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.

 

 

Ryan Alpers’ Play Debut

Who knew the drama, history, romance and conflict one could find in a teacher’s union meeting? Ryan Alpers sure did. The longtime San Jose teacher and frequent Play On Words performer and contributor wrote his first ten-minute play after months of deliberation with his teacher colleagues. The resulting “Union Meeting” captures a fictional teacher’s union as they try—and, spoiler alert, fail—to understand technology, recognize retirees, and raise money for “the children.” We’re thrilled to be performing this hilarious sketch at 5 pm this Saturday, October 19, at San Francisco’s Stage Werx Theatre. 

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Writer, teacher and playwright Ryan Alpers.

Ryan lives in San Jose with his wife and daughter. He says that his former colleague and fellow teacher Andrew Christian helped him develop the concept. He is—how shall we say this?—also very succinct. Here are his answers to our standard #POWSJ three questions:

What inspired you to participate in Play On Words?

My wife told me to do it.

Which writers or performers inspire you?

As a teacher, I am inspired by the stories my students tell in their own writing.

Name a book or performance that fundamentally affected you.

The Crucible by Arthur Miller is a play that inspired this piece, as well as the film Invasion of the Body Snatchers.

Intrigued? RSVP for our Live in San Francisco show. Get the full LitCrawl lineup!

Gary Singh Goes Voodoo

Gary Singh is an expert at creating ambience. A San Jose fixture and regular Play On Words contributor, we have always noticed how well his turns of phrase translate to the stage. That’s why we’re thrilled to perform his flash fiction piece, “Voodoo,” next week at Play On Words: Live in San Francisco, our return to LitCrawl.

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Gary Singh

Gary is a journalist and creative writer with over 1100 articles in numerous trade and consumer publications, including feature stories, travel essays, music and arts criticism, sports writing, business journalism, poetry and short fiction. For 14 straight years, his newspaper columns have appeared in Metro, the alternative weekly newspaper of San Jose and Silicon Valley. His poems have been published in The Pedestal Magazine, Maudlin House and several other publications. He is the author of The San Jose Earthquakes: A Seismic Soccer Legacy (2015, The History Press) and was recently a Steinbeck Fellow in Creative Writing at San Jose State University. His photography was included in a 2014 statewide exhibition at the Triton Museum. He received a bronze medal from the Society of American Travel Writer’s Western Chapter Awards in 2013.

Gary answered a few questions for us in advance of next week’s show. The piece we’ll be performing, “Voodoo,” will be published by Digging Through the Fat.

What inspired you to participate in Play On Words?

Having your own work performed, read, or interpreted by someone else, on stage, is a fantastic experience. You get to see how each person brings his or herself into the performance. One often discovers new inflections or degrees of meaning that were not apparent beforehand.

Which writers inspire you?

Over the last year, I seem to be reading: immigrant fiction about the Asian-American diaspora in any shape or form, authored by women or men; rereading travel literature by Pico Iyer and Henry Miller; blowing through classic spy novels; and a few rock and punk memoirs here and there.

Name a book that fundamentally affected you.

This would depend on the moment and often changes daily, but as of right now, The Alexandria Quartet by Lawrence Durrell continues to swirl its way back into my consciousness. Written before and during WWII, each of the four books relates to the others in nonlinear space-time. The first three books reveal the same story — part-thriller, part-travel writing, part experimental love triangle—but from different perspectives. The fourth book can be understood as a sequel to the first three. All four, together, are designed to be experienced like a hall of mirrors, so to speak. That is, there is no overall beginning, middle or end in the conventional linear sense. Scenes from the past take place simultaneously with scenes in the present, each book is filled with references to the other three in a cross-connected 3D fashion, and it’s often up to you to decide if you’re reading a book written by one of the characters himself—still operating within the narrative you’re looking at—or if you’re reading something written in retrospect, after the describe events have taken place. It often switches.

Durrell would say it’s a stereoscopic interlinear novel in four parts. Some have said the city of Alexandria is the main character. His evocative depictions of the Greco-Arab atmospherics of the city during WWII are incomparable, if not floridly overwritten at times. Plus, there’s a trifecta of occultism, hermetic philosophy and quantum physics woven into the whole thing, underneath it all. It never gets old. I return to it to over and over again.

