Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Barbarian at the Gate: An Interview with Xavier Cavazos

Xavier Cavazos’ Barbarian at the Gate, selected and introduced by Thomas Sayers Ellis as a 2013 Poetry Society of America Chapbook Fellowship Winner is on the one hand a fine collection of poems, showcasing the wide range of this poet’s craft— he’s got an ear for capturing the musicality of the spoken word, its rhythm and sounds, and the manual dexterity for expressing these auditory possibilities on the page. These poems are, as Sayers’ notes in his introduction “an excellent example of form becoming pour and pure gymnastic joy for readers interested in the incremental possibilities of breathing, written collage.”

But on the other hand Barbarian at the Gate is also a fierce and angry collage—a paper grenade of letters and sounds—an “oral downpour of ideas on the page,” a literary fuck you to “fixed Western traditional forms.” Xavier Cavazos is the illicit graffiti scribe spraying the underbelly of those foundations on which civilization rests its claims.  Cavazos brings us the barbarian that has his/her own language and culture and aesthetic beauty & which so-called civilization has been ignorant or unaware of.

 Cavazos’ barbarian--which is by definition bound by his/her inability to use language-- brings words alive--”sifting through the debris of the broken, the chaotic”-- proving that indeed “something beautiful can come out the chaos of pain and loss.”

(To purchase a copy of the winning chapbook click here.)


Lauro Vazquez: Congrats on the winning chapbook Xavier. And thank you again for agreeing to the interview, I’ve been looking forward to it for a while now. What can you tell us about this project in terms of its genesis and of the process of converting that first kernel into a finished manuscript?

Thank you Lauro, I want to first say thanks to you, Letras Latinas and Francisco Aragón for all you do! It’s a real honor to be associated with you guys. And of course a big thanks to Thomas Sayers Ellis!!!

Ah, from the first kernel to now. Well it had to start when I went back to college as a thirty five year old freshmen in 2005. I had been tattooing for ten years prior to going back to school and my tattooing career ended suddenly and very traumatic. In short, I was falsely accused in a missing-person, suspected-murder wrap. I would probably be in prison right now if the person’s body was never found, but fortunately for me, they found the person’s body and I was cleared of all suspicion. It was a nightmarish time in my life, drugs, violence, lots of creative expression with painting and tattooing but I was lost emotionally, spiritually and behaviorally to the grips of addiction. So after my tattoo parlor was raided, and even after I was cleared, the trauma and the cloud that followed me from what had happened was so severe that the only place I felt safe from ridicule was on the campus of Central Washington University. I had a good friend, Dr. Bobby Cummings who is a professor there and she was very positive and always like you need to stop with all this foolish stuff and get your degree and start teaching and start mentoring students who came up from similar struggle or background, so I did. One step at a time at first and then a full sprint, I suppose I’m still running now. In five years I had a bachelors degree and then applied to MFA programs. So one-way of looking at things is, I wouldn’t be here today if not for addiction and my miracle-escape from the grips of it and the rediscovery of life through education, family and faith.

But it was there on the campus of Central Washington University where I started to transform my life. I got married and started having kids, which fulfilled my life in ways. I also went through a spiritual “deliverance,” sort of like an exorcism. In a deliverance, spirits who are oppressing you are forced to let go. I believe that spirits such as abandonment, lust, hate, or perversion attach themselves to people who are lost spiritually and who frequent places where these spirits dwell. You have to believe(faith), for it to work and I would say this was the biggest factor of my turn-around, the healing and direction I received from the deliverance was more powerful and beautiful than any hit of dope. It was also there, at Central, that I started writing the poems that would become Barbarian at the Gate. The poem, “29 Clinton Street,” was actually my address in NYC, at the time, it was the hottest street in the city to score dope, so the deck was stacked against me. I started to write that poem when I came back to Washington in 1997 and was kicking heroin and cocaine at my parent’s house for the first time. It wouldn’t be my last time kicking but all recovering addicts will tell you relapse is a process of recovery and it was for me too. So that poem began there but was dropped as I left back for the world of addiction. So it was one of the first poems I picked back up with in 2005. My teacher and awesome poet, Katharine Whitcomb, started to help me shape a body of work that would be my MFA application and it was really those poems that would become Barbarian at the Gate.

