National Poetry Month — Day 27

This past weekend I attended DFWCon, a writing conference in the Dallas/Fort Worth area. It’s the fourth year I’ve attended, and while I’ve been to several other writing conferences, I think DFWCon, so far, is my favorite. There are a number of reasons why, but that would be another post.

One thing the con had this year — which is unusual for non-academic writing conferences, I think — was POETRY. Yay! One of the poet presenters there this year was Joaquín Zihuatanejo, a really impressive spoken-word artist and rather good workshop/class leader.

One feature the con offered this year was a Heroes and Villains competition. Essentially, a bunch of people took the Heroes session, which was a character development class to collectively come up with a hero. At the same time, a bunch of other people took the Villains session, which was a character development class to collectively — you guessed it — invent a villain. Then two slam poets took all those character notes, and overnight, they each composed a poem to go with one of those characters. An illustrator also came up with artistic visual renderings of these proposed characters.

The following is the poem that went with the villain character, and it was delivered beautifully at the Sunday lunch keynote program by its author.




Villain Hell


A villanelle


My father’s arms were replaced by orphanage walls
Dropped on cold steps draped in my mother’s sweater
The six pound eight ounce embodiment of the heroic fall

My mission in life, to grow stalwart and tall
A child who turned her back on heroic things because I knew better
My mother’s embrace was replaced by orphanage walls

The bigger children attacked me once in a bathroom stall
Forced their heads in toilets, I grew angrier while they grew wetter
A six-year old embodiment of the heroic fall

They dropped the gauntlet I answered the call
Dropped me without so much as a letter
The heroes that were my parents were replaced by orphanage walls

A revenge filled adolescent I grew to live for the brawl
Mastered the art of deadly traps, I was a real go getter
The sixteen-year old embodiment of the heroic fall

When I trap the heroes under my heel, I listen for their caterwauls
My cape, nothing more than an unassuming sweater
If I kill one hero, I’ve killed them all, replaced them all with orphanage walls
The bloodshot, crazy eyed, 30 year—No, 29-year old embodiment of the heroic fall




Joaquín was the winner of the 2008 Individual World Poetry Slam Championship, besting 77 poets representing cities all over North America, France, Japan, and Australia. The following year Joaquín was the poet chosen to represent the U.S. at the 2009 European World Cup of Poetry Slam in Paris, France, a competition that he won besting 15 poets from 15 different nations, making him the number one ranked slam poet in the world on both sides of the Atlantic. In recent years Joaquín has given performances in Mexico, Canada, Spain, Germany, Austria, and the Island of Reunion off the coast of South Africa. He was the winner of the Institute for Creativity, Consciousness, and Community Artist in Residence Award by the National Hispanic Cultural Center in Albuquerque, New Mexico, where he spent the better part of the summer writing and teaching in 2014. Joaquin was also recently a featured performer at the Lincoln Center La Casita Literary Festival in New York City, and while there was invited by NPR to be interviewed for two upcoming series, Historias and The National Teacher’s Initiative. A featured poet at the Glastonbury Music and Arts Festival in 2015, he is currently a second year MFA student at the Institute of American Indian Arts in Santa Fe, New Mexico. Joaquín’s work has been published in Prairie Schooner, Yellow Medicine Review, Más Tequila Review, and Learn Then Burn, among others. His latest collection of poems and short fiction, Fight or Flight, is due out this summer by CoolSpeak Book Publishing. Joaquín currently lives just north of his hometown of Dallas, Texas, with his wife and two daughters. He has two passions in his life: his wife, Aída, and poetry, always in that order.