100 Creatives 2012: Lupe Mendez, Poet and Poem Pusher
Whoever said poetry was a dying art has never met Lupe Mendez. Mendez has found a way to weave this form of the written word into his every day. Whether it is his work as a teacher, his association with "Nuestra Palabra: Latino Writers Having Their Say" or his own writing, poetry, to Mendez. is alive and well.
Lupe Mendez doing what he does best.
What he does:
First and foremost, Mendez describes himself as a "working poet." Like so many artists out there, Mendez had to find a way to channel his passion for his art into a viable economic solution, so Mendez turned to teaching. He currently teaches literature and writing to a gaggle of young minds at the Helms Elementary school.
In addition to his teaching, Mendez has worked to push Latino writers into the forefront through his work with the organization "Nuestra Palabra." Nuestra Palabra has been around for more than a decade and encourages the promotion and creation of Latino writers and their work.
Additionally, Mendez is a part of the WORD AROUND TOWN Poetry Tour, which is a weeklong poetry event that moves from location to location. "The basic idea is to spotlight seven amazing poetry-supporting venues," says Mendez, "as well as bring poets to places they have never read."
But don't forget that Mendez also writes. He has performed his poetry all around Houston and far outside the Loop; he was recently featured in El Paso at the "Barbed Wire Open Mic Series." Mendez's work has been published as a part of Norton's newest anthology, Sudden Fiction Latino: Short-Short Stories From The United States and Latin America, the 25th anniversary edition of The Bayou Review (University of Houston-Downtown) and Flash (University of Chester, England), the international forum for flash fiction. His forthcoming work will be included in Huizache, the Literary Journal out of Centro Victoria, from the University of Houston at Victoria.
Why He likes it:
"It's what I do to not go crazy," Mendez says with all seriousness. "It's not just something I love to do. It's as much a part of me as eating and breathing. It's how I think and then put on paper." Additionally, Mendez enjoys the social nature that he has incorporated into his work.
"I get to talk and interact with so many different sorts of people: students, artists, people in need, volunteers, educators, activists, and the stories and ideas just come across my heart so well, I have to be able to be witness and write it out. It has to be documented, it has to be expressed."
What Inspires Him:
"I think I am inspired mostly by the humbling experiences I run into. It could be something I have experienced or something I know someone else is going through, and so I think it deserves to be on paper." While Mendez acknowledges that poetry isn't for everyone, he makes an effort to create work that is accessible.
"I want my poetry, my writing to be appealing and inspiring to people who are great fans of poetry, great scholars of poetry, and equally as credible to people who wouldn't be caught dead at a poetry reading. I know poetry isn't for everyone, but I want to be that writer that converts folks. I hope I can be the poet that attracts anyone; if I can do that, then I know my message, my images are reaching a lot of people."
If Not This, Then What?
If Mendez wasn't writing poems, he would throw his hat back in the theater ring, a place where he found some of his roots.
"Oh wow, I guess if I wasn't doing the poetry thing, I think I would either go in the other direction and head back into theater. I worked with an all-"brown" theater troop in the early 2000s -- "The Royal Mexican Players." They are still around in Milwaukee. I miss theater sometimes. It's how I met my wife. It's how I made some of my closest friendships. I love being on the stage and working to produce a quality production.
Or he could go in a totally different direction!
"Or, I would be a professional salsa dancer. Yes ma'am. I said it. Ruby Rivera, where the hell are you?"
If Not Here, Then Where?
"If I wasn't kickin' it here in Houston (and sometimes in my hometown of Galveston), I think I might be doing the same thing in either El Paso (that is an amazing town!!) or New Orleans. I like the feel of El Paso; it's a growing and an amazing arts community. I just finished featuring in "El Chuco" and have made some amazing friends, and the energy there, it matches Houston. The sense of making a difference in the community through art is amazing and it's fresh. They have something going on over there and I wish I could be more a part of it. And New Orleans? Man, that is one of my favorite cities. It always has been. The history and the scenery, the great Mississippi, the quarter, the music and the people have always attracted me."
