Tell Tell Interview Series: Sheila Maldonado on Harnessing the Power of Pop Culture and Music in Poetry.

Poet Sheila Maldonado Chats with Tell Tell Poetry about harnessing the power of pop Culture and music in poetry. Don't miss our interview below for all the deets!

Poet and creator Sheila Maldonado takes us inside the collaborative world of her poetic practice and the multimedia layers of her latest poetry collection, that’s what you get! “It’s the image. It’s the image first,” Sheila tells us, “it’s not weird to go into other arts . . . they talk to each other, that’s the deal.” We’ll learn a Maya word, get a wonderful lists of new collections to check out and more in this interview with Tell Tell Poetry!

About Sheila Maldonado

Sheila Maldonado is the author of that’s what you get (Brooklyn Arts Press, 2021) as well as one-bedroom solo (Fly by Night Press/A Gathering of the Tribes, 2011). She was born in Brooklyn and grew up in Coney Island, New York, across the street from the Atlantic Ocean. Her family hails from Honduras. Her poems have appeared in Gulf Coast, Ping Pong, Rattapallax, and Callaloo, and online at Luna Luna, Hyperallergic, and Aster(ix) Journal. They have been anthologized in Bettering American Poetry Vol. 3, The Breakbeat Poets Vol. 4: LatiNext, Brooklyn Poets Anthology, The Wandering Song: Central American Writing in the United States, Word: An Anthology by A Gathering of the Tribes, and Me No Habla with Acento: Contemporary Latino Poetry. She is a CantoMundo fellow and a Creative Capital awardee as part of desveladas, a visual writing collective. She has served as an artist-in-residence on Governors Island, New York for the Lower Manhattan Cultural Council and a Cultural Envoy to Honduras for the U.S. State Department. She teaches English for The City University of New York and has led residencies for Teachers & Writers Collaborative and National Book Foundation. She holds degrees in English from Brown University and creative writing/poetry from The City College of New York. She lives in a one-bedroom in uptown Manhattan where she is working on an ongoing project about a lifelong obsession with the ancient Maya.

Interview transcript

Layla Benitez-James: All right, hey there, this is Layla Benitez-James for Tell Tell Poetry. I’m here with New York poet, Sheila Maldonado. Sheila Maldonado is the author of the newly released poetry collection, that’s what you get, recently out with Brooklyn Arts Press this past February 2021. And about the book, one of my favorite poets, Dawn Lundy Martin said, “Using humor, language play, and innovative visual strategies, Sheila Maldonado takes on the full range of human experience, from familial love to pain and grief in the wake of racial injustice, quoting, ‘history, a fugitive in the womb.’” And she goes on to say, “It’s also a reinvention of Frank O’Hara’s talking poems but in Maldonado’s poems, there’s something at stake, a steady, beautiful rage brewing just below the surface.” And then, taking it back, her debut poetry collection, one bedroom solo, which I loved, was published by Fly By Night Press, A Gathering of the Tribes in 2011. She was born in Brooklyn and raised in Coney Island, New York across the street from the Atlantic Ocean. Her family hails from Honduras. Her poems have appeared in Gulf Coast, Ping Pong, Rattapallax and Callaloo and online at Luna Luna, Hyperallergic and Aster Journal. Her poems have also been anthologized in Bettering American Poetry, Vol III, The Breakbeat Poets, Volume IV, LatiNext, Brooklyn Poets Anthology, The Wondering Song, Central American Writing in the United States, Word and Anthology by a Gathering of the Tribes and Me No Habla with Acento, contemporary Latino poetry. She has been a CantoMundo fellow and a Creative Capital awardee as part of the desveladas visual writing collective, and she has served as an artist in residence on Governors Island, New York, for the Lower Manhattan, Cultural Council and cultural Envoy to Honduras for the U.S State Department. She currently teaches English for the City University of New York and, as a teaching artist, has led residencies for teachers and writers collaborative and the National Book Foundation. She holds degrees in English from Brown University and creative writing poetry from the City College of New York. She lives in a one bedroom in uptown Manhattan where she is working on an ongoing project about lifelong obsession with ancient Maya. Sheila, thank you so much for joining me today.

