“All They Will Call You” RELEASE DATE & Other News

Hey Friends,

As I’m writing this update, filmmaker and poet Valentin “The Butcher” Sandoval is sitting across from me cutting up the footage (editing) for the documentary, “Searching for the Plane Wreck at Los Gatos.”The film is a behind-the-scenes look at the research that went into my book, “All They Will Call You.” True to the nature of this whole project, the documentary itself has been a collective undertaking. Videographers include everyone from myself, to Missouri resident Ken Leija, the young videographer Sandy Cano from Guanajuato (who traveled with me throughout central Mexico), at times my own mother Lydia Z. Hernandez took footage with her iPhone, and Fresno based musician Dayanna Sevilla even got some footage for us. Most recently, Valentin has taken some excellent footage of various locales and interviews, including our recent trip to Rough Rock, Arizona. While in Mexico I had traveled around with a driver named Armando Sierra Razo, and of course, my brother in spirit, Guillermo Ramirez (grandson and nephew of two of the passengers). And then back in 2013, musician Lance Canales and Carlos Rascon of the Fresno Diocese were instrumental in helping me raise money to install the memorial headstone. Too, the amazing team at the University of Arizona Press has been critical, and well….I could go on and on, but the long story short is that it’s taken a whole lotta kind hearted people to make every aspect of this project happen, and I believe the world is better for it. I can’t believe it’s all finally coming to fruition, and I can’t wait to share these beautiful and heart-breaking stories with you all!

For now, we’ll be releasing a series of book trailers that feature portions of the documentary between now and the book’s release, January 28, 2017.

 

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Here are a few kind words about the book from some amazing people I admire:

“There’s something miraculous about the storytelling feat Tim Z. Hernandez has pulled off in ‘All They Will Call You.’ With great compassion and patience, he has immersed himself in a long-forgotten episode of California history, and uncovered a multi-layered epic of love, injustice and family fortitude stretching across generations and borders. This is an intelligent, empathic and deeply moving work.”

—Hector Tobar

Author of Deep Down Dark: The Untold Stories of 33 Men Buried in a Chilean Mine, and the

Miracle That Set Them Free

“In his lyrics to Plane Wreck At Los Gatos, my father, Woody Guthrie, asked a simple question, ‘Who are these friends?’ and finally someone has answered that question. Through Hernandez’s amazing work, I now know who these people were, their lives, their loves, and their journeys. “All They Will Call You” is a heart wrenching read for anyone who cares, and the names–now etched in stone in a far off graveyard– have become friends who will travel with me as long as I am walking.”

-Arlo Guthrie

 

An important and moving book, exploring the theme of identity and loss and disenfranchisement — topics that have never been more urgent than they are now. Hernandez has illuminated the present with this original and riveting examination of the past.

—Susan Orlean

Author of The Orchid Thief

 

“Woody Guthrie must surely be smiling, wherever he is.  All They Will Call You completes the sad, yet compelling story outlined many years ago in his song “Deportees.” Thanks to Tim Z. Hernandez, the souls of the migrant workers lost in that 1948 plane wreck can now rest peacefully.  Required reading for true Guthrie fans.”

—Robert Santelli, Grammy Museum Executive Director

 

“Tim Z. Hernandez is the real thing. This epic, tragic story is finally being told, and it is in the best possible hands.”

—Luis Alberto Urrea

Author of The Devil’s Highway

 

“Hernandez’ loving detail and authentic knowledge of The Valley continues to plant him firmly in Steinbeck and Saroyan country while forging his own path. Part documentary part thriller Hernandez’ voice rings true nearly breathless with new information and a certain justice now rising like smoke from the wreckage in the canyons of his beloved and mysterious San Joaquin.”

—Richard Montoya,

Actor/ Producer, Culture Clash

 

“A scrupulous writer and researcher, Hernandez has changed the course of America’s musical history, as well as it’s immigration history.”