"Currently, I am working with my NP gang, as we just finished taking a caravan of contraband books back into Tucson, Arizona -- in total, over 1,000 books, worth over $20,000, helping defend and support the students and teachers of the Mexican American Studies program (MAS) within the Tucson Unified School District (TUSD). Yeah, it made us mad, so we went in and took books back into the hands of students. That's what's up. Now, we have instituted Phase II -- creating "Underground Libraries" across the United States. As we speak, our latest addition is being set up in El Paso, Texas, with the help of the YWCA's Racial Justice Center. The ribbon cutting happens on September 8.
Aside from that, I am currently working on an essay for "S/Citing Houston," a writing project where local artists get to write an essay detailing how local venues, landmarks or places in Houston have served as inspiration for their artistic endeavors. In addition, I am working with local poet dee!colonize as she serves as a host for a new talk-show style show, filmed at Bohemeo's, where she gets to interview local artists in front of a live audience.
I am currently working on my MFA in Creative Writing at the University of Texas at El Paso, and once completed, I hope to keep on teaching, hopefully in a college classroom (and keep publishing!!)"
More Creatives for 2012
(In order of most recently published; click here for the full page).
Jason Nodler, artistic director, playwright, director
Ana Treviño-Godfrey, musician
Matthew Detrick, classical musician
Travis Ammons, filmmaker
Florence Garvey, actress
Julia Gabriel, artist, designer and backpack maker
Rebecca French, choreographer and FrenetiCore co-founder
Kiki Neumann, found object folk artist
Flynn Prejean, Poster Artist
JoDee Engle, dancer
David Rainey, actor, artistic director and teacher
Geoff Hippenstiel, painter, art instructor
Jessica Janes, actress and musician
Dennis Draper, actor and director
Mat Johnson, novelist and tweeter
Orna Feinstein, printmaker and installation artist
Adriana Soto, jewelry designer
Domokos Benczédi, Noise and Collage Artist
Robert Boswell, Book Author, UH Prof
Patrick Turk, visual artist
Elizabeth Keel, playwright
Bob Martin, designer
Mary Lampe, short film promoter and developer
Nisha Gosar, Indian classical dancer
Jeremy Wells, painter
George Brock, theater teacher
Radu Runcanu, painter
Ariane Roesch, Mixed-Media
Sandie Zilker, art jewelry maker
Philip Hayes, actor
Patrick Palmer, painter
Ana Mae Holmes, Jewelry Designer
John Tyson, actor
Jerry Ochoa, violinist and filmmaker
Raul Gonzalez, painter, sculptor, photographer
Roy Williams, DJ of medieval music
Laura Burlton, photographer
David Peck, fashion designer
Rebecca Udden, theater director
Donae Cangelosi Chramosta, vintage designer handbag dealer
Paul Fredric, author
John Sparagana, photographer
Damon Smith, musician and visual artist
Geoff Winningham, photographer
Johnathon Michael Espinoza, visual artist
Jaemi Blair Loeb, conductor
Katya Horner, photographer
Johnathan Felton, artist
Nicoletta Maranos, cosplayer
Carol Simmons, hair stylist
Joseph "JoeP" Palmore, actor, poet
Greg Carter, director
Kenn McLaughlin, theater director
Justin Whitney, musician
Antone Pham, tattoo artist
Susie Silbert, crafts
Lauralee Capelo, hair designer
Marisol Monasterio, flamenco dancer
Carmina Bell, promoter and DJ
ReShonda Tate Billingsley, writer
Kiki Lucas, choreographer and director
J.J. Johnston, theater director
Mary Margaret Hansen, artist
Richard Tallent, photographer
Viswa Subbaraman, opera director
Emily Sloan, sculptor and performance artist
Sonja Roesch, gallery owner
Enrique Carreón-Robledo, conductor
Sandy Ewen, musician
Camella Clements, puppeteer
Wade Wilson, gallery owner
Magid Salmi, photographer
Carl Williams, playwright