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Future Now, A Black & Brown Open Mic & Reading Series

Calling all Black & Brown poets and writers to join us for the launch of FUTURE NOW, a Virtual Open Mic & Reading Series happening every first Thursday month, hosted by Viva Padilla & the Dryland team. The first open mic will take place on April 1st, 2021, featuring readings by Dryland contributors Eva Recinos, Aruni Wijesinghe, and Alexandra Martinez.

We welcome everyone from all over the world to sign up for the open-mic; there are limited spots available so if you’re interested in performing, sign up as soon as possible! Click here for the sign-up sheet and fill out some info about yourself and what you would like to showcase.

Open Mic Guidelines:

  • Be ready to unmute yourself when your name is called and please mute yourself again once you are done sharing. 
  • Open-mic readers will have three minutes to share. Please be respectful of our other readers’ time. We will use the mute button at our discretion. 
  • We will not tolerate any hate speech. (No racism, sexism, homophobia, etc). 

Help us get the word out by sharing the flyer and inviting a friend or two to come hang out!

When: Every first Thursday of the Month

Where: Virtual (Zoom ID: 878 8950 0444)

Time: 7-9 PM PST

This is a great opportunity for anyone looking to showcase their poetry and connect with artists of the Los Angeles community and beyond. For every reading we will also be featuring three poets and writers published in previous issues of the Dryland literary journal.


More info on our readers:

Eva Recinos (Issue 10, 2020)

Eva Recinos is an LA-based arts and culture journalist and creative non-fiction writer focusing on stories that often get left out of mainstream media. Her profiles, features and reviews have appeared in the Los Angeles Times, GOOD, The Guardian, KCET Artbound, Art21, VICE, Bitch, Jezebel and more. She was a 2019 finalist in the LA Press Club awards for Arts & Entertainment Feature (Online). 

Read Eva’s essay featured in issue 10

Aruni Wijesinghe (Issue 10, 2020)

Aruni Wijesinghe (pronounced Wih-jay-SING-hah, Think of the sentence “We’re chasing her” ) is a project manager, ESL teacher, erstwhile belly dance instructor and occasional sous chef. She has been published in anthologies and journals both nationally and internationally and has collections forthcoming with Moon Tide Press and Silver Star Laboratory. She lives a quiet life in Orange County with Jeff, Jack and Josie.

Alexandra Martinez (Issue 10, 2020)

Alexandra Martinez is a baker and poet living in the tumble-weeds of Southern California.

Questions from our IG Followers for Viva Padilla, EIC of Dryland

Thank you to all our Instagram followers for sharing your questions with Editor-in-Chief Viva Padilla of Dryland literary journal.

Viva shares a few tips to help you in your writing journey, overcoming some of the challenges in the publishing world, and how else you can collaborate with us. Remember, submissions to Issue 11 are open until April 20th, 2021. Los editors are hoping to read your best work!

Also, we invite you to join us on Thursday, April 1st, for FUTURE NOW, a virtual Los Angeles Black & Brown reading and open mic series happening every first Thursday of the month. We will be hosting this event via zoom from 7-9 PM PST. For more info & how to sign up, click here. ¡Nos vemos!

What makes a piece stand out the most?

There are at least three things that make a poem stand out that I am conscious about. A poem might have all these things going on that makes it fly or it might just have one: a sincere voice, a succinct use of language, a boldness in it the way it conveys its message without preaching. The thing is to try to hit as many as you can (and more in the spiritual, psychic, and other planes) when you write. Sometimes, though, a poem might hit me in such a way that I can’t describe what happened. That’s usually when I know something must be published. It’s a gut feeling mostly.

Is it bad taste to submit poems written and performed years back?

If a poem has wings, even though a good amount of time has passed, it will still fly.

Will you be publishing other authors’ books in the future?

My plan is to publish poetry collections under Ponte Las Pilas Press and another press I am looking to get together. When is another question. I need to find some poets to publish first. I hope that through the FUTURE NOW reading and open mic series we find our future authors.

When is the last day to submit?

The last day to submit this year is April 20. Last day to submit to our journal we hope never comes. <3

What are the guidelines to submit?