—Will Kaufman

Author of Woody Guthrie: American Radical

 

AVAILABLE JANUARY 28, 2017

FINAL VERSION

“All They Will Call You” Timeline

Hi Friends!

Great news. As I write this, the manuscript, which is the culmination of all my research since 2010, is in negotiations for publication. In the meantime, because I’ve been asked on numerous occasions about how this all took shape, I’m posting a timeline of how my research, the headstone, the new version of the song, and documentary have all taken shape. Hopefully this is of some help. Hope to share some good news soon, but in the meantime, enjoy!

 

Los Gatos Plane Crash/ “All They Will Call You” Project Timeline

December 2010: I first saw the newspaper article at the Fresno Public Library, while researching for my previous novel, Mañana Means Heaven. My research began here.

January – December 2011: I immersed myself in the research, and though I found a couple of lists of names online, none were accurate. This whole year was spent solely trying to confirm the names of the passengers. During this time is when I discovered that the Mexican passengers were buried in a mass unmarked grave in Fresno’s Holy Cross Cemetery.

November 2011: I invited musicians Dayanna Sevilla and Lance Canales to perform the song, “Deportees (Plane Wreck at Los Gatos)” with me reading the names at the Steinbeck Festival in Salinas. Dayanna and Lance began exchanging ideas via email for how the song might go. Eventually Dayanna had to cancel the gig and Lance composed his version of the song solo. I continued my research for the names, filing papers with the Freedom of Information Act, and numerous other archival records. Still was unsuccessful.

May 2012: Lance and I performed at the Steinbeck Festival, and afterward, while walking the streets of Salinas, we spoke about the idea of installing a headstone memorial with the list of names I had.

July 2012: I managed to locate the Gaston family, who owned the crash sight property in 1948 and were eyewitnesses to the crash. I began interviewing them, and they showed me the crash sight for the first time. This meeting was a breakthrough, as I now had first hand accounts of what happened that day. This is when my book began too.  This same month, I also located a woman named Diane, who put me in touch with Martin Hoffman’s family, and I began interviewing them immediately.

August 2012: Still trying to confirm names, I approached the Fresno Diocese, where I met Carlos, the cemetery director. He admitted to knowing about the mass burial site and incident but didn’t know about the names until I had inquired. I asked if he’d be willing to check the Fresno County Hall of Records. He agreed, and was successful. This became the second list of names, not entirely accurate but another breakthrough.

October 2012: I formally submitted a proposal to the Fresno Diocese stating that I would pursue installing a memorial headstone at the gravesite, mentioning it would be with the help of friends, including Lance Canales, Fresno artists, and the Diocese. It was approved.

November 2012-February 2013: The Fresno Diocese issued a Press Release and news caught on that I had found the list of names, and that we would be installing a headstone.  During this time, Lance recorded his version of the song, and emailed it to me so that I could record the names over the track. We would use the song to raise money for the headstone.

January 2013: Fundraising for the memorial headstone was officially under way. A combined effort between myself, Lance, Fresno artists and activists, and the Diocese,
organized a concert to raise funds. People from all over the world contributed.

March 2013: I took the story of my search to the Fresno bilingual newspaper Vida en el Valle, hoping someone might read it and be related. Juan Esparza was the reporter, and he ran the story. Three weeks after its release, it was successful.

April 2013: I was contacted by the Ramirez family, who told me they were descendants of two passengers aboard the flight. I met and interviewed them immediately. That same month I also successfully located the family of the pilot and stewardess. I interviewed them right away. The book was making slow progress. The concert was held, and we raised an initial $4,000 for the headstone.

September 2013: We raised $10,000 and installed the headstone in a large public event at Holy Cross Cemetery in Fresno. The Ramirez family was present, and so were the families of the pilot and stewardess, Martin Hoffman, and the eyewitnesses. I organized a caravan trip and took the families to the crash sight for the fist time. We also hosted a public discussion at Ole Frijole restaurant in Fresno. Wide spread media covered the story.