Before I started tattooing I was a slam poet, I was part of the first wave of the early 1990’s resurgence of the Nuyorican poets café. Poets from that time were Maggie Estep, Tracie Morris, Paul Beatty, Regie Cabico, Willie Perdomo, Edwin Torres, Reg E. Gaines, Beau Sia, Hal Sirowitz, Crystal Williams and others.  I can’t speak for all of them but I was basically a student of Bob Holman and “A Gathering of the Tribes,” founder, Steve Cannon. We would workshop our poems every Friday night over at Steve’s place and Bob would lead the workshop. Some of us, of course got more out of it than others. Sort of like the more time you put in the more benefit you got from it. I also just hung out alot at Steve’s place hearing all the people talk who were around. On any given day/night Stanley Crouch, David Henderson, David Hammons, Ishmael Reed or Butch Morris would just be there chillin-out. Tribes is definitely an institute of Higher Education. I was the 1995 Grand Slam Champion of the café and benefited greatly from my time at Tribes and in that workshop but I burned out on Slam Poetry and burn-into drugs and idiotic behavior and then when everyone-who-lived-on-the-Lower-East-Side’s dear friend, Allen Ginsberg died, I went into a bigger depression and fall. The reading in NYC to launch the chapbook will be my first time back since 1997.

When I went to a MFA program I didn’t want to be pigeon-holed as a slam poet because I saw what that could do to you in academia, It wasn’t until I started running into old friends from NYC at AWP conferences, that my major professor, Iowa Poet Laureate,  Mary Swander, even knew I slammed. We ran into Ava Chin in Chicago and Ava was a slam poet at the same time I was and she was telling Mary about my past and then when Mary and I rode on the bus back to Ames from Chicago, she was like why didn't you tell me you used to slam!  Funny, but also sad that someone from slam would feel the need to hide that. So those poems, (slam-ish in aesthetic and style), were put away and I started to write in a voice that I thought my teachers in my MFA program wanted from me, which of-course is silly to do but its what happened to me and I think in general it is a tendency or a problem within writing programs. I heard Eduardo C. Corral talk a bit about this as well when he visited Iowa State, about not writing in his true voice based on what others were doing (He said it much more lovely of course). So these poems didn’t get much attention during my MFA time. “Boardwalk,” and “Motherfuckers” were the only poems I wrote from the chapbook while I was a student. “Sanford, Florida” I got to add post-award on the suggestion of Mr. Ellis and by the permission of the PSA. In fact, when I was submitting to the contest I had made three chapbooks. The first two, were the ones I thought were my strongest based on what I thought academic poetry wanted. Those poems were mostly exercises in restraint, which was exactly what I needed at the time but not my true voice. Barbarian at the Gate was not even going to get sent in but I was like why not, funny thing is that the eleven poems barely made the minimum page-limit! Craziness! And blessedness! But the actual finished product is a collaboration between myself, Thomas Sayers Ellis, PSA’s Brett Fletcher Lauer and Poet, Elizabeth Macklin, who super copy-edited the whole thing.

LV: The phrase “barbarian at the gate” as I understand it dates back to the Roman Empire, to how the romans organized their cities and defined themselves versus the foreigner. What can you tell us about the title of the chapbook?

Yes of course the Romans coined the phrase and in a lot of ways the title of the chapbook comes from a reaction that I am not of the ruling government, in-terms of race/entitlement but also in terms of the Western Literary Canon or even the Academia of Poets or camps that separate performance poetry and schools of poetry which is both foolish and dangerous. But the real answer goes back even further than that. All roads lead back to Homer and the Odyssey don’t they? Homer’s Ulysses is from Ithaca, and the poem “Ithaca” by Greek poet Constantine P. Cavafy, who also wrote, “Waiting for the Barbarians” is really why the chapbook is called Barbarian at the Gate. I think for twenty years I was subconsciously living Cavafy’s “Ithaca” poem in an effort to reach the self-actualization of “Ithaca.” I was also mesmerized by Thomas Cole’s “Course of Empire” paintings and I think my chapbook is, in a way, a response to those paintings as well. But the final answer to that is when Elizabeth Bradfield was visiting our MFA program, she asked me the title of my manuscript (full one at the time) and I said Barbarian at the Gate and La Habana Dreams, and Liz said, Oh, I like the Barbarian at the Gate part. So I dropped the last part and now I have Liz Bradfield to thank for the title! So thank you Liz! She is an awesome poet as well!

