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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    Festival guest to share poetry ‘like bread’

    The Arizona Daily Wildcat had the opportunity to conduct an e-mail interview with poet Manuel Paul Lopez. He was born and raised in the U.S.-Mexico border region of El Centro, Calif., and received degrees from Imperial Valley College, the University of California, San Diego and San Francisco State University. His work has been published in Bilingual Review/La Revista Bilingue, ZYZZYVA, Hanging Loose and Rattle, among others, and anthologized in “”Roque Dalton Redux.”” He will bring his unique voice to the Tucson Poetry Festival on Friday and Saturday.

    What types of poetry do you write? What is your main focus?

    I tend to gravitate toward the narrative, because I enjoy story, character and voice so much, I guess. But don’t get me wrong, I respect form, I love form, and I especially like playing with form, experimenting with existing forms, I mean.

    How long have you been writing? What drew you to poetry?

    I’ve been writing since I was a little mocoso. I also loved to read as a kid, so the whole excitement with creating my own characters and plot lines followed closely behind. I was one of those kids participating in the summer book clubs at our local library. As far as what drew me to poetry, man, the stuff is infectious. It’s one art form, for me at least, that engages all of my senses, all of them participating at once. It’s great, great, great stuff! I believe like Roque Dalton “”Que la poesia is como el pan de todos.”” That poetry, like bread, is for everyone.

    What is most important about poetry to you?

    Its ability to transcend time, culture, injustice and long-standing oppression.

    What do you think attracts other artists to poetry as opposed to other expressive styles?

    I think it’s different for everyone, but for me, it’s the music, it’s the deep probing, it’s the illumination, it’s the silliness. A favorite quote about poetry is one that the poet Li Young Lee has stated, “”It’s the dying breath articulated.”” Heavy, no?

    What brings you to the Grand Slam next week?

    The excitement. What better way to kick off National Poetry Month.

    Fortunately, I was invited by some really great people associated with the festival, namely Lindsay Miller, the festival’s executive director. I’m also excited to be part of the statewide high school poetry contest, which is a very important part of the festival.

    What material will you be sharing at the event?

    Some new work, I hope, as well as some excerpts from my new chapbook called “”1984.”” And of course, a few from my book “”Death of a Mexican and other Poems.””

    Why are festivals such as this one important for the artistic community and the uninitiated?

    It’s one of the ways to put a finger on the current pulse of contemporary American poetry. It’s a way to celebrate its diversity and its myriad ways.

    How does the growing hip-hop/rap culture affect the poetry community?

    Besides growing, I think the hip-hop/rap culture is constantly evolving, though keeping close to its center the best of what its predecessors had done. I mean, damn, I can’t tell you how many times I’ve said to myself, “”This is it. Now I’ve heard it all. Nothing can surpass this.”” Then what happens, boom, a new track. As a high school teacher, I read the influence in my students’ work all of the time. It’s in the beat, the wordplay, the rapid-fire allusions, and of course, the rhyme. What’s amazing to me is that I don’t give a shit where you go in the U.S., or even in many parts of the world, you’ll read and hear the influence.

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