The University of Notre Dame is a long way from San Diego, but for poet Manuel Paul Lopez, the distance just got a little closer.
Earlier this year, Lopez was awarded the 2013 Ernest Sandeen Prize in poetry. This year's competition was judged by poets Orlando Menes and Joyelle McSweeney. Lopez's manuscript, The Yearning Feed, was published by the University of Notre Dame Press earlier this month.
Getting the news was a life-changing experience for Lopez.
"It was a Friday night, and my wife and I were headed to my sister and brother-in-law's house, where my whole family was gathering for dinner," he told CityBeat via email.
"When we ended the call, I felt like one part of me was dancing on the roof of the car, another part of me was breaking it down on the hood, another was checking my pulse and two more of me were icing some beverages."
Lopez's reaction reflects the spirit of his poetry: spontaneous, whimsical and lyrical.
His poem "1984," which he performs in a charmingly off-kilter YouTube video, begins, "In 1984, I didn't read 1984 because I was really young and couldn't read that well. And even if I could have, who wants to read a big fat boring book about a miserable year anyway?" Lopez introduces each anecdote from that "miserable year" with "In 1984" until it no longer belongs to George Orwell. He makes it completely his own.
The Yearning Feed has a vaster scope. Lopez describes the book as "a collection of poetry and hybrid that explores physical and metaphorical borders."
"One section of the book includes a long poem called 'The Xoco Letters' that attempts to engage the immigration debate by probing the actions / inactions of a general public, myself included."
Lopez was born in El Centro, attended UCSD in the late 1990s, and has been living and teaching in San Diego for the last seven years. He's currently a humanities teacher at High Tech High in Point Loma.
"I've lived most of my life along Southern California's U.S./Mexico border, first having been born and raised in the Imperial Valley—a place that I love very much—and now having lived a number of years in San Diego."
Lopez's first book, Death of a Mexican and other Poems, was published by Bear Star Press in 2006. He was able to develop the manuscript for The Yearning Feed with support from the San Diego Foundation's Creative Catalyst Fund and Mo'olelo Performing Arts Company.
Lopez will read from The Yearning Feed on Thursday, Oct. 3, at 11:20 a.m. as part of the Eighth Annual San Diego City College International Book Fair, which also includes readings by Geraldine Brooks, Zohreh Ghahremani and Reyna Grande, as well as performances from So Say We All contributors to The Far East.
"I'm just straight-up grateful for this opportunity," Lopez said. "Straight-up."
Itinerant confab: The City College International Book Fairs back for its eighth year, and organizers are switching things up by holding a handful of off-campus events: From 6 to 7:30 p.m. on Oct. 1, at the Thomas Jefferson School of Law in East Village, the PEN Center, which defends persecuted authors, will host a panel discussion called Freedom to Write. On Oct. 2, at D.G. Wills in La Jolla, San Diego author Mel Freilicher will discuss his latest book Encyclopedia of Rebels. The fair will close with a special VAMP (video art, music, performance) multimedia showcase of City College literary works at Space 4 Art in East Village from 7 to 9 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 3. Find the full schedule at sdcity.edu/bookfair.
Ghost stories: Write Out Loud resurrects Danse Macabre this year, a holiday-appropriate event where trained actors will read creepy tales (think: storytelling for adults). The event will be at 7 p.m. on Oct. 28 at the Old Town Theatre (4040 Twiggs St.), a mere five-minute walk from the El Campo Santo cemetery.
Carpe diem: When photographer Harun Mehmedinovic started hearing too many friends complain about being stuck in the 9-to-5 grind, he proposed they set aside a day for absolute spontaneity—and allow him to photograph it. In one instance, a female friend donned a full-length black dress and climbed an installation at the L.A. County Museum of Art. In another, a woman opted to run through a Civil War battlefield—naked. Mehmedinovic will discuss Séance, the collection of photographs and stories that resulted from what he called the Bloodhoney Project at 7:30 p.m. on Nov. 7 at Warwicks Bookstore in La Jolla. warwicks.indiebound.com
From Dershowitz to Bazelon: The San Diego Jewish Book Fairs got a stellar lineup this year. Some highlights: On opening night, Nov. 2, Alan Dershowitz will discuss Taking the Stand: My Life in Law. On Nov. 4, David Harris-Gershon talks about his provocatively titled memoir, What Do You Buy the Children of the Terrorist Who Tried to Kill Your Wife? Closing the event is Emily Bazelon, a senior editor at Slate and frequent NPR contributor, wholl discuss Sticks and Stones: Defeating the Culture of Bullying and Rediscovering the Power of Character and Empathy. The book fair takes place Nov. 2 through 5 at the Center for Jewish Culture in La Jolla and Nov. 7 through 10 at Temple Solel in Cardiff by the Sea. Find the full schedule at sdcjc.org/sdjbf