Sheila Maldonado: Thank you for having me. That was exhausting, I’m exhausted. I want to get in my bed now.

LBJ: Well that’s good, you can take a little, a slight break because we’re actually going to . . . I’d love to start with one of your visual poems. So I’m going to do a screen share and let us have a look at that:

Video: In this pod, this vessel, a crack known only to mice and water bugs, reverting to roller coaster origins, one high hour, one low, ♪ World that’s so cold, world that’s so cold. ♪ All the music they leave behind, I hope I leave enough music behind, and it is wrong to think you are nothing? You have nothing to contribute as it to think you are everything that none of it could be without you. I am the night keeper, timebreaker. Shouldn’t go to bed without singing. All we have is our devotion. How we earn our spots on the floor, flesh answering rhythm in waves, body cracked dumb. ♪ I put in work, and watch my status escalate. ♪

Disciple of spin tame a loose planet in the orbit of my skirt here to become the glyph slip into the wormhole of my hip, my neck, my back ♪ And I give in to ♪ ♪ The rhythm of my feet, oh oh ♪

Scratch the slur, beat the word string talking to wind syllables, notes, spirits as they are uttered. I insisted on the dark city now persist in the dark city. Where am I? Did I live? Have I lived? I’m okay to go into a dimension of vast idiocy, don’t care if the neighbors see a rush of skin from their window, my body taking off.

LBJ: Yes. Yeah. I love that. I’ve watched that video so many times now, so you don’t . . .

SM: This time last year, that was this time last year.

LBJ: So good. Well we were talking a little bit about before we started recording about just how strange it’s been to be creative in the pandemic and be creative in the different spaces. You don’t limit yourself to poetry on the white page, and I thought maybe we could start by talking about how you’ve mixed media with video and music in your work. And I’ve been wondering, when did that start for you or is that how you . . . how it started for you? Because you were doing that before you know, before pandemic stuff, but certainly in the pandemic being in our homes, video media became . . .

SM: Yeah, yeah, it was, it was definitely before this because of social media. I mean really I just have to deal with that, fess up to it. It was Facebook and Instagram, especially Facebook and Instagram. It started with Facebook albums really, ten . . . how long have I been on Facebook now? I’ve never left Facebook. I’m one of those people who was just an idiot and stays on Facebook. And it’s because it’s my . . . it’s the platform of my age range. Twitter is just too young for me. I don’t do well on Twitter. Too many words also. Instagram, I can’t believe how much I love Instagram. I mean, I never thought I would be that person quite, but it’s all just a social media. The albums make you organize those photos. At first, like in the beginning of the aughts . . . the tens, excuse me, there were a lot of these Facebook albums, and I would just make a bunch. And one of them, this one that I did in Honduras. I think for a couple of friends who are also artist people noticed it. And that’s how I got started with desveladas, with the visual writing collective that we got a grant for. We’re always sort of stalled on the project, but it’s an idea that the visual writing thing came from a lot of the social media stuff. And it started with this one Facebook album that had to do with the fact that I was [in Honduras] during the coup in 2009. I made this Facebook album that was kind of like a poem and that really is the beginning. And then Instagram is the next part of that, the next level of it, and stories. Sometimes you’re just putting up random things but sometimes you are actually making a story or a poem, you know? So that’s really how these things happened. And I think even with that video, you know a very good friend of mine, this artist, Gabriel García Román who I’ve done some work with, including this Maya mural thing. That is a whole other project. He’s big on Instagram, and he’s definitely an influence, and his stories right now are complete, he should get a grant just for his stories. For his stories, he really should.

LBJ: Yeah.

SM: So that’s, you know, I see people do stuff with those forms. I think of them as forms and I’m just very impressed by it, and I want to copy it.

