Featured Poetry

Sijo #1
Tinder Child
Josey Cuervo
Hungarian Path
Christ Did Not Know
Before I Knew Sandra
Danses sexuelles; in Praise of Anne
I am the Scarecrow Under Harvest Moon

© 2003 Pedro Trevino-Ramirez

Tryst Intervenes Pedro Trevino-Ramirez

Mia: Pedro, you first submitted your work September 19, 2002 with the following introduction in the form of a brief bio:

Pedro: My name is Pedro Trevino-Ramirez, I am 18 and currently living in Upper Michigan. Writing poetry and prose is the one ambition in my life...even if my name is never known, I'll die happy with a big leather notebook filled with my life outlined in poetic verse. I've most recently been published in Thunder Sandwich and Carved in Sand.

Mia: Since last year we have been working on your feature for almost six months and I must thank you for your endless patience and cooperation. I want to note that along with your poetry, your artwork submissions definitely captured my interest. I’ve studied both your poetry and your art in depth and I am continually amazed by the range and depth of your expression. It’s difficult to sum up your work in a few words given the vast talent you possess. Your writing is unadulterated, raw and pure in form.  I’ve combed through many of your word choices, lines and haven’t found much that doesn’t ring true. One of my favorite poems by you which immediately caught my attention was, “I am the Scarecrow under Harvest Moon.” It’s very lyrical and imagistic. I have read it over several dozen times. What I noticed about "Scarecrow" and your other work is how well controlled the voice and tone are. The tone of your writing is often somber, poignant and sagacious. I mentioned that I felt your poetry had an edge to it. Your response was:

Pedro: I've always thought that it was the very depression and dark beauty that drove me to write the way I do. I think that you're right, it gives me "edge"...I doubt my writing would be the same without it.

Mia: In the very same email, you asked:

Pedro: You mentioned a creative writing program...do you think I would benefit from something like that? My only inhibition is that I would have to attend college and pay thousands of dollars for classes that I have no interest in. The reason I ask you this is because, obviously, you got something from it...and Plath and Sexton both took classes. In case you don't know, Plath is my biggest influence. I have a pocketsize collection of her work 56-63 that I carry with me, must have read every piece a dozen times. Plath! ...and Sappho.

Mia: I have been mulling over your question regarding creative writing programs. I don’t quite know how to address it. I hate to think that Colleges, Writing Workshops, even Forums are the end-all answers to every writer’s hope of becoming a published, professional writer. I’m concerned at times that they may do more harm than aid the writer by disturbing, even “corrupting” what might come naturally to him/her through life’s experience and practice. But by the same token, I believe what these venues do offer is more exposure for your work, valuable input via constructive criticism and introduce you to reading material that you might not otherwise be inspired to read. I think a classroom situation can provide structure and valuable experience through self-directed courses without having to take other required classes. I do know that many writers are literally spit out of college disillusioned, bitter and burnt out. I was one of those students and suffered many years of writer’s blocks after I graduated from college. However, in retrospect, I have no regrets – education may not have turned me into a better writer, but it certainly has given me another facet of experience I can complain about. So in answer to your question, it all depends upon what each individual expects, wants and gets out of an education. Some will fair much better than others. 

When I attended school, I met many notable professors, writers in-residence and managed to get into a Master’s Program before dropping out in my first year.  One of my professors was a personal friend of Sylvia Plath.  A few of the visiting professors were recipients of the Pulitzer Prize and other prestigious literary awards.  But some of the best writing I have read to date was written by my colleagues, classmates in their late teens to early twenties.  So I have had some great experiences in school. You, yourself, have had positive experiences to fall back on:

Pedro: Russell helped me to produce my first chapbook at age 15, "Burnt Petals", which was a collection of angst-ridden, trite garbage...in retrospect. And he also gave me the resources to produce another at age 17, "Sorry about the Girl", which had some much better work, but I still call it garbage.  I've only been submitting since mid-summer of this year, but since then I have been the attribute poet in Meeting of the Minds Journal, which I appeared in twice...published in Thunder Sandwich...Carved in Sand...Panda Poetry...and won the Gryphon quarterly poetry contest, which awards me $100, a year's subscription to Carved in Sand, along with publication of several poems in CIS and Skywriting.

Russell Thorburn was an artist-in-residence at my school and taught me so much about poetry. One of my most prized possessions is his book, "Approximate Desire", signed to me with a personal message from him.

Mia: I, too, came in contact with many writers, professors who influenced me positively. One of those writers is in this issue, Donald Rawley. It helps to be open to criticism, to silence; but even more importantly, it helps NOT to take any kind of rejection from teachers, writers and editors personally. Writers by nature are very sensitive souls and many times they fall in love with other writers, artists and I think it’s important to embrace that part of yourself even if it all turns out to be an illusion of love. If you want to write, then let nothing stop you. Let it become your obsession and I believe that’s what you are saying, too:

Pedro: Poetry is my saving grace also, it’s my life-blood. One thing that worries me is how deep I have to go into my pain to find what I need to write. It’s my fuel, in a way, and if I weren't so mentally ill I don't think I would be able to write anything aside from sappy love poetry. I was reading through the poems that you've accepted. My work has taken major strides in a short time, it seems. I'm going to send you a few of my recent pieces so you can see for yourself...would you mind telling me if the change is a growth or a step back? I've been wondering about it as of late. 

