Author Archives: arlene biala

August News & September Announcements

Some August highlights:

ICA Live! at San Jose Institute of Contemporary Art on August 5th

During the August First Friday Art Walk I had the chance to collaborate with visual artist Peter Foucault, poet Yaccaira Salvatierra and musician (and my niece!) Brittany Biala for some spoken word/music/audience-song generated drawing by Peter and his artbot. Thanks to Patricia Cariño and Cathy Kimball at the ICA for having us!

Go check out the Next New Paper and This Is Not a Book exhibits at ICA.


Willow Glen Poetry Project – Third Thursday Poetry Readings

My thanks to Christine and Dennis Richardson, co-hosts of the popular and long running monthly reading at Willow Glen Library, for inviting me to feature on  August 18th. Great participation during the Open Mic and for the POETree!


California Poets in the Schools – Annual Symposium at The Presentation Center in Los Gatos/Santa Cruz Mountains

On Friday, August 19th, I had the honor of reading alongside 12-year old poet Greer Nakadegawa-Lee and Ellen Bass at the annual conference of California Poets in the Schools. Thank you, Erica Goss and Tina Areja-Pasquinzo, for inviting me to share the stage with these inspiring poets.


Upcoming August & September Events

Friday, August 26, noon-1pm at St. James Park, Noon Arts & Lectures presents


Sunday, August 28, 3-8pm at School of Arts and Culture @MHP

Facebook event page here.


San Jose Poetry Festival on Sunday, September 18 at History San Jose!

Full schedule and details at Poetry Center San Jose event page.


Poetry Center San Jose presents



Saturday, September 24, 6pm at Santa Clara County Fairgrounds (includes Poetry/Literary Arts events)

Anne & Mark’s Art Party


Got Events?   Sweet Home San Jose is a new monthly event calendar created by Mighty Mike McGee!


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July News & August Announcements

LitLumpiaFest on July 17 at the School of Arts and Culture @ MHP

Kiana and Arlene

Jimmy Biala and Bloco del Sol

Bloco del Sol opens the party!

Clockwise from top left: Mahcic, Tomas amd Serafin Riley; Leticia Hernandez, Ann Sherman, Tony SantaAna, Bill Cozzini, Yaccaira Salvatierra

Clockwise from top left: Asha Sudra, Jarvis Deangelo Subia, Lita Kurth, Caroline Goodwin, Kimy Martinez, Quynh-Mai Nguyen

Clockwise from top left: Q&A, Lorenz Dumuk, Mighty Mike McGee, Arlene Biala, Poetess Kalamu Chache, Pushpa McFarlane

One word: MEDICINE đź’ś
We needed it (still do), you brought it, shared it, refueled us to pay it forward. 

Please know how grateful I am for all of you.  

Special shout outs:

Aunty Mercedes Pasag and cousin Rose Cabato who fed us with their lumpia!

Jimmy Biala and Bloco Del Sol, Brittany Biala, Blake and Serena Biala for saxophone magic and music!

Lorenz Mazon Dumuk and Quynh-Mai Nguyen for offering art/heart creative activities, and my girl Kiana for woman-ing the POETree! (Poems will be posted soon.)

Phillip Pasag Pasag Photography for his talent in capturing the spirit of it all in these photos!

Ira Jones, sound man extraordinaire and fellow Bloco braddah! #22jobsmon

For stellar makers of Kuwento/poesia/magic who shared the mic:

Kai Del Rosario

Kiana Del Rosario

Leticia Hernandez

Tomás Riley

Serafin, 6yr old Poet Laureate of the Universe

Olga Loya

Ann Sherman

Caroline Goodwin

Poetess Kalamu Chaché

Mighty Michael Matthew McGee

Asha Sudra

Quynh-Mai Nguyen

Kimy Martinez

Tony SantaAna

Pushpa MacFarlane

Jarvis Deangelo Subia

Yaccaira Salvatierra

Lita Kurth

Bill Cozzini

Lorenz Dumuk 

Q & A Music

Robert R. Ragazza for general fabulousness, tending bar & desserts #nodessertuntilsecondset

and all of you who came, brought food, drink and energia to share.


Carry each other, fam. ONE love.

LitLumpiaFest photos by Pasag Photography


Upcoming Events

Saturday, July 30 – Poetry Center San Jose presents Write an Ode workshop with Sally Ashton Facebook event page for details.


Friday, August 5, 8pm – San Jose Institute of Contemporary Art presents ICA Live!

Please join us for this unique collaboration with artist Peter Foucault, poet Arlene Biala and guest artists Yaccaira Salvatierra (poet) and Brittany Biala (musician). We will perform two ten-minute sets at 8 and 8:30pm.

Facebook event page for details.

Tuesday, August 9th, 7pm – Well-RED at WORKS San Jose

Facebook event page for details.

