100 Creatives

100 Creatives 2012: Lupe Mendez, Poet and Poem Pusher

Whoever said poetry was a dying art has never met Lupe Mendez. Mendez has found a way to weave this form of the written word into his every day. Whether it is his work as a teacher, his association with "Nuestra Palabra: Latino Writers Having Their Say" or his own writing, poetry, to Mendez. is alive and well.

What he does: First and foremost, Mendez describes himself as a "working poet." Like so many artists out there, Mendez had to find a way to channel his passion for his art into a viable economic solution, so Mendez turned to teaching. He currently teaches literature and writing to a gaggle of young minds at the Helms Elementary school.

In addition to his teaching, Mendez has worked to push Latino writers into the forefront through his work with the organization "Nuestra Palabra." Nuestra Palabra has been around for more than a decade and encourages the promotion and creation of Latino writers and their work.

Additionally, Mendez is a part of the WORD AROUND TOWN Poetry Tour, which is a weeklong poetry event that moves from location to location. "The basic idea is to spotlight seven amazing poetry-supporting venues," says Mendez, "as well as bring poets to places they have never read."

But don't forget that Mendez also writes. He has performed his poetry all around Houston and far outside the Loop; he was recently featured in El Paso at the "Barbed Wire Open Mic Series." Mendez's work has been published as a part of Norton's newest anthology, Sudden Fiction Latino: Short-Short Stories From The United States and Latin America, the 25th anniversary edition of The Bayou Review (University of Houston-Downtown) and Flash (University of Chester, England), the international forum for flash fiction. His forthcoming work will be included in Huizache, the Literary Journal out of Centro Victoria, from the University of Houston at Victoria.

Why He likes it: "It's what I do to not go crazy," Mendez says with all seriousness. "It's not just something I love to do. It's as much a part of me as eating and breathing. It's how I think and then put on paper." Additionally, Mendez enjoys the social nature that he has incorporated into his work.

"I get to talk and interact with so many different sorts of people: students, artists, people in need, volunteers, educators, activists, and the stories and ideas just come across my heart so well, I have to be able to be witness and write it out. It has to be documented, it has to be expressed."

What Inspires Him: "I think I am inspired mostly by the humbling experiences I run into. It could be something I have experienced or something I know someone else is going through, and so I think it deserves to be on paper." While Mendez acknowledges that poetry isn't for everyone, he makes an effort to create work that is accessible.

"I want my poetry, my writing to be appealing and inspiring to people who are great fans of poetry, great scholars of poetry, and equally as credible to people who wouldn't be caught dead at a poetry reading. I know poetry isn't for everyone, but I want to be that writer that converts folks. I hope I can be the poet that attracts anyone; if I can do that, then I know my message, my images are reaching a lot of people."

If Not This, Then What? If Mendez wasn't writing poems, he would throw his hat back in the theater ring, a place where he found some of his roots.

"Oh wow, I guess if I wasn't doing the poetry thing, I think I would either go in the other direction and head back into theater. I worked with an all-"brown" theater troop in the early 2000s -- "The Royal Mexican Players." They are still around in Milwaukee. I miss theater sometimes. It's how I met my wife. It's how I made some of my closest friendships. I love being on the stage and working to produce a quality production.

Or he could go in a totally different direction!

"Or, I would be a professional salsa dancer. Yes ma'am. I said it. Ruby Rivera, where the hell are you?"

If Not Here, Then Where? "If I wasn't kickin' it here in Houston (and sometimes in my hometown of Galveston), I think I might be doing the same thing in either El Paso (that is an amazing town!!) or New Orleans. I like the feel of El Paso; it's a growing and an amazing arts community. I just finished featuring in "El Chuco" and have made some amazing friends, and the energy there, it matches Houston. The sense of making a difference in the community through art is amazing and it's fresh. They have something going on over there and I wish I could be more a part of it. And New Orleans? Man, that is one of my favorite cities. It always has been. The history and the scenery, the great Mississippi, the quarter, the music and the people have always attracted me."

