Magnificence of Spanish, English, and Mayan Poetry

in America the great, i don’t wear/a deer loin cloth to cover my manhood,/i’m forced to wear an orange striped jumpsuit/to cover my bones as they believe me dangerous, begins “Portrait of a Young Undocumented Immigrant in America” by Gerardo Pacheco Matus. The complete poem is published in TINDERBOX: POETRY JOURNAL. Listen to it here.

Today, Gerardo Pacheco Matus shares his thoughts about his work as poet, writer, and professor at Cañada College.

English, Spanish, and Mayan: The Language of Poetry

I pay close attention to the English language. Poetry comes to me through the English language even though my first languages are Mayan and Spanish. I love the English language, so poetry comes to me mainly in bits and pieces, sounds, and short phrases in English. The English language is crucial for me since my foundation as a writer was in English. In my graduate program, I had to read mainly white, western male writers and their influence in my language and poetry is significant; however, lately, I have been trying to get influenced by those writers who speak Spanish and Maya. I read and listen to Spanish and Mayan poetry. As a consequence, my poetry has morphed and changed, and now I am writing Spanglish. I am not sure if I am conscious about this way of writing, but sometimes, I find myself just “doing it”. In conclusion, the relationship of the three languages that I can understand is unique and strange. 

Nature in my Poetry

The images that my poetry uses come from nature. My poetry revolves around nature, and some of the images that I include in my poetry are the grass, birds (hawks, crows, tiny birds), the desert, empty fields, roads, etc. The way my poetry works is that these natural images appear over and over and whenever the muse or inspiration strikes these images appear back in my poetry.

The Intersection of Teaching and Writing

Lately, I have been teaching English as a Second Language, and my brain is in teaching mode. The way teaching and writing works is that I am super hyper conscious about editing. The way these two intersect is at this intersection of creating perfect lines and well edited sentences. 

My Signature Poem “If you Ever Visit Huhi

One of my signature poems is “If You Ever Visit Huhi” because this was one of my first poems that I ever published. This poem deals with this yearning that I had at the time I wrote the poem of returning home, Huhi, and my inability to accomplish this. I enjoy reading this poem because it makes me think about my little town, Huhi, and my parents. 

…if you ever visit Huhi, find doña micaela,/mi abuela, and tell her to cook me a good cochinita pibil/with lots of red onions, and chiles habaneros

You can read more of Gerardo’s work on his site.

Suggestions for Aspiring Poets

Poetry has become so different for me these days that if you would have asked me this question five years ago, I might have probably said you must go to an MFA program and get a formal education on poetry; however, my take on this question has changed. Poetry is all about listening to yourself and listening to those “voices” that speak to you. The way I write poetry is by listening to these voices that begin like hunches and even melodies, and for those who want to write poetry, my best advice is to grab a piece of paper and pencil and just do it. You don’t have to go to any fancy school if you cannot, you just need to write what you feel, smell, hear, and crave. The beauty of writing poetry lies on willingness. 

The beauty of writing poetry lies on willingness. 

The Mayan Languages

Create Cultural Memories through Literature and Art

Gerado’s most recent poems “Desert Bones” and “The Carcass” can be downloaded here.

peripheries no. 3: a journal of word and image
A photo of Gerardo Pacheco Matus

Gerardo Pacheco Matus, a Mayan Native, is the recipient of the Joseph Henry Jackson Award and fellowships from the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference, CantoMundo, The Frost Place, and Macondo. Pacheco’s poems and essays have appeared and are forthcoming from the Grant Makers in the Arts, Black Lawrence Press, Haight Ashbury Literary Journal, West Branch Wired, The Cortland Review, Nashville Review, Pilgrimage Magazine, Tin House Magazine, among others. Pacheco is a happy tenure-track ESL professor at Cañada College.


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