Our submission guidelines are pretty straightforward and easy to follow. You can send us an email or go through Submittable. If you go through Submittable you’re going to have to upload files. Not everyone has subscriptions or access to Microsoft Word so it’s ok if you just type it up in an email and send it like that. You could even take a picture of something handwritten and send it like that if you are in a circumstance where you don’t have 24/7 access to the internet. Send at least one poem; three is better.

Hey love, are you interested in visuals by any chance?

I am always looking for artists to feature on the cover and inside the journal. Right now, there’s no official process, so there’s nowhere to submit for consideration. If you’re an artist, the best thing to do is to just email me with links to your work or DM me.

Editing approaches tips? ¿Consejos?

I think the thing is not to fall in love with your own words. Once you get emotionally attached to the way you wrote something you won’t want to make any changes to it. If you can take an “unemotional” step back and care about how you wrote something, you’ll start to see how great the piece could become.

Aside from submitting, how else can we collaborate?

There is a lot I still want to do, so I’m always itching to collaborate. If you have an idea for a photo essay, short film, podcast, reading, book, play– anything really– that you think I might be down for, just get in contact with me.

What is/was the hardest part of starting a publishing press?

With how cheap the cost of printing a book is nowadays (thanks to print-on-demand), I can’t even say that the funding is the hardest. I think the hardest thing for me is just all the work that is involved beyond creating a book. For a long time I was doing all the social media, PR, maintaining the website, booking authors, organizing readings, all that. Now there’s 4-5 of us working on the whole thing so it’s not just me alone anymore. I think that’s been the hardest but I think it’s also what makes the whole thing work. If we don’t stay connected to the community, the journal doesn’t happen. And if the journal doesn’t happen, no one gets read. 

Dryland Literary Journal Awarded Critical Minded Grant

We are excited to announce that Dryland has been awarded a $5,000 grant from Critical Minded, a grantmaking and learning initiative of The Nathan Cummings Foundation and The Ford Foundation which aims to support critics of color in the United States. The purpose of the initiative is to “build the resources and visibility of cultural critics of color through: direct support to publications and individuals, research, advocacy, and convening.”

Historically, critics of color have been pushed out of cultural and political conversations. In the article “Why Cultural Critics of Color Matter,” Elizabeth Méndez Berry, Director of Voice, Creativity, and Culture at the Nathan Cummings Foundation, wrote: “If we have been made painfully aware of the lack of representation of people of color in the industries that tell us stories, we should also be aware of the lack of representation of people of color in the places where we make meaning of those stories…the majority of full-time critics — at the few media outlets that still have them — are white.”

Through the Critical Minded grant the editors of Dryland are using these funds to publish criticisms from writers of color that challenge narratives, aesthetics, and topics in the arts while engaging in political discourse relevant to our readers. 

We are currently accepting pitches until March 1st, 2021. Accepted pitches will be published in Issue 11. For more information head over to our submissions guidelines.

Tongo Eisen-Martin named San Francisco’s 8th Poet Laureate

The editors of Dryland congratulate Tongo-Eisen Martin for being selected as San Francisco’s 8th Poet Laureate by city Mayor London Breed. 

Eisen-Martin is a previous contributor of Dryland; his poems “I Do Not Know the Spelling of Money” and “I Make Promises Before I Dream” were featured in Issue 10 in 2020. He joins the honorary list of Bay Area poets laureate that include Devorah Major, Alejandro Murguía, and Kim Schuck; In 1998, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, founder of City Lights Books, was the first poet to be awarded the title. 

In 2018, City Lights published Eisen-Martin’s chapbook Heaven is All Goodbyes for their Pocket Poet series, which won several book awards, including the 2018 American Book Award. Born and raised in San Francisco, Eisen-Martin’s latest curriculum on extrajudicial killing of Black people, “We Charge Genocide Again,” has been used as an educational and organizing tool nation wide. 

In a press conference via zoom with Mayor Breed, Eisen-Martin delivered a speech reflecting his commitment to the Bay Area community as a poet, movement worker, and educator in order to create cultural work that is transformative and conducive to liberation. “A poet of any station is secondary to the people. A poet of any use belongs to the energy and consciousness of the people,” he said, “my aim as San Francisco poet laureate is to join with that energy in order to create vehicles of unity. Events, workshops, readings, are all vehicles for unity. I will never tire building as many as this city can handle.”  

