what i'm on
Luis Humberto Valadez
Publication Date: March 19, 2009
Camino del Sol: A Latina/Latino Literary Series 64 pages
6 x 8 ISBN: 978-0-8165-2740-3, $15.95 paper
Luis Humberto Valadez is a poet/performer/musician from the south side of the Chicago area whose work owes as much to hip-hop as it does to the canon and has been described by esteemed activist writer Amiri Baraka as "strong-real light flashes."
His debut poetry collection what i'm on is frankly autobiographical, recounting the experiences of a Mexican American boy growing up in a tough town near Chicago. Just as in life, the feelings in these poems are often jumbled, sometimes spilling out in a tumble, sometimes coolly recollected. Valadez's poems shout to be read aloud. It's then that their language dazzles most brightly. It's then that the emotions bottled up on the page explode beyond words. And there is plenty of emotion in these poems. Sometimes the words jump and twitch as if they‚d been threatened or attacked. Sometimes they just sit there knowingly on the page, weighted down by the stark reality of it all.
José García put a thirty-five to me
my mother was in the other room
He would have done us both
if not for the lust of my fear
This new Mexican American/Chicano voice is all at once arresting, bracing, shocking, and refreshing. This is not the poetry you learned in school. But Valadez, who received his MFA from the Jack Kerouac School of Disembodied Poets at Naropa University, has paid his academic dues, and he certainly knows how to craft a poem. It's just that he does it his way. Luis Humberto Valadez works as a coordinator and consultant for the Chicago Public Schools Homeless Education Program.
Recordings of Valadez performing his poems can be found at MySpace.com, Reverb Nation, and other Internet sites. VALADEZ BLURBS: “Brave, raw, and exposing of a young mans consciousness. Luis’s work is not confessional in the limited, put-it-in-a-box way that big publishers like to market their material to liberal guilt.” -Andrew Schelling, author of Tea Shack Interior
“In voices colloquial and church, reverent and riotous, serious and sly; in rap and fragment, sound and sin; from gangs and minimum-wage jobs to astrology and Christ, Luis Valadez makes his fearless debut. This poetry is a painfully honest disclosure of identity and anger, and it is as mindful of falsity and as hard on itself as it is playful, loose, and loving. Sometimes the language is clear and cutting, while other times it disintegrates into sonic units and primal utterances: Luis calls upon the whole history of oral and verbal expression to tell his story—going so far as to write his own (wildly funny and disturbing) obituary.” —Arielle Greenberg, author of My Kafka Century
“On the trail blazed by innovators like Harryette Mullen and John Yau, Luis Valadez sends wild, canny, charged, and vulnerable prayers from the hard camp of contested identities. Each line, each word, is a blow against “impossibility” and the heavy pressure to be silent as expected. Interrogations of tradition(s) as well as celebrations, the irresistible poems in Valadez’s first collection exist at the exact fresh moment of deciding to live and to love.” —Laura Mullen, author of After I Was Dead
“Valadez’s work is not simply fierce language poetics… here is a writer—the genuine article—whose style is that of a truth-speaking curandero, offering sacred cantos to anyone interested in illuminating that inner revolution called corazón. To read his work is to discover the future of American poética! “ —Tim Z. Hernandez, author of Skin Tax
“Valadez’s impressions abruptly transport the reader from swaggering elucidation to raw pain. In a sometimes-resigned glance around for divinity, what I’m on triggers equally sudden heart-rippings, laughter, and cinematic naturescapes.” —Claire Nixon, editor Twisted Tongue Magazine
Holly Schaffer, Publicity Manager
University of Arizona Press
355 S. Euclid Ave., Ste. 103 Tucson, AZ 85719
Ph: 520-621-3920, Fx: 520-621-8899