October 2013: I met and interviewed Pete Seeger at his home in Beacon, NY. He told me his version of how the song came to be, and I showed him photos of the passengers, and told him some of their stories. He was visibly moved. Our meeting was captured on film by his grandson, Kitama, and I will release some of this footage in the documentary.

November 2013 – March 2014: I continued to search for more families, while writing my book. While I found much information on the passengers, it was moving slowly because I was funding everything from my own pocket.

Early March 2014: A breakthrough! I found the Sanchez Valdivia family after dozens of phone calls to Zacatecas, Mexico, San Diego, and Tijuana. This was the fifth passenger I managed to locate. I interviewed the family via telephone, but knew I had to meet them in person in Mexico before too long. They sent me photos of their deceased relative.

Late March 2014: Another breakthrough! I located the Padilla Marquez family in Stockton, California, after I recited the list of names out loud at a fundraiser breakfast, and made an appeal to the audience. It happened that a friend of the family was in the audience. They knew the story, and put me in touch with the family immediately. This was the sixth passenger I had now found. By noon that day I was at their home interviewing them. My mother was with me, and we documented the conversation on video.

May 2014: I traveled to the Navajo nation to camp in Canyon du Chelly with the friends and relatives of Martin Hoffman. This is where he last lived and where his life ended. I interviewed them all, and this was also documented.

Sept 2014 – December 2014: I launched a fundraiser crowdsourcing campaign to raise $4000 to travel into Mexico.

January 2015: I traveled into central Mexico, Jalisco, Guanajuato, Zacatecas, with Guillermo Ramirez, to knock on doors using the information I had accumulated over the past few years. This was the last big push in my research, and it was a long shot. We ended up finding the Miranda Cuevas family in Jalisco. I interviewed them and they gave me photos of their relative. During this trip I also interviewed family members for the other passengers I had already found, but who were living in Mexico.

January – December 2015: I continued to search for families, and write my book at the same time.

February 2016: I completed writing the book, tentatively titled, “All They Will Call You.” I am still looking for families and conducting portions of research. I’ve also agreed to donate some of my research to the Woody Guthrie archives in Tulsa, Oklahoma. I am currently working with the El Paso based filmmaker, Valentin Sandoval, on editing the documentary, which is tentatively titled, “Searching for the Plane Crash at Los Gatos.”

Final Note & Credits: To date I have located 7 of the total 32 reported passengers on the airplane.  90 percent of this endeavor, from 2010 to date, has been funded from my own pocket. While the research itself was a solo effort, it wouldn’t have been possible without the assistance of friends, family members, and strangers. Lastly, all of the events on this timeline have been documented in film, audio, photographs, emails, and the notebooks I kept throughout. My book will be released in Spring 2017.

All They Will Call You

Today at 10:40 a.m. (Pacific Standard Time) marks the 68th Anniversary of the Plane Wreck at Los Gatos Canyon. This time last year, I was sitting in a circle with the families of Guadalupe Ramirez Lara and Ramon Paredes Gonzalez in Charco de Pantoja, Gto to honor their relatives by sharing their stories. This year, I am releasing the teaser for the documentary we have been working on throughout this endeavor (see below).

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For those who’ve been following this journey, you might be aware that the book is but one of several components that I’ve been working on around this subject. For this reason, I’m happy to provide you with the following updates on how the whole thing is coming together:

The Documentary

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Click here to watch the teaser for the documentary Searching for the Plane Wreck at Los Gatos

