Two New Books Explore San Diego’s Impact on the Psyche – Release Reading at Tiger! Tiger! Oct.21

by on October 15, 2018 · 0 comments

in San Diego, Under the Perfect Sun

San Diego City Works Press, a project of the San Diego Writers Collective, is proud to present the release reading for local novelist Josh Turner and San Diego poet, Joe Medina on Sunday, October 21, at 4:30 at Tiger!Tiger! in concert with Verbatim Books,

Baxt and Medina’s works continue the tradition of SD City Works Press of birthing first books by homegrown authors. In fact, Fall 2018 marks 13 years of publication by City Works Press.

The San Diego Writers Collective is a group of San Diego writers, poets, artists, and patrons dedicated to the publication and promotion of the work of San Diego area artists of all sorts. Our specific interests include local, ethnic, and border writing as well as formal innovation and progressive politics.

The Collective’s main focus is local, but we have engaged in occasional collaborations with writers from around the world. City Works Press is an all-volunteer non-profit, funded by local writers and friends of the arts, committed to the publication of fiction, poetry, creative nonfiction, and art by members of the San Diego City College community and beyond.

Recently, I asked both Baxt and Medina to talk a bit about their very different debut projects.

Josh Turner

Please describe your book, how you came to do this project, and what you think makes it stand out?

I like to think Endless Blue Sky is a humorous take on really damaged humans. I find it interesting to explore how people self-medicate: drugs, alcohol, sex, work, sports, accumulating possessions, taking unnecessary chances, exercising authority, finding a smaller dog to kick.

There’s also this element of family and how we acquire it. Sometimes the efforts to conquer the pain produce impromptu families: work friends, sports leagues, drinking buddies, the people who come over on the regular for bong hits. These aren’t generally as lasting as actual families, but they serve an important purpose.

I also like to explore these interconnected elements of rumor and point of view. Just because people think something is true, doesn’t necessarily make it so. There are a lot of unsympathetic descriptions of characters that are based more on opinion than truth.

I wanted to get into the details of everyday life – how people endure. But I also wanted to be able to call bullshit, particularly when the characters were intentionally deluding themselves. For that, I have a caustic, highly intrusive and not entirely trustworthy narrator.

You are a San Diego writer, what role does our region play in your work? How does the city impact your writing?

I once heard someone joke that nobody ever moved to San Diego to work harder, and I believe that’s largely true. Much of Endless Blue Sky is based at work, though not a whole lot of work is getting done. Sometimes the workplace dynamics interfere with the actual work.

But I’m also interested in how the incredible climate embeds itself in people’s psyches. In some ways, life is too easy here. We don’t have to turn on our cars ten minutes before we leave for work, or shovel the drive, or scrape the windows or even worry that our clothing might not match the weather. There are consequences to that, both good and bad.

But there are also these contradictions of identity. What does it mean to live in a beach town when you rarely go to the beach?

Your novel is set in San Diego and yet has a noir aspect. Where does that come from? How does it speak to how we live here?

The main character is sleepwalking through life. To some degree, it’s because he can. He’s trying to find the combination of things, work/family/sex, that will make him happy. But none of it really does.

I don’t think the noir part comes from San Diego so much as the American way of life. People are constantly looking for ways to fine-tune their day-to-day. This goes back to the self-medicating mentioned earlier. They want that activity or possession or diet or whatever that’s going to make them feel better. The weather is great – it’s wonderful – but it’s just not enough. I think many people are surprised by that. Removing the obstacle of bad weather generates new questions.

Joe Medina

Please describe your book, how you came to do this project, and what you think makes it stand out?

My book, The Scorpion’s Mineral Eye, is divided into three sections. The first section, “The Scorpion’s Mineral Eye,” addresses the departure from where I was born, a small ranch tucked in the Sierra Madre mountains of Durango, Mexico.

After the trek, my family and I waited in a seedy neighborhood of Tijuana to have our papers processed. Some of the poems address the people and their environment in which they lived.

The next section of the book, “The Sun- Splashed East San Diego Afternoon,” addresses my immersion into my experiences. The experiences range from the early ‘60s to the present, each poem reawakens sensibilities central to my outlook on loss, redemption, struggle, and love.

The last section, “Cauhtemoc, I Came Here to Find My Heritage,” provides personal insight into love poems for my deceased wife: yes, it’s an homage to Margot, my wife. The other moms reflect my outlook, my growth as a man living in the United States but also with a rich Mexican cultural background.

I came to this project by fulfilling a promise to my wife to put a book together. It was her wish, she had faith in that my drafts were publishable. After I mourned her passing, I got to work: wrote, wrote, capped and chopped, to put it into a book form.

Singular lines, full of rich imagery, a compelling narrative, sometimes using mixed construction of poetic forms, often the co-mingling of both Spanish and English is engaged, coupled with the timeless themes of identity, awakening, struggle, love, loss, and redemption–this is what makes my book stand out.

When you read at City College a few weeks ago, you talked a lot about both your Mexican heritage and your youth in San Diego. How does your work speak to both of those worlds? In what ways is your poetry an expression of border culture?

I know my city well. San Diego is a vibrant city on the move. The city is a symbol of change. While there may be areas that are laid back, there are also neighborhoods that reflect the gifted historic culture, the growing culture. The population continues to grow; people pass through our city from Latin America, from the Caribbean, from all parts of the world and many make this a place to live. Because of this, the economy continues to grow. The city provides parks, colleges and universities, museums, beaches, bays, mountains, and deserts. I can go anywhere and read a book or a magazine, write my observations. The observations become the foundations for drafts of poems. There is no shortage of material for future poems while living in San Diego.

I was born on a ranch in Durango, Mexico, and I was raised in San Diego. My book focuses on my experiences of having a rich Mexican heritage as well as living here in the culture of San Diego. I’m a mirror, a metaphor for both worlds. I pass, like all of us pass, between worlds at the border. I pass the border, to and fro, and I go from one culture and enter another culture. Often, I stand in the middle of the border and see the past and the future. I see the changes, when I pass or when people pass me at the border. Those of us who cross the border see each other and realize that, as a people, we are undergoing a catharsis in language, gender roles, and rights of passage. We love the food, the music of “el otro lado.” We undergo epiphanies of maturation. Even the backside of the wind feels differently. My book is embedded with references to both of my cultures.

Josh Turner and Joe Medina Write San Diego: Sunday, October 21st at 4:30 at Tiger! Tiger! (3025 El Cajon Blvd. in North Park)

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