Writer Josh Fernandez, who attended Davis High School and graduated from UC Davis, will read from his newly published first book of poems at 8 p.m. Thursday at the John Natsoulas Gallery, 521 First St. in downtown Davis.
The book’s title, “Spare Parts and Dismemberment,” offers an immediate hint that Fernandez has not written verses etched in picturesque pastels.
“Some of the poems are pretty gritty,” he told The Enterprise last week. “Sometimes the imagery is not pretty. It’s intended to be powerful, and intended … not necessarily to shock, but to jolt the reader.
“I wanted the book to be dynamic and interesting, and definitely contemporary. If you can grit your teeth and get through them, there is something to be learned.
He continued, “Some of the poems are about addiction, and recovery. Some are about ethnicity, being part Caucasian and part Mexican … it gives you a glimpse into a couple of different worlds.
“Some people call it ‘borderland poetry,’ ” he added.
Fernandez visited Davis High last Thursday, reading some of his poems to English classes.
“The students were a little surprised at some of the poems, a little taken aback, but they were really engaged,” he said. “They enjoyed it, and they were thinking. They had been studying very traditional, old poetry, and I don’t think they were expecting something so contemporary and so raw.”
Fernandez said that compared to the carefully rhymed and structured verses typically taught in many high school English classes, his poems are “more free form, some of them are a little bit ‘stream-of-consciousness.’
“I don’t pay too much attention to tradition, but when you read my poems, you hopefully will recognize that I have studied tradition, and respect tradition. I just don’t pay too much attention to it.”
Fernandez offered Enterprise readers these two samples of his writing:
Visiting My Sister at Sunset
In the grainy evening
I walk toward your grave,
but it feels unlawful
to be here.
I half expect
to chase me
off with a broom.
the unwritten tenets
of the cemetery,
its sacred membrane
All I can do is try
to watch my footing,
and walk gently
over the dead.
She Left Me for a Darker Mexican
But I remember
one good day
when we watched
Princess Di’s funeral
for nine hours
on the carpet
in our hangovers.
of cars crawling
up the old color TV,
out of its wooden
and into the sky.
in and out
She almost purred
and I wondered
if it was too late
Asked “what goes into a good poem?” Fernandez replied, “It’s kind of a feeling, like a hunch almost. And you follow that hunch all the way to the end. A lot of the time it won’t be anything (you’d want to publish). But then there’s the lucky time when it is something, and you can cultivate it into a finished piece of writing.”
Fernandez is pursuing a master’s degree in creative writing at Sacramento State. He’s also a freelance journalist, doing articles for spin.com and alternative newspapers like the Sacramento News & Review, Boulder Weekly and the San Antonio Current.
Copies of Fernandez’s book will be available at Thursday’s reading, and the book may be ordered online through Amazon.com. He also likes to hear from readers through his website, http://www.josh-fernandez.com.
— Reach Jeff Hudson at [email protected] or (530) 747-8055.