His second book in the City Lights Pocket Poet series will be released in fall 2021.

E.M. Franceschini wins 2020 Anzaldúa Poetry Prize

The editors of Dryland congratulate issue 10 contributor Eric Morales Franceschini for his upcoming chapbook “Autopsy of a Fall,” winner of the 2020 Gloria E. Anzaldúa Poetry Prize. The annual award is provided by Newfound, a non-profit publisher based in Austin, Texas. As listed on their website, the prize awards a poet whose work “explores how place shapes identity, imagination, and understanding. Special attention is given to poems that exhibit multiple vectors of thinking: artistic, theoretical, and social, which is to say, political.” 

Franceschini is a previous contributor of Dryland; his poem “Caracoles” was featured in issue 10 in 2020.  The author was born in Puerto Rico and is a former day laborer and U.S. Army veteran who now holds a PhD from UC Berkeley. He is currently an Assistant Professor of English and Latin American Studies at the University of Georgia. His poetry has appeared or is forthcoming in Somos en escrito, Moko, Chiricu, among others.

The Anzaldúa Prize panelists alongside guest judge Marcelo Hernandez Castillo (author of poetry collections Cenzontle and Dulce) chose Franceschini’s chapbook out of three additional finalists. The prize also includes a $1,500 award plus 25 copies of the published manuscript, however, Franceschini is allocating all royalties to the Undocupoets Fellowship Fund and The Colectiva Feminista en Construcción in Puerto Rico.  


“Autopsy of a Fall” will be published by Newfound in fall 2021.   

Community Not Competition: Q&A with Women Who Submit Editors

By Viva Padilla

When it comes to submitting work to literary magazines for publication consideration, there are two strategies:

1. Submit everywhere and submit often.

2. Network with publishers and get solicited.

Creating connections to publishers is a great way for those of us mujeres who prefer to work smarter and not harder in order to get a sure shot at getting published. Women Who Submit recognizes this. Through their organization, with various chapters in the US, Canada, and Mexico, they bring together women/femmes/non-binary folks of color to both submit and network. Earlier this year, WWS released their first anthology ACCOLADES, pre-pandemic, as a celebration of the waves women writers of color have made in the cis white men/women dominated literary landscape.

Viva Padilla hit up the ACCOLADES editors Tisha Reichle-Aguilera and Rachael Warecki to get an inside look at the org.

Viva Padilla: Community not competition seems to be the driving force behind Women Who Submit. How important is community, specifically among women/femmes/non-binary folks, when it comes to all things literary?

Editors: It is everything! The inspiration for this organization was the VIDA Count in 2011, a survey of the lack of gender parity in top tier literary magazines. Our goal is to empower women and non-binary writers to send their work out strategically. We offer in-person (when we can) and online resources for finding the best opportunities for each writer’s work. We also support writers who want to apply to residencies and fellowships. This was our first time as managing editors and what a steep learning curve. We made smart choices early by consulting with Sarah Rafael García of LibroMobile who has curated the anthology pariahs: writing from outside the margins and partnering with Nikia Chaney of Jamii Publishing.

ACCOLADES was truly a collaborative effort. Rachael was completely responsible for all the design work, including the amazing cover; Tisha focused on communication with contributors. Women Who Submit’s three co-founders documented their discussion about our origins and growth in the foreword and other members of the leadership team served as poetry and nonfiction editors. Our goal was to feature pieces where women and non-binary characters are portrayed prominently in a positive manner and pieces that include multiple identities or marginalized perspectives. While we couldn’t include all the wonderful work that was submitted, we tried to curate a variety of innovative work that was representative of our community of writers.



Viva: In your heart/mind, what is the importance of ACCOLADES?

Editors: The anthology is a celebration of submission, acceptances, and publications by the members of our organization. It is another way to clap and cheer for writers and their previously published work. To echo our director and co-founder, Xochitl-Julisa Bermejo, “The work in this anthology is necessary, questioning, and honest.” This collection reflects the diverse voices of our literary community.

Viva: Which poems have touched you and why?

