AV Arts Convo: Poems by Hollie N. Martin

HAPPENING NOW: Antelope Valleys Arts new initiative, the AV ArtConvo, featuring poems by Hollie N. Martin.

Presenting poems by Hollie N. Martin – “Laguna’s Labor” & “Shakes in Heat”

SATURATION 2.0: The Arts in Conversation project at Antelope Valley Arts is now live: Local artists (painters, poets, photographers, fiction writers) have been invited to submit art and partake in a conversation on artistic influence and inspiration as the print arm of Antelope Valley Arts is going digital.

This week we are featuring the work of Hollie N. Martin, a poet with a vivid and deeply rooted connection to the arts. When she is not actively meditating on sound through her writing, Martin teaches at Antelope Valley College, where she is probably also meditating on vowels and consonants in delicate contrast and delightful pattern.

File:Rocky Sea Coast-William Trost Richards.jpgLaguna’s Labor


Waters of sanctification scattered.

The sonogram of fish.

A birthing, writing baby

begging to issue from the womb.


Waves do not seem as harsh

from so great a height,

from so small a whisper

not wanting to crack the air with human language.

The tide sings an aria of rocks,

of an intercourse between liquid and solid.

Freely you have received.

                                    Freely give.


Waters of sanctification scattered.

The out-spray of a crash.

Brute force munching a foundation,

eating the cracks of the earth.


And you are down there,

deep-sea decked in 80s yellow.

World never to be born.

World who wonders what it must be like

to inhale deep and

escape amniotic fluid.


And I am up here,

arms cradling the metal guardrail, my own tightrope,

waiting for this foundation’s dissolve,

for the moon’s glow to liquefy my heart

and issue a prayer.


Interview Part 1

Who is your favorite writer? How does he or she influence your work?

Li-Young Lee will always be my favorite poet, and Book of My Nights will always stand in my mind as his best work.  I was first exposed to Lee as an undergrad at CSUN, and I fell in love with the spirituality and sensuality of his language.

I love the recurring theme of the father figure in his work, as in the poem “Little Father,” which discusses burying the father in the heart and birthing him again into the child’s own image.  This is especially touching now, as my own father is suffering from Alzheimer’s Disease; I am having to rebirth him today, to take his sounds and movements and make words out of them.

Lee also brings in song and birds, which are two intense touchstones in my life; these images brought me through my own “book of nights.”  This line from “Lullaby” comforted me when I was suffering from depression and suicidal thoughts while in college: “After crying, Child / there’s still singing to be done.”  The capitalization of the Child spoke to me of importance and significance, as a push to keep existing.  Then the lines, “After wings // and the shadows of wings, there’s still / the whole ungrasped body / of flying to uncover.”  This spoke to me of the promise of potential: there was, and is, so much more flying to do.

I have wanted to emulate the sense of pause and depth in his work, and while I am far from achieving that goal, Lee gave me a deep appreciation of the way one word can change the timbres of a work.

Shakes in Heat

does not feel like Christmas
until there are lights.

Small and white
like rain drops.
Large and pied
like gum drops.
Lights from trees, cars, overpasses,
lights from a city screaming daytime in nighttime tongue.

And I whisper words
while the lights scream. Somehow.
They pulse. I think it’s my eyes.
I think it is lack of 20/20,
lack of hindsight, no time to reason,
only to eat the moment
one droplet at a time.

Sometimes I choose to unfocus.
I open eyes wide and rest.
The lights explode in blur.
Then I strain, then I readjust,
then the light’s song rushes toward me
and it shakes in heat.

Completely mechanical. What
isn’t mechanical.
Christmas becomes a series of bulbs
dangling from gaunt-green strings.
Swear words
at the raising of a killed tree.

So I look for a miracle in shivering lights.
(They’re cold from lack of attention.)
I look for a dream through bars
locking away the view.
Dear city of angels,
I look for winged creatures under every bush.
We with our snowless eves.
Us with questions and pleas.
You and I and cries for peace.

My heart matching a pulse too great to be a machine.

I think light is magic.
I think the city is lit by Gabriel’s torch.
The cries accompany glorias.

I will catch the light in my hands.
I will take it home, sew a little nest,
and watch its wings develop.
I will ask it to fly inside my eyes.


Interview Part 2

How does music influence, shape or fit into your work?

To be honest, I often can’t write anything creative without music.

