The Pandillero of Gerardo Pacheco Matus

Who do you see when you look in the mirror? The narrator in Gerardo Pacheco Matus’ “Pandillero Without a Gang” says that he resembles his “indio father and indio-mulatto mother,” the features of “millions of other Mayan men.” We were struck by Gerardo’s prose and look forward to performing his piece on January 12 at our Beyond Borders show at the San Jose Museum of Art.

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Gerardo Pacheco Matus

Gerardo Pacheco Matus is a Mayan Native and recipient of fellowships from Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference, CantoMundo, The Frost Place, and Macondo. Pacheco was awarded the Joseph Henry Jackson Award. His poems, essays, and short fiction have appeared and are forthcoming from the Grantmakers in the Arts, Apricity Press, Amistad Howard-University, Haight Ashbury Literary Journal, The Packinghouse Review, Tinderbox Poetry Journal, West Branch Wired, Four Way Review, The Cortland Review, Nashville Review, Pilgrimage Magazine, Memorious Magazine, Rivard Report, Tin House Magazine.

 

AWARDS: 

  • San Francisco Foundation Joseph Henry Jackson Award for his poetry project, The Child of the Grasses.
  • Miami Writers Institute.
  • Redwood City Chamber of Commerce Leadership Program.
  • “Faces of Our Community 2.0.”
  • Frost Place’s the Conference on Poetry Scholar.
  • Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference, Work-Study Scholarship in Poetry.
  • Pushcart Prize Nominee, “Everything is a Dream.”
  • “The Pintura:Palabra National Ekphrastic Workshops, in tandem with the Smithsonian American Art Museum’s Travelling Exhibit, “Our America: The Latino Presence in America Art.”

PUBLICATIONS

Gerardo answered a few questions for us in advance of the show.

What are you working on now?

I am working on my debut poetry collection, Child of the Grasses. An excerpt from Child of the Grasseswas awarded the distinguished Joseph Henry Jackson Award administered by The San Francisco Foundation. The award-winning poet and juror Lorna Dee Cervantes writes, “Child of the Grasses presents us with the Native’s view of The Americas: spare, rich, glistening with truths of the ‘natural world’ and bristling with insights into the human condition within that true world…Here is the meaty voice of the immigrant, the worker, the watcher, the Elder’s wisdom.” Child of the Grasses is my lifelong project and I hope to find a nice home for my collection of poetry soon. 

What inspired you to participate in Play On Words?

One of my great mentors and friends, Anniqua Rana, was featured in Play on Words. Anniqua told me about how great she felt about having her piece performed in Play on Words since then I have been intrigued by Play on Words. Thus, I decided to send a “Pandillero without a Gang.” In addition, I have been writing Pandillero without a Gang for a long time, and I hope that by participating in Play on Words, I will be able to see sparks of what is next in this collection of short stories. 

Which writers or performers inspire you?

I love Jimmy Santiago Baca. His poetry moves mountains. I found myself reading his poetry collection Martin and Meditations on the South Valley to get inspired to write new work. 

Name a book or performance that fundamentally affected you.

Reading Juan Rulfo’s Pedro Paramo changed the way I understand my role as a writer. As a Mayan Native, Juan Rulfo’s Pedro Paramo opened a new realm of possibility to understand where I come from and the traditions that have influenced me since I was a young man.

Come see us perform Gerardo’s work! Tickets are free but going fastreserve yours now for our January 12 show at the San Jose Museum of Art. Entrance includes free admission to the museum.

Marching Through Jody Ulate’s “Morning Training”

How does a young girl’s life prepare her for becoming a solider? The narrator in Jody Ulate‘s “Morning Training” marches in the four a.m. cold at Fort Jackson in South Carolina, considering the motivational power of hunger and her family’s poverty. We look forward to performing this excerpt of Jody’s memoir on Sunday, January 12, when we return to the San Jose Museum of Art for Play On Words: Beyond Boundaries.

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Jody Ulate. Photo by David Schmitz.

Originally from Upstate New York, Jody Ulate moved to California in 2000 by way of Washington, D.C. She writes and edits essays, profiles and feature articles as San Jose State University’s chief storyteller and editor of the award-winning alumni magazine, Washington Square. For more than 13 years, she has found inspiration in uncovering student, alumni and faculty stories of resilience at San Jose State, where she has also given lectures on profile writing and storytelling that drives philanthropy. A U.S. Army veteran, Jody has written a memoir about survival and reinvention—and how becoming a soldier helped reshape the narrative of her life. She is the recipient of The Writer’s Hotel 2019 Sara Patton Nonfiction Stipend.

She was kind enough to answer a few questions in advance of the show.

What inspired you to participate in Play On Words? 

Having someone else creatively interpret and perform live something I’ve written in quiet solitude feels like an adventure. 

Which writers or performers inspire you? 

Arundhati Roy, Maya Angelou, Amy Hempel, Mary Karr, Cynthia Ozick, Toni Morrison, Kurt Vonnegut, David Guterson, Denice Frohman. 

Name a book or performance that fundamentally affected you. 

Book: Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre. Short story: Ursula Le Guin’s “The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas.”