LBJ: Yeah, yeah, no, I love that. That’s something that I’ve been wanting to experiment with more, and also just like taking everything seriously. I think sometimes, you know we talked about with one-bedroom solo how you had the TV show Frasier in there. And I think a lot of times people have this like either/or mentality but that’s what you get has an epigraph from Will & Grace and URL links. I had the digital copy and jumped to the Biz Markie, and it just . . . the collection felt really contemporary without feeling lightweight at all which is a bit like that Dawn Lundy Martin quote. Can you talk about striking that balance? Is that just a natural thing that happened in your work that people have commented on, or are you trying to?

SM: Well, I’m glad. I mean, I’m really happy that that’s the tone. I think I’ve gotten the comment that the tone on it is good, that it works and that it’s a good mix. And I did fear it being too light or I think more of too light than too heavy.

LBJ: Yeah.

SM: And you know, I’m from this place, or my family is from this place, Honduras, and I think people really expect very heavy shit from . . .

LBJ: Right.

SM: And I don’t know who they’re talking to because I don’t really know how you live if you’re really immersed in all the heavy shit. And I actually, I know that I’m from people who I think, to deal with that heavy shit, are light . . . are kind of a little too jokey sometimes. Like honestly, Hondurans are a little too jokey. Like, they will joke their asses through a dictatorship. And so, that’s a little bit much, but you know that is how it is. And even though I feel like an American, and I am American, I know that my sensibilities are from people who have gone through way too much and just are like, fuck it, we’re going to crack a joke about it. Or we’re going to attach ourselves to light things like American pop culture to get through, you know? And I feel like that. American pop culture has been an education. Like as much as anything, if not more, you know, it is, I think, really how the United States runs the world is through its cultural output, with the pop cultural output especially. You know, to me, that’s what raised me. That’s what I understand. That’s the language I speak, and so be it. I was always . . . I would stay concerned about the lightness, but not really. Part of me is like, you know, I say it’s a survival tactic and a friend of mine was like, I know you think you’re light, but it seems like you want to be light despite, you know, the shit that’s happening, or the shit that’s happening gets in the way of you wanting to be light,

LBJ: Yeah!

SM: There’s always a black in the book. Like at some point, you’re like . . . I think that’s why I like Dawn Lundy’s quote. The thing about Frank O’Hara and the stakes. I’m from that school, and I do like a lot of New York School stuff, and I had a good teacher who was awesome from that kind of thing. But I remember wanting to write this poem over and over about: I wish I could be detached and kind of Buddhist and Dada, like everybody. And I am. Then, there’s too much other shit. There’s like all the sort of stuff that people of color, women of color, or as you know, also writing from . . . which I think I was trying to escape . . . the trauma all that stuff, you know, like just the trauma of being some marginalized Thing, I’m not great at writing it. I really feel I’m not as good as other people. I think other people do that. I think other people will do that, and I can give you some light, distracting shit that’s running away from the trauma, but there’s still trauma, you know? I just don’t know how to deal with it. So . . .

LBJ: No, but it works, it works. This book . . . like it really . . . I mean, I’ll tell people to read it, but also like, reread it. With the images, everything is, I don’t know, it is, it’s sneaky. I like whoever said you’re trying to write about light stuff, and the heavy stuff is just like, you know, keeps knocking on the door. And I was thinking too how one-bedroom solo didn’t have as much of a Spanish influence or didn’t have that same level of multilingualism that this new collection has. Was that also just you letting more of the world in?

SM: Oh really? I didn’t . . . I was afraid this one didn’t, okay. I can’t tell, I don’t know.

LBJ: Oh yeah, no, I thought this one had more.

SM: The second one you think?

LBJ: Yeah, yeah, the second one has a bit more, I think.