Wednesday, August 10, 8pm at Cafe Stritch – Go! Go! Gong Show with Mighty Mike McGee

Facebook group page with details.


Wednesday, August 17, 7pm – Flash Fiction Forum at WORKS San Jose

Flash Fiction Forum details.

Thursday, August 18, 7pm – Third Thursdays Poetry Reading

Willow Glen Poetry Project Facebook page.

Friday, August 19, 7pm – I will be reading at the annual symposium for CA Poets in the Schools. This is a full weekend of workshops and activities. Please see the Facebook event page for details.


Save the Date!

Sunday, September 18h  – San Jose Poetry Festival 

Details: San Jose Poetry Festival


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June News & July Announcements 

Happy Summer!  I hope you are able to find and create some peace amidst the daily hype and charade parade. On Summer Solstice I celebrated my 50th year (in this life form)! I am reminded that what we all do to win with LOVE is our greatest force.

Right at the end of the school year, I had the honor of leading a poetry workshop and sharing the POETree with students of The College of Adaptive Arts (CAA) in San Jose. The vision of CAA is “to provide a college campus for adults with differing abilities where they will have opportunities to learn from a diverse and rich curriculum that will enable them to live full and empowered lives as successful, contributing members of the community.”

The students shared amazing energy, stories and poetry written during the workshop. Thank you to Suzanne Williams, DeAnna Pursai and the students for an incredible time!

Here are some poems from the students:

What if my cancer comes back?
I wish all the military men and women would come home safe.
If I could rule the world, I would have no more poverty.
My name is Aine,
I am from San Jose.
I am a person who likes many things,
like Disneyland and coffee.
I am a person who loves my Irish heritage,
roses, and Thai and Filipino food.
I am a person who wishes there was a cure for cancer.
My name means “splendor, radiance, and brilliance”
My family is a funny cultural mix.
The color of my happiness is pink,
the color of my sadness is deep blue.
The city where I live is Half Moon Bay.
When I grow up I want to be a singer and an actress.
Before I die, I want to travel, get married, still have no cancer.
by Aine Kline

What if I could walk?
I wish I could go to Fiji for Christmas.
If I could rule the world, I would be a president.
My name is Daniel.
I am from California.
I am a person who likes volunteering.
I am a person who loves helping the community.
I am a person who wishes to go home to Fiji.
My name means “God is my Judge”
My family is Fijian.
The color of my happiness is green,
the color of my sadness is black.
The city where I live is Sunnyvale.
When I grow up I want to work at a Fijian radio station.
Before I die, I want to go to the North Pole.
by Daniel Stickney

What if money grew on trees?
Would we all be much more greedy?
I wish stars could be collected and stored on a shelf.
If I could rule the world, I would make gas less expensive.
My name is Danie.
I am from San Diego or Escondido.
I am a person who likes architecture.
I am a person who loves sappy TV shows.
I am a person who wishes chocolate was okay to eat
at every meal.
My name means “God is my Judge”
My family is Christian American mutts.
The color of my happiness is purple,
the color of my sadness is black.
The city where I live is Morgan Hill.
When I grow up I want to be a mom.
Before I die, I want to publish three books.
by Danie Weaver

What if Princess Anna went with me to Disney on Ice?
I wish I could teach dance.
If I could rule the world, I would help everyone learn ballet.
My name is Renee.
I am from San Jose, CA.
I am a person who likes school.
I am a person who loves dance recitals.
I am a person who wishes December 14th
can be every day (25 years old!)
My name means “Born again. First”
My family is Mexican.
The color of my happiness is grey,
the color of my sadness is pink.
The city where I live is San Jose, CA, 95148.
When I grow up I want to be a dancer.
Before I die, I want to be a teacher.
by Renee G.

What if I did dishes and laundry?
My name is Steph.
I am from San Jose.
I am a person who likes mom love.
I am a person who loves dogs.
My name.
The color of my happiness is red silk.
The color of my sadness is San Jose, CA.
by Steph

I wish everyone around me could make their dreams come true.
My name is Earl.
I am from California.
I am a person who likes cold weather.
I am a person who loves to sing.
I am a person who wishes he could go back in time.
My name means “nobility”
My family is wonderful.
The color of my happiness is black,
the color of my sadness is orange.
The city where I live is full of life.
When I grow up I want to travel the world.
Before I die, I want to have children.
by Earl



Please join us on Sunday, July 17, 4-6pm for LitLumpiaFest!

Instead of a formal Poet Laureate reception (I completely lagged on that anyway), come to a celebration of poetry, lumpia, music, art, kuwentos/talk story, friends and FUN. 
Flor y Canto style, lots of guest artists performing! Line up TBA. Art activities, all ages.
Oh, and I’m turning Five-Oh so it will be a birthday bash, too 🙂

Please visit the LitLumpiaFest Facebook event page for details and to RSVP.

