what I'm on

Paperback ($16.95) Buy
Luis Valadez is a performance poet and his poems shout to be read aloud. It’s then that their language dazzles most brightly. It’s then that the emotions bottled up on the page explode beyond words. And there is plenty of emotion in these poems. Frankly autobiographical, they recount the experiences of a Mexican American boy growing up in a tough town near Chicago. Just as in life, the feelings in these poems are often jumbled, sometimes spilling out in a tumble, sometimes coolly recollected. Sometimes the words jump and twitch as if they’d been threatened or attacked. Sometimes they just sit there knowingly on the page, weighted down by the stark reality of it all.

José García
put a thirty-five to me
my mother was in the other room
He would have done us both
if not for the lust of my fear

This new Mexican American/Chicano voice is all at once arresting, bracing, shocking, and refreshing. This is not the poetry you learned in school. It owes as much to hip hop as it does to the canon. But Valadez has paid his academic dues, and he certainly knows how to craft a poem. It’s just that he does it his way.

i anagram and look and subject to deformation and reconfiguring . . .
it ain’t events or blocks that ahm jettisoning through this process
it be layers of meaning, identity, narrative, and ego that gets peeled off
i can only increase my own understanding
"Valadez's lyrics come storming off the page, capturing the reader in a whirlwind."—MultiCultural Review

"Inventive, energetic, and surprising."—El Paso Times

“In voices colloquial and church, reverent and riotous, serious and sly; in rap and fragment, sound and sin; from gangs and minimum-wage jobs to astrology and Christ, Luis Valadez makes his fearless debut. This poetry is a painfully honest disclosure of identity and anger, and it is as mindful of falsity and as hard on itself as it is playful, loose, and loving. Sometimes the language is clear and cutting, while other times it disintegrates into sonic units and primal utterances: Luis calls upon the whole history of oral and verbal expression to tell his story—going so far as to write his own (wildly funny and disturbing) obituary.”—Arielle Greenberg, author of My Kafka Century

“On the trail blazed by innovators like Harryette Mullen and John Yau, Luis Valadez sends wild, canny, charged, and vulnerable prayers from the hard camp of contested identities. Each line, each word, is a blow against 'impossibility' and the heavy pressure to be silent as expected. Interrogations of tradition(s) as well as celebrations, the irresistible poems in Valadez’s first collection exist at the exact fresh moment of deciding to live and to love.”—Laura Mullen, author of After I Was Dead
what I'm on
80 Pages 6 x 8 x 0.3 Published: 2009 Paperback (9780816527403)

For Authors

The University of Arizona Press publishes the work of leading scholars from around the globe. Learn more about submitting a proposal, preparing your final manuscript, and publication.



The University of Arizona Press is proud to share our books with booksellers, media, librarians, scholars, and instructors. Request reprint licenses, information on subsidiary rights and translations, accessibility files, review copies, and desk and exam copies.


Support the Press

Support a premier publisher of academic, regional, and literary works. We are committed to sharing past, present, and future works that reflect the special strengths of the University of Arizona and support its land-grant mission.