Maceo Montoya Presents at DHI’s Inaugural Brown Bag Book Chat

A new lunchtime talk series, called DHI Brown Bag Book Chats, allows UC Davis faculty to share their new publication, performance, or recording with the Davis community. The inaugural event, on Thursday, February 5, featured Maceo Montoya, Assistant Professor in Chicana/oStudies, reading from his Letters to the Poet from His Brother.

Memory, how it changes and how best to represent it, is a powerful force in Montoya’s work. The poem he read for Thursday’s event, “The Poet’s Eulogy,” draws on memories he has of his eponymous older brother writing the eulogy for their grandmother’s funeral. As Montoya read the poem, images of his painting of the funeral scene scrolled behind him.

“I’m fascinated by the notion of memories we carry with us [and how] it’s only later that we begin to unpackage them,” Montoya said.

Montoya explained the power of this particular memory on his development as both a person and a writer. Listening to his brother compose the speech he would read at their grandmother’s funeral, Montoya said that he realized, for the first time, the ability to do powerful things with words.

Desirée Martin, associate professor of English