Two Miles East – Summer Garden Event Series presents

Visit the Half Breed Facebook event page for details and ticket information.

Call for Submissions to Caesura!

Cæsura Call for Submissions is open now! Poetic Games: The World Versus Silicon Valley Issue. Visit Poetry Center San Jose’s page for Submission Guidelines.

Deadline for submissions:  August 5th, 2016 for general public.  August 21st, 2016 for PCSJ members.


Call for Submissions to Border Cantos Poems: Call and Response

Border Cantos by Guillermo Galindo and Richard Misrach is still on exhibit at San Jose Museum of Art until July 31st. Nine poets created new work in response to the exhibit (along with poems in response to the Tabaimo exhibit that is open through August) and shared their poems at the annual Poetry Invitational in April. The poems and the event inspired many people.  I am planning a print collection of these poems, along with other poems selected through this call, to be published in late 2016/early 2017.

Submission Guidelines: I am inviting you to submit ekphrastic poetry: 1 or 2 poems (no longer than 250 words maximum per poem) written in response to your viewing and experience of the Border Cantos exhibit. Please send in Word doc to me at along with your name, email, address and phone number. Deadline for submissions is August 30, 2016. **You must visit the exhibit before it closes on July 31st**


Save the Date – August Event, more details coming soon!

ICA Live!

Peter Foucault and Arlene Biala along with guest artists TBA, Friday, August 5

Performance times: 8pm and 8:30pm

Free and open to the public

NextNewPaper artist Peter Foucault will collaborate with Santa Clara County Poet Laureate Arlene Biala for August’s ICA Live! program. Biala will be reading new poems inspired by the exhibition and Foucault’s custom-built robot, armed with drawing tools, will respond to the sound of Biala’s voice, as well as voice/music of guest artists, to create a new, abstract piece.

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May News & June Announcements

May was a fantastic celebration of poetry, art and community at numerous events.  Some highlights:

Legacy of Poetry Day  on May 5

Under the direction of Alan Soldofsky and San Jose State University, this annual event went big at the Hammer Theatre Center with poetry, music, dancing and theatre.  Thanks to all who made it happen!

With poet Lorenz Dumuk and U.S. Poet Laureate Juan Felipe Herrera

My family with Juan Felipe

Pachanga on the Paseo!

Hanging in the lounge before the event.

L-R: Arts Commissioners Richard James and Ramona Snyder, PLOTUS, Arts Commissioner Ron Muriera, me, SF Poet Laureate Alejandro Murguia


PLOTUS and Lorenz exchanging artwork!


Out of Our Minds with Rachelle Escamilla

Thank you, Rachelle Escamilla, for having me and Darrell Dela Cruz on your show on May 4th!

If you want to listen in, here it is: Out of Our Minds

ImagineSJ Showcase #8: Poetry

May 12th at Anno Domini was a gathering of spoken word poets talking craft and sharing work with a full house in the gallery. Panel moderated by the amazing Mighty Mike McGee.  Thanks to Future Arts Now!, Anno Domini, Kooltura Marketing and Silicon Valley De-Bug. Check out this Pop Up Editorial by Silicon Valley De-Bug.

Lips Uncurled, Eyes Forward 

Congratulations to Quynh-Mai Nguyen for creating a beautiful community space for poetry, art, activism, dialogue, food and music. The May POETree was created at this event. Here’s part of it: 

be careful with your wings. 
tiempos suaves. swaying in and around me

all the dancers come to one, two three

my everything, everything

is nothing

for once
scars are beautiful. they mean you survived. 
in navigating these grey waters

what if i knew what i was doing?
for community, for vulnerability

for full and complex brilliance

i would build a bullet train

to connect the continents
freedom will rise

justice will cry

heart will shine

my lips are uncurled
lift your head or the crown falls.

a better world is coming.

welcome home,

familiar faces.
the color of my sadness

paints the mountain mist

that surrounds you
the color of my sadness

is the headstone 

of hospital tile white,

the sallow green curtains

that did not give back

my godmother’s name.
ghost hugs. 

you will get them

when you are feeling down.

you won’t feel them,

but they will be there.

you know it’s love

when its light fills an entire community

and everyone wants to play 
in san jose, city by the bay

that gets little play,

but, hey . . . that’s okay
the color of my happiness

is my velvet coated sleeve,

and all the words 

i would bleed for you,

if my mouth knew how 

to sing your name
thud. a sharp violet

the violin sharp

enter the woman in white.

twelve minor chords.

perhaps a b sharp.

the linoleum sings a dirty song

of freedom
wings, arms, legs, heart, mind


don’t let me be hurt.

is it safe?
the pressure of approval

is debilitating

how could i have traveled

so far with you
before i die, i want to feel your warmth.

the color of my sadness

leaves footprints from your front door.