Over the course of the past five years, I’ve had the privilege of working with a handful of filmmakers and videographers who’ve generously given their time to this project, all to toward the common goal of eventually turning this footage into a documentary. To this end, thanks goes to Sandy Cano, Ken Leija, Teresa Flores, Lydia Z. Hernandez, Kitama Cahill Jackson, and especially Valentin Sandoval. Valentin and I are releasing this short teaser today, in honor of the anniversary of the crash, and we hope you enjoy it. I’m grateful to him also for being committed to working with me on editing the documentary, and filming on location to capture a few more interviews and shots that we need to complete the narrative. We are currently seeking funding to finish this project. To find out how you can help with this, please email me at tzhernandez@yahoo.com

The BookFullSizeRender

Throughout this whole endeavor I’ve worked to finish the book, All They Will Call You. I’m happy to announce that at long last it is finished!! I am currently seeking a publisher for it, and hope to have some good news for you all within the next couple of months. It is a 300 page account of the plane crash, the individual lives and stories of the passengers, and the aftermath, all told via interviews, documents, photos, and re-enactments.  Among all the noise-rhetoric surrounding immigration, my hope is that this book is a breath of fresh air.

The Research

Since 2010, the goal was to find the correct names of the passengers, and as many of their families as I possibly could to collect their stories, photographs, and records, as well as, to find the true story of how the song itself took flight. In this effort, I’ve traveled across California, Colorado, the Najavo Nation, Jalisco, Zacatecas, Guanajuato, Texas, and upstate New York. I’ve documented hours of interviews on video and audio, and discovered photos, documents, and hand-written letters.

DSCN0856The Headstone

In 2013, I worked with my good friend Lance Canales, and the Fresno Diocese, as well as an international community of donors, to raise $14,000 to install a new headstone at Fresno’s Holy Cross Cemetery. We installed it with a big celebration on September 2, 2013. The Gonzalez and Paredes family continue to visit it every Dia de los Muertos to pray, sing, and leave flowers. Visitors from all over the world have been making pilgrimages to the sight.

The Humanities

One of the mission’s of this project has always been to share this story with communities everywhere, and to facilitate workshops on the subject of gathering stories. To this end, the story has been told but in academic panels, in live music, print media, and in social media. Also, Lance Canales, Joel Rafael, Carlos Rascon, and communities and musicians everywhere have continued to share the story far and wide. And for this, the families are grateful.

The Archives & Curriculum

Ultimately, the goal has always been to generate a range of multi-media resources on this subject, so that future generations (scholars, teachers, students, and historians) have photo (7)access to this research from any part of the world. Both the Woody Guthrie Center in Tulsa, Oklahoma, as well as the National Library of Congress Folklife Center have expressed interest. While I’m still weighing the options, I’d really like to see this work housed somewhere in California’s central valley, where it all took place. More on this soon. I’m grateful to Professor Dana Walker at the University of Northern Colorado for taking on the effort of turning my research and book into a full blown curriculum for Middle and High School grades. It will include Mexican History, the Bracero Program, American Folk Music, Oral History, and investigative research among primary topics. We’ve just begin this process, so more on this soon. Stay tuned!

All love, Tim Z. Hernandez

 

The Land of the Seven Lamps

As she talked such images gave me great joy. When I got home I’d say: Something is being born inside me, something new that wasn’t there before. I get stronger each time, I’m growing. What was growing was my Mexican being, my becoming Mexican, feeling Mexico inside me…

-Elena Poniatwoska, Here’s To You, Jesusa!

 

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A Conversation In Third Person

               As he bought the plane tickets for Leon, Guanajuato, he remembered this passage from Poniatowska’s book. He often felt this same way, whenever speaking with the descendants of those who died in the plane crash. As they each recalled from memory a Mexico that was unfamiliar to him, he could feel, in his chest, his gut, something rise up, surge even. He was nervous about the trip. Not because of the recent unrest surrounding 43 missing students in Ayotzinapa, or because of the wave of violence that saturated the media, but because he sensed, that over there, somewhere tucked in El Pais de las Siete Luminarias, something new would be born inside him. Perhaps it is the dream of every hyphenated American, removed by three or four generations from the ancestral homeland, to one day return to the source, to witness the origin, and see in the faces of its people one’s own face. Still, the idea that he would be going to Mexico to speak with the families, and in some cases, go looking for them, took some getting used to.

