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Alumnus orates original cross-cultural poems

| Thursday, February 20, 2014

Poet Lauro Vazquez, a graduate of the Notre Dame Creative Writing Program and recipient of the Sparks Prize, gave a poetry reading at the Notre Dame Bookstore on Wednesday night.

A native of Northern California, Vazquez is also coeditor of “Letras Latinas,” a blog sponsored by the Institute for Latino Studies and recipient of a fellowship from Cantomundo, as well as a guest speaker at several universities, such as Iowa State University.

Vazquez read several of his poems, including “Ode to a Pretzel,” “Homophobes,” “The Door,” “Fables” and many others.

Vazquez said his poetry presents a combination of obscure and singular events, such as former President George Bush choking on a pretzel or a scientist attempting to save carrier pigeons from extinction, with themes of revolution, mysticism and U.S.-Latino relations.

“Poetry is like a playground,” Vazquez said. “Language to me is very playful and experimental.”

Vazquez said his upbringing in both Mexico and California has been a major influence on his writing. Many of his poems deal with Hispanic culture and its influence in California.

Revolutionaries who have impacted both the U.S. and Latin America, such as Vasco Nunez de Balboa, Carlos Sandino and Irish immigrant workers in the U.S. appear often in his poetry, Vazquez said.

“When I went to college, I heard about these revolutionaries. They gave me an understanding of the world,” Vazquez said. “I’m an artist. The best I can do is reflect on their contributions.”

Vazquez said the theme of revolution and the glory of revolutionaries across history connects easily with younger generations.

“Young people, by nature, don’t accept injustice and tend to gravitate towards people who have upset the status quo,” Vazquez said.

Vazquez said his experiences at Notre Dame helped shape his writing and his world views.

“Notre Dame really helped me develop the aesthetic in terms of the artistry behind my poems as well as a broader understanding of history,” Vazquez said. “[It] helped connect me to a network of poets and I belong to a community that nourishes my writing.”

Creative writing program director Orlando Menes said Velazquez has continued to grow as a writer after graduating from the program.

“Lauro has made tremendous strides as a poet,” Menes said. “He grounds his cross-cultural poems in his sophisticated fusion of myth and history.”

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