LV: The word “barbarian” is of Greek origin. Meaning “a foreign way of speaking.” What differentiates the barbarian from “civilized man” is language, is, I suppose, the ability to communicate, to wield the word both in its written and spoken forms. But is also more than that, isn’t it? Its about who wields the power to define what language is. For Xavier Cavazos, who is the barbarian and what does he/she speak? And where does poetry fit in in this conversation?

Great Question Lauro. A few years back, when I was still a grad student I wrote a  proposal for AWP in Chicago. I was working on a proposal that focused on writers that constructed art from destruction. Debra Marquart, one of my major professors here at Iowa State University and I were exploring the process of sifting through the debris of the broken, the chaotic, all while trying to make something beautiful out of the chaos and pain of loss. The panel didn’t get picked up but it did start me to think about this idea in a very deep and profound way. I wanted to further explore the intersection of pain and brokenness and the alchemy of making an artifact that endures time. An artifact of beauty itself, through the pieces or fragments of something very ugly. So in a way, I guess the language of the barbarian is a language of pain, loss and protest. But to be more specific here, in terms of my manuscript, the language is coded with all of the above but also concrete nuances and actions that only the truly addicted will resonate with. This small collection of poems is for them/us, the addicted, and in a way, to show that there is freedom, healing and empowerment from the the grips of addiction. It’s hard/difficult to gain real trust from addicts because they have been hurt so much but I had to try, had to lay it all out there, “my go for broke self-autopsy” as Thomas Sayer Ellis says, in order to reach them. Poetry is the vehicle for this message.

LV: What did your background as a “slammer” teach you, on a level of craft, about being a poet that you did not learn as an MFA poet? There is also “form” here isn’t there?

Well, Thomas Sayers Ellis says it best in his poem “TWO MANIFESTOS” when he writes “A perform-a-form line breaks many times,/ verbally, before it breaks the last time visually. If/ written, it is more like blood and bone./ If spoken, it is spoken more like stutter than song./ Perform-a-forms do not lie (on the page or on the/ stage, frozen in little boxes or voices, unable to/ interact with the reader or listener, as if on a table/ in a morgue.” So I guess the answer to that is slam taught me to make each poem a piece of art, and to make that “Art”  an intimate moment with the audience/reader. Poetry has given me a career now as an educator and that is an honor and a blessing. I think that my background as a slammer has also given me “other” tools to help be an effective teacher. For example, when students are writing comp papers, no one gets to turn in papers without reading them aloud in front of the class, we workshop comp papers orally. I always say, if it sounds funky/bad, it’s because it is funky/bad, and the effectiveness/response I get from them is very positive and real. That’s the same thing we would do in slam, oral editing. In the MFA program, I was able to start to shape those rants or cries into art on the page. The two are not different at all, or as Ellis says (and I’m poorly paraphrasing here), “The stage and the page are both made of the same thing, trees!” and he’s absolutely right! But the greatest thing that I learned from slam was intensity and honesty, to bring the most intense and honest effort each time. I think (sometimes) in writing programs, this gets left behind or forgotten about due to the fact that there is little time to write. Ironic, isn’t it, you're in a writing program, and you spend most of your time teaching, grading papers, coursework and straight survival mode. I’ll end on another Thomas Sayers Ellis statement, “the hardest thing to teach writers, is courage!” Slam taught me that.

LV: What do you mean by “ sifting through the debris of the broken, the chaotic, all while trying to make something beautiful”?

For some of us, and for myself particularly, that is all we have, fragments of beauty. I had a wonderful mother and family who surrounded me with love but I chose to seek out the underbelly of life and when you do that, most of the time, you don’t ever make it back out. Most of my friends from that time are either dead or incarcerated. I think this is why I was able to be successful in school when I came back, because school is a lot like like being institutionalized. I think the three years before I came back in 2005 I was locked up for half that time, so when you're used to people telling you what to do, when to eat and sleep, suddenly education looks like freedom in more ways than one. Plus when I came back as a student, the only place I felt safe was on campus, so I pretty much lived there and I still do now. My family and I live in faculty housing on campus, I ride the campus bus to school with all the other students, I advise a school club, so literally my life is assorb with academia. It had to be that way at first or else I wouldn’t have succeed,  but now, after nine years of putting my best foot forward I don’t believe I still need that level of being controlled, but its just easier now this way for us, especially because my family and I go back to Washington state for the summers.

