Thursday, January 12, 2012
Somerville Poet Amanda Torres: A Chicago Native Struts Her Stuff In Somerville
By Doug Holder
Amanda Torres who is well-established as a writer, teacher, youth leader and poet in Chicago decided to leave the safe environs of her hometown to test the waters and her talents in Somerville, Mass. Torres, who is Mexican-American, came from the the wrong side of the tracks in Chicago, but thanks to writer Anna West and her Young Chicago Authors Program, she was able to pull herself up and out with the help of writing.
Torres said after her father's premature death she got involved with the wrong crowd, illicit activities, etc.. But one day during her shift as a server at the Chopin Theatre in Chicago, writer Anna West saw her writing in her journal, sat down with her, and asked her to join her program for young authors.
Since that significant moment Torres was intimately involved in the poetry scene in Chicago and beyond. Her travels brought her to London where she was part of a slam championship team--to statewide and national slam championships.
Torres first moved to Somerville a few years ago when her mentor Anna West came to these parts to study at Harvard. After West graduated Torres stayed behind. " I wanted to see if I could make it some other place rather than Chicago where everyone knows me. It is part of the growing process," she said.
And indeed Torres has succeeded. She lives in a historic home in East Somerville--the very last house on our famed Illumination Tour. She has worked as a teacher at Somerville's Books of Hope project, and now is a principal player in MASS L.E.A.P-- a program founded by Somerville resident and poet Jade Sylvan, as well as a program director for the Mass. Poetry Festival. This program is sort of a literary outreach for statewide youth.
Torres continues to teach poetry. She uses model poems from her favorite poets to get the creative juices flowing in her young charges. She believes being a teacher involves being honest and authentic. This builds lasting relationships with her students.
Torres reads her own work at the Lizard Lounge and the Cantab Lounge in Cambridge, and seems to be perfectly comfortable in our burg. She smiled and said: " I feel at home here."
My name does not fit me.
It is summer dresses and blue eyes.
I have always been,
will always be, cigarette burns
and back alley beer contests with my boys.
My eyes as brown and calloused as
my fathers hands.
My name means to be loved.
There are cracked bricks in my spine
where I was
with a metal rod
my father flattened and dulled.
when I cry,
drywall dust comes out
and I have to dry my eyes to keep from sneezing.
I have been loved
in the briefest of ways
by so many
I am more accustomed to loss
than to love.
My brown star boy
just found my dimples
with his fingertips.
He took a picture and that's how I knew my face
could be sweet.
I am learning softness
but I was not born into it.
because I know
I could kill