I went to see an old friend’s book launch last night. Tim Perez has just released his first poetry collection, The Savagery of Bone, Moon Tide Press. Back in the late 1990s, we were at Cal State Long Beach’s MFA with about 10 other people who hung out together and formed a fairly tight social group. 6 graduate units was considered a full-time load, and we all were required to take 15 a semester, literature and writing. The hours were intense, and we’d go out afterwards to eat and drink and laugh as hard as we could.
We were learning craft then. That’s what any good MFA teaches. I was learning different ways to put together my novels and short stories. I began to become enamored of post-modern techniques of structuring novels. I dreamed of creating overly-complicated non-linear stories that jumped time and place. For what purpose? Well I hadn’t figured that out. I just wanted to be complicated.
I suppose I might be embarrassed about that now. I’m not. I was doing exactly what good students do. I was trying new things out, testing the limits of what I could do in my craft. What I ended up with wasn’t good, but I developed a great deal during that time, and so did everyone around me. Tim certainly did.
When I graduated, we promised to keep in touch, but of course we didn’t. Graduation night was the last time I would see him for a very long time.
Last night as he was reading, a lot of us from the old days came to support him. He’s turned into a great poet. What he’s developed is the experience to write about something interesting. I’ve seen so many of my friends develop.
Tim’s poetry has been informed by a life of having children and teaching high school and losing parents. Life knocks us all around more than we think it will. He’s put so much of that into his writing. Looking around last night at part of our old group of friends, Jeff Epley, Tony Starros, Marco Vasquez, and Tim Perez, I realized how much we have grown as writers. Anything I’ve heard from any of those writers has knocked me over, has surprised me in the best possible way.
But I guess I shouldn’t be surprised that they’ve grown as writers. They’ve all lived well. And living well is the best teacher a writer can have.
By the way, if you’re interested, Tim’s collection of poetry is biographical and brilliant. It deals with his growing understanding of what it means to be an adult and the responsibilities that he’s taken on as a man in his community. It’s one of those books that teaches people how to be good human beings.