John Olivares Espinoza was born and raised in Southern California. He is the son of a landscaper and special education teacher. Olivares graduated in 2000 from the UC Riverside creative writing department. That same year, his first book of poetry, "Gardeners of Eden," was published by the Chicano Chapbook Series. Olivares is currently enrolled in the MFA program at Arizona State University.
His second poetry collection is entitled "Aluminum Times" (Swan Scythe Press). The book is filled with honest, evocative and no-nonsense language that paints a true picture of a Chicano's working-class experiences.
In "Aching Knees in Palm Springs," the young narrator recounts working for his father, a gardener, at a large house in Palm Springs:
We spent our vacations in shivers--
Raking, trimming, and mowing
Frosted gardens with Dad.
At the eighth hour of kneeling
And picking, the weight on my knees
Was too much for me to continue.
So every time I pulled out a fistful of grass,
I stood up tall and stretched,
The cold air sneaking under my shirt.
In "Love Simple," the narrator remembers his first love that "occurred between/The ninth and tenth grade--/My first girlfriend--/And boy! Did it come with perks!/She fed me the burritos/My few hungry dimes couldn't buy."
Here, because of the narrator's near poverty, both love and food become intertwined into one, all-embracing meal for both body and soul.
What I enjoyed most about this collection is the author's refusal to sugarcoat his childhood. We hear his anger towards his father, we hear the pain of growing up without much money.
But there is joy, as well, though meager.
This is a beautiful and truthful collection. I highly recommend it.
The publisher of this chapbook, Swan Scythe Press, can be visited at: http://swanscythe.ucdavis.edu.
Daniel A. Olivas:
Daniel, who grew up near the Pico-Union/Koreatown neighborhoods of Los Angeles, is a Chicano writer living in the San Fernando Valley. Visit his web page at: http://www.homestead.com/DanielOLivas/olivas.html.