He was undecided whether or not taking his recording equipment was a good idea. Often, he felt, being in the present moment with someone, in a place and time that would likely never occur again, allowing the entire body to record memory of the experience was far more effective than capturing it on some device. In the end, he would decide to take the equipment, but perhaps only use it when absolutely necessary. He prepared as much as one could. Jotted down notes in his small pad, things he didn’t want to forget while there. Began making the proper contacts, checking that his passport and papers were in order, and that his map and itinerary were updated. The local Diocese had given him a few items to take to the families on their behalf: a dozen posters and brochure for the headstone memorial, papel picado, and a standing placard of Jesus Christ rising from the cross, arm extended, reaching for a dove. Along with this, he also packed copies of newspapers, photos of the headstone, and all 28 Death Certificates, one for each passenger. These he would return to the families. For those that were expecting him, he looked forward to meeting them and to hearing their stories. For those who were not expecting him, he looked forward to the unknown. Be alive, he reminded himself. Be completely alive, present as present can be. Avoid, at all costs, being removed from the experience. No third person narrative will do.

I want to tell you this: I’m grateful for the opportunity that all of your contributions have made possible. As I prepare for the trip to Mexico next month (Jan 18-30), I will be carrying all of your good thoughts, prayers, and genuine sentiments with me. I also plan to enter a brief blog for each day that I am there, permitting I have internet access. If you are interested in reading updates, please consider clicking on the subscribe button at the bottom of my blog site. Namaste, amigos!

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Research Fundraiser A Success!

Friends, already your fundraiser contributions are producing results! In light of our upcoming trek to the rural pockets of Mexico, I’ve been making preparations with my good friend, Guillermo Ramirez, who will serve as my guide and research assistant down there. We’ve been speaking to the municipios of various communities and just today he called to tell me we found the family of yet one more passenger! Now that we have enough funds to actually make the trek we’re mapping out our plan, which so far includes visiting the hometowns of seven different passengers. We’ll also be able to purchase some much needed equipment to properly document this journey. I’m feeling very optimistic!

Dan Vera. Watercolor. 2014

Watercolor by Dan Vera, poet/ artist. 2014

“It’s the little acts, the small mostly unnoticeable actions of people,

that in the end will make all the difference.”

—Pete Seeger, Musician

This is what Pete Seeger said to me during our interview a few months before his passing. It was proven during the fundraising of the memorial headstone last year. And once again it’s been proven. Because of all your contributions, small and large, I will be able to finish this final push of my research, which in turn, will help me see the book to completion. In the end, the effort raised a total of $5086! A little more than 75% funded. Thank you to everyone who helped spread the word. I am especially indebted to the following 66 supporters who made this possible:

