Rest in Power: Alfred Arteaga

Alfred Arteaga
Originally uploaded by geminipoet

I didn’t know you very well, Alfred, but you were generous in your spirit and with your words. You once asked me, “How’s work?” I said, “You know, same ole 9 to 5.” You said, “No, not that. Your real work. How’s the writing?’

I will say that the work is going well but I wish I could hear more of your work. Instead, I will go back to what you have left for us. Thanks for this.


From Espistles 1-6 (courtesy of

April 26, 2005

Dear Alfred,
While wondering how to begin this project, I came to the conclusion that I should discuss the issue of most relevance to my writing, which is myself. Poetry is often an act of narcissism. Sometimes, when I’m feeling especially self involved, I imagine myself in a house full of mirrors, each one depicting the different ways in which I view myself. My poetry is a way to both keep myself from being trapped in an endless montage of self reflection, as well as to project those images in a cohesive shape to others, in some ways, as a form of self validation. Don’t misunderstand me; I write for myself, I have to in order to get words on the page. However, in the back of my mind, I must also consider what other people will think.

Herein lies my insecurity; should I be able to write happy poems or is poetry simply better or more interesting when there is an element of some more dangerous or subversive emotion? Perhaps when in that numbing haze of being in love or lust, I shut off some part of my intelligence. It could be the part that is a bit darker, more thoughtful and rebellious. Maybe what makes me happy is a bit commonplace, kisses, sunny days, etc, but what makes me sad or angry is more unique and therefore more interesting a source to write from.


So to answer your question, let me pose another. How could you not find poems of pain and loss more efficacious than those of romance and love? You prize the endeavor of poetry but lack faith in its efficacy. You write poems that reach out to the reader but do extol the triumph of love. You are more interested and find more art in disharmony than in harmony. Love poems must strike you as naive and somewhat facile. But because you espouse ambiguity, unfinished meaning, and the breaking of expected order, my answer cannot be that simple. Take the image of the stone at your poem’s end. I cannot know without doubt whether it is of a ring or to be thrown.


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