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Poets to encourage exploration of self at reading

Will Alexander sees the aptitude for writing poetry as similar to how a plant grows in a garden.

Will Alexander

“Plants grow from the inside out, and in the same way, being a poet is almost something that’s internally appointed,” he said. “Poetry grows from an internal passion. It’s not something anyone can just understand and do. There are plenty of brilliant people, even writers, who can’t write poetry because the passion for it isn’t there.”

Will Alexander, a poet, playwright, essayist, philosopher, visual artist and pianist; and Jasminne Mendez, a poet, writer and educator; will open the Spring 2018 University of Houston-Victoria Downtown Arts Series at 7 p.m. Feb. 10 in the UHV Center for the Arts, 204 N. Main St. The event is free and open to the public.

“Will Alexander and Jasminne Mendez are both poets who expand our minds,” said Charles Alexander, UHV poet and designer in residence, and co-founder of the series. “Their work speaks to the experience of being human and the different dimensions involved, whether it be through the spirit or in finding one’s own unique identity.”

Charles Alexander

Mendez has been writing stories and poems since the third grade. A natural storyteller, she loved books, and fondly remembers being introduced to the works of Maya Angelou in middle school. As her writing developed, she also found that she enjoyed reading her poetry to others.

“I have loved language and words my whole life,” Mendez said. “However, I didn’t necessarily think writing was something I could do for a living because of the lack of representation of women of color. But I kept going, and now I have books of my own published.”

Much of Mendez’s early published work focused on her personal experiences and perspective. She wrote about topics including her family and being diagnosed with a chronic illness. One topic that often resurfaced was her struggle with identity. Her family immigrated to the U.S. from the Dominican Republic when she was a child, and her father served in the U.S. military.

“My memoir, ‘Island of Dreams,’ looks at the identity struggles I and my family went through,” Mendez said. “We’re Dominican, so we’re black, but we’re also Latino. We’re immigrants, but I’m also a military brat. And on top of all that, I am a woman of color, so my very existence is political just by the nature of the society in which I live.” 

Jasminne Mendez

During her presentation, Mendez will read from her newest book, “Night-Blooming Jasminne: Personal Essays and Poems,” which is scheduled for release on April 30.

For Will, writing poetry is a way to find self-discovery. His work follows surrealism and was influenced by the work of French poet Arthur Rimbaud. In addition to reading poetry from his books, “The Sri Lankan Loxodrome” and “Compression and Purity,” Will intends to play some improvised piano pieces.

“Poetry awakens you to another dimension of living,” Will said. “People tend to think of themselves only as physical bodies. It’s important to think about other aspects of what we are. We have to find methods to delve into our souls because we’ve lost the understanding of what souls are in the modern world. I want to awaken the spirits of my listeners.”

For more information about the Downtown Arts Series, contact Charles at 361-703-5147 or alexanderch@uhv.edu.