Editors: The poetry editors selected some exceptional work for the anthology. We were moved by the way LiYun Alvardo’s “Hechizo Para Congelar” plays with language and form in a powerful way. Cybele Garcia Kohel’s poem “Chamomile Hair” and Anita Gill’s essay “Hair” both offer compelling perspectives on mother-daughter relationships. As the fiction editors, we also looked for stories that offered something we had not seen before and we were captivated by Lituo Huang’s “Passenger.”

Viva: What kind of support does WWS offer mujeres/femmes/non-binary folks?

Editors:At our monthly submission parties, we offer Submission Fee grants for writers who apply. Twice a year we award the Kit Reed Travel Fund for Women and Non-binary Writers of Color. Submissions for the second 2020 award will open July 1. Every fall, we have an annual Submission Blitz to support writers who want to send their work to top tier journals. Last month, thanks to donations from allies, we also offered relief grants for writers affected by COVID-19.

Viva: Are there any socially distant events where we can check out the contributors?

Editors: The contributors to our anthology were featured daily reading their poems, stories, and essays on Instagram @WomenWhoSubmit. There is a monthly WWS open mic led by one of our community members. We also have an archive of previous guest speakers from our monthly submission parties available on our Facebook page. There, writers can also find Calls for Submission.

Viva: Do you have any advice for young woman/femme/non-binary writers and poets who want to start getting published?

Editors: WRITE! The most important advice is to put the words on the page. REVISE! Share work with other writers you trust to get feedback. READ! See what is being published by journals you like and that will guide you to find the right places for submitting your work for publication. Also read the weekly WWS blog where you will find advice about writing, submitting, and interviews with editors.


Accolades: A Women Who Submit Anthology can be purchased here


Women Who Submit can be found on their website, and social media.

Like Bullets For Fascists: Q+A with Political Poet Matt Sedillo

Chicano revolutionary poet Matt Sedillo met up with Viva Padilla (proper masks were worn) in El Sereno this past weekend to catch up and talk about his newest poetry collection Mowing Leaves of Grass (published by FlowerSong Press). During this interview they drove around the Eastside. They came upon a squeaky clean Black Lives Matter/Defund the Police protest in Pasadena, boarded up and tagged “R.I.P. George Floyd” storefronts in the belly of high gentrification in Highland Park, and the homeless encampment at the Veteran’s Monument in El Serenoa proper backdrop for the political insight Sedillo delivers like a gun-slinger in his book where American institutions rooted in white supremacy are dragged out by the hair and left on the side of the road to rot.

Viva Padilla: Over the past decade you have built quite the reputation traveling the country and establishing yourself as a celebrated political poet. Much of your work is very historically dense and well researched. Why have you chosen poetry as the vehicle to get out your message?

Matt Sedillo: It wasn’t so much a choice as something I really fell into. The reality is I learned all I know from a library card and Wi-Fi connection. My route into the movement came not through the academy nor a background in organizing but rather from writing poetry that tackled issues of class struggle, Chicano history, general US history, US imperialism, the destruction of the environment and various other issues and causes of our day.

There are some real advantages to being a poet in how fluid I have been able to move from rallies to conferences to performance to workshops to working with historians and journalists. For me poetry has always been more a vehicle than a destination but I do take the craft very seriously. I love fighting the good fight. I love writing poetry. I am a lucky guy to get to do both simultaneously.


“The Melting Pot / Was never meant for the hands/ That clean it” (Pilgrim)


Viva: Your latest collection is entitled Mowing Leaves of Grass. Why did you choose to go after Walt Whitman and have you have gotten any blowback?

Matt: “What has miserable, inefficient Mexico—with her superstition, her burlesque upon freedom, her actual tyranny by the few over the many—what has she to do with the great mission of peopling the new world with a noble race?” – Walt Whitman

That is a direct quote and there is no context to rectify it. The book is largely about the Rebrowning of America and the political response, namely the rise of Trump and his base of support.

As to backlash, white liberals in the literary community have attacked it on a few occasions as many of them see Walt Whitman and Donald Trump as polar opposites. I am Mexican, Chicano, I make no distinctions between anti-Mexicans.