The chapbook itself--with its collage form, its “oral downpour,” does mimic something broken, at least on the page itself.  I am speaking here of conveying a sense of brokenness at a visual level; there are poems like “To-Be-Or-Not-To-Be” and “97 Words for Mahmoud Ahmadinejad” in which the line breaks serve as fissures.

But I think--at least for me--this sense of brokenness is conveyed more clearly by the musicality of your language, I think it marries the two: the brokenness and the beautiful.

Thank you Lauro! That is really the effect I shoot for. I’m working on a theory right now called Human Geological Poetics (HGP), in which I claim all poetics/social actions come from a parallel process of geological rock formations. So the igneous self, is what is passed down from your bloodline, it is the soul that is forged in heat and deep within the body, sedimentary rock formation is what happens to our behavior/personality as we act out our daily lives, this formation is the weakest of them all but most visible and finally there is metamorphic rock formation, this is what happens to someone who goes through severe trauma, things that have so much heat and pressure that it changes the original igneous formation of that person, this one is the most violent. So you hit it right on the nose when you said my line breaks serve as fissures, really the whole poem does for me. I believe that because of the choices I made earlier in life, my life still becomes violent and chaotic at times. Maybe now it is just more in my head, conflict that is, but this conflict would always manifest in bad behavior. Behavior that was detrimental to my progress as a human being, so I would explode like a volcano, and just like in volcanoes, there are fissures that act as vents for the pressure building up inside. These fissures allow the pressure to escape without an explosion. That is what poetry does for me now; it is my vent, to keep me from erupting. So far, it has worked and that is why I am trying to formulate this through geological processes, a blueprint, if you will, for others who have gone through parallel trauma as myself and can’t figure out why they keep self-destructing. This theory is an effort to stop that recurring pattern.  Poetry as therapy works! It saved my life.

LV: Speaking of brokenness and of sifting through the chaotic; the chapbook sifts through rubble that is at once personal and historic, that is driven by the performance and sound of language as it is by certain beautiful and unexpected images as well as “classic forms” of poetry. I am thinking of the sestina “Father’s Body” or of images like (from “Barack Obama,” which can be viewed and heard here):

         D is for Dantrell Davis & for all of the people, places & things
                  that have, like the Donahue show, died & where I first
                  learned about Cabrini-Green housing & tag-toe Gangster
                  Disciple reaper boys or $10 Washington Ave. reefer bags.

         N is for the fourteenth letter of the English alphabet, birthed
                  in the Congo, transported in a slave ship, knocked
down like bowling-ball pins in Chicago, New Orleans,
Atlanta & Los Angeles. The letter was beheaded on MTV
& in the inner city by bling.

There are father’s here, and the long historical arc of black history in this country, as magnified Dantrell Davis--the innocent boy who was a victim of senseless violence in the city of Chicago. What role does form and imagery play in your desire to make something beautiful?

My subject matter is so personal/difficult that sometimes I need form to sterilize the event or emotion from me. Not to say that emotion is absent from the poem, it’s just the opposite. But what I mean is that form allows for the writing to be a game of craft, and that’s one more layer removed from the event. If I didn’t do that, at least at the beginning of my pieces, than all the poems would become these horrible emotional wrecks on the page. They become straight diary entries and not poems, so form helps me keep the two separate. But I think it is also important to state, when talking about form or truth that there is no obligation to remain faithful to either, let it be your “Triggering town,” that’s all.

LV: I was intrigued by your comment regarding accessibility, “the language [being] coded with nuances and actions that only the truly addicted will feel and be able to resonate with.”

 Furthermore these poems are also coded with “nuances” and references that point to very complex social issues. I am thinking of the poem “Prime Poetics,” which makes reference to the repeal of the 1933 Glass-Steagall Act which prior to the Clinton presidency regulated the banking industry and whose repeal led buy and selling of “subprime mortgages” and of course the Great Recession. The full-title of the poem is “Sun Prime Poetics and Banking Dreams” and beside these great recession references the also makes reference T.S. Elliot , Lacan etc. Why is that? & in general, what are  your thoughts on accessibility, is it a struggle for you to decide how much access you want your readers to have to this “coded language” ?