SM: Oh, wow. Okay. I haven’t, you know, I was like, I guess you have this idea of your book in your head, and you don’t know how it gets received. So, I thought I didn’t have enough songs. I had a few songs in one-bedroom solo, and that, to me, was the way the Spanish got in, or other language. And there’s Garífuna in there too, but like, I think my niece said something like, you know, she said it about me in general, but, I think she had actually read the books. So, I was like, oh, look at you, you read the book. And she was like, you know how you sort of throw Spanish in there like you don’t even know where it’s coming from, it just sort of happens? I was like, yeah. Yes. So I realized that that does happen. Like there’s stray lines that I just sort of start a poem with Spanish and then abandon it and I don’t translate.

LBJ: Yeah, no, that’s good though.

SM: You know? Yeah. I think that’s how it functions for me. I mean, that’s how I talked to my mother. My mother understands English, but we’re between both all the time, all the time. And she speaks just fine. Like she has a heavy accent, but she speaks more now in this point of her life than she ever has. So it’s really the way I speak to my mom, which is, you know, we’ll do it whenever. It’s not like I’m going to do it for you the way it’s supposed to be formally or whatever, italicized and translated, you know my general audience is my friends and my family and that’s a lot of immigrants and people who speak other languages and people of color and kids and those kinds of folks. It’s not really, you know, I have some white friends. Yes, I do. But like they should . . .  they know the world I’m in, and they know how I speak and I’m, you know, I’ll translate if I want to.

LBJ: Yeah, that’s good. And then I’m going to pop up a little bit of your book again, actually, just to get at that image, because I want to ask you a bit about how the “bike-kus” and these images came about. Like, I know you were saying that you were . . . I guess Facebook, and social media in general, just made you think about images in a new way and raising it to that level of art, but could you talk a bit about how you put these together and I mean like visually on the page, as well as crafting.

SM: Totally Facebook, first of all, totally. If you want to go to April 2014 in my Facebook albums, this is the Facebook album. I don’t even know how I put those pictures . . .  how did I put those words on? I do a lot of anthologies. I used to for Teachers and Writers Collaborative. I was a teaching artist for a long time with them, and you make anthologies on Word and you’re making anthologies of children’s writing and you get children’s art and you put it next to their poems, and Word has capabilities to do that. So you just fuck with Word, and you can change the font on it. They were going to be haiku, basically. You know, I think social media is great for haiku, all that, like Twitter was literally almost the size of a haiku for the longest time. I mean, people are annoyed and bored sometimes when you try to get poetic in your captions, but I still do it when I feel that it’s happening, like when I have a little series of pictures that are like working together and this one, I’m sure I actually went over these haiku a million times with my editor because he also loves haiku. And he just decided to tell me all these things about haiku. And I was like, no, no, no, no, no. I know a haiku too. And so we were tearing these apart for like weeks and months, and I was so annoyed, but these are the kind of things that held up the book. But yeah, this is literally a Facebook album that I tweaked haiku on and made pages out of with Word I’m sure. Because I really don’t even know how to use Photoshop.

LBJ: I mean, I love it. At Tell Tell Poetry a lot of times we’re trying to give advice to people starting out. But one of the most exciting things I think about social media is that a lot of people are writing very poetically without really knowing that they are, whether or not it’s from the Twitter character limit or just captioning different things. And this is, I think, the first time that I’ve seen it in an actual on the page poetry page though, and it was really exciting because I think there’s no reason that we shouldn’t, you know, think that these forms aren’t forms.

SM: Oh yeah, they’re totally forms. I think there’s a lot of people doing it. I just, I mean I have a friend who’s also like, don’t give it all away. This one won’t be the same friend. This is my friend Ndlela Nkobi. Who is my collaborator a lot, he’s a filmmaker. He shows up in the book a bit, and he’s the person I acknowledge kind of first. And you know, he’s always annoyed that I’m giving it all away on social media. Because they can someday just say, we own you. And they do, you know. So you try not to give it all away. I don’t know how people can really output all the time on these things AND write. Now, I think I put a lot out but not all the time. I don’t think I’m all the time. Twitter is definitely the worst to me. I can’t with Twitter and I am . . . it’s a lot of writing, so I don’t know how the writers really do it. Like people who write theirs. I mean, you know for a while there were like whole essays and stuff. There’s still some. Who was dude who did that? Was really about the essay.