I think Walt Whitman was talented. But he was a racist who hated Mexicans among others. I am also talented. Lots of us are. You’re very talented. The authors you publish are very talented. Our community does not need to look up to the Walt Whitmans of the world. We do not need to look up to people who look down upon us. Our efforts would be better spent seeking out, supporting and fostering the genius from within our own community.


“I am feudalism /I am slavery /I am the free market /I am the one percent/ I am capitalism/ And I will watch your children starve/ To satisfy my greed” (The Devil)


Viva: Who are you trying to reach with this book?

Matt: In many ways Mowing Leaves of Grass represents my Chicano studies book. It has found a home with radical educators much more so than the literati and I am happy with that. I want people who share these politics to get the book and feel engaged and ready to contribute to the struggle. As a political poet I really want to rally people and ignite their passions. If they are encouraged to further research some of the allusions made in the poems all the better; my primary goal, however, is always to rally people to fight.

Viva: You are published under FlowerSong Press who have been doing dope work in Texas. How did this working relationship come about and what has your experience been?

Matt: With a handshake. Edward Vidaurre and I were booked for an appearance at UCLA. He was staying with his mom in Boyle Heights. I picked him up and we just started talking—next thing I knew I had a deal with FlowerSong.

As to being on the press, the experience has been incredible. It’s a growing press with a lot of ambition. In the coming years FlowerSong is a place where legends will be made. I have no doubt about that.

Viva: Anything else in the works?

Matt: Yes. I am working on a few all to be published with FlowerSong. My next title is going to be called City on the Second Floor. If Mowing Leaves of Grass is my Ethnic Studies book then City on the Second Floor is very much my poetic foray into Marxist Geography. Look out for it next year.

“The boys in blue/ The killing crew /

Authorized lynch mob / Death squad /

America signed with a bullet/

Five pigs to one teenager / Hands cuffed behind his back /

Loud proud frat boys walk by / Drinking from flasks/

Black youth is criminalized /

White crime / Is state sanctioned…” (Once)


Purchase Mowing Leaves of Grass by Matt Sedillo in our online lit store

Ramona and Rumi: Love in the Time of Oligarchy by Edward Vidaurre

Reviewed By: Nikolai Garcia

Edward Vidaurre’s latest chapbook, Ramona and rumi: Love in the Time of Oligarchy (& Unedited Necessary Poems), Hercules Publishing, 2018, is a bit oddly constructed, but full of love language.

The Prologue poem introduces us to rumi and Ramona, Both/ running scared/ crashing into each other. The first half of the book is all about them, and in 24 poems we witness their amusing daily interactions, their uncontrollable lust for each other, and their eventual break-up. (Love—this intense—just cannot last, it seems).

The book is filled with great lines like: I fell in love with your ancestors [“The Talk”]; rumi throws the moon back/ & one by one kicks the stars into the night [“Meeting At Night”]; her virgin bloom, sap-filled/ mouth, letting out a/ souvenir of promises/ of sure agony [“Equinox”]. But, what really makes this collection stand-out is the magical surrealism world that Vidaurre has built for these love poems. Take, for instance, “Early Morning”:


He plants squash for his foes

she picks up a rock to stare at her reflection

rumi raises owls, feeds them plantains

they bring him cantos in exchange

Ramona, plants the songs next to a rosemary garden

in a month, teething children will sing the harvest


These playful scenes can be found throughout the first half of the book. They help give the characters life, makes their love seem more real, and make the poems more enjoyable to the reader.

The second half of the book is different, but just as creative. It consists of erotic poems inspired by heavy metal music. The poems are “darker,” which some might consider to be the right amount of kink, while other more sensitive souls might need a trigger warning. Take for instance, my favorite poem from this half of the book, “Kiss”:

I want to kiss you in the middle of a nightmare

when you bleed, when you bleed in my mouth

I want to kiss your mouth while I massage your rug burns

when you carve my name into your thighs

I want to kiss you in dark places, no light, just voices around us

when you feel a knife to your neck

I want to kiss you at a funeral as they lower the casket

when flowers whisper “I love you”

Vidaurre has a gift of taking the erotic to write lines that create great visual images in the mind, like in this ending stanza from “Mouthsong”: I think of your tongue/ how it traces the island around your lips/ destroying yesterday’s promises. That last line is amazing in the way that it tells us so much in just three words.