Join us on Saturday, Oct. 19, at 5 pm at San Francisco’s Stage Werx Theatre to see Gary’s work performed. Learn more about all 100+ LitCrawl events and RSVP here.

Fuck Yea, Kansas, Writes Becky Kling

Sometimes courage reveals itself on long trips–or at least it does for the narrator in Becky Kling‘s “The Road Trip.” From ringing in the New Year with her mom in a Vegas nightclub to screaming “FUCK YEA, KANSAS!” on the open road, she discovers the power of reinvention as she moves cross country, leaving an ex behind. We can’t wait to perform this piece at Play On Words: Live in San Francisco on October 19.

Becky is a lecturer in English and the Humanities at San Jose State University. When she is not teaching, she loves to write, hike, do yoga, cook, and hang out with her family. She answered a few questions for us in advance of the show.

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Becky Kling

What inspired you to participate in Play On Words? 

I participated in Play on Words’ “New Terrains” show last February, and I loved having my piece interpreted by a performer. The performer read the piece so well, and it helped me to consider it from a new perspective. I also loved hearing the wide range of talent showcased through Play on Words, and I am excited to be part of such a rich literary community.

Which writers or performers inspire you? 

Toni Morrison, Ada Limón, David Whyte, Mary Oliver, David Sedaris, Junot Diaz, Sylvia Plath, Charlotte Brontë, and so many more!

Name a book or performance that fundamentally affected you. 

I got to see David Sedaris perform in Santa Cruz. I love his complete unabashed joy in being himself, both in his writing and on the stage. I think of writing as a window to the soul, and sharing that with the world is exhilarating, but it can also be terrifying! His comfort in his own skin is inspiring and contagious.

Want to see us perform “The Road Trip?” RSVP for our Oct. 19 show at Stage Werx Theatre.

T.A. Edwards and the Art of Return

What does it mean to survive one’s “return of Saturn?” To what extent can we predict the shape of our lives? For scientist T.A. Edwards, her entire world shifted in one monumental year, following her father’s death. We are honored to perform her moving essay, “Return of Saturn,” on October 19 at San Francisco’s Stage Werx Theatre as part of the 2019 LitCrawl.

A former theatre kid and current professional treehugger, T.A. lives and writes in San Francisco. She answered a few questions for us.

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T.A. Edwards

 

What inspired you to participate in Play On Words? 

I love the diversity of voices POW brings onstage, and it’s really special to see how each actor interprets the words on the page.

Which writers or performers inspire you? 

Terry Pratchett, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Tom Stoppard, Dorothy Sayers, Armistead Maupin.  

Name a book or performance that fundamentally affected you. 

Neither a book or a performance, but the first time I read Angels in America. It was the first time a play felt so vivid I felt like I was watching it in the room with the characters as I read.

Want to see her work performed live? RSVP for Play On Words: Live in San Francisco on Oct. 19.

Anniqua Rana Returns

How does birth transform us? In “Birth Canal,” an excerpt of Anniqua Rana‘s forthcoming novel, Wild Boar in the Cane Field, the narrator labors alone on the banks of a canal in rural Pakistan. We are delighted to perform Anniqua’s work on October 19 as part of our LitCrawl show at San Francisco’s Stage Werx Theatre. We are excited to work with her again, after reading a different excerpt at our New Terrains show in February. 

anniquaAnniqua lives in California with her husband and two sons, where she teaches English to immigrant and international students at community college. Her extended family lives in Pakistan and England, and she visits them regularly to rekindle my roots. Her debut novel is a celebration of the rural women of Pakistan whose indomitable spirit keeps them struggling despite all odds. 

Anniqua has interviewed Asma Jahangir, Human Right’s Advocate, Pakistan and published essays on gender and education. She is at work on her next novel, A Sanctuary for Dancing Bears. She also produces the podcast Witty Bantr. She kindly answered a few questions for us in advance of our LitCrawl show.

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What inspired you to participate in Play On Words? 

