American River College’s annual Word Soup faculty poetry reading took place at Tuesday’s college hour as National Poetry Month concludes this April.
English professors Traci Gourdine and Cathy Arellano read from each of their published works, mostly in literary magazines and chat books.
This year’s Word Soup commemorates the 25th anniversary of ARC’s Creative Writing program.
Cathy Arellano, the newest member of the English department, was the first faculty member to present her poetry. A self described Chicana who grew up in the Mission District of San Francisco, which she described as the “center of the universe,” she read from her published anthologies.
Arellano began by passing out a ‘pocket poem’ to each member of the audience called “Break Up Haiku.”
She also read from a collection she named after a Lyle Lovett song, “I love my women, and sometimes they love me.” Her poems paint the picture of her experience growing up in the incredibly diverse Mission District.
Arellano also expressed her gratitude to ARC for being so welcoming her in her first year of work.
“It’s been great. It’s really good here, people are very nice, and very welcoming,” Arellano said to the audience. “I appreciate that, and I want to thank everyone who has welcomed me and made this a welcoming place for me.”
Arellano spent some time in Albuquerque, New Mexico before moving back to California, and read from poems she wrote during that time as well. She speaks of cultural diversity, her childhood and what it was like growing up in the Mission District.
She also read a poem from a literary art journal where her poetry is published, called “Better Man, It Should Have Been Me.” Each of her readings were greeting by huge applause and some laughter.
Professor Traci Gourdine was next to read, and is featured in a number of literary magazines and anthologies. She is highly acclaimed in the literary world and is a long time member of the Creative Writing Department at ARC.
Gourdine read several untitled poems about young women chasing military men and about growing up in busy, urban centers.
She also read a poem that was not accepted into the manuscript of her newest publication that will be released later this year about her time growing up in New York.
“When I write about New York in the time I grew up, it’s kind of like how I want to visit it, revisit it because it doesn’t exist anymore, and that was very stunning to me,” said Gourdine. “And I understand that when I came to California, everyone was writing about the natural world, and I didn’t know how to do that. You know, the city’s got a rhythm and a sound to it, and I would try and capture that.”
Arellano and Gourdine answered questions and took comments after the read, and students were very complimentary.
When asked about how Arellano feels about the Mission District now, she noted its recent decline.
“It’s still home. It is different. It’s been different,” she said. “I have a lot to say, but we don’t have enough time for me to go into it, but it’s always been home, and it’s changing all the time. We live in a capitalist society, you know … and I don’t have capital.”
Both professors will also be participating in ARC’s summer writing festival, Summer Words, a three day creative writing workshop.