Friday, October 28, 2011

Literary Community. Ruben Quesada Comes to New Orleans.

by Melinda Palacio

Last weekend, I had the pleasure of reading at the Maple Leaf bar in New Orleans, home of the longest running poetry reading in the South. I guess you can say I’m a regular at the Maple Leaf Bar’s poetry series, at least when I’m in New Orleans on a Sunday. Two weeks ago, I had the pleasure of introducing the featured reader, Ruben Quesada. Ruben is from Bell and grew up in the town next door to mine in South Central Los Angeles (I’m from Huntington Park). He worked as a teacher’s assistant at the same school my mother taught at for 14 years, Heliotrope Elementary in Maywood. It took a circuitous poetry path for me to finally meet Ruben Quesada, now an up and coming poet and PhD candidate at Texas Tech University. As with many of my literary friends, I met Ruben on Facebook when he put out a call asking for help with his book tour for his first book of poetry, Next Extinct Mammal. Ruben explains how he approached poetry as offering a slice of life and how he thought up the idea for the title of his poetry book, published in 2011 by Greenhouse Review Press with exquisite endorsements by Rigoberto González, D. A. Powell, Juan Felipe Herrera, and Francisco Aragón:

“The reader is allowed to step into the life of the poet and live his or her world in that moment. What could be more intimate than to embody someone else’s thoughts? The figures in my collection, Next Extinct Mammal, are people which existed in my life and like them, you and I will one day be extinct. I think this idea places an enormous value on the singular characteristics of a human being.”

Even before meeting Ruben, I was impressed by his fearless poetry and his technical skills (check out the QR code on his website and see what’s in store for his poem, “Store” at Ruben Quesada's website.

Ruben is a young man, 35, who has embraced technology. I used my phone to scan his poem in form of a QR code (the new cool thing to have on your flyers and website). I’m lucky if I have time to update my website, write a column for La Bloga, and tweet about all that I am doing, and respond to the requests to LinkedIn or become friends on Facebook. I haven’t arrived at the code business.

In Next Extinct Mammal, the poet progresses from narrative poems to more philosophical work that goes beyond family, identity, and sexuality. Ruben says while his new work veers away from a strictly narrative form, he still desires to keep his poetry accessible.

“Going to school for so long has affected my poems. Some might say they are more academic. I try to balance that philosophical view of the world with one that’s tangible and lyrical. I present things that I see in the world around me. I try not to name so much and use the ‘I’.”

Ruben Quesada is very conscious of his role as a poet. Perhaps we can thank social media for making us all project ourselves onto the world’s stage, especially poets. Ruben wants to leave a handbook of how he sees the world, of the poet’s attention to detail, and of his legacy as a poet.

“There’s so much in the world that people take for granted. It’s those little things that tell me I’m alive. I want to be a good writer. I don’t want to let my readers down. I want to feel that I’m doing the right thing.”

His biggest fan is his mother. At the Maple Leaf Bar, Ruben did a brave thing by saying he was a “momma’s boy” and reading some of the poems (“The Getty” “Memories are made like this”) that describe his more tender side. Hearing his mother tell him how proud she is means more to him than winning a literary prize.

Ruben Quesada is currently at work on a second book of poetry, his dissertation tentatively titled, The Personality of the Planet, and he is also applying for university teaching jobs in poetry. Ruben will be appearing in the Los Angeles area during the Thanksgiving holiday. He will be at Flintridge Bookstore & Coffeehouse in La Cañada (11/20), University of California, Riverside (11/21), and Viento y Agua Coffeehouse in Long Beach (11/23). His new book can be found in bookstores and Amazon.

PALABRA 7 Release Party at REDCAT Lounge, Tomorrow!

Join us this Saturday - sábado - 29 October from 2 - 4 pm at The Lounge at REDCAT, 631 W. 2nd Street, Los Angeles, CA 90012 (in the Walt Disney Concert Hall complex).

Jerry Garcia, Rubén R. Mendoza and Luivette Resto will read and knock your poetry socks off.

(This promises to be an incredible afternoon. I’m honored to have a poem in this issue. If I weren’t going to the Louisiana Book Fair in Baton Rouge, I would certainly attend this favorite venue. I hope to see my New Orleans friends at the Louisiana Book Fair. I will be reading in the Glass Room at the Welcome Center at 1:15 pm.)

A Great Deal for Writers. Hone Your Craft with Reyna Grande

What: Creative Writing Workshops with award-winning author, Reyna Grande.
When: 4 Tuesdays, Nov. 1 to Nov. 22 @6:30pm
Where: Private residence, East Whittier (Los Angeles County)
Who: Anyone who is looking for a supportive environment, guidance, and encouragement.
How much: $100.00 for four sessions

Contact Reyna Grande at for more information about the classes. If you are working on a fiction or creative non-fiction project and are looking for feedback on your work, and/or would like to learn more about the craft of writing, then this class is for you! Space is limited!

About the Author:
Reyna Grande is the author of Across a Hundred Mountains, which received an American Book Award, the El Premio Aztlan Literary Award, and a Latino Books Into Movies Award. Her second novel was the recepient of a Latino Book Award. She is a sought-after speaker, educator, and event organizer. Visit her website at

News for Next Week:

November 3, Melinda Palacio will be signing copies of Ocotillo Dreams at the Book Den, Santa Barbara for First Thursday from 5pm to 8pm. See the article in today's Casa Magazine Santa Barbara.

Reyna Grande and Melinda Palacio
Saturday, NOVEMBER 5.
Reyna Grande and Melinda Palacio will be signing their books at theVentura County Book & Author Fair in Camarillo, 1605 Burnley Street, Camarillo, CA. Check out booth 31 next week on Saturday, November 5.

The Ocotillo Dreams Tour continues North on November 10 at Chabot Hills College in Hayward at noon and Green Apple Books in San Francisco at 7pm.

1 comment:

Francisco Aragón said...

Thank you for this substantial and thoughtful profile of Ruben!