A few days ago I had the pleasure of hearing Melinda Palacios, poet and author, read several of her poems. She was a guest poet at the Carnegie Museum’s 2011 Arcade Poetry Series. I’m a recent ‘follower’ of her blogs on “La Bloga,” and admire her style of writing. So it was without hesitation that I jumped on the chance to listen to her give a reading in my hometown.
Melinda’s book of poetry, Folsom Lockdown, is the winner of the 2009 Sense of Place Chapbook Award. I love the title of the award “Sense of Place.” Now how did poems which deal with a father being in the second oldest prison in the state achieve a “Sense of Place” award? By being damn good poems is the quick answer. A more thoughtful one is given by Luis J. Rodriguez, “Somehow, we’re all behind bars. And Melinda Palacio’s poems are a welcome reprieve that dares to illustrate how poetry and art are the only real keys to our liberations.”
Once Melinda began reading I was mesmerized by the powerful sound of this petite woman. Her rich voice was full of passion, her hands moved to the imagery created by her words, and she spoke in the vivid voices of the characters in her poems. This was particularly entertaining with the poem “United Steaks.”
Some of the other poems like “Dancing with Zorro’s Ghost, Snake Charmer, Remember Persephone, and Names and Numbers” are wistful, questioning, and often harshly realistic, much like the prison system. All of the poems illustrate the reality of growing up with an often absent father, violence, loneliness, and questions. But the strength of family, acceptance, and maturity are also there, side by side. There is no bitterness in these poems. And that is what allows the depth of her voice to be heard, which is part of their uniqueness and their power.
Melinda’s new work is a novel, Ocotillo Dreams, published by Arizona Press. It will debut in July 2011 and is available for pre-sale on http://www.amazon.com.