Well one answer to that is from an old Jamaican song where the chorus sings, “The higher the monkey climbs the more he exposes.” It’s a Jamaican proverb, the reference is really speaking about the more successful you are to be mindful of your behavior because people are watching. But I’m applying that thinking to academic poetry, sort of. Meaning, when I got my first taste of none-accessible poetry (which was often), I was like what the heck is this person even talking about, either by language or allusion, the poem was completely cut off to me. Then, usually someone who was more educated than myself would say, oh, that is an allusion to…. and I would be like oh I see. Those poets are just showing how high they have climbed in education without  self-defecation and because of that, they're easy to attack or rattle their “gate.” In a way their language and lack of emotion makes them vulnerable to the masses. Later, when I started to get educated I realized all those allusion were really coming from the same set of books, the canons of literature, so what those poets were really doing was having a private conversation with other educated people, not “the barbarian” or the masses. I guess what I’m really trying to do by dropping those references is to speak to both the educated and uneducated; I don’t want to cut anyone out and the easiest way to not do that , is to use regular diction! Phenomenal poet, Jennifer L. Knox, was just visiting my poetry class and she said the exact same thing, so let me credit her for that little nugget. Keep your diction colloquial!  So in my poem, “Prime Poetics,” you get:

Mock, mock, balk,
Fannie Mae & Freddie Mac
smoke crack on K Street
and in the ghettos

of D.C. Countrywide & WaMu
are the names of my two new tutors

at school.

Mixed with:
So. . . Is this a love song or
a wasteland? Proof rock it!
P.S. idiot, not T. S. Eliot,
this dream isn’t a Paulson Wall Street
Georgie-Porgie bailout stripped down
to bikini top presidential politics.
So. . . Is this a psychoanalytical systematic French
I need some deodorant Lacan?
Or a Mexican con?

The last line here is totally calling bullshit on government politics and all this elevated crap in the academia; it’s all just a con, just a different type, intellectual con-artistry. Politics and the Canon are full of this! It makes them feel safe and they shouldn't! Because as Cavafy states in his poem, “Waiting for the Barbarians,”
Why isn’t anything happening in the senate?
Why do the senators sit there without legislating?
Because the barbarians are coming today.
         What laws can the senators make now?
          Once the barbarians are here, they’ll do the legislating.

Don’t get me wrong, Education is ALWAYS good! It transformed me and gave me the time to grow. There is real value in academia and real value in traditional ways of thought, I just think, it is safer for an artist to learn those things and then to do your best to forget them. Otherwise, we are all just going to be little replicas of each other and very inbred. So, initially, in the first draft of my poems, the poem writes itself with the music of it, I  follow my ear where the poem wants to go. Literally, in this stage of the writing process I try not to think too much and trust the poem’s own directional pull in terms of music.  As far as to how much coded language to put in it, just enough I suppose. There needs to be an equal mix of control and music. I mean in the poem “Prime Poetics,” if I were to read that poem aloud in a bar, and in that bar there were a crackhead, a psychologist, a Literature major and a Wall Street trader, all four people would probably like the poem and be doing a little jive to it. Accessibility baby! Accessibility with the diction, allusions, musicality, imaginative leaps and normal syntax reordering, or as Richard Hugo called it, a “syntax wash, this keeps language alive and not dead, words breath.

LV: All the poems in this chapbook really have have two titles, “Barack Obama” becomes:

         “Alphabet’s annunciations and advice to

         after watching him take the oath”

“Prime Poetics” becomes



         and Banking Dreams”

“Father’s Body” becomes:

         “From the porch where my
was found wrapped in a sestina”

Why do the titles function in this way? Is the reasoning behind this aesthetic, as in trying--again to sift through the rubble? Are they post-signs on your way to “Ithaka”?

