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Author focuses on dark stories from within (Audio)

By Carolina Astrain
April 22, 2013 at 5:03 p.m.
Updated April 22, 2013 at 11:23 p.m.


From bugs and grapevines to following his Mexican-American heritage's historical paths, author and performance artist Tim Z. Hernandez likes to focus on the stories from within.

The California native will be reading Thursday from his collection of poetry at the University of Houston-Victoria.

His writing is dark with a dash of entertaining cynicism mixed in with a dollop of hope.

In "Natural Takeover of Small Things," released in 2013, the word "tendril" appears sporadically throughout Hernandez's collection of poems.

"Where I live, we're surrounded by grape fields, by vineyards," Hernandez said. "It's something that whenever I think of home there are few images ... that really capture the essence of this place than like a grapevine tendril."

In "Two Girls," Hernandez captures an essence of innocence in his writing about two young girls squatting to pee outside in public, oblivious to a swarm of maggots and a rotting squirrel carcass nearby.

The poems ends with, "How simple those times when one could expose their thighs to pee beneath the open eye of sky and not fear what lies beyond the fence."

Although Hernandez ends his short poem on an uplifting, nostalgic note, a tinge of danger trails.

"It's meant to be funny and kind of playful, and at the same time, it's pretty intense," Hernandez said.

Although he claims no idols, Hernandez said he regards Henry David Thoreau's "Walden," as his poetic inspiration.

In his writing, Hernandez covers environmental themes, and his poetry leaves readers with their ears pressed to the ground.

"Cooked Tongue" parallels the preparation of lengua - a Mexican taco cuisine typically made of cooked cow tongue - with the bullfrogs and night noises of the swamps of east central Fresno.

Since he's taken a break from teaching, the author said he's been working on a project about the famous 1948 plane crash in Los Gatos Canyon near Fresno.

The crash resulted in 32 deaths, including the lives of 28 Mexican nationals who were being deported.

During his trip to South Texas and UHV this week, Hernandez said he hopes to meet some of the living relatives of the Mexican nationals he suspects live in the Bay City area.

The event inspired Woody Guthrie and Martin Hoffman to write the song, "Plane Wreck at Los Gatos (Deportee Song)," which has been sung by several folk artists since.

After his grandfather passed away, Hernandez said he's started to record everybody he interviews after using the technique to capture his grandfather's stories during the last three years of his life.

"That's something I've continued to do in my writing," Hernandez said. "Just recording people and listening to people's stories."

Since he became a father four years ago, Hernandez said, he's become more motivated now than ever to produce more work.

"Writing became more urgent," Hernandez said. "I've never been more productive."

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