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.

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.

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.

LitCrawl Call for Submissions: Deadline June 18

Five years ago, we had the pleasure of performing in San Francisco’s Clarion Alley as part of LitCrawl, an evening of events hosted by LitQuake, a weeklong literary festival. Today we’re thrilled to share that we will once again participate in the SF LitCrawl, this time at the amazing Stage Werx theatre at 5 p.m. on Saturday, October 19.

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Michael Weiland, Melinda Marks and Ryan Alpers performing at Play On Words: Your Words, Our Voices in October 2014. Photo by Michelle Anderson.

We Need Your Words!

We’re looking for fresh, smart, funny, provocative, absurd, thoughtful, goofy, surprising work to perform at this year’s show. We will be curating about 45 minutes of content, which means we’re especially interested in flash pieces, poetry, ten-minute plays—anything that can be performed aloud with gusto. We are looking for:

  • Fiction, nonfiction, poetry, theatre, work in translation accepted under 1500 words.
  • Submit all work to playonwordssj@gmail.com as an attachment or Google doc.

In order for your work to be considered for LitCrawl, you must include the following with your submission:

  • A 20-word bio and head shot.
  • Contact information for day of the event.

Work must be submitted no later than Tuesday, June 18, at 5 p.m. This gives you two weeks to polish off your words and prepare to submit.

Ivette Deltoro Reads Rebecca Kling’s “Postpartum Dream Sequence”

Few things can fully capture the absurdity and sheer love of early parenthood. In case you missed our February 24 show at the San Jose Museum of Art, take a minute to watch the fabulous Ivette Deltoro perform “Postpartum Dream Sequence” by Rebecca Kling:

Thanks to Ryan Alpers for filming and Branden Frederick for taking photos.

We are currently seeking venues for our next show. If you’re interested in partnering with Play On Words, please contact us at playonwordssj@gmail.com.

Arcadia Conrad reads Mairead Brodie’s “Back Where They Came From”

Despite what our media outlets may tell us, the immigrant experience in the United States is varied, unique and specific to the individual’s journey. In a moving essay, Mairead Brodie explores just what it means to “go back” where one comes from, tracing her own family’s journey from Ireland to New York and back, from the perspective of an expatriate living in Silicon Valley today. Last month we were treated to a special performance of this lovely essay by the one and only Arcadia Conrad at the San Jose Museum of Art:

This was one of those performance that had the audience murmuring in the minutes after Arcadia left the stage. Many thanks to Mairead and Arcadia for bringing us this story, and to Ryan Alpers for filming and Branden Frederick for taking photos.