HERE, THERE, & EV­ERY­WHERE

PO­ETS OF PLACE

Pasatiempo - - NEWS - Jen­nifer Levin I The New Mex­i­can

When he was in his early twen­ties, Dan Marotta found a life of ad­ven­ture. In 2007, he worked as a hu­man-rights ob­server in the Oc­cu­pied Pales­tinian Ter­ri­to­ries; by 2012, he was an in­ves­tiga­tive journalist in Mex­ico, look­ing into colo­nial­ism and the green econ­omy. Though he used to write po­etry, for a long time he found that his calling to iden­tify and work to rem­edy the world’s in­jus­tices took prece­dence over his personal cre­ative ex­pres­sion. Four years ago, the Bos­ton na­tive road-tripped across North Amer­ica — and he liked Santa Fe so much that once he got to the West Coast, he turned around and came back. He has done so­cial work with Santa Fe youth, but last sum­mer he be­gan re­con­sid­er­ing his life choices and he is cur­rently un­em­ployed. “I’ve been trav­el­ing. I was in Utah for a while, and I just got back from Bos­ton,” he said. “I’m no stranger to not hav­ing a job. I don’t own much stuff. I rent rooms or live out of my car. I just started writ­ing po­etry again last sum­mer be­cause the world was fall­ing apart — mine, the worlds of my loved ones, this coun­try, and so on. I think it still is.”

Marotta reads from his new work along with two other Santa Fe po­ets, Tommy Archuleta and Hec­tor Ri­cardo “Riqui” Al­varez, in Tres Hom­bres at Teatro Paraguas Studios on Sun­day, May 28. (This is the sec­ond such event fea­tur­ing Archuleta; Christo­pher J. John­son and Phil Geron­imo joined him for the first Tres Hom­bres read­ing, in 2011, at Col­lected Works Book­store.) Marotta con­sid­ers his po­ems to be “kind of like a liv­ing jour­nal. I speak about my­self as a way to get at larger is­sues. I think the role of an artist in so­ci­ety has been lost in this coun­try. I don’t know that for a fact — but it seems like artists nowa­days try to be apo­lit­i­cal. I’d like to think of it as my task to use my life as a way to talk about pol­i­tics,” he said.

His po­ems are po­lit­i­cal yet suf­fused with emo­tional com­plex­ity and some lin­guis­tic play. They of­ten con­tain an el­e­ment of ro­mance. Marotta does not have a uni­fy­ing aes­thetic, pre­fer­ring to write, it seems, in what­ever style or voice best serves his point. He has a brief prose poem about food short­ages and an ex­pan­sive free-verse poem about catch­ing but­ter­flies, which is re­ally about long­ing to hear the small de­tails of ex­pe­ri­ence that oth­ers might not con­sider im­por­tant. There is one about the fu­til­ity of fences told from the point of view of some­one who builds them, and an­other about watch­ing a woman paint and fear­ing just how deeply she’s been hurt by her past. And then there is this suc­cinct ditty, called “State of the Union”:

As in Marotta’s work, pol­i­tics is also a cen­tral theme for Al­varez. He is a na­tive of Venezuela, liv­ing in self-ex­ile in the United States, and he writes pri­mar­ily in Span­ish. He met Archuleta through their work as sub­stance abuse coun­selors at New Mex­ico Treat­ment Ser­vices; both are earn­ing masters of coun­sel­ing de­grees at New Mex­ico High­lands Uni­ver­sity. Archuleta, who speaks Span­ish, is help­ing Al­varez on a trans­la­tion of what he con­sid­ers his most im­por­tant poem, “Relin­cho con mor­daza.” (Its English ti­tle is “Break­ing Through the Chains.”) Al­varez wrote the orig­i­nal, tragic ver­sion of “Relin­cho con mor­daza,” con­cern­ing a horse whose voice was si­lenced, when he was seven­teen. The same year, he painted an im­age of a white horse dy­ing, sur­rounded by hye­nas and be­ing at­tacked by vul­tures.

