Cosmopolitanism and the New Series

Inside Idaho

Two books published by West End Press in 2009-2010 have suggested the direction our new work is likely to take in the coming period.

Inside Idaho by Charles Potts is a rumination on growing up in a western state where, at first glance, life was still close to that of the frontier: a ranch house, a small town nearby, few rules, a lot of space. But Potts traces the development of the area into something less idyllic: the coming of economic depression, farm sales, poverty in the hardscrabble cities. The poet’s own life takes on the character of alienation, and it requires personal struggle to arrive at anything resembling a sense of balance again.

Insides She Swallowed

In a second volume, Insides She Swallowed, a young Filipina American, Sasha Pimentel Chacon, devours life hungrily and comes to know both her native culture and some of its bittersweet stories. The passion of eagerness in the child gives way to the ripening of knowledge in the woman, nowhere so clearly as in the long poem “Blood, Sister,” covering her journey of discovery from California to Manila.

Despite apparent differences, both these books invoke cosmopolitanism, the recognition of borders of space and time, differences that lie beyond them, but also similarities that bind us together. In this way the works published by West End Press move into a new decade of confrontation, awareness, and engagement with the things at hand.

The New Series

Beginning in December 2008, West End Press launched The New Series of poetry, “full-length volumes by new and recently recognized poets.” The emphasis of the series is on exposure to different cultures under conditions of mutual respect.

Spirit Birds They told Me by Mary Oishi

So far nine volumes have been produced, by Marianne Broyles, Jason Yurcic, Jeanetta Calhoun Mish, Jenifer Rae Vernon, Sy Hoahwah, Maisha Baton, Lauren Camp, Mary Oishi, and (coming in April) Jessica Helen Lopez.

Four of the authors, Broyles, Yurcic, Oishi, and Lopez, live in the Albuquerque area, also the home for the last twenty-six years of West End Press. Baton divided her time between Pittsburgh and Albuquerque. Camp has lived on the outskirts of Santa Fe for many years. Mish and Hoahwah are Oklahoma natives or longtime residents. Vernon was raised in western Washington and is teaching in Juneau, Alaska.

All nine writers come from working class backgrounds. Two identify as Native American, two are Chicano, one is African American and one is Asian American. All the writers are steeped in family and community history, though the stories they tell are often directed to the present.

The Poets of The New Series

Maisha Baton

Maisha Baton

In Sketches Maisha Baton, a native of Pittsburgh who moved to Albuquerque, offers clean, clear portraits of the people she knew in her lifetime. With a discerning eye she presents those she encountered, from the street, from families in her neighborhood, and artists like herself.

Marianne Aweagon Broyles

Marianne Aweagon Broyles

Marianne Broyles’
The Red Window intersperses stories of her Cherokee upbringing and her life as a hospital worker with PTSD victims. Her poems embrace subjects as diverse as Muslim workers on her family’s farm to her visit to the gravesite of a Cherokee ancestor.

Lauren Camp

Maisha Baton

In This Business of Wisdom Lauren Camp, daughter of an Iraqi Jewish refugee in New York City, suggests what you face “as you grow, persistent and clumsy, into your bones.” She shows us how, despite obstacles, what you see can be trusted—thus she constructs an educated view of life.

Sy Hoahwah

Sy Hoahwah

In Sy Hoahwah’s Velroy and the Madischie Mafia, Comanche and other warriors are reincarnated as lawbreakers affiliated with casino owners on the reservation. Behind the violence and humor is his portrait of a people with past and present inextricably bound together.

Jessica Helen Lopez

Jeanetta Calhoun Mish

Jessica Helen Lopez, raised in Deming, New Mexico near the Mexican border, was a member of the 2008 National Champion Albuquerque Slam Team. The writing in Always Messing with them Boys is said to “represent a revolution in the mechanics and mission of poetry.”

Jeanetta Calhoun Mish

Jeanetta Calhoun Mish

In Work Is Love Made Visible, Mish takes her Okie family through several generations. Their struggle to survive in the face of poverty, exploitation and harassment, ending in resettlement away from the land, is augmented by bittersweet accounts of others who have endured the same struggles. Family photographs over a century reinforce her story.

Mary Oishi

Jeanetta Calhoun Mish

Mary Oishi’s Spirit Birds They Told Me (the title drawn from her mother’s name) brings a message of trauma and recovery, war and reconciliation, and the passage from personal shame to self-regard. Oishi was child of a Japanese bride and an American soldier from World War II.

Jenifer Rae Vernon

Jenifer Rae Vernon

Vernon’s Rock Candy begins with the often perplexing story of her family’s life in a logging town in Washington state. Descendants of Appalachian miners, her people find a way to survive against everyday threats of violence, poverty, and moral weakness. Her later poems reflect her departure from home and her struggle for dignity among strangers.

Jason Yurcic

Jason Yurcic

Yurcic’s Odes to Anger is a story of conversion from a youth of violence and pain to a present in which work is balanced against his love of his children and his dedication to writing about the life and people he knows. His performance poetry draws from incidents in his stressful and dangerous life to demand respect and involvement from his audience.