What's Next: "Currently, I am working with my NP gang, as we just finished taking a caravan of contraband books back into Tucson, Arizona -- in total, over 1,000 books, worth over $20,000, helping defend and support the students and teachers of the Mexican American Studies program (MAS) within the Tucson Unified School District (TUSD). Yeah, it made us mad, so we went in and took books back into the hands of students. That's what's up. Now, we have instituted Phase II -- creating "Underground Libraries" across the United States. As we speak, our latest addition is being set up in El Paso, Texas, with the help of the YWCA's Racial Justice Center. The ribbon cutting happens on September 8.

Aside from that, I am currently working on an essay for "S/Citing Houston," a writing project where local artists get to write an essay detailing how local venues, landmarks or places in Houston have served as inspiration for their artistic endeavors. In addition, I am working with local poet dee!colonize as she serves as a host for a new talk-show style show, filmed at Bohemeo's, where she gets to interview local artists in front of a live audience.

I am currently working on my MFA in Creative Writing at the University of Texas at El Paso, and once completed, I hope to keep on teaching, hopefully in a college classroom (and keep publishing!!)"

More Creatives for 2012 (In order of most recently published; click here for the full page).

Jason Nodler, artistic director, playwright, director Ana Treviño-Godfrey, musician Matthew Detrick, classical musician Travis Ammons, filmmaker Florence Garvey, actress Julia Gabriel, artist, designer and backpack maker Rebecca French, choreographer and FrenetiCore co-founder Kiki Neumann, found object folk artist Flynn Prejean, Poster Artist JoDee Engle, dancer David Rainey, actor, artistic director and teacher Geoff Hippenstiel, painter, art instructor Jessica Janes, actress and musician Dennis Draper, actor and director Mat Johnson, novelist and tweeter Orna Feinstein, printmaker and installation artist Adriana Soto, jewelry designer Domokos Benczédi, Noise and Collage Artist Robert Boswell, Book Author, UH Prof Patrick Turk, visual artist Elizabeth Keel, playwright Bob Martin, designer Mary Lampe, short film promoter and developer Nisha Gosar, Indian classical dancer Jeremy Wells, painter George Brock, theater teacher Radu Runcanu, painter Ariane Roesch, Mixed-Media Sandie Zilker, art jewelry maker Philip Hayes, actor Patrick Palmer, painter Ana Mae Holmes, Jewelry Designer John Tyson, actor Jerry Ochoa, violinist and filmmaker Raul Gonzalez, painter, sculptor, photographer Roy Williams, DJ of medieval music Laura Burlton, photographer David Peck, fashion designer Rebecca Udden, theater director Donae Cangelosi Chramosta, vintage designer handbag dealer Paul Fredric, author John Sparagana, photographer Damon Smith, musician and visual artist Geoff Winningham, photographer Johnathon Michael Espinoza, visual artist Jaemi Blair Loeb, conductor Katya Horner, photographer Johnathan Felton, artist Nicoletta Maranos, cosplayer Carol Simmons, hair stylist Joseph "JoeP" Palmore, actor, poet Greg Carter, director Kenn McLaughlin, theater director Justin Whitney, musician Antone Pham, tattoo artist Susie Silbert, crafts Lauralee Capelo, hair designer Marisol Monasterio, flamenco dancer Carmina Bell, promoter and DJ ReShonda Tate Billingsley, writer Kiki Lucas, choreographer and director J.J. Johnston, theater director Mary Margaret Hansen, artist Richard Tallent, photographer Viswa Subbaraman, opera director Emily Sloan, sculptor and performance artist Sonja Roesch, gallery owner Enrique Carreón-Robledo, conductor Sandy Ewen, musician Camella Clements, puppeteer Wade Wilson, gallery owner Magid Salmi, photographer Carl Williams, playwright

Abby Koenig
Contact: Abby Koenig