Friday, August 05, 2011

Spotlight on Maria Melendez

by Melinda Palacio

It’s tough to spy on poet Maria Melendez online. The Colorado resident doesn’t have a website or blog. She rarely boasts about her latest publications and accolades on facebook or twitter. However, the quiet and self-effacing poetess is anything but invisible or shy. She is the acquiring editor for Momotombo Press at the University of Notre Dame, the publisher of Pilgrimage, and an award-winning poet and the author of two poetry books, both published by the University of Arizona Press: How Long She’ll Last in this World (2006) and Flexible Bones (2010). Maria also teaches and edits works of non-fiction and poetry. “I don’t have a website,” she said. “With a full dance card, an online presence hasn’t been a priority.” However, she does admit her pleasure in learning more about poets online. Several sites, ranging from Poetry Daily to Acentos Review to Letras Latinas to Poetry Society of America carry her poems and interviews.

Maria scrutinizes her poems and subjects them to severe revision. Watch out poems! She says she has to remind herself to be joyful, even though her poems often dance with language. Her first impulse is to agonize over each word. “I have the impulse to examine those infinite variations,” she said. Combing poetry with her biology background makes for magical poems as in her “Sapo Dorado-A Recent Extinction”:

“Back through a little drizzle and fizz of time, you'll find a writhing/

"toad ball," ten males throwing their two-inch selves all over/

a female's softball-sized back, slapping and shoving each other,/”

Maria says her influence for finding infinite variables in poetry stems from her father, a mathematician. “My Dad will go on equation binges, producing pages and pages of possibilities." However, infinite variables often apply to her word choices. Both Maria and her father share an intense ability to search for the perfect variable. For Maria, the variable is a word instead of a number or function, but Maria and her father prefer to zero in on the perfect combination.

She may not have a personal website calling card, but her poems and interviews circle the world wide web and she obliges when called to read at venues near and far (I’ve had the pleasure of reading with Maria Melendez at Beyond Baroque, the Church, and Cal State University Los Angeles). Melendez enjoys the face-to-face contact with readers and contributors of Pilgrimage Magazine and the chance to represent Pilgrimage and Letras Latinas at poetry readings and writers conferences.

Next Tuesday, August 16, Maria travels to New York City for the Bryant Park Word for Word Poetry where she will read with fellow J. Michael Martinez and Toni Plummer.

The next theme for Pilgrimage Magazine is Worth & Value. Submission deadline is October 15, 2011. General guidelines available at Pilgrimage.

The Walls and Marts Did Not Devour Them

Maria Melendez

inspired by Brock Dethier's "Across the Grid"

Once upon a parking lot,

mazdas, jettas, fords, toyotas

veered around like unmoored planets

orbiting the rows to find a spot.

The softness of his palm was lost

to her who mothered here by jerks

and terseness: grip his wrist and pull,

like ripping weeds. It wasn't

greed brought them here, but socks,

which they all needed. As a tired

kid can hate his used-up mom,

herself yanked by bankbooks,

rent, an hour's work just barely

two milk gallons, so he hates her

in the foyer as she rattles keys

in answer to the greeter, who he hates

for the wrinkles in his face.

The boy's back tenses for the hunt

to find The Toy that will punch through

her blunt refusals. "Can't we get..."

and "Please, it's only..." begin as

mantras, become koans, and end up

bitter as eternal curses on her name.

Of course she loves him still, in fury

at the flat fluorescent glare,

at the tiles with their scuffed,

insistent squares. The wired child,

blessed be his exit, will forget

he hates her later, when she rubs

the blankets at his shoulders, when he

nestles into rest, so freely given.

He'll forget her hard sock-eyes, and she'll

remember little hands can be a balm.

Reprinted from Poetry at 3 and Helicon West broadside series.

1 comment:

Francisco Aragón said...

Also joining Maria Melendez, J. Michael Martinez, and Toni Margarita Plummer in Bryant Park NYC next week, will be Cynthia Cruz....