by Iris De Anda
On the lower shelf of my bookcase, there is a row full of journals spanning the years of my writing attempts. A self portrait of a young girl at the age of 13, who took pen to paper on the bedroom floor. What began as stream of consciousness turned into wannabe poetry by the age of 15, when I ventured into my first open mic at a coffee shop in Alhambra, CA. Some girl approached me afterwards and said something about my words meaning something to her. I was perplexed and inspired, and I didn’t do another open mic for about 3 years. Always reading, always writing, never sharing was my silent motto.
By the time I was heading to college I decided to stick to this feeling by choosing the forests of UC Santa Cruz as my backdrop to pursue a creative writing degree. What I walked into was an academic nightmare, with most of my professors being white men who preferred textbook to teatro. I was all east Los Angeles and nothing like Dickenson, porque soy De Anda. I decided getting into debt for a writing degree was not very punk rock, so I withdrew from school just 1 year before graduation. I felt the creativity being drained out of me with revisions that made no sense to me. They say you have to flesh out your words. I thought, I have spilt myself onto the page. My skin is exposed with all words a mess and on fire, you cannot contain this burning. All this work for the paper that designates I get to write on other papers from this moment forward. I withdrew with my spirit still intact and my writing as horrible as ever.
A little over a decade passed, I became a mother, a holistic health practitioner, but the words never left. I continued to create and at the age of 33, I was invited by some friends to be part of a poetry reading at their gallery in my hometown of El Sereno just miles from the coffeeshop of my youth. This was the summer of yes and the rest is herstory. The match had been lit and something ignited in me. Looking at those journals collecting dust the thought came that a book could be made from all of those somethings, so I began to piece together a manuscript. I remember stringing the poems together across the screen with a feeling, I had no clue what I was doing, but I didn’t care because it felt real.
Step 1 create a press: Los Writers Underground
Step 2 come up with the title before drifting to sleep: Codeswitch: Fires from Mi Corazon
Step 3 lose your manuscript in the mail
Step 4 print 1080 copies, sell 780 copies to your friends, online, local bookstores, colleges, poetry road trips, etc.
Repeat, no edits allowed. I am a lazy writer, if the words don’t come out as rushing rivers I ignore them. So when the water rises, I put pen to paper and answer the call. I do not have my MFA, my BS is in Natural Health. I will not follow the rules because along the way the words have followed me. I am a heartist, I follow the palabra and the wind, ehecahtl has never failed me. Words are our Medicine, so long as we create from the fires within the rest falls into place. As each letter precedes the next, so too do our stories and it is our duty to share them even if they come out tongue parched and our voices shaking. We need to hear from every corner of every bedroom from every girl. Something is sure to reach someone somewhere.
Iris De Anda is a Guanaca Tapatia poet who hosts The Writers Underground Open Mic at the Eastside Cafe every third Thursday of the month. Author of CODESWITCH: Fires From Mi Corazon. www.irisdeanda.com.