My only complaints about this chapbook is that there were no page numbers and one of the illustrations in the book partially omits some lines from a poem—but these are no faults of the poet.

Our contemporary poetry world currently highlights confessional poetry and political poetry, (rightly and righteously so in the latter’s case) but it is always good to relax and revel in a good collection of love poems. With his latest chapbook, Vidaurre gives us a collection worthy of being on a bookshelf right next to love poetry books by Nikki Giovanni or Pablo Neruda.


Edward Vidaurre is the 2018-2019 McAllen,Texas Poet Laureate and author of five collections of poetry including: I Took My Barrio on A Road Trip, Chicano Blood Transfusion, and Ramona & Rumi: Love in the Time of Oligarchy & Unedited Necessary Poems. He is a two-time Pushcart Prize nominee and writes from the front lines of the Mexican-American borderlands of El Valle in South Tejas.


RAMONA AND RUMI: LOVE IN THE TIME OF OLIGARCHY is available for purchase on Edward Vidaurre’s website.

Cruel Fiction by Wendy Trevino

Reviewed by Nikolai Garcia

Wendy Trevino’s debut poetry collection, Cruel Fiction (Commune Editions, Sept. 11 2018), is a confrontational book. It wants to remind us that the world we inhabit—the one that praises artists like Michael Jackson and Prince—is the same world where anti-blackness prevails.

Trevino opens up her book with “128-131” [From Santa Rita 128-131], a sort of list of observations that she witnessed while being detained at Santa Rita Jail, (in northern California), with a group of over twenty women. Although the reason for arrest is never mentioned, one can infer that she was part of a mass arrest at a demonstration. The alleged crime, however, is not important because the point is to show us how people are treated in jail—in particular, women:

I met at least 3 women who were menstruating.

Bridesmaids came up 1 time.

I was 1 of at least 2 women who had seen Bridesmaids.

Kreayshawn’s ‘Gucci Gucci’ came up 1 time.

I heard 1 woman sing, ‘One big room / full of bad bitches.’

Aquaman came up 1 time.

I saw at least 5 drops of fresh blood on the floor in the hall.

I saw at least 7 spots of dried blood on the wall of a tank.

I heard the riddle ‘What is brown & sticky?’ 2 times.

A six-page, double-spaced poem is not something I usually look forward to, but Trevino makes it work. Her way of pointing out pain and injustice, and drawing it out using humor, make this piece a powerful way to open a book. In between serious images, the poet shows us women talking, singing, and discussing popular culture. It’s as if the poet is telling us pop culture happens in doses, and in between struggles.

Indeed, this book is filled with struggle. The very next piece [Poem [[Santander bank was smashed into]], a short piece about taking a break from reading and taking to the streets, features these wonderful lines: there were barricades in London/ there were riot girls drinking riot rosè/ the party melted into the riot melted into the party –If that doesn’t want to make you be part of direct action, then I don’t know what will.

In another piece from the first section, [Poem [then you’re there & you’re unpaid]], the poet seems to be commenting on people going along with the status quo: peaceful fascists & riot police work together/ the video goes viral, not so much to convince, but for history/ nothing personal, and ends the next stanza with, horoscopes call for more of the same. A sober man ponders a missile. Trevino relies less on rhyme and alliteration, and more on cold simple facts that leave the reader with images to ponder.

The second section of the book is thirty poems (all sonnets, 14 lines each), filled with musical references and important questions. In [If a woman illegally crossing], one of the many questions posed in the piece is: What if that scene in Reservoir/ Dogs where Mr. Blonde tortures a cop had/ Been choreographed to “Bidi Bidi/ Bom Bom, instead of “Stuck in the Middle/ With You?” Besides Selena, some of the other musical artists mentioned are Michael Jackson, Amy Winehouse, Tom Petty, Joni Mitchell, Rage Against the Machine—and even a lesser known political punk band from Mexico, Tijuana NO!, gets a nod.

