March 25, 2010
I read poetry
to a raza studies class
with one Chicano
March 24, 2010
I am at the Wilson Library at the University of Minnesota in the computer lab, and it turns out my campus log-in info still works! I'm face-bookin' and g-mailing y todo, and I'm so glad because I didn't know what I was going to do if I could not put an entry for today's log. I could've waited until tomorrow when I would run into former colleagues and friends, "Orale Ray, let me bum a squat on your computer!" I don't think Mr. Gonzalez would like that very much. I would deserve any and all reprucussions if I approached my former mentor like that--hell I would probably lose my U of M library account, the one I haven't used in four years. Has it been that long?
Minneapolis and I presume, St. Paul is still in tact. I tell you this much, this is still a city of lots of lakes and brick, brick and yes, more brick, and the kind of downtown that my hometown Fresno has been dreaming about for a long time. Different from Fresno: no Chicanos. I know there are Chicanos and Latinos here, but today, I didn't run into a Chicano. The last brown man I ran into was in Phoenix. That's the Minneapolis I remember. It's easy to feel isolated among so many non-Chicanos (grant it, the Twin Cities are diverse), but it's not like running into the familar homeboys in my neighborhood, walking there trained, or not so trained, pit bulls. Chicanos are everywhere in Fresno. They are like the Norwegians and the Swedes that have pre-occupied the Upper Midwest for many generations; except they do it in Fresno!
1,800 miles. That's a long ways from Don Pepe's Taqueria and ice cream at La Reina de Michoacan. Nobody's sportin' a fade or wearing their Raiders or Niners jersey, I haven't swatted my neck once, like I usually do when the Ghetto Bird buzzes through my block. Don't get me wrong, I am happy to be back; happy to talk the kids in their Chicano Studies classes tomorrow, happy to read poetry for the creative writing program in the evening, happy to hang out with friends I haven't seen in years. It's all good--I'm slowly taking it all in--Minneapolis and the U of M in particular, thank you for welcoming me back: you didn't delete my log-in tag--I'll take this as your quiet, unassumming way of welcoming me back.
March 23, 2010
When I left Minneapolis after receiving an MFA in creative writing in 2006 I knew I would return. At the time I couldn't tell you when or in what capacity. But here I am, a new author of a book of poems, Born in the Cavity of Sunsets; a collection that was my thesis, poems that are a partof me much like the Twin Cities--memories of attending readings at the Loft, taking long walks through the campus of the University of Minnesota, across the Washington Street Bridge where the poet John Berryman took his life--I couldn't tell you how many times I looked down onto the Mississippi, only to imagine the jump and then quickly walk away as the idea of it all would begin to shake me a little.
But Minneapolis wasn't necessarily an easy city to live in. Famous are the long winters; you spend a lot of time inside, and if you're left outside during January too long you could die from frostbite. Okay, I confess, the weather is harsh, but it's bearable. I'm mean, you've got poetry and great poets; James Wright used to teach at the U and Robert Bly has a legacy that will be hard to top (he belongs to the Twins as much as Levine belongs to my Fresno), today you'll see Ray Gonzalez as one of the few, or perhaps, the only Chicano in charge of a creative writing program in the United States, and all of these great poets are or were forever connected to that cold ass place--let me tip my hat to these poets, to Minneapolis/St. Paul, in the style of another revered poet, Gerald Stern, who visited the program during my tenure there and placed his fedora, literally, atop the bust of a statued John Berryman; it sits warmly in the programs office. Minneapolis, I look forward to blow my poetry Thursday night, to mix it up a little, to reclaim the spirit of that place.
Michael L. Medrano
Michael Luis Medrano was born and raised in Fresno, California, the heart of the San Joaquin Valley. He holds an MFA in creative writing from the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities, and he has performed his work at Stanford University, The Loft Literary Arts Center in Minneapolis, and the University of Colorado, Boulder. He served as poetry editor for the literary journal Flies, Cockroaches, & Poets, is featured on the spoken word CD "The Central Chakrah Project" (Metamorfosis Productions), and has taught writing workshops in Fresno and Minneapolis. Once again based in Fresno, Medrano is teaching, hosting a literary radio show, and writing a novel and a second collection of poetry.