Oh, I’m so happy you asked that question. It’s my “Mona Lisa.”  My effort to contribute to delivery on the page, in a unique way. Sometimes successful, but most of the times not. The important thing here to remember, is to allow yourself the confidence to push the norm of form. I would be lying if I said, I came up with this on my own, it is a hybrid from what Van Jordan was doing in MACNOLIA. It was so funny, in my MFA workshops, sometimes students would write on my poems, “this is called an epigraph and this is how you put it on the page and…” I mean my fellow students meant well and I would always just smile (most of the time). I guess what I’m really trying to do with the titles is give context to the reader about the poem with the tiny font that runs above and below the actual title, maybe some information that would normally go in the notes section if there were one. And you are absolutely right, they are post signs for myself and for my readers. In the poem, “Father’s Body” I felt like it was important for the audience to know that I was composing the poem looking at my dead father from the porch of the house where he died. I wasn’t actually there with him but for a decade I was in active addiction with my father and so it was easy to put myself there. My step-mother, Ramona, took me to the house where he died, it was just down the street from where they lived and she was really worried that I was going to do something crazy to the house but those things you chalk-up to addiction. So In a way my father’s death was the greatest gift he ever gave me, he showed me that we can and do die in addiction. I’m by no means exempt from this, it really is one day at a time. But the way the title works in that poem falls short a bit because it end stops the the title and the beginning of the poem, meaning it doesn’t enjamb down into the next line.  When it is successful, the title will act as both the title and a chunk of prose that informs context and does not end stop on the last line before the poem starts, instead the whole title enjambs down into the actual first line of the poem. But like I said my success rate isn’t the best and I believe there is only one example of what I’m talking about in the chapbook. In the poem, “Motherfuckers,”  I announce the poem as “Motherfuckes,” then I take a breath and read, “To the/ Motherfuckers/ in Little Havana/ who wanted Ozzie Guillén…” and the whole thing on the page takes the form and function of one body, one complete object, one artifact, one statement. I think? The rest of the poem titles in this chapbook try to do that but fail because they end stop on the last line. You have to be your hardest critic.

LV: I keep going back to the titles, and I have to say the one for “Father’s body” with its trailing “epigraph” “wrapped in a sestina,”--referencing your father’s dead body” really wraps up this “road to Ithaka” thing doesn’t it?  These are the fragmented, jagged, pieces of beauty that are picked up on the way to Ithaka--the life-giving gift of poetry found on the road itself. Yet I am also intrigued as to why chose a formal poem for this? There is something about a “form” that is very dignifying but also painful, its very painful toil to create these tributes isn’t?

Absolutely! Form allows for me to be a participant in a game of craft and not be hindered by the pain of the event. The journey/poem is for understanding and making sense of how we as a people interact with each other. Marilyn Nelson did it best with her book, A Wreath for Emmett Till, the way she used Shakespearean Sonnets, literary and social allusions to deliver those poems was genius and allowed the audience to enter and stay emotionally connected with the sequence of poems. But the form allowed the subject matter to be present and accessible despite the horror/actions of the event. I want to turn my poem, “Sanford, Florida,” into a children’s book. The subject matter is so heavy that I think the best way to honor Trayvon Martin and his injustice is to never forget what happen and to teach it to kids. So the children’s book becomes the form and the vehicle to educate/talk about something very painful.

Form is very dignifying absolutely, for someone like myself, it’s like wearing a suit. Form allows the speaker of my poem to stay in the conservation with an audience that would normally not enter into the poem without it’s formal element. You know, the people on the other side of the gate.

LV: What are you working on these days? Do you often write in series or are most of your pieces individual endeavors? And finally what sort of advice would you give to poet’s currently putting together a manuscript?

Well, write now I’m getting ready to help promote this chapbook and Prairie Gold: An Anthology of the American Heartland, which I am one of the editors of and comes out in July. Writing wise, a friend and I are working on another book proposal for an anthology of writing that will highlight the mentorship and literary work of three East Village literary canons; Miguel Algarin, Steve Cannon and Bob Holman. The Canons of East Third, is the working title.

And as for advice to poets who are putting together a manuscript I’d say take your time, make sure that what is getting written is worth writing about, something has to be at risk in the work, read a ton, be honest, intense and original. Don’t equate publishing with success, don’t let rejection validate anything! You can do it!!!!!!


Xavier Cavazos earned his MFA in 2013 from Iowa State University where he served as poetry editor for Flyway: Journal of Writing and the Environment. Cavazos was a 2011 and 2012 “Discovery”/ Boston Review Poetry Award Runner-Up. His poetry manuscript, Diamond Grove Slave Tree, was a finalist for the 2012 Andrés Montoya Poetry Prize. The Poetry Society of America will publish his manuscript, Barbarian at the Gate, selected and introduced by Thomas Sayers Ellis as part of the PSA’s New American Poets Chapbook Series. Cavazos currently teaches poetry and composition at Iowa State University.


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