Trevino is not just name-dropping. She has a lot to say and uses popular culture to get some of her points across. Not only does it help to get into heavy topics like American consumerism, racism in Latin America, or violence at the border, but it also makes the poems more relatable to the reader and enjoyable to read. As she says in [JClo says what “rage most wants”]:

More importantly, what he says helps me

Think about this bad feeling I tend to

Get when I explain what I do in terms

Of popular culture—maybe it’s just

Culture. It’s recursive & fucking fun.

The last section of the book is made up of thirty more sonnets, all of which are composed of 14 lines, 10 syllables each. One can imagine that the poet chose not to follow any rhyme scheme so as not to limit herself as she gets into understanding our views of race and class. Trevino also doesn’t confine herself to just one poem, as most poems flow directly into the next—she lets us know there’s a lot to explore.

In [When I said race is relational], she begins to speak on power relations within ethnicities: It isn’t enough to not like/ Mexicans. Where I’m from, many of us/ Mexican-Americans resented/ The Mexicans who came to South Texas/ To shop for designer clothes. Trevino follows this up with a sonnet about Mexican teens shopping in a U.S. mall, buying expensive clothes with their parents’ credit cards; which is then followed up with a sonnet about how White people from Latin America can separate themselves from other Latinx, but still not be considered “white enough.” This sonnet leads into a poem about Afro-Latinos, which in turn leads us into the next sonnet [Our friend Becky has blocked out her memories], which tells us:

…Mexican is not a race either.

Even when Rob Wilson would get angry

& call my childhood friend Messcan

Even when he told me he liked me but

Couldn’t date Mexicans, Mexican was

Not a race—even in the 80s.

This last section of the book is put together in this way as it gets into the problems of mestizaje, nationalism, and the Multiracial Movement. And we are along on the journey, from poem to poem, delving from one intricate layer of each topic to another. But my favorite of these poems, which tie everything up, is [A border, like race, is a cruel fiction], which ends:

…We are who we are

To them, even when we don’t know who we

Are to each other & culture is a

Record of us figuring that out.

Trevino writes with the fire of a Bertolt Brecht and uses pop-culture as artfully as her contemporary, Michael Robbins. Her fresh, non-traditional approach to poetry is very much welcomed in a world that—at this very moment—needs more than just poetry.


CRUEL FICTION is available for purchase at Commune Editions and AK Press

Revelations by Ruben Quesada

Reviewed by Dryland Staff

Ruben Quesada’s chapbook, REVELATIONS, is a collection where poems about angels, Christ, and crucified gods mix with poems about heroin, erections and dead birds; the holy and the unholy.

Poems are grouped together by titles of his translations of works by Luis Cernuda, a Spanish poet who was exiled from his home country in 1936 at the start of the Spanish Civil War, and one of the first openly gay poets of the 20th century.

Except for the opening piece (“Angels In The Sun”), all the author’s poems are titled by way of roman numerals. Poems I through IX are all prose pieces; psalms that offer a window into a soul that has witnessed and experienced much pain and sadness.

What impacted me most from these prose poems were the endings. Some, just a few words, but each more melancholic than the last. For example, a haze of zinnias hushed in the rain, and later, body turned to ash, and, nothing more was said.

Cernudas’s poems share the themes of nature; the changing seasons; and life and death. Here, some lines from “Desire,” my favorite of the translated pieces: from the yellow poplar/ a leaf like a broken star/ spins toward the earth. And this stanza from, “Fall Feeling,” another translation, and the final poem in the chapbook:

Upon the old ruins it rains,

The autumn still green,

Odorless, dreams blossom,

And the body gives in.

Quesada carefully chose which poems to include with his own, and the four translated poems complement his own language well. For instance, compare the previous cited lines with these from poem, “X,” sunsets were plum colored lights kissing snow/ covered rooftops joy was a love letter, and this first stanza from poem, “XIV”:

Beneath sunsets like wildfire

an alchemy of traffic in orange

and red on the 405 in Los Angeles

Both poets know the importance of color to set the mood, and both are masters at describing everyday natural occurrences in nature and life that make the reader want to stay in that moment.

At only 38 pages, this chapbook is a bible tract, but not the kind handed out by Christian zealots trying to save you from the eternal flames of hell. This is a religious text for all who can feel September quietly transform from summer into autumn, and for those who believe in the beauty of words.


REVELATIONS is available for purchase at Sibling Rivalry Press