~ POETree, May 2016

Upcoming Events

Saturday, June 11 at Studio Bongiorno

Tuesday, June 14 at Works/San Jose 

Media Poetry Studio summer day camp

Also coming up:

June POETree will take place along with a poetry workshop for students at College of Adaptive Arts.

Stay tuned for other summer activites, including workshops in collaboration with Santa Clara County Public Library, announcement of call for poetry submissions, POETree at summer events, and LitLumpia Fest on Sunday, July 17! 

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April News & May Announcements 

As we close out National Poetry Month, here’s a look back on some highlights:

San Jose Museum of Art Annual Poetry Invitational on April 21st

It was an incredible evening of poetry, art, community and inspiration. Thank you to the poets who joined me: Ann Sherman, Janice Sapigao, David C. Perez, Asha Sudra Finkel, Nils Peterson, Amanda Williamsen, Mighty Mike McGee, and Lorenz Dumuk for stunning poems inspired by the Border Cantos and Tabaimo exhibitions at SJMA. We had a record breaking 150 people join us for the event!  Thank you also to Jeff Bordona and Paulina Vu, SJMA; Robert Pesich, Poetry Center San Jose; and Phillip Pasag, Pasag Photography. Please visit SJMA Poetry Invitational photos by Pasag Photography to view images of the event.

Here are some of the poems created for the project.


Untitled by Arlene Biala

* based on Angel Exterminador / Exterminating Angel (Border Cantos, Richard Misrach and Guillermo Galindo) and Wings of Desire, Wim Wenders

when the child was child

she raced her little brothers to the top of the rainbow painted carnival slide

the one she had been dreaming of all week

feet clanking up the metal staircase rising in the middle of the desert town

a mirage of fantastic colors, strange music and dust

out of breath at the landing, she twirls in the four directions

to the south: her abuelita’s hands reaching out to her, cuidate mija

watch your step, watch your step

to the east, her mother’s song: sing your way home, at the end of the day,

sing your way home, cast your troubles away, smile every mile, it will lighten your load, it will shorten your road, if you sing your way home

to the west, her oldest brother playing guitar in her dreams

and to the north, the memory of her father’s thirst in the melt zone

never turn your back to the sea, he would say.

the sea, the sandstorm, the blast of la migra, hail of bullets and the slide is lifted

in a horrendous crash, twister of dreams, knocked the wind out of him,

he is broken and bent without the name his ancestors gave him

gutted like a fish, scales scraped off until the rust of his skin

is gone and delicate flesh and the scorching sun have textured him

a new name: angel.  noose of drag chain falls to the ground

and the wind beats the corrugated lies out of the body, singing

fly on, my sweet angel, fly on through the sky . .

when the child was child

she took a deep breath, grabbed the rough edges of burlap

and pushed off. her body shooting like a bullet through border lies,

blasting through impervious walls, her angels watching her fly.


Room for Whom by Lorenz Dumuk

 Am asked

“Can’t you see the light

and all the different colors?” 
Most times I nod yes

deviate conversations 

of what is wrong with my perception.

Nod yes, to affirm their reality

which is as clear as light

which am suppose to see without effort

which leaves me feeling like a mad hatter.

Nod yes, as I visualize my neck

pressed again and again 

against serrated blades

slowly decapitating my head 

as I habitually nod yes

to being wrong, being broken

sever my vocal chords 

pickle them in a silence of my compliance.
When alone or when I dare be brave

in front of another 

I nod no.
Am wondering why

they do not see the dark lines

these shapes that do not leave me
as if my saturation of sadness

is this Schroeder steel box

I should have left unopened. 
I know what 3D looks like,

feels like, but no one

prepares you when the world

becomes flat, becomes wall

becomes a room you cannot

seem to get out of.
This light am told of

looks more like these shadows

I have been ripping myself out of,

tearing away what is essential 

my own skin, cutting through

the murk of my own flesh

hoping I can understand 

this light am told is here.

Only to find myself

melting between

shades of realities,

unnamed colors of emotions 

and feelings no one really

knows how to paint, how to dance,

how to sing into expression.

Even feel like stranger 

when mirrored what appears truth.

Hear it’s voice articulate 

out of my pickled muteness,

an open jar of home

returning back to me.


Playas de Tijuana by Asha Sudra Finkel

They say the grass is always greener

The sand is cleaner

The air is free-er.

Fear manifested into dreams.


Sent to protect the white children.

Cylinders of hate

Barred from familiar face

Familiar touch

From Family.

And ironically called friendship park.

Nixon named

Dedicated in “attempts at national relations”

Only reinforcing realizations of superiority

Of purity

Of disdain for different 

as if diseased

Imprisoned to breathe in the air only allotted to them

Seeking permission to access 

First class humanity.

Given a park.

