Wat Ahm on
Hello everyone, My name is Luis Humberto Valadez. I am from a place called Chicago Heights, IL. It's a suburb of Chicago (on the south side) but not a suburb in the way one would typically view the term. While some distance from Chicago proper the landscape of Chicago Heights is rather urban and, in the experience of many, treacherous. For all the bleakness of this place, it is also remarkably diverse and sentient. It has factored into so much of my perspective that it looms as a backdrop in my first book of poetry 'what i'm on' (University of Arizona Press, 2009). I went to undergrad. at Columbia College Chicago and received my MFA in Writing & Poetics with a concentration in Poetry from Naropa University in Boulder, CO. I am a winner of the Lily Endowment and a Hispanic Scholarship Fund Scholar. I received the Academic Excellence Award from Columbia College Chicago as well as the Honors, Hiro Yamagata, and Ted Berrigan Scholarships from Naropa University. Previous to 'what i'm on,' I released two chapbooks of original work (Heid I-IV and Eye Part One: Eyes Likes it When Ya Die/Lord, Hear Our Prayer) on my own Cerda Press as well as a chapbook of translations from Spanish poet Federico García Lorca's Poet in New York. My work has been published in Bombay Gin 31, 26 Magazine, Columbia Poetry Review, Sliding Uteri, and Wet: A Journal of Proper Bathing from the University of Miami, as well as the online journals Watching the Wheels: A Blackbird, dogmatika.com, and Retort Magazine amongst others I was an editorial assistant for Arielle Greenberg's Youth Subcultures: Exploring Underground America (Longman, 2007), and Co-Editor-in-Chief of The Jack Kerouac School of Disembodied Poetics' journal Bombay Gin 32, which included Anne Waldman, Thurston Moore, Jello Biafra, Rachel Blau Du Plessis, and Juan Felipe Herrera. As a performer, I've shared the stage with folks like Thurston Moore, Against Me, Saul Williams, Jello Biafra, Juan Felipe Herrera, Ten-Speed, Tim Z. Hernandez, Megan A. Volpert, and others. I've played bass and screamed in a few bands as well. Before I approached writing seriously I was playing music, electric bass specifically, and I like to bring a live musical energy to my poetry readings/performances. I have also released an EP of poetry and music with multi-genre producer/musician endofnight, called wat ahm on (ep) in conjunction with Last Minute Records. In my ventures as a writer and student it has become quite apparent to me that exploiting my disadvantaged socio-economic background to academic success story is bad. I find it better to break down, deform, and deconstruct the mores of hood stories and life. One on end I see myself as peeling away at layers of identity and neuroses and at the other I see myself as throwing hooks in water. As many have done for me in the past, I am hoping to provide others with something to grab onto to get them through the next phase of their life. I sincerely believe that had certain artists and other presences not come along in my life when I was a child and given me something to grab onto and float along with, I most certainly would either be in jail or dead and perhaps have caused some vile destruction on the way to those plateaus. In light of all of this, I still believe it most important to search for the intention behind the initial sentiment. These days I write, perform, play bass, make music, and work as a Program & Education Coordinator for Chicago HOPES (Heightening Opportunity and Potential for Educational Success). We are an initiative of the Chicago Public Schools Homeless Education Program that provides one-on-one tutoring, personal development programs, and other support and services for students living in homeless shelters in Chicago. I work with the organization as an Americorps VISTA.