A poetry reading featuring Jesús Castillo and Sonja Bjelić
Friday, May 19, 8:00 pm
54 1/2 E. San Francisco St. #7
Current exhibition | Marcus Zúñiga: Ya Veo
About seven years ago, Santa Fe poet Jesús Castillo bought a pack of index cards to take notes while he was reading. He was living in Berkeley at the time, in a house full of young writers who’d recently graduated from college. The city was buzzing with literary energy, and Castillo felt inspired to start an ambitious project: a book-length poem. “I realized that each of these index cards made a nice little stanza, and three of them fit on the page,” he says. “For two years after that, I just carried them around with me and filled them out whenever something came up.” The fragments were united in Castillo’s book Remains, which was published by McSweeney’s in early 2016. The book will make its Santa Fe debut at his reading with New York poet Sonja Bjelić at Strangers Collective’s NO LAND art space on Friday, May 19, 8:00 pm.
“Strangers Collective has always worked to interlink emerging artists and writers in Santa Fe,” says Jordan Eddy, NO LAND Co-director. “When we connected with Jesús and learned about his collaborations with young creatives in the Bay Area, it felt like a perfect fit.” During his time in the Bay Area, Castillo helped organize ‘Lectric Collective, a collaboration that brought poets and visual artists together to produce exhibitions. The reading at NO LAND is a return to form: Castillo and Bjelić will read among the new media artworks of Marcus Zúñiga, whose solo show Ya Veo is on view at NO LAND through June 11.
Jesús Castillo was born in 1986 in San Luis Potosí, Mexico. He moved to California with his parents and sister in 1998. In 2009, he graduated with a BA in literature and writing from the University of California-San Diego and moved to the Bay Area. There, he took an interest in the poetry of Ron Silliman and Ben Lerner. “They were working on this thing called the serial poem, which was not a single-page poem, but a long poem in sections, structured as a book,” he says. “I started messing around trying to see if I could figure out a way to create a longer poem out of short fragments.” That’s when the index cards floated into his life, and Castillo started spinning an epic poem on pages that could fit in his pocket.
About halfway through the writing process, Castillo made a chance connection with an editor from McSweeney’s at a ‘Lectric Collective reading. They provided him with a small advance, and about four years later the poems were in print. “Castillo has created a sprawling contemporary epic that channels the mighty voices of the past (Ovid, Sappho) into a plainspoken song of our times,” writes McSweeney’s of Remains. “The book is lovingly relentless, quietly piercing. It is a terrifyingly recognizable call: it is filled with all of our voices, our panic, our modern love, our screens, our roommate’s cough, our melting icebergs, our planes and malls and frailties.”
Each page of Remains is divided into three stanzas, a reflection of their origins on the index cards. “I wanted to make a complete landscape. If you have a larger canvas, you can say more stuff,” says Castillo. “Creating that structure actually allows for more freedom.” Castillo says the book captures an emotional arc in his life, though the stanzas were written to be broken apart and rearranged—much like shuffling index cards. “When I read from it, I like to read different parts of it, come up with new orders to see what happens,” Castillo says. “To me, the interesting parts are the jumps between stanzas, so messing around to see what different kinds of jumps you can find is cool.”
For more information and high resolution images, please contact NO LAND co-directors Jordan Eddy, Alex Gill and Kyle Farrell at email@example.com.
Jesús Castillo was born in 1986 in San Luis Potosí, Mexico and moved to California with his parents and sister in 1998. He studied literature and writing at the University of California-San Diego, and earned an MFA in Poetry from the Iowa Writers’ Workshop. His first book, Remains, was published by McSweeney’s in 2016, and he was the recipient of a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship in 2017. He has worked at a counseling center for victims and perpetrators of domestic violence, in Santa Fe, NM for the past year.
Sonja Bjelić lives in New York City where she is earning an M.F.A. in Poetry from N.Y.U. She studied Poetry and Indigenous Liberal Studies at the Institute of American Indian Arts, and her poems have been translated into Serbian and Spanish. She is currently at work on her first book.