Al­varez moved to the United States in 1999 and lived first in Wisconsin, where he took art classes at Madi­son Area Tech­ni­cal Col­lege, and then came to Santa Fe. Dur­ing a class in ar­che­typal psy­chol­ogy at South­west­ern Col­lege, he saw art made by chil­dren in the Holo­caust, and he re­called his white horse, the themes and sym­bols of which now re­minded him of what had hap­pened to Venezuela un­der Hugo Chávez. (Chávez came to power just as Al­varez left to learn English and have ad­ven­tures in the United States.) His par­ents sent him the paint­ing and he re­vised the poem to give it a hap­pier, more in­spir­ing end­ing. He then an­i­mated the paint­ing, set the poem to music, and made a video that in­cludes im­ages of cur­rent protests on the streets of Venezuela. He ti­tled it “Relin­cho de lib­eración” and up­loaded it to YouTube. “I wanted to bring the horse to life so he can de­fend him­self and the peo­ple in my coun­try. Every­thing is a metaphor,” Al­varez said.

Grow­ing up, Al­varez had con­sid­ered him­self to be a so­cial­ist, but the way the so­cial­ist pres­i­dent Chávez grabbed power, al­tered the coun­try’s con­sti­tu­tion,

and op­pressed his peo­ple made him feel like a for­eigner when he went back to visit Venezuela. Ul­ti­mately, he chose to stay in the United States and be­come an Amer­i­can ci­ti­zen. Cur­rent U.S. pol­i­tics have him on edge, how­ever, be­cause Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump re­minds him of Chávez. “This guy has rad­i­cal ideas of hate, where he wants to blame sec­tors of so­ci­ety for what is hap­pen­ing. Chávez was so much like him — he used sex­ual jokes and talked badly of women, and he com­plained about the me­dia. Peo­ple I meet in the U.S. think Chávez was some kind of Robin Hood. Chávez and Trump are dif­fer­ent ide­o­log­i­cally, but they have very sim­i­lar ap­proaches.”

Archuleta, who lives with his wife in Co­chití, grew up near the Col­lege of Santa Fe cam­pus on St. Michael’s Drive. “And I grew up pretty much hat­ing the Col­lege of Santa Fe. I grew up hat­ing white Cau­casians,” he said. “A lot of the re­sent­ment I had started com­ing out when I got sober. I didn’t know I hated that deeply.” He had been ex­press­ing him­self though music for years — he still plays drums in the band Dis­as­ter Man — and then in the early 2000s, he started to write po­ems. A lo­cal writer, Michael Scofield, took Archuleta un­der his wing and en­cour­aged him to get into school so that he could deepen his study of writ­ing. “I de­cided that I would show him that a Chi­cano could ap­ply to a school like that and get to­tally laughed at,” Archuleta re­called. “But it was the en­tire op­po­site of that — I got a full ride. It was a sur­real ex­pe­ri­ence. Those years at the col­lege were so mean­ing­ful.”

He stud­ied at CSF with cre­ative writ­ing and lit­er­a­ture de­part­ment fac­ulty mem­bers Matt Dono­van, Greg Glazer, and Dana Levin, and then went on to grad­u­ate school at the Uni­ver­sity of New Mex­ico. But he did not find the same kind of aca­demic home there, and left be­fore com­plet­ing his mas­ter of fine arts in po­etry. “They wanted me to take classes in 13th-cen­tury lit­er­a­ture and I just wanted to write,” he said.

Of the three hom­bres, Archuleta’s work is the most honed and min­i­mal­ist, his lan­guage stretched taut around a nat­u­ral­ist’s sense of place. Though he has al­ways felt rooted in North­ern New Mex­ico, it was not un­til af­ter his mother’s death in 2013 that he be­gan to as­so­ci­ate place with loss. “My par­ents were to­gether for 61 years,” he said. Since then, he has worked on con­nect­ing with his fa­ther, who Archuleta said he never re­ally un­der­stood un­til re­cently. In a poem that uses its first line as its ti­tle, he writes:

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