A leisure getaway for families to remind themselves that they are not good enough to actually engage

To actually hold each other 


Instead forced to watch every ounce of dignity drift away into the rip tide.

Bars to divide worlds 

And remind 

Those that their souls are not worthy of want.

Friendship park… San Diego 


you can take yoga classes 

and salsa dancing classes,

Have your wedding there 

or child’s baptism there

Don’t forget about the kite flying festivals

Don’t forget about the beach clean up events.

forget about those who died trying to see their family.

Forget about those who drowned trying to catch the surf on the playa.

Forget about those who took their last breath alone and separated.

Forget about Pat Nixon who said in 1971

“I hope there won’t be a fence here too much longer..”

Because remember.. 

For our white children..

Our brown children can’t forget about the bars.

Can’t forget about the disregard because

It’s all they’ve known.

Friendship Park…

Where every weekend from 10am to 2

Those brave enough to show their faces 

Face one of two opened gates 

And border patrol agents. 

Watching their every step

Frantically searching for family members.

Unless they run out of time


Unless they are unable to find those once familiar  


Unless they’re  

Unable to recognize through mesh and iron pillars.


Dared to challenge the manic inside

To not expose itself,

As borders built in fear tower 18 feet over head,

Enclosing your sense of identity and efficacy.

Limited and


Interaction with those cared for and loved for the most,

But only on the weekends,

Where every other day

The barred crevices are simply Windows.

A degrading invitation to reminding those that they are the other

That they are unwilling


Boarded in.


the most ambiguous man in the world by Ann Sherman 

I= X



signifier for no

known name


dancing or


silent witness

cipher or



staking a claim

to the four directions

spread-eagled Angeles


in a windwhipped dry wash

straddling remains

of a parch-veined


beneath the crossing

over ​under​through

beyond anything

certain, though

light beckons

from the other side

disembodied stand-in

starring in endless


capturing equivocal vision

harsh sun

dazzled shadows

incident ray

reflecting each mind’s



hoodied crucifix

scavenged scarecrow

even vultures

won’t come

too close



defiant deviant letter

of shame

bounced back from

blanched dreams


.” need for geography / now that we’re safe everywhere… do you know what it’s like to live / someplace that loves you back?” – Danez Smith

Freedom, somewhere by Janice Lobo Sapigao


somewhere there are second chances

somewhere, changes. places families –


free to grow as many children

as there are seeds – places opened,


wide as deserts, endless as summer sun

skin born brown, not splinters from rusted blood.


in this place, children roam at home &

staying is equivalent to smiling.


where freedom is place, feeling, & a right.

here, color is the sky’s job. here, only


mountains are playmates, & not

burial sites. & not gauntlets. & not


an american labyrinth. here, no uniformed

minotaur. no arms that can’t cradle kin.



every time brown mamas pray, a white man

slaps himself. & new crops of fruit &


vegetables pick themselves. every

bible page that’s fallen out of place


finds its way back home no matter

the trash or terrain. no one is left stranded.


alone does not exist because

you come from the earth. & dirt


is not an insult; rather cremated crowns from

weights and stories that no longer serve us.


whenever nature shines in pink

our normalistas go back to classrooms


every morning, a new son. he runs in,

reads one book to the next, he himself once


the mancala beads in the trenches. & every

time he wins, houses will emit music


blanketing & pocketing poems written

with bone and breath. & nails and wood.



valleys be the best hiding places.

here, brown men assume nightvision naturally


little girls’ laughter be named soundscapes

& damn near everybody stops to listen when they sing.


no villages. no states. no borders. just

Intimacy. these walls just be for decoration


and graffiti. no holes, just space. no laws,

but trust and restoration. singing when sadness.


here, you can see freedom giggling. here. here,

you hear it. do you hear it? here? right here.



fear lives alone, no scare tactics necessary,

no unnamed vigilantes.


boots. hats. rainbow

zarape for shelter.



Advice from Guillermo Galindo by Nils Peterson

First try to see the “tears of things.”
Along the trail to the border fence

begin to see the spoor of grief.

One can sigh, moan, weep, shake

a futile fist. Better to honor the rusted

abandoned juice cans. Find wood

with a straight grain, – shape, sand,

varnish till fit to support a grief song.

Attach the cans. They’ll sing their story.
Make a harp of a forgotten ladder.

Hang bottles of water from the rungs

filled to make different pitches.

Pluck the wires that hold them.

How elegant that dance of notes.
Or if you find a piece of the sheet metal fence,

the separating fence, lying on the ground,

bend it in half, hang it high. Strike it like a gong

celebrating the entrance of royalty, like a gong

celebrating the end of fence.
But first learn to see the “tears of things.” 


DIVINATION by David C. Perez 

after “Artifact Grid” by Richard Misrach and “Micro Orchestra” by Guillermo Galindo

There is a pink comb meant for a child.

