Anthology Showcases Emerging Poets of the West
The American West has long been featured in TV shows, movies and country music songs.
“This is a very special anthology for me, because I’m among such great poets,” said William Archila, the first of four writers who took the stage at a group reading at Vroman's bookstore in Pasadena on Wednesday.
The 42-year-old from El Salvador set the tone of the evening with his work that revolved around existential questions of identity, living in exile and reconciling different aspects of one’s life.
“I think of my poems as ‘living in the city, but thinking of the past’,” Archila said.
Other representatives of the eclectic mix of poets who write in English, Spanish, Navajo and various other Native American languages shared Archila’s sense of feeling like a stranger in a strange land.
“My earth is split in two or three parts,” said Teresa Chuc Dowell, who followed her El Salvadorian colleague to the podium.
The English teacher’s mother came to the country from Vietnam after the war while pregnant with her first child, Teresa. Chuc Dowell explained to the 25 guests that she saw her father for the first time when she was nine after he returned from a prisoner’s camp. She said she had to go through multiple processes to find her culture.
To illustrate her search for the answer to the primordial question of identity, she read her poem aptly titled “names”. It discusses how the author is tired of changing her name and each time losing a part of herself and having to start over again.
“I lost my name in an attempt to fit in.”
Another kind of identity crisis shined through the presentation and work of Thea Gavin, an Orange native.
“I was born in Orange and I am still there and all I wanted to do my whole life was leave Orange,” the poet said. She and her husband could even see the hospital they were both born in, Gavin joked. Her work is inspired by and deals with nature that she explores during long hikes in the mountains around her hometown.
At the end of her segment, the writing teacher shared a piece of advice she normally gives her students with the audience: “Nothing bad ever happens to poets, just things to write about.”
New poets of the American West, by Lowell Jaeger (author, editor), Many Voices Press.