Can’t wait to see Jody’s work performed aloud? Tickets are free but going fastreserve yours now for our January 12 show at the San Jose Museum of Art. Entrance includes free admission to the museum.

 

 

Julia Halprin Jackson reads “Road Trip” by Becky Kling

What, exactly, does the open road bring? Becky Kling‘s hilarious “Road Trip” rounded out our evening of stories at Play On Words: Live in San Francisco on Oct. 19. In case you missed it, watch Julia Halprin Jackson perform her story:

Big thanks to Becky for trusting us with your story, to Branden Frederick for taking photos and Cleveland Motley for filming.

In the coming weeks, we’ll be gearing up for our January 12 return to the San Jose Museum of Art. Stay tuned to learn all about our amazing writers and readers.

Ryan Alpers reads Gary Singh’s “Voodoo”

Can you find love in a crossword puzzle? Watch Ryan Alpers perform “Voodoo,” a flash piece by Gary Singh, at our Oct. 19 LitCrawl show at San Francisco’s Stage Werx Theatre:

Since we performed this piece, Gary has published it on Digging Through the Fat. Big thanks to Branden Frederick for taking photos, Cleveland Motley for filming and the kind folks at Stage Werx for making this show happen.

Want more #POWSJ? RSVP now to our January 12 show at the San Jose Museum of Art.

Melinda Marks reads T.A. Edwards’ “Return of Saturn”

To what extent do the heavens influence our lives? Scientist and writer T.A. Edwards‘ moving essay, “Return of Saturn,” reflects on a time of great change in her own life, after the unexpected loss of her father. Melinda Marks performed her piece at our LitCrawl show on Oct. 19 at San Francisco’s Stage Werx Theatre:

Many thanks to Cleveland Motley for filming, Branden Frederick for his amazing photos, and to the lovely folks at Stage Werx for helping us fill the theatre.

Want more #POWSJ? RSVP to join us on January 12 at the San Jose Museum of Art for our Beyond Boundaries show.

Anshu Johri reads Anniqua Rana’s “Birth Canal”

So much of the joy we get in producing Play On Words shows comes from pairing amazing writers with fabulous performers—often people who have never met, but discover they share artistic passions. Such was the case in October, when local writer and performer Anshu Johri made her POWSJ debut by reading “Birth Canal,” an excerpt of Anniqua Rana’s debut novel, Wild Boar in the Cane FieldHere she is giving a dynamite performance at San Francisco’s Stage Werx Theatre on Oct. 19:

Big thanks to Anshu and Anniqua for contributing their talents to our LitCrawl show, as well as to Branden Frederick for taking photos and Cleveland Motley for capturing it all on film.

Can’t get enough POWSJ? Our next show is coming up on January 12 at the San Jose Museum of Art. Stay tuned to learn more!

Sage Curtis’ “Small Apocalypses” in San Francisco

What, exactly, constitutes a “small apocalypse?” Listen as Melinda Marks reads Sage Curtis‘ poem, “A Series of Small Apocalypses,” as performed at Play On Words: Live in San Francisco on Oct. 19:

Sage’s chapbook, Trashcan Funeral, is available from dancing girl press. You can also gain exclusive access to her poems, book reviews and more by supporting her work on Patreon.

Big thanks to San Francisco’s amazing Stage Werx Theatre for providing the great LitCrawl space, to Branden Frederick for taking photos and to Cleveland Motley for shooting the video.

Ryan Alpers’ “Union Meeting” Comes to Life

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Ryan Alpers, Ronald Feichtmeir, Melinda Marks and Julia Halprin Jackson perform “Union Meeting.”

On October 19, Play On Words was thrilled to return to San Francisco’s LitCrawl to participate in a raucous evening of storytelling, good food and friendship. Thank you to our friends, new and old, for making the show possible and for coming out to support our work. Thanks, also, to the more than 40 donors who contributed to our fall t-shirt drive—it is thanks to you that we will be able to start incentivizing artists to do their thing in the coming months.

What kind of rad art are you supporting by buying our shirts, you ask? Look no further than “Union Meeting,” a hilarious short play written by #powsj digital asset manager Ryan Alpers and created by him and #powsj alumnus Andrew Christian. We kicked off our Play On Words: Live in San Francisco show with this great piece, performed by Ronald Feichtmeir, Julia Halprin Jackson, Melinda Marks and Ryan Alpers:

Big thanks to Cleveland Motley for filming and Branden Frederick for acting as our resident photographer, as well as to the wonderful folks at Stage Werx in San Francisco.

 

Get Your Own #POWSJ shirt!

Support our Sixth Season with a Rad T-Shirt!

Our mission is to elevate the voices of our community by performing their work onstage. We want to incentivize writers and artists to take artistic risks, which is why we want to pay honorariums to writers, performers, and photographers. By buying a Play On Words t-shirt, you are not only helping us pay artists and recognize their contributions to the community, but you’re effectively joining the #powsj movement.

Plus it’s a rad shirt.

Two Week Fundraiser

Men’s and women’s t-shirts are available for purchase on our fundraising site until November 2. For $25 you can contribute directly to the artists who make our show possible.