The hair it once pulled straight

now woven into a chain-link fence.

The missing teeth left behind

like casted lots or chicken bones.


There is a toothbrush and a beach towel

covered in the filth they were to wipe clean

from a young face that tonight each of us

will sketch and then erase.


In one rendition, she’s still out there

a body sewing dirt and bone.

One more sun brittle instrument

plucked at random by a reptile

licking at the wind.


This shoe was made in the far east

by hands who guided each stitch.

Fusing sole to cloth so someone

could grow and learn what we learn:

to carry your things

until they’re not your things.


Out there, they made a temporary home.

A sightless roof and a floor ever in motion,

spreading wider with each footprint

signed on the dotted line.


There is money enough for street food

and the gum for the space between meals.

There is the slant of the ball’s oval shadow

and the cracks that paint its blushing face.

The juice cans all strung up.

We have locked in a glass house

the music of the spheres.


This mirror holds no trace.

The more you look, the less desert,

the less cool evening dash,

the less story and escape,

the more it’s just you. Here.

You a story that creates you.


Her tweezers are here too.

Maybe she doesn’t need them, but maybe

slivers so tiny they’re felt and not seen

pierce her skin and she has no choice

but to let them inside.


BORDER CANTOS (first draft) by Mighty Mike McGee

(after Richard Misrach’s photo, Border Patrol Target Range, Boca Chica Highway, Lower Rio Grande National Wildlife Refuge, Texas, 2013)
As you can see

there are no people here

One must understand that

we trained to shoot paper

to think ourselves poets

merely aiming our pens at nameless outlines 

editing our thoughts

into these already very sad poems

on posters bleached by an ever watching sun

one that only punishes those that dawdle
Some targets are small

to represent distance

from us

in space

and age
There are no people here in this




just things that pray that

they won’t become prey
It is not lost on us

that even the sun forgives

those that run
There are no people here

Just paper dolls that never run

Even in the rain

Pulling a trigger is a lot easier

when the target is an advertisement

for what you think is the opposite of your life

a photo negative of your identity

a representation of poor choices

made before they were born
Put it all down on paper

make if official

make it federal

might as well be names in a phone book written

in a language learned as

a job requirement
In Spanish, I legally only allowed to give you directions

back to where you came from

Behind you

or below you
There are no people here

just flyers for the future dead

Stacks and stacks of phone books

full of names and numbers

Trying to infiltrate our way of life

to change what must never change
Those trained to shoot paper

are making confetti and

It too is not lost on us

that we are keeping this country free

from the tyranny

of next door neighbors

of other exemplary work ethics

of nearly identical family values
We can understand why they want

to join our team

But you don’t keep winning

by adding more losers
When the target is of no use anymore

we can use the corners

to wipe the 4th of July enchilada sauce

off of our faces

So that we can smile over

this empty refuge

And when people do show up

I am surprised they didn’t hear me editing

Burning the midnight oil
There are no people here

Nothing stays unless I make it so

I only see things getting smaller

I only see paper

just magazines of unpublished poetry

and birds that head south

and cold blooded creatures

that crawl and hide
When you are trained to shoot at paper

You should accept that you will never write a poem worth reading
We shoot at paper

nothing more than

disowned poetry and yesterday’s newspaper

being punctuated very fast

very loudly

We edit these poems

day and night

Because—as much as we’d like to—we cannot control

when inspiration

will come to us
I am sorry for your uncle

I am sorry for your great grandmother

But I only saw paper


Poetry Invocation at San Jose City Council In honor of National Poetry Month

Thank you to San Jose City Councilmember Manh Nguyen for inviting me to share poetry for the invocation at the April 5th meeting.

SV Creates Artist Laureate Event
I was honored to share a poem in collaboration with dancer Olivia Esparza to welcome folks to the event honoring the SV Creates Artists Laureate on April 11 at the School of Arts and Culture @MHP.

Olivia is the daughter of Artist Laureate Pilar Aguero Esparza and Chris Esparza. With the help of Chris we were able to pull off the big surprise of Olivia’s performance along with my poem. Congratulations to all the honorees: Pilar, Demone Carter, Shannon Wright, Natalya Burd, Ron Gasparinetti, and Kevin Hauge!

A POETree poem from March


We are writing sunshine on Easter morning,

Where I meet the poets of my barrio.

It’s true. The littlest things are love.

The color of my sadness is blue,

The city where I live is busy. My name means water.

God is red sky love and today my name means springtime.

I am Kirill, Lizzie, Asher, Mallika, Aida, Lisa, Chesna, Ashley and Zoe.

Whatever my name is, I am a person who loves dogs.  It’s simple. Today is the day I put pharmaceuticals out of business.

Let’s go to Nepal. The skies are blue there.


Thanks to Daniel Garcia, David C. Perez and Content Magazine for including me  in the current issue!

