I-70 Review; in the webzines suspect thoughts: a journal of subversive writing and Velvet Mafia; and in anthologies such as Of the Flesh, Love Under Foot, Best Gay Erotica, Out of Control, Country Boys, and Hibernation and Other Poems by Bear Bards. His nonfiction has appeared in I Do/I Don’t: Queers on Marriage; Walking Higher: Gay Men Write about the Deaths of Their Mothers; and The Lost Library: Gay Fiction Rediscovered