LBJ: On Twitter you mean?

SM: Yes. The guy . . . Open City . . . Teju Cole.

LBJ: Oh yes. Yeah.

SM: Teju Cole did like, was really about that Twitter essay years ago, you know,

LBJ: It allows you to test drive stuff as well. Like you’re almost, you’re getting free feedback in a lot of ways, I mean, you can also, you know, throw it out into the void and no one pays any attention to it.

SM: Sure, sure.

LBJ: But there is a way that when things are going viral, talk about not needing to pitch that to an outlet after you can just show them a screenshot of people’s reactions to it. And it’s like, there’s the audience

SM: It is totally, it’s totally an audience. And I think that’s in some ways where my tone comes from too. I’m aware of the social media audience and that mix. So I, yeah, I’m really a creature of the time sadly and not sadly, you know,

LBJ: Oh no, not sadly.

SM: I mean, it’s weird to put it in the book though, you know.

LBJ: Yep.

SM: Because the things don’t move like they do on the screen, but still it’s accessible to people because of that, which is always something I want to be in some way. I want to be awkward and hidden a little, but I also want to be accessible. I don’t want to be totally academic, basically. That’s the thing I don’t want to be like, oh that’s a terrible thing to say, but . . .

LBJ: No, I think it’s good. There’s a lot of posturing and snobbishness that goes into trying to eschew social media. But I was thinking too, of the article you wrote about teaching with blues poems and how that wasn’t considered a “high art” form for a long time, and now there’s a lot of academic writing about it that’s kind of “legitimized” it.

SM: Right. But people didn’t read; that was the oral tradition, I mean, and I’m from that too. Like my family doesn’t read, like I get to write. I mean, I should be writing more revealing stuff, because my family wouldn’t read it. I would be just fine. They might not sue me, because they wouldn’t open that book, but maybe they would because it’s about them. You know, my parents, my mom didn’t finish school, didn’t really go to school. Like she went to school to third or fourth grade or something.

LBJ: Yeah, wow.

SM: And my father went to high school and wanted to go to college but never did, and he went late. Like he graduated high school really late. Like in his twenties, they were in Honduras. You know, my father was the one who was more about education and aspirational that way. But there’s something about that. And I teach, I always say, I teach my parents. Like the people I teach in community college in New York are like my parents, they have really varying degrees of literacy, and I’m talking to people that are dealing with that, like varying degrees of literacy who want access and to feel comfortable. I deal with a lot of literacy anxiety, because everyone is an immigrant and everyone, you know, so I’m from that too. So pop culture is definitely educational. Then TV is educational, and that’s where you’re learning all these things for better or for worse. So, that’s where my language comes from. And I did go to some fancy schools and then whatever, read some fancy things, they broke me to, like they kind of broke me, like, I just really, I get it now. I think I got some of the higher level stuff more in grad school. And when I was trying to write my own poems, but like when you apply it, when you put it in the art then I get theory and things like that. But I remember losing my mind in college trying to understand theory and really, really feeling that. And not even just losing my mind, but feeling excluded by the language and, you know, really taking it personal. I just was like, you don’t want me to understand this. That’s what it is.

LBJ: Yeah. Well, and sometimes it keeps you from the page as well. I’m thinking about if you could give advice to somebody who’s starting out but who wants to work with mixed media poetry or wants to make videos or wants to mix different stuff? Like what would you do . . . or what do you tell your students?