Kuwentuhan/Talk Story Project led by Barbara Jane Reyes and Poetry Center SF supported by the Creative Work Fund

I participated with poets Barbara Jane Reyes, Angela Narcisso Torres, Javier O. Huerta, Lehua Taitano, Urayoan Noel and Aimee Suzara in an intense four-day poetry residency during April 20-23 in San Francisco. Here is a write up of the project in SF Gate.

May Events

SJSU Legacy of Poetry Day on May 5th

Please join us at Hammer Theatre Center for the annual event featuring SJSU students, faculty, staff and alumni readings; Pachanga on the Paseo: A Roving Spectacle of Public Art; and Poets Laureate reading featuring our US Poet Laureate Juan Felipe Herrera!

Full details here.

Out of Our Minds with Rachelle Escamilla May 4  8-9pm   Tune in! I will be talking story and sharing poems along with Darrell Dela Cruz and Rachelle Escamilla.

Well-RED at WORKS/San Jose  May 10  8:30-9:30pm  WORKS/San Jose 

ImagineSJ Showcase #8 – Poetry  May 12   7:30-9pm   Anno Domini Gallery

Lips Uncurled, Eyes Forward  May 14   3-7pm    School of Arts and Culture @MHP 

Poetry Center San Jose presents REED Book Launch

Flash Fiction Forum on May 18

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April is National Poetry Month!


This April marks the 20th anniversary of National Poetry Month!
I wanted to highlight some resources, local contests and upcoming events:

April 21st is Poem in Your Pocket Day

Call for submissions: Santa Clara County Public Library’s Teen Poetry Contest. One winner from each library will be chosen in the following categories: Grades 6-8 (Middle School), Grades 9-12 (High School). Last day to submit your entry is April 30, 2016. Click here for details. 


7th Annual Poetry Invitational at San Jose Museum of Art

Thursday, April 21, 2016  7–8 PM Admission is $5 after 5 PM (free to members) Art inspires art at the annual Poetry Invitational sponsored by SJMA and Poetry Center San Jose. Every year, SJMA invites Bay Area poets to visit the Museum and create new poems inspired by the artworks on view. Hear them read their rhythmic words in the galleries and gain new perspectives on the visual arts as you listen. Poetry readings begin at 7 PM. The galleries are open 5–8:30 PM

So happy to invite these poets to join me in sharing new work inspired by the current exhibitions at SJMA: Lorenz Dumuk, Asha Sudra Finkel, Mighty Mike McGee, David C. Perez, Nils Peterson, Janice Sapigao, Ann Sherman, and Amanda Williamsen.

Wednesday, April 6, 2016  7 PM

The Center for Literary Arts presents Andre Dubus III Reading 


Tuesday, April 12, 2016   7–9 PM

Well-RED at Works/San Jose presents Media Poetry Studio Poetry Center San Jose and Works/San Jose present student work from Media Poetry Studio.

New Date: Thursday, May 12, 2016, 7pm 

ImagineSJ Showcase #8: Poetry at Anno Domini.  Join me and other poets at this event moderated by Mighty Mike McGee.  

 Saturday, April 16, 2016  

The Burning Tale One Year Anniversary at Studio Bongiorno  
Thursday, April 21, 2016  7pm 

The Willow Glen Poetry Project Third Thursday Poetry Reading  


March POETree Pop Up
POETree Pop Up at Mountain View Farmers’ Market on March 27th was hopping with kids and adults contributing verse and drawings for the POETree! (Of course I had to include a bunny reference, it was Easter and there was an egg hunt!) I will include the collaborative poem in the next blogpost.   

San Jose City Council Invocation on Tuesday, April 5 at 1:30pm, City Hall’s Council Chambers. I will perform the invocation at the San Jose City Council Meeting.

Silicon Valley Creates Artist Laureate Awards on Monday, April 11 at 6:30pm, School of Arts and Culture at MHP. Honored to open the celebration with a poem! The SVLaureate Awards recognize exceptional achievement in the arts and contribution to the cultural life of Silicon Valley.

Kuwentuhan (Talk Story): A project of The Poetry Center and Barbara Jane Reyes, April 21-23 (at various locations) 

Introducing New Poets Laureate!

Please join me in welcoming Stan Garber, Los Gatos Poet Laureate and Amanda Williamsen, Cupertino Poet Laureate.  Coming soon: Inaugural Poet Laureate of Mountain View (yet to be appointed).

I look forward to collaborative projects with former and current laureates, including a summertime reception. Stay tuned!

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March News and Announcements

POETree Pop Up at PEET’s Coffee & Tea in Sunnyvale!

 We kicked off the POETree Pop Up at PEET’s on February 27th. Thanks to store manager Salina Gonzalez for setting us up along with a coffee tasting. We had people of all ages create some verse to adorn the tree and contribute to a collaborative poem: 


If it could, it would

What if my dog could shape shift into a unicorn. What if coffee sang soprano. Before I die, I want to meet Brad Paisley.