Mia: I don’t believe any change is a step back the way I think you mean it, Pedro—in a negative connotation. Just like time, one can’t go back. It’s a linear progression and whether we choose to accept our writing as stages of growth, or steps back, we’re continually going forward as part of our journey for better or worse. Pertaining to writing, change is essential for any writer to grow up and out. Up implying maturity, and out implying diversity. Who wants to write the same stuff over and over for years even if it is hailed as the critics' top choice? I think it’s too dangerously close to being in a rut. I even believe angst is good for a writer. Really, who hasn’t written Hallmark Jingles, Teen Angst or the “Greatest Love Poem”? We all have, and at the time we were writing them they were what we were feeling; and, those feelings were valid. I can’t understand why anyone would want to deny that part of themselves. But don’t ever ask to see my poetry from my teens. It makes me cringe to this day. Much of it was tormented and wracked with grief. 

Pedro: I can't help but feel like there is absolutely no point to what I do. Maybe I read too much Camus. Maybe I need to adjust my meds. You know what? I think I've hit one of those depression, manias that are the bane of us bipolars. Hell. I feel my writing has taken a horrible turn for the worst...hell. Hell. I'm sorry, need to be quiet.

The days seem to drag by, yet are never long enough. A lot has been going on...deaths in the family, plans to move, running out of wine. I've lost my motivation and drive to write, it would seem. I no longer have any way to receive feedback, no longer have anyone to write for but myself...and though that is a good motivation, sometimes it isn't enough. My most recent pieces have been horrendous and I don't know what to do. The sun is out today. I would rather it not be.

Mia: More often than not what I remember were periods of writer’s blocks, big chunks of them. But these days, I don’t panic or allow myself to spiral into depression because I have noticed that my worrying over them creates a vicious cycle. The more depressed I become over not writing, the more I spin into a writer’s block. I noticed that many of your emails allude to writer’s blocks. I believe writer’s blocks are created by events, external influences beyond our control such as deaths of family members close to you, financial strain, marital woes…etc. I don’t believe writer’s block has anything to do with a lack of talent or creativity. Of course, they could also be related to mental illnesses. In the second issue of Tryst, there is an article about mental illness being related to creative geniuses. To me that makes perfect sense. It takes a lot of thinking to create. Take for example, Einstein. He was a very creative individual. My theory is that mental illness is what gives us a “distorted” view of the world that makes it a tad off and thus allows for originality. Truly, who wants to present the world in “realistic” terms unless you’re a journalist and even they bend the facts of reality a little?

One of the things I admire about your writing is that it is unabashed, sexual and has a “dark beauty,” to borrow your phrase. Your artwork, notwithstanding, also echoes your writing in every way. I consider your writing and artwork a perfect blend - a  visual montage with a command of vocabulary that far exceeds the imagination of most readers, myself included. 

Pedro: Most of my poetry is written in one extreme or the other. Better to say that my writing is either dark and passionate, or light and smooth. Either way, there is always gloom injected into every piece. It's not intentional, I've tried to do otherwise...a recent piece, an untitled love poem, started as just that: a love poem. But after the initial stanzas it turned gloomy, yet still in admiration or love. I have bipolar, which I've always given credit for my dreary disposition. I must say that without my illness, my writing would not exist in the form you know.

I'm a big reader; I'll read nearly anything. At an early age I lost my father, which took away my faith in the religion he had put in me, which was Catholicism. From there I read everything from Buddhist ideas to Plato's dialogues to Jung to Nietzsche...until I had studied enough of religion and philosophy to create within myself my own idea of god. This also created a cynicism and general loathing of organized religion, which is often expressed in my works.

I'm quite cynical. I'm a loner. I often put myself in seclusion...there is no need for company when what is gained from company is either already present or able to be manifested through the self. I do not benefit from others...

...though I'm a hopeless romantic, and in knowing my ideas, I still seek the comfort of another. It contradicts my beliefs completely, but I know that I will not be happy in any form without someone to share myself with. I seek appreciation for who I am. No one has ever appreciated me...not as a partner, not as an artist, not as another soul.

I started writing as a young teenager seeking to find an escape from his emotions. I had a childhood full of beatings and a dead father in my baggage, not to mention a maturing mental illness that drove me to a suicide attempt at age 12. Over the years my writing expanded into a hobby, now it's my life and my only ambition. I had two mentors when I was 14, they taught me all I know and gave me the motivation to write seriously. One was my darling English teacher, the other Russell Thorburn, an established poet who had an interest in me. 

I'm constantly submitting...I figure that the more known I become, the more chance I have of eventually centering my life, successfully, around my writing.

Mia: Thank you, Pedro for granting me the privilege of reading your work and inviting me into your world. And for lack of better words, it is indeed darkly beautiful but essential.


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