SM: You know, it’s funny, I haven’t really taught the mixed media so much yet. I should, I guess, you know it’s sort of like, it feels instinctual. So it’s hard to teach. Obviously I started a lot with the picture, which is . . .  I don’t know if that’s a good thing or not. Like When I was dealing with desveladas, we tried to write a graphic novel and you learn that all these things are really scripts that become pictures. So the word comes first, but I like picture first. So that’s been a different thing, and it is the picture that defines what I’m going to write. So that’s how that works for me. I just dig in my phone because the phone of course has become like a journal and more of a journal than my journal. Like I have a picture for every day, for like years, for years. It’s crazy. And I mean, that’s what happened with smartphones in the last ten years and all that . . . ten, fifteen years. And I can’t believe that’s who I’ve become, that I really became such an animal of this this little toy. For me, that’s where I’d start, I guess, you know like take it, you know, whatever strikes your fancy that day. Like, what is, that’s your thought. That’s your straight thought. And it’s almost like more, like I say, instinctual and innate than a word, the image, you know? So that’s, that’s always where I start, but yeah, I don’t know. For instance, for that video I was influenced by Gabriel who was always posting himself dancing. Right. And so I was like, I’m making some dance videos too. We missed that. We were big clubby people. We loved going out and dancing. And so I just literally went in my phone and looked for all the dance videos that I did that were horizontal because horizontal is supposedly the better look. You know, that’s how it’s supposed to be. But then I had another filmmaker person who said, no it doesn’t matter. But anyway, so literally just found five or so and strung them together and put them on iMovie and just slapped them together.

LBJ: Oh, wow. Yeah. Right. So just like editing it yourself.

SM: Yeah. Yeah. And didn’t even worry about things like copyright, which those music pieces are copyright issues, you know, but other people worry about these things, I don’t mind stealing all the time, as long as you do it well. And I just literally put five videos together, and then the decision on the words was, well, I couldn’t write during the pandemic, truthfully. I could edit though. And I think that I could do . . . I couldn’t make new things, but I mean, we’re still in it, and I’m sort of writing, but what I did was take old poems. Those are old pieces of old poems. I didn’t really . . . there’s like a couple of connectors that are new, like connecting lines but mostly there’s snippets of, I don’t know, ten poems. Five or so from one-bedroom solo and five or so from that’s what you get. So, in a way, it’s kind of a preview of the books or a previous book. And so that’s what I do. I was like, let me look up all my dance poems. I have a lot of poems that have to do with music and dance. And that’s how it started. The beginning, I think was totally new like those first few lines, but most of it is made of pieces of work. So it’s like a little Frankenstein poem. Collage. That’s how it was; it was collagey and just piecing it to see what works. And does it have, you know, that last video with me stepping out the window really was like, you know I didn’t want it to be all danced, but I want it to be some kind of movement and what I was doing in the house. And that was it. I just was like, what works? What doesn’t? You know, again, it’s hard to teach a little bit, but then not. I guess I started with iMovie, and for the wording I went to DaVinci Resolve which is a program that my friend, Ndlela again, taught me to use for editing. And it does really cool stuff. For words, it’s a little difficult, but not so much. I mean, clearly if I could do it I think anyone could do it. But I think other people do, like I forget what they do for filmmaking. Oh geez. I forget the other programs, but I just played with the Word stuff and you can move text up and down on it. It’s really fun. So you get into this, and that’s what, even with desveladas with my friends Nelly, and Macarena, like when we were trying to make some of this stuff you realize you kind of get into the technical parts of it more than the writing. Like you have the writing, but then the writing is the launch to other things, you know, launched you into other things. And you hope the writing is good. Like, I mean, you’re generally writers, like me, and Macarena, and Nelly, we’re all writers to begin with. I think we have a good base there so that if you move on to the other things, like the photo editing and the film editing, like at least you have a base in the writing, you know. I’ve had green tea. I just yap away on green tea.

LBJ: No, I love it. You’re . . . I’m honestly . . . I’m thinking like, oh, I want to do this. I want to do this. Like, I need to, I need to start!

SM: iMovies are really good to start. Like, iMovies is really easy. And everyone has it if you have Apple stuff and it doesn’t do the wording stuff that I got to do on that which a lot of people don’t realize. I think that’s the part they like, and they don’t realize it. There’s a filmmaker guy that I was dealing with who was like, that wording stuff is cool. Like, that’s good.

