Imperial Valley College Journalism

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The Desert of Inspiration


By Jose Noriega

“I stare at the deserted field and begin to wonder when I will reach an end,” Anais Sanchez writes in her journal about the many fields around the valley. The agriculture of the Imperial Valley is everywhere and poets write about the surrounding fields.  –Photo by Jose Noriega

“Mazes of canals spread all across my home, letting out its scent to remind me of my home,” Mark Garcia wrote in a poem called “Mazes of Canals.” Around the outlines of the cities of the Imperial Valley sit many canals that seem endless. – Photo by Jose Noriega

IMPERIAL VALLEY, Calif. –Despite the Imperial Valley being called the most illiterate county in California in a study conducted by the U.S. Department of Education in 2003, it is still home to an artistically literate community of both young and old poets who say the valley gives them uniquely positive and negative inspiration.

“The negative is that the valley is boring, isolated and full of mean people,” said Mark Garcia, 42, a poet from Calexico, “while the positive is that it’s peaceful, slow-paced, and there are some nice people as well. This is what I call my desert of inspiration.”

“I had precious moments, I had terrible heart breaks, I had arrogance thrown at me… In this deserted paradise I call my home,” writes 38-year-old poet Sandra Hernandez from Calexico. The valley’s people seem to be the muse of local poets, rather than the vast, lonely looking desert. “People here are unique and some weird in the choices they make,” Hernandez says.

“I stare at the deserted field and begin to wonder when I will reach an end,” Anais Sanchez writes in her journal about the many fields around the valley. The agriculture of the Imperial Valley is everywhere and poets write about the surrounding fields.  –Photo by Jose Noriega

“I stare at the deserted field and begin to wonder when I will reach an end,” Anais Sanchez writes in her journal about the many fields around the valley. The agriculture of the Imperial Valley is everywhere and poets write about the surrounding fields. –Photo by Jose Noriega

The valley’s small, but close-knit poetry community often meets to share their works during open mic nights at the Anazoa Café in Imperial and with the “Open Minds” poetry club at the Camarena Memorial Library in Calexico. And Calexico marks every April as poetry month with a festival that allows local writers to create an anthology that is sold as a book.

There are a lot of talented people in the valley, declares Hernandez when asked about the issue of literacy locally. The earlier-mentioned 2003 study found that 41 percent of the valley’s nearly 100,000 population at that time could not read or write. That is an added challenge in teaching poetry. Imperial Valley College English instructor Roberta Bemis said, “When you’re literate you have a better time understanding the meaning, as well as the structure, and literature reference.”

Poet Elaina Martinez says, “I mean the kids here do act like they don’t know anything, but I bet deep inside they could

In the first lines of the Elaina Martinez's poem “Beauty in the Desert” she writes, “And many roses grow their veins around the rigid stones and dirt. Engaging beauty in the Desert.” Planted gardens beautify the dirt and stones of the desert. –Photo by Jose Noriega

In the first lines of the Elaina Martinez's poem “Beauty in the Desert” she writes, “And many roses grow their veins around the rigid stones and dirt. Engaging beauty in the Desert.” Planted gardens beautify the dirt and stones of the desert. –Photo by Jose Noriega

learn anything they want. I think it’s part of the trend to be failing school and many kids are following it.”

That is a foreign concept to local poets who started writing poetry at a young age and for various reasons. “I was about 15 years old and I was going through my teenage rebel stage,” Garcia recalls. “At the time, it seemed writing poetry was the only way I could express my feelings and it caught on to me after all these years.”

“When I was about 10 I used to write little poems here and there, and I stopped writing for about a couple of years,” Martinez said, “then I started writing again when I reached high school. I guess it was the only way I could express my feelings about others at the time.”

“Honestly, I don’t really remember, but I think I was around the age of 14,” said Sanchez. “I’ve been writing so much that I never looked back on it and now, I don’t recall any day when I’m not writing.”

One Reply

  1. you did a fantastic job on this story, Jose!


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