TLA Talks #4: Joe Maldonado

            It has certainly been quite the while since I recorded a TLA talk for our growing network of busy-bee language artists. Moving to New York, double jobs, finding time to write, sneaking in the simple pleasures of an avocado or ice cream or a favorite show – who can't relate?! Our founder Caryn Mirriam-Goldberg usually welcomes newcomers to the Tranasformative Language Arts Network with a note of recognition, saying "welcome home." It's not the same just writing it. The familiar words are spelled into new life with her voice every time, warm and tenacious reassurance. When it comes to coming back here with a new interview, with freshly captured breaths, I say the same as about finding this network, about finding a growing body of folks from all walks of life that recognize the budding, picking, arranging, and remixing/inventing (with all the juicy debates lying in that slash) of words as an art worthy of its own naming. I say, "it's good to be home."   

Screen Shot 2014-05-09 at 1.03.50 AMScreen Shot 2014-05-09 at 1.01.27 AM            Where peachy is never a promise, and complicated characters abound! I mean, look at this guy to the left: Mick Foley. Now, look at this guy to the right, also Mick Foley. He is a legendary WWE wrestler, best-selling author, and prolific comedian and voice actor. From vicious body language to the most reassuring of words, there is a specific passion for play with an audience he exhudes – even through the tougher experiences – in the way he performs, speaks or writes. I can see why the up-and-coming author whom I interviewed for you today, Joe Maldonado, is quite enamored with him. Joe's work of poetry also instills a sense of lightherated welcoming across the thickets of romantic maraudings, political pitfalls, job mundanity, and hope in the smallest of things. 

            Except you'd need to add a lot more elements than just Mick Foley to shape the complexity of context, the immense home, from which Joe Maldonado's poetry emanates from. It's more like this: bring it back to Setauket, Long Island, where both Joe and Mick grew up; throw in some beat speakeasy from Ginsberg and Gregory Corso, Poe among many more classic lit luminaries, hip-hop and punk rock sounds, pro-wrestling and sci-fi themes; and now let them do their dances with one another to a Super Mario soundtrack. And imagine if Super Mario had to pass through challenges in the game where he took on the role of therapist. 

           In the unabashed words of Joe as he describes his latest book of poems Subterranean Summerthe book is "a joe maldonadocollection of poems exolpring life, the universe, and everything." If you don't believe me, check out raving reviews of his book here and here. Better yet, join me from your laptop or car radio for a podcast chat with an artist whose centeredness amid the strenuous, the intriguing, and the quixotically fleeting in life is a writer's sinew regardless of the endless homes and contexts from which a writer is compelled to write. We had this conversation near the end of April, the official National Poetry month. Give us a listen!


            And if you are ever interested in meeting an ever-more complex variegated community of writers, poets, musicians, activists, healers, therapists and language artists that congregate from all over the country, please join us for the next Power of Words Kansas conference, which consistently proves to be a home where the boundaries between intellect and craft, love and work, magic and accomplishment dissolve into one robust and truly transformative experience. It just may reset the rest of your year towards openings of voice and will you never expected in you, and in new collaborators and friends. Believe it or not, Power of Words Pennsylvania (2013) is where Joe and I first met, where I bought his book, where his grounded words carried my newfound vigor for fuller-time writing on the flight back to Orlando. Looking forward to talking with you in Kansas. 

           Also, a quick note regarding quality. Apologies for the echo in my sound while trying to maximize the smooth phone-quality voice of Joe here. Still a rookie at this sound editing/sampling thing, as you may tell, but I'll acquire the editor's limbs with practice. 

            And you might be amused to know that Billy Collins, an all-time favorite of mine who was first introduced to Joe through this podcast, is a new favorite of his as well. I'm chewing on bits of Gregory Corso poetry as I go myself, and am enjoying his blunt imagination very much.  Now, for direct musings and down-to-earth imaginings from Joe himself, send the man a tweet @joemaldonado81. Give the Subterranean Summer page a "like" while you're at it to keep up with book updates and future readings here!

           Oh, and one last thing… 

“One Last Thing” 

Sorry, but I’m no prophet,
I am no sayer of sooth
I’m nothing but a boy
Who Likes Playing
With his alphabet soup
A guy who
Bides his time
Defiling notebooks
With lines of rhyme
Don’t think me truth’s harbinger
I am not to enlighten
Though I may offend or even frighten,
I only hope once in a while
You will think on my words, and smile
If I must say something
Before our time expires
I ask, please remember
That you have the power.
You will find that hidden strength
When it comes down to the wire.
You will overcome
In the dark and desperate hour…
Even when the fates
Should attempt to conspire
To leave you broke, hungry,
Hopeless, tired,
Never forget that within you
Burns the light of a thousand fires.
By Joe Maldonado







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