Winner, dis•articulations Reader Poem for July —Manuel Velez


Manuel J. Velez received his MFA in Creative Writing from the University of Texas at El Paso’s Bilingual Writing Program in 1996.  Since then, aside from pursuing his literary goals, he has worked as a high school counselor and Spanish teacher in San Diego, an English Professor at El Paso Community College in El Paso, Texas and is currently Associate Professor of Chicana/o Studies at Mesa College. Manuel’s work has appeared in various publications including Raza Spoken Here Vol. 1, Many Mountains Moving, and Puerto del Sol.  He is the winner of the 1996 Pellicer-Frost Binational Poetry Prize and the author of Bus Stops and Other Poems, published by Calaca Press in 1998.  Calaca Press also published La Calaca Review, an anthology of Latina/o voices edited by Manuel. He is currently chair of Chicana/o Studies at San Diego Mesa College.

His poem, “A farmworker offers advice to hummingbird flying among the grapevines” appeared on the site on July 31, 2015:

Manuel will receive a $25 honorarium for the prize. We hope readers will be inspired to participate in this process by writing your own poems. Each month we’ll award a $25 prize for the best Reader Poem we receive.


August Collaborating Poet — Sesshu Foster

me and knot

In August, Sesshu Foster will collaborate with Terry Wolverton on new dis•articulations poems.

Sesshu Foster has taught in East L.A. for 30 years. He’s also taught writing at the University of Iowa, the California Institute for the Arts, Naropa University’s Jack Kerouac School of Disembodied Poetics and the University of California, Santa Cruz. His work has been published in The Oxford Anthology of Modern American PoetryLanguage for a New Century: Poetry from the Middle EastAsia and Beyond, and State of the Union: 50 Political Poems. Winner of two American Book Awards, his most recent books are the novel Atomik Aztex and the hybrid World Ball Notebook.

Mid-Summer Interlude—Chris Shorne, Natalie Truhan, Terry Wolverton

In June I gave a seminar about Oulipo and the dis•articulations process as a “liberating constriction” in the spirit of Oulipo during the Residency for the MFA Writing Program at Antioch University Los Angeles. The participants generated four prompts and conducted fevered writing on the prompts. There wasn’t time to have them write the poems but I encouraged them to do so and send them to me. What appears here are the prompts and two poems by Antioch MFA students, as well as the poem I created from the prompts.

The Prompts (generated by seminar participants)
• It started as a mistake
• I’d rather eat a person than my words
• Nothing like the sun
• Sex is to love as the dancer is to the dance

by Chris Shorne

Feverish we start
everybody jump
like a simultaneous translator
holding history while writing
the history while thinking of
writing what will be past tense.

Are we starting?
The buzzing so complete
so modern that modern was
crawling last year
but don’t.
The mistake started
before you were born.

Outside the town of wedlock
fire is electric.
I mean, like, I don’t know everything
like God that’s not God

by Natalie Truhan

The sun is nowhere to be seen;
the fog ate the mountains.
Have you ever heard teenage girls talk about self-respect?
Foolish girls
wearing white jackets, bitching.

small words are uttered by God,
these words are learned by sinners,
sinners who take off,
not interested in birth.

Ever wondered what saints eat for dinner?

I ate a man once (my mistake!)
for dessert (what a chance!)
His smooth,
body parts
were rolling on my tongue like drops of a conversation.

Obsessive particles
grow like mushrooms.

His hips formed creases,

oddness and obscurity
of the hairless mountains
hiding in the fog:
freeways will never touch them.

Let’s begin, let’s finish, let’s leave.
Give me the keys, I need to pee.
How wonderful,
almost impossible—
to never find your way home.

by Terry Wolverton

Like everyone, I come to
the Church of Failure denying
everything, my tongue on fire,
my hat thrown open to the rain.

I sneak in, dragging after me
a chain of mistakes—lost buttons,
white shirts spotted with mud—
gummy with solitary sex.

Surrounded by saints and babies,
I taste the iron of the bells
that chime long into our frayed day,
sway a tired cha-cha as they play.

I offer evidence—chance and
accidents—cast them into ash
like seeds, spill them onto the street.
Busses keep passing by, don’t stop.

Like anyone, I am searching for
redemption, a way to transform
the shape of time. Each of us just
broken dolls, chanting the old words.

Don’t pity me. I can’t un-crack
the tough shell of my soul. Rather,
breathe with me, here in the corner,
holding onto the sun’s spent flame.