I have been singing since I was little, and I learned to play guitar when I was 21.  I tried to form a band with my sisters for a time, and we had our own level of success, but it never went very far.  I think I was more fascinated with the writing process of music and performing it for a few friends than for “musical success.”  (One of my favorite pieces of ours was a melodic rendition of pieces from Eliot’s “The Hollow Men.”)

Musical sounds captivate me.  Playing a chord progression in a repetitive manner will often allow me to “see” words or images (I’m a sucker for very traditional time measures with sticky melodies).  I will get a concept, set the guitar down, and start writing.  Some of my strongest poems have been written in these moments.

I have also produced work while listening to the music of others.  My musical tastes tend to not reside in the mainstream—and I’m not talking about the “cool” non-mainstream.  I grew up surrounded by music that was written from the perspective of people who were followers of Christ.  I attended concerts almost every weekend through my teens and twenties, and some of those musicians have remained in my auditory repertoire ever since.

Arts BlogThe artists Jason Upton and Rita Springer are two of these people, and they produce music that I just can’t classify into a specific genre.  Upton is extremely free-flow, in the sense that he often writes songs while in the concert experience itself.  That creativity helps uncork me, especially when I am suffering from writer’s block.  Springer channels a Janice Joplin type of voice and pounds out melodies on the piano.  She is very raw—like a wild lioness who could kill you at any moment and afterwards comfort her baby cubs.  She is so different from me that she also uncorks new arenas of creativity.  Their albums can’t even capture how they sound live, so whenever I can, I try to see them, often with a notebook and a pen in my hand.

Most recently, I have been moved to write while listening to “When the Music’s Over” by The Doors and “The Fire and the Flood” by Loud Harp (a duo who sings the Psalms).



Note: Image above of “Rocky Sea Coast” by William Trost Richards (public domain image).


AV ArtConvo: Poems by Tino Garcia

HAPPENING NOW: Antelope Valleys Arts new initiative, the AV ArtConvo, featuring poems by Tino Garcia.

Presenting poems by Tino Garcia: “Predators” & “Rap and Bone Shop of the Heart”

SATURATION 2.0: The Arts in Conversation project at Antelope Valley Arts is now live: Local artists (painters, poets, photographers, fiction writers) have been invited to submit art and partake in a conversation on artistic influence and inspiration as the print arm of Antelope Valley Arts is going digital.

This week’s featured artist is a musically inspired and intellectually playful poet, Tino Garcia.

Tino Garcia: “I am a teacher, artist, and writer who currently teaches at Antelope Valley College. I grew up near Santa Fe, New Mexico and then attended high school and college in Moorhead, Minnesota. I studied English and Spanish and then taught English as a Second Language in Mexico City for a year, before earning a Master’s in Religion (Philosophy of) in Claremont, CA. I studied further in that field at UCSB, while also teaching ESL. I started teaching English at AVC in 2015.”




I lie on my back on a yoga mat

on my patio in Ventura,

land of good fortune,

on a Tuesday morning,

stretching my body and supine mind

into contemplative poses

and prayer recitals,

in the hour after I awaken.

Noticing the rich green

of the pine tree as it babbles

with birdsong, a faint plane

crosses my sky,

draggin in its wake

across my mental sky

an indelible image

from an magazine ad:

a model in a snow-white bikini,

and black stilettos,

lounging near a chic LA hi-rise pool,

cocktail in hand –

airbrushed goddess

of Californicated imaginations –

a Skyy Vodka bottle perched

on the her side table,

luring us into her posh privilege

and luxurious repose.

The scene sizzles in a sexy, blasé

devil may care kind of way.


Oh how lovely it would be

to bask with her under that sun

forget schedules, obligations, calls:

pour some Skyy into us

and just chill…

chill until we feel

a flood of numbness

a rush of inertia

sweep our minds clean

of this dirty world

at least for a little eternal while.

But as I blink and squintingly drink

in the ad’s imagery again,

I notice a plane’s shadow pass

over her oblivious repose,

with an elongated, phallic nose

and wings with protrusions:

not engines, but bombs.

Suddenly she’s cast not

in the city of angels,

but under the hijacked plane

and gaze of predators.

Their shadow and eyes invisible,

except their embeds

in the splay of her lustrous,

raven black hair:

I gaze and am gazed at

by the unblinking,

unmistakable head, beak, and eye

of the black bird of death.

Why is this predator eyeing me, us?


