Thursday, June 13, 2013

Emilio and Enrique - Gonzalez Avenue poets' The Problem with Oxnard

The Problem with Oxnard, a small (literally) chapbook of poems by Emilio and Enrique – Gonzalez Avenue poets (copyright 2012 Emilio and Enrique - Gonzalez Ave poets - layout produced by Brass Tacks), presents a conundrum of sorts. Google the phrase “the problem with Oxnard,” and in the top three Internet searches is the comment “a small city with big problems.” Try to google the names of Emilio and Enrique, and one gets nothing... and, no response to my email query for information about this neat little chapbook. So, with that in mind, here is my assessment.

    Manifestos can come in any form – big, small, bombastic, unassuming. The cover, an image of a strawberry (one of the Ventura County's more popular crops), with an insert of the title, is intriguing in its simplicity. Oxnard packs a punch, with no apologies. The introduction explains, as many people are wont to forget, that Oxnard used to be part of what was once Mexico (or, Azteca, according to the authors). Anyone who has driven up the California Coast, or Route 126, will no doubt remember that the landscape is populated with fruit stands, and, in the warmer part of the year, with migrant workers who harvest the produce. The poets, whose roots go deep into the soil of Oxnard itself, invite the reader to experience the dichotomy that is Oxnard, with their straightforward and 'staccato' verse.

Oxnard contains seven poems, which seems a bit on the skimpy side, however, each little poem captures accurately, and beautifully, the sinister weirdness of living in a place millions obliviously travel through every year. The first poem, “Detour Use Gonzalez,” tells the story of life's goals being detoured, by circumstance, class oppression, and diminished expectations. From there, the next few poems “Often,Thirsty,” “The Migrants,” “Over the Land,” and “Land of Opportunity,” spell out the alienation, and, the discrimination, migrant workers, and their children, have faced/still face in land that once belonged to their ancestors (from “Over the Land:):

As we look out
Over the land, this land -
the land we manage
and harvest with our hands
we know it is not our earth
but that of men, with
strange children, who live
far away – their names
are on the paper that pays us -
but they never come
to these bountiful, dirty
beautiful acres we work
and have for years where we
hear our brown children cry
for beans and rice... never
the strawberries, kale
asparagus and flowers we pick -
and send to unknown tribes-
but the meager food of
an honest people who
are simply seeking
a better day.

    The overall tone of the poems in Oxnard are strong, and, infused with the dignity of the migrant workers the authors extol; that's what saves this little gem of a book from the falling into the ponderous whirlpool of angry political poetry. The other two poems “Oxnard,” and “Stars,” are as close to pastoral as I believe the poets can wax about the strange beauty of their home (from “Stars”):

The same star
on one side
of the sky -
then another;
emerald with
blue glints
over Oxnard -
appearing red
and orange
above the unlit
darkness of Highway 1 -
a scattering of them
to the south, to match
Palos Verdes; jumble
of jewels... confusing
how these myriad
points of light
owe so little
to our world.

    Here is the fun part: where to pick up a copy of The Problem with Oxnard. I emailed Brass Tacks Press. One of their editors/publishers answered my questions, and, was nice enough to let me know that Oxnard is self-published; as in, it's not officially part of the Brass Tacks Press catalog of books (ps: they have some awesome titles!). Brass Tacks lent their “aegis,” (production expertise), to the authors of Oxnard. Since Emilio and Enrique don't seem to check their email very often, the only place I can tell you to find a copy of Oxnard is at Skylight Books (1818 N. Vermont Ave, Los Angeles, 90027), in the Art/Zine/Graphic Novel section of their store.

    The Problem With Oxnard successfully documents what most Californians prefer to forget; the sins of history cannot be concealed by the sweet smell of (agricultural/retail) commerce. Poets like Emilio and Enrique, will always remember, and, that is necessary.

  The Problem With Oxnard, (copyright Emilio and Enrique, Gonzalez Avenue poets, - layout done Brass Tacks Press_Mini Brass Tacks), 18 pages, $3, available at Skylight Books, .

poetry content © 2013 Emilio and Enrique - Gonzalez Avenue poets

article content © 2013 Marie Lecrivain

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