What if the sky was amarillo during the day and azul at night. To see the swirl of forest sky at dawn and dusk.

My name means “heavens from the sky” If I could, I’d be a paleontologist and teleport anywhere with my light saber. 

Before I die, I want to have a conversation with Chef Steph Curry. My happiness is blue. I wish for nothing.

My name means “bound to others”             If I could, I would go back in time.       What if I could become invisible.

What if everything was opposite.  My sadness would be a purple skydive.             My name means “moon goddess”

My name means “victorious people”            I wish it would ring out haiku. If I could, I would be an oceanographer for peace.

If I could, I would.





The next POETree Pop Up will be at the Mountain View Farmers Market (CalTrain Station) on Sunday, March 27 – 10 to noon.  (Yes, Easter! There will be an egg hunt, too!)

Reading with our US Poet Laureate Juan Felipe Herrera in Washington DC for Poets Unite!   

I had the honor of participating in Poets Unite! with current US Poet Laureate Juan Felipe Herrera and poet Diana Garcia, culminating in a reading at the Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery on March 8th. The project commissioned us to write ekphrastic poems in response to the landmark exhibition, “One Life: Dolores Huerta” curated by Taina Caragol, Ph.D. The project was co-sponsored by Letras Latinas, literary initiative at the University of Notre Dame’s Institute for Latino Studies, Library of Congress Hispanic Division, National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Center and Smithsonian Latino Center.



Other News

April will be packed with events for National Poetry Month, so I will likely post again in just a few more weeks as we head into April. For now, these local events upcoming this month:

Poets@Play at Markham House, Sunday, March 13, 1-4pm. Hosted by Poetry San Jose.

Third Thursday Poetry Reading at Willow  Glen Public Library featuring Wendy Taylor Carlisle. Thursday, March 17, 7pm. Hosted by Poetry Center San Jose.

The Burning Tale at Studio Bongiorno. Mighty Mike Mcgee will facilitate a writing workshop on Friday, March 18, from 4-6pm, with features and open mic at 8pm.


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Wishing everyone a Happy New Year!  For my first blog post I’m happy to highlight some upcoming events:

Saturday, February 6 — 7:30-10pm at Cafe Pink House 14577 Big Basin Way, Saratoga, 95070

cafe pink house.jpg

Music at Large was originally created by composer/saxophonist/poet Lewis Jordan. Through the years performers from a wide background have been included in Music at Large interdisciplinary productions. Recently, as an ensemble, Music at Large has performed throughout the San Francisco Bay Area with the participation of many creative artists. For 2016 Music at Large has taken form as a composers collective. The artists bring in original works of music and poetry reflective of the diversity of each artist’s background and cultural roots.
The ensemble members include:
Grammy award-winning musician John-Carlos Perea featured on Native-American Flutes, percussion and electric bass;
Masaru Koga playing saxophones, Brazilian percussion and Japanese Shakuhachi;
Karl Evangelista, electric guitar;
Jimmy Biala, drum set and percussion;
Lewis Jordan, saxophones and poetry.
For the ensemble’s first performance in 2016 the ensemble will feature special guest artist, poet Arlene Biala, winner of the 2015 American Book Award and newly appointed Poet Laureate of Santa Clara County.

Tickets are $15 and reservations are recommended!

Sunday, February 7 — 2-4pm at San Jose Quilt Museum  520 S. First Street, San JoseFiber poetry.jpg

Sunday, February 14 — 4-6pm at Cafe Stritch  374 S. First St, San Jose, 95113

Poetry Center San Jose goes Boho

PCSJ takes Valentine’s Day
from concert hall to Café Stritch, downtown San Jose’s hot spot for awesome food, coffee,
craft beer, music, and art!

Nils Peterson and Sally Ashton bring the poetry—
For This Hour Singers bring the song—
You bring hearts, broken or full—
Come as you are.

Valentine’s Day 2016
Free Admission
Love is all there is.

Come early to enjoy the Bar and the Art.
Check out the Café Stritch Menu
Stay for dinner
Live Jazz at 8pm

Validated Parking in Park SJ Lots


Other News:


On January 29th at Gavilan College I had the honor of being a judge for the Santa Clara County Poetry Out Loud Finals. These young poets are amazing! Thank you to John Heyl at Gilroy Early College Academy for your commitment to the program and coordinating such a fine event. I look forward to helping this program grow throughout the County!


Handing Over the Reigns (but “Handing Over the Rains” makes for an intriguing poem title . . .)

My thanks to David Perez for ensuring a smooth (as possible!) transition from his laureateship news on this blog over to my own.  In the coming weeks I will announce the schedule for the POETree pop-up project, along with other events, heading your way. . .



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