I look again to the sky and see

across it a 15 year old

lying on his patio,

stretching his body and supine mind

into contemplative poses

and prayer recitals,

in the hour after he awakens

on a Tuesday morning

in a foreign land:

in al Majala, Yemen,

in Waziristan, Pakistan,

in Nangahar, Afghanistan.


The boy, the woman, and I

all haunted by homeland insecurities

and their predators: I spy




predator soldier-criminal-complexes,

and a dove-colored Predator drone

flying invisibly over his house

at 5,000 feet

haunting his entire sky.

And on a Tuesday morning as he prays,

it buries that boy’s prayer

in a missile squawk as hot

and haughty and eternal as the hell fire

for which it is named.

And in a control room in Vegas

and in the Pentagon, if you listen

you can hear the brass squawks

of Pyrrhic victories,

as a whole world heaves and







Interview Part 1:

How does music influence, shape or fit into your work?

Music bears an intimate relationship to my poetry: intimate in the sense that they seek to speak the unspeakable to each other. They turn to and turn into each other and I can never separate them, as if they are divine twins, or shadows of each other. Most of my poems are meant to be spoken out and I often set them to music. Music is a many-voiced muse whose rhythms and sways and beats I aim to channel into my words as I speak them, whether the poem is accompanied by actual music or not. I also rap, so many of my poems are essentially raps and vice versa.


Who or what are your major artistic influences?

My major artistic influences come primarily from three forces: music, especially rap; literature; and diverse intellectual traditions (philosophical, religious, political, etc.). The figures I draw on most tend to blend these forces. In terms of rap, who comes to mind are Mos Def and Kweli, Immortal Technique, Brotha Ali, Wu-Tang, Common, the Roots, and many others. In terms of literature, diverse figures such as Sherman Alexie, Langston Hughes, Jimmy Santiago Baca, David Whyte, Junot Diaz, Rumi, Walt Whitman, Julio Cortázar, Nikos Kazantzakis, John Fowles, Herman Hesse, and others. On the intellectual tip, Nietzsche, Socrates, Jacques Derrida, Cornel West, Frantz Fanon, Enrique Dussel, and others.


Rap and Bone Shop of the Heart


I crack the question open from the start to you:

What if rap is a rag n bone shop of the heart too?

What if it were true?

Would it sound different to you?

Cuz like Hughes the classic forms it may eschew,

But it too hews and drops innumerable jewels

Cuz rap did not come here to do tricks with rhymes, no –

It came to reproduce the human soul:

To lay stun hew and shake its peers’ ears.

But too many still don’t hear, so to be clear:

Rap’s best should be appreciated as peers

Of master creators like Shakespeares.

Huh! You may jeer,

Thinking they’re not on par,

But peer again, ask yourself who’s the bard:

Quote “The most benevolent king

Communicates through your dreams” unquote –

Is this the yearning of Elizabethan tragedy

Or a 21st century soul activist MC?

They said hip-hop was much ado about nothing:

Not to be thought of as true sound conducting.

But Shakespeare too was born under a rhyming planet

And a stork dropped hip-hop into the pocket of iambic

Pentameter, so you could rock “Shall I Compare Thee”

At 80 b.p.m.s or 140, get it really racing!

Open up the Bard’s unique vocab and let its canon blast

But I heard he busts fewer unique words

Per first 35,000 words in his oeuvre

Than the Wu-Tang Clan, who drops science like WMDs.

So Socrates’ philosophies’ hypotheses can’t define either of these

Griots, custodians of alkaline knowledge from parallel streets;

Peep the Rag and Bone epigraphy:

“Those masterful images because complete

Grew in pure mind, but out of what began?

A mound of refuse or the sweeping of a street

Old kettles, old bottles, and a broken can

Old iron, old bones, old rags, that raving slut

Who keeps the till. Now that my ladder’s gone

I must lie down where all the ladders start,

In the foul rag-and-bone shop of the heart.”

From this foul place excavated by W.B. Yeats

Comes the profound base of rap’s heavy weights.

For who quipped, “Maybe it’s hatred

I spew, maybe it’s food for the spirit”?

Was it the haunted Lord Hamlet

Or the sarcastic Marshall Mathers

A.k.a. Eminem? Well it was the latter;

But that’s just to say affinities resound, even if

Shakespeare ever redounds to peerlessness,

Cuz stripped of our contextual lenses

The lyrics begin blendin

And raisin conditional questions:

What if it were an unwrapped heart

Right from the slavish start?