  1. Lonnie Hendren
  2. Nancy Aide Gonzalez
  3. Anna Canoni
  4. Milton Rosenberg
  5. Lynn McEniry
  6. Sarah Browning
  7. Laura Selleck
  8. James P. McGuire
  9. Melissa Shannon- Anonymous
  10. Indira Ganeson
  11. Laurie Ann Guerrero
  12. Jenne Lorraine Vargas
  13. Annie Ross
  14. Juan Garcia
  15. Nora Guthrie
  16. Joel & Lauren Rafael
  17. Robert V. Hansmann
  18. Robert Roth
  19. Lucia Vasquez
  20. Juan Luis Guzman
  21. William Nericcio
  22. Moses Ayoub
  23. Robin Wheeler
  24. Brian Paul
  25. Lydia & Felix Hernandez
  26. Jan Webb
  27. Deborah Kanter
  28. John and Julie Auer
  29. Esther Garcia
  30. Diane & Bill Vigeant
  31. Gloria Zuniga
  32. Sylvia Ross
  33. Armida & Will Galaviz-Moreno
  34. Wendy Lynn IP
  35. Gracie Madrid Rios
  36. Anthony Cody
  37. Crystal Contreras
  38. Jeremy Lee
  39. Ofelia Trevino
  40. Elizabeth Witte
  41. Joanne Day
  42. Miriam Pawel
  43. Linda Cano
  44. LaTasha Diggs
  45. Diadre Metzler
  46. Michael Plumpton
  47. Lupe Mendez
  48. June Leigh Austin
  49. Barbara Sorenson
  50. Walter Dominguez
  51. Shelly Catterson
  52. Rolf Potts
  53. RT Wright
  54. Lee Herrick
  55. Elaine Corbeil
  56. Barry Ollman
  57. Mike & Nori Naylor
  58. Jaime Ramirez
  59. Darren De Leon
  60. Jane Oriel
  61. Paul Aponte
  62. Chris Schneider
  63. Erin Alvarez
  64. Bill & Deanna McCloud
  65. Johnson
  66. Tim Justice

Woodshed: A Summer Update

Woody Guthrie Fest moments before I go on to read the names

Woody Guthrie Fest moments before I go on stage to read the names

 

“Woodshed,” or “Woodshedding.” This is what my good friend, and musical collaborator, Carlos Rodriguez, calls it whenever he decides to hunker down in his home studio and do the work. And what’s the work? For Carlos, it’s making great music. For me, the work has been as follows: Moving our life from Colorado to Texas, settling into our new home in El Paso, continuing the research for missing families, getting into a writing rhythm on the book, preparing my kids for school, writing a few blurbs and Introductions for other books, and getting my own courses prepared for this coming semester. Oh, but I did get to attend the Woody Guthrie Festival in Woody’s hometown of Okemah, Oklahoma. I presented my research there to a packed room, and got to stand on stage with Will Kaufman (author of American Radical), while he sang Deportees, and collaborate with David Amram (two highlights of my time there). I had a great lengthy conversation backstage with Arlo Guthrie too, and of course, hanging with all the other musicians there was an incredible experience (thanks Joel & Lauren Rafael!). But beyond that, this summer has been spent mostly “Woodshedding.” The good news is that I now have my own home writing space (Woodshed I), and a new campus office (Woodshed II). So there should be no excuses why I can’t finish my book by the self-imposed deadline of December 10th.

On stage with Will Kaufman and Carlos Rodriguez

On stage with Will Kaufman and Carlos Rodriguez

 

Carlos and I with David Amram outside our hotel

Carlos and I with David Amram outside our hotel

Which brings me to the next subject. In approximately two weeks, I’ll launch a fundraising campaign that is aimed at helping me complete the research portion of this work on the Plane Wreck at Los Gatos. I’ll post the links to that here, so please keep an eye out, and also, spread the news! I still have files for families I’m trying to reach, whom I’ll need to interview, on video and audio, as I’ve done with all of this work. The move has taken a serious toll on my own finances. Up until now, I have funded all of this research on my own dime. With one exception, my friend and awesome bay artist Jane Oriel, helped by creating limited edition prints that I was able to sell to assist with some of the early costs. (Thank you Jane!!) Otherwise it’s all been a labor of love for me. Since the beginning I’ve felt this was such a worthy cause, and this is truly why I’ve never hesitated to do whatever it takes to see this work to the end. My plan is to make all of my research archives accessible to the public once my book is done, so that all future scholars, students, or community folks can access this history. The Woody Guthrie Center in Tulsa, OK have already expressed interest in housing it there, among Woody’s archives. Wouldn’t this be nice? On the other hand, a part of me would like to see it remain in the central valley, so that folks have to go there, where it all took place, to get this history. I guess all this is yet to be worked out, but for now, please keep an eye out for the fundraising campaign.

