NHMC Recommends reading the interview of Reyes Cárdenas, acclaimed Chicano poet, by Xánath Caraza

Post courtesy of Michael Sedano, “La Bloga”

Who is Reyes Cárdenas? 

Reyes Cárdenas is a totally different person from his poetry. Let’s not go there. I want to focus on my poetry.

Who guided you through your first readings? 

I guess my elementary school teachers are to blame for my becoming a writer by introducing me to reading.

How did you first become a poet & writer? 

My interest in writing started in third grade when an elementary school teacher Mrs. Kypher assigned us to write a poem about the discovery of the New World. That’s when I started writing.

When do you know when a poem is ready to be read? 

I am not much into reading. So if they sound good in my head, if they taste good in my mouth, if there’s nothing that bugs me about a certain new creation, then I know it is ready, at least in my world.

What projects are you working on at the moment?

FlowerSong Books has recently published my new collection, Tortured Barrio Songs. It is a series of interconnected poems, telling the story of three distinct individuals. Damaged individuals, yes, but also quite normal.

What advice do you have for other poets?

I guess, just keep reading other poets and keep writing. There’s really no other way. It’s a cruel craft, but also rewarding.

“Profane, profound, and poetic, this is not the standard book of poetry, but one refreshingly experimental, playfully unafraid of the power of words, and revealing a genius with the energy and brilliance of a Robin Williams, the musicality of a Beatles song, and the power of a Picasso. [Cárdenas’] … signature no-holds-barred humor, crossed with a stinging criticism of the injustices of being poor in America….a flowing and painfully beautiful novel-in-verse set in the West Side barrios of San Antonio.” —Carmen Tafolla, State Poet Laureate of Texas 2015

In his heartbreaking yet hilarious poetry, rooted in a barrio that is both achingly real and hypnotically gonzo, Cárdenas explores the lives of strange, broken and marginalized men showing us the unexpected beauty and wisdom amid their unconventional lives. Like the very best of Bukowski, this Chicano Poet has spent a lifetime writing for writing’s sake, because he must, porque sus dedos conocen los hechizos que hacen mágicos a los marginados. —David Bowles, Pura Belpré Honor-Winning author of The Smoking Mirror and They Call Me Güero: A Border Kid’s Poems

Tortured Barrio Songs will torture multi-tasking readers who won’t know which to praise first. There’s Reyes Cardenas’ incisive wit featuring language tricks and situational fun. There are two books under the covers, two characters singing barrio songs, readers will recognize the places. When you look underneath the funny ha-ha, there’s insight, sad, lots of local color and ample satisfaction from pages of good poetry.

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