LBJ: Yeah, it’s really satisfying.

SM: It took a lot of work that I got to zone out and like, really get into it. You do get into a zone of like, does it . . . is it the right amount of words on this little part of the video? And then my favorite part of the video is when I put words on top of me, like, there’s this part where they wind up on top, and that’s cool. We can move words on top of me that like, kind of glyphic in a way there was this quality of feeling like I was making . . .  you know my big obsession always was the Ancient Maya thing that I mentioned in my bios. For me, it’s like I’m a student of these people who are the original writing of the Americas. And the writing is art. The writing is visual, right? Writing is signs. Writing is the meaning and the sound, and the image conveys these things. And it’s the image. It’s the image. It’s the image first. Right. We’re making the sign, and so that to me is . . . that’s all writing. The image is writing. Like, there’s no real . . . you can disconnect them, but they weren’t disconnected when it started, when language starts, for you to interpret language you have to have a sign that has a meaning and a sound. Right. So that is theory. That’s when I’m like, oh shit, I understand theory. Well, if I understand the Maya and what the glyph is, I get that. And then I understand how all of this is art . . . like Tz’i-b, there’s a word Tz’i-b. It’s like “Ix Tz’i-b,” I say that “Ix Tz’i-b,” “she of the writing,” but it’s really, “she of the arts.” Ix means she and Tz’i-b is arts, not really writing or image, it’s all of them together. So that’s why I’m . . .  I think it’s not weird to go into other arts. Because they work. They talk to each other, that’s the deal, you know?

LBJ:  Yeah. And then, I can’t believe we’re just out of time, but we’d love to hear about some of your favorite books and maybe even hear about poets who you think people don’t talk about enough or people who are doing something new, something different . . .

SM: Yeah, there’s so many people. I definitely have been on, this whole pandemic, a lot of the Latinx poets that have been out. Like there was this list by this guy, Urayoán Noel, whose book is also awesome, Transversal. The latest book, what, Urayoán has got like eight books. And he’s a great upholder of Latinx poetry in the United States. He has a great list of folks, and I basically need to get everyone on that list all the time. So right now, there was some Felicia Zamora and Florencia Milito, which Felicia’s in . . . I think she was in Arizona, but she’s Mexican from the U.S, and Florencia is Argentine from California. There’s Janel Pineda who’s Salvadoran from LA who has a chapbook out; it’s so good. Then there’s all these folks from Fresno and Cali. I like a lot of California poets.

LBJ: Yeah, you like the Calis.

SM: I love California poets. You know, I think I don’t know what it is, maybe because there’s a lot of Central Americans there, or they have all the weed. I have no idea, but there’s all these people in Fresno that I love, Sara Borjas and Anthony Cody who has gotten all the awards or all the nominations, that’s Borderland Apocrypha. That’s . . . talk about signs and glyphs. That thing is really experimentally insane and getting awards, it’s so good. And Michael Torres, he’s not from Fresno. He’s from Pomona, which is like LA area. An Incomplete List of Names. Totally, really such a good book. I’ve been reading that. What else? There’s like piles and piles of stuff, but mostly like pretty much everyone that Urayoán Noel puts on that list.

LBJ:  We’ll share that then.

SM: Last year, yeah. He’s only done it twice, but it’s for the Latinx Project and it’s called La Treintena. And he did it for basically all the pandemic books that really kind of suffered in this time. But he really brings us all up. Like he did it for me last year, and then he did it for a whole group of new authors this year. So I would say, look at that list. It’s awesome.

LBJ: Ah, sweet. Well, we’ll share that. And Sheila, thank you so much for joining us today. This was, this was really good.

SM: Thank you. And again I know the green tea had me yapping, so.

LBJ: Oh, you’re good. It’s good. I’m like, I’m going to hyperlink the mess out of all of this.

SM: Good.

Sheila Maldonado’s book recommendations

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