I enjoy the interplay of story writing and storytelling. POW does an excellent job combining the two. And, of course, I’m honored to be selected.  

Which writers or performers inspire you? 

Elena Ferrante and Mohsin Hamid.

Name a book or performance that fundamentally affected you. 

The Meursault Investigation: A Novel.

Intrigued? Check out her launch party at the Bindery in San Francisco on September 17. Don’t forget to RSVP for Play On Words: Live in San Francisco on October 19. 

 

Introducing Sage Curtis

We are delighted to kick off our sixth season with Play On Words: Live in San Francisco, our return to SF’s inimitable LitCrawl festival. Our summer call for submissions brought in such riches—poems, plays and stories written by amazing people—that it made our job as curators tough. This week we are proud to introduce one of our featured writers for our October 19 event.

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Sage Curtis

Sage Curtis is a Bay Area writer fascinated by the way cities grit and how women move through the world. Her work has been published or is forthcoming in Vinyl, Glass Poetry, The Normal School, burntdistrict, Yes Poetry, Juked and more. She has received an honorable mention for the 2017 Wrolstad Poetry Prize and was a finalist for the 2017 Rita Dove Award in Poetry and the Gigantic Sequins Poetry Award that same year. Also in 2017, she was named one of LitQuake’s Writers on the Verge. Her chapbook, Trashcan Funeral, is available from dancing girl press. 

We are excited to perform her poem, “A Series of Small Apocalypses,” this fall. In the meantime, she agreed to answer a few questions for us.

What inspired you to participate in Play On Words? 

I believe writing is as much about words as it is about community. Part of what is magical about writing is that your words can sound completely different, or mean something completely new, depending on who is reading them. This is what is unique and inspirational about Play On Words. 

Which writers or performers inspire you? 

I owe my poet lineage to Kim Addonizio, D.A. Powell, Lidia Yuknavitch, and Bruce Snider. Currently, I am inspired by the writing of Camonghne Felix, Cortney Lamar Charleston, Hanif Abdurraqib, Fatimah Asghar, and Angel Nafis.

Name a book or performance that fundamentally affected you. 

Jamaal May’s reading of Macrophobia: A Fear of Waiting at AWP 2014 in Seattle. 

Want to learn more about Sage? By supporting her work on Patreon, you can gain exclusive access to poems, book reviews and more. RSVP on Facebook to our LitCrawl event to get the latest.

 

Michelle Myers’ “Norma”

Could death be a new terrain? In “Norma,” Michelle Suzann Myers explores the journey one woman makes to create a new life for her family while mourning the loss of her own mother. We were compelled by Michelle’s moving piece and look forward to performing it this Sunday, February 24, at the San Jose Museum of Art.

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Michelle Suzann Myers

Born and raised in San Jose, California, whilst it was still the Valley of the Heart’s Delight, and once more a proud resident, Michelle Suzann Myers supports her meandering writing journey as a bilingual psychotherapist in private practice.  Myers holds degrees from the University of San Francisco and Santa Clara University.  After graduating with sociology and English writing degrees from USF, Myers headed to Dallas, Texas as a legal aide for refugees with the Jesuit Volunteer Corps. She then escaped to Sao Paulo, Brazil for four years, volunteering in support of women and girls. Myers was fortunate enough to learn of social justice, human rights, and mysticism in her early spiritual formation, and still has hope for the loving transformation of this world.

Her story  “Communion on the Road” was published in the anthology, Sanctuary (DarkHouse Books, 2018). She agreed to answer a few questions for us in advance of the show.
What inspired you to participate in Play On Words?
My writing teacher, Lita Kurth, and the wild, witchy, wise women of my Friday morning writing group inspired me to submit my work to Play on Words. Participating in the last performance at Cafe Stritch gave me a new lease on life–just thrilling!
Which writers have inspired you?
Laura Nichols, Ph.D., Kristin Heyer, Ph.D., Mary Oliver, Anne Lamott, Rumi, Hafiz, Barbara Kingsolver, and Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie.
Join us at 2 pm February 24 to see Michelle’s work performed live! Reserve your ticket now to gain free admission to the San Jose Museum of Art and RSVP on Facebook to let us know you’re coming.