What if its core were soft not hard?

What if it embarks on largest arks?

What if rap reveres the currents of King’s dream?

Channels the rivers of America’s dream stream?

What if that’s what it breathes and bleeds?

What if we need to ink it into our creeds?

Need to sing its poems into our Odysseys?

So it too can return home to its Penelopes.

Maybe we need its unseen visions

Like Odysseus needed Tiresias

And like King needed Jesus.

Cuz rap’s a nomad enlightening the lands

Tree of life black every hue rattled

By its solar alma dura

From the concrete jungles to la casa de la luna:

It blends ascents toward vaunted peaks

With descents beneath conscious streets.

See, I dive into rap’s marrow stock

Dig, it’s my rag and bone shop.

So hell yeah it’s full of rags and bones

Shady like Hades so it has soul,

So much soul it overflows

Cuz it’s known rivers, grown deep

And not knowing me you could know me.

Learn and explore my soulful currents

By observing raps flows and disturbances

What if it could help us learn to grieve?

Help heal the wounds burning internally eternally?

What if its strong tonic were truer than

Fine wine, bomb chronic, and juice and gin?

What if it could shake and bake you

Back into earthen clay to remake you?

What if it could bend your tree of life

Along the arc of justice over time?

What if it begins as unwanted grit

Trapped in a mantle of darkness within

A shell, and through slow devotion

Pearls grow in from those deep oceans?

Pried open their beauty blesses our skin,

The grit now covered in sublime rhythms

Manifesting divine wisdoms;

Refined over time the jewels shine on

The priceless light of a daimon

So bright got the cosmos sayin right on

Big bang your beats while we rhyme on!


You ever burned with the warmth of Mahatma Ghandi?

You ever heard the heart of Brotha Ali?

“A man may see how this world goes with no eyes

Blind in the eye so I see you with my heart open wide.”

Who is rapping on the door in the dark?

Is it somebody who wants to do us harm?

No, no it is three strange angels

Open the door and be thankful

Rap is a secret that not all understand

But many blues bears and jazz cats can;

Its lovers grasp its heartfelt beat

And “whoever’s not killed for love is dead meat.”

As coffins rest on coffins in worldwide fields of war

Mos Def cries and Funerals March

And Immortal Technique blasts a Third World manifesto

Like Talib Kweli’s Ballad of the Black Gold

And rap dances with the devil, it is true,

But also with gods, and I hope you do too.

A chorus of laments rages cries and rap knells

Landmarks left behind like mines and shrapnel

The ruins, the unexploded




The unfinished sentences of war




So Tupac held the ashy hand of the Lord of death

Walked the road of children of fire obsessed with it

Gravitas in his gait because he carried graves

His art a refusal of gravity and his own grave

Until its embrace created his fate as an image graven

Crafted rap rosaries that grew in concrete vases

Prayed for shade and havens over raw street beats

And chased chaste Hail Mary: Dear mama save me!

Rage gave way to wailing gave way to graceful sleep.


So what if we call raps prayers and blessings?

Poems of our daughters and sons confessing

What they feel needs raising, holding, protecting

Wishing they knew how it feels to be free

Like Nina Simone – like you and me:

Rap is grateful to what comes

Amazingly faithful to other drums

Incredible fidelity to the same mother

Indelible fidelity to the same sun.


Interview Part 2:

What musician, visual artist or writer would you like to do a TED Talk on and why?

I would love to do a TED talk on the contemporary writer Walter Mosley because he is new to me and I am loving being held under the sway of his genius. I am reading some of his works (Rose Gold, Little Green, Always Outnumbered, Always Outgunned, etc), one of which I am also teaching and, though I do not know that much about him, I feel like I know him through his characters. Through his style, themes, and characters, such as Socrates Fortlow and Easy Rawlins, he fires my imagination and takes my wonder on walkabouts, while also stirring and discharging the sacred outlaw and deep outrage within me. As an illustration of this sway his works have over me and which I would like to share, I am currently working on an essay and also a song about Socrates Fortlow. Mosley’s references to historical and literary events and figures would provide amazing material to analyze in a TED talk, as would the screenplays he has helped turn into films (e.g., Devil in a Blue Dress). Additionally, from what I gather about political and social thinking, I think it is worthy of sharing and discussing. There is so much food for thought and soul food in the works I have encountered that a TED talk would offer an impetus to eat more of what he’s serving up and to crystallize what is currently cooking as a result of his food.

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