On a final note, as I prepare to teach my first course, “Antropoesia: The Poet as Ethnographer,” at the University of Texas El Paso this fall, I can’t help but feel excited about the many omissions in history that, collectively, we have yet to unearth. The more we share these stories, word-of-mouth, books, etc…the more we find commonalities with each other, aka community building. In the meantime, know that I’ll be working diligently on the book, and that I look forward to reading in your city, town, University this fall.

Sharpening the Knife Blade

This book is more the work of a poet than a trained oral historian. My only real credentials for having written it were that I was native to its situation in nearly every way and had only to listen to hear my own world talking.

—Ronald Blythe, Akenfield

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This quote from Ronald Blythe’s introduction to his seminal book Akenfield has been a mantra for me as I hammer away on this new manuscript surrounding the Los Gatos plane crash of 1948. In the same way Blythe’s book was heavily debated for its redefinition of oral history in the sixties, it’s possible that this book, All They Will Call You, sips from the same stream. At this point I have spent the better part of a year on the writing aspect of it and still have yet to put my finger on any one genre that it might be easily tethered to. I can hear my agent’s voice stressing to me, “What about plot? More plot!” Or a publisher cautioning, “We prefer there to be a clear distinction whether or not this is fiction or creative non-fiction.” Or my mentor’s voice saying, “Consider how the people who populate the book will receive it.” In the face of all this, there is a quiet hum in my skull whispering (dare I even say it) —hybrid.

At the start of working on this book, I had seriously considered that this might even turn out to be a collection of poetry, or even a long poem, taking its cue from Muriel Rukeyser’s Book of the Dead, or Charles Reznikoff’s Testimony—aka poet as witness. I had been excited about the recent book by David Mason, Ludlow, where he uses narrative verse to retell the incident of the 1914 Ludlow Massacre, including pieces of actual testimony, newspaper accounts and other formal documents. My project seemed very much along these lines, at least in the beginning. And in a similar way, Mark Nowak’s work in Coal Mountain Elementary, or C.D. Wright’s One With Others, further opened up the possibilities to me. I figured my project would lend itself to this curious genre that I have sometimes heard referred to as Documentary Poetics, or even Investigative Poetics, as Ed Sander’s deemed it. The idea of taking fragments of this “found language” and organizing it in a way that looks and acts more like poetry than prose was appealing to me, as someone who spent five years chasing two writing degrees with an emphasis in poetry. 

After a little more than three years of research now, I have amassed dozens of files and documents, and more than 100 hours of audio and video interviews with everyone, from eyewitnesses of the crash to the families of the victims, and the musicians who brought the song, Deportees, to light. Between this and the fact that I had spent more of my own money than I care to admit, and at least as many hours researching this single incident, I could not allow myself to succumb to the self-serving lure that, for me, is and always has been poetry. It’s just not how I approach writing. I began writing across genres, not because I had some preconceived path of what my career might look like, but in truth, because I was trying my best to allow the story or idea to dictate the form. Some folks can set out to write a novel, and they do. Some set out to write a poem, and they do. For me writing happens something akin to how Steinbeck describes collecting creatures from a tide pool in the opening of his book “Cannery Row.” There are certain flat worms so delicate that they are almost impossible to capture whole, for they break and tatter to the touch. You must let them ooze and crawl of their own will onto a knife blade and then lift them gently into your bottle. 

A story, or spurt of language, or lightening thought arises, and my job is to be a good listener and observer. Awareness is my knife blade, and I do my best to keep it sharp. Sometimes the creature arrives as a blob of language, without direction or rationale. Sometimes it starts out as a poem then morphs into a story, or vice-versa. Still, other times it starts as a song lyric then slowly winds its way back toward a straight narrative. If I pay attention, which is to say, once the idea has squirmed its way onto my knife blade, then with slow and calculated precision, I do my best to guide it into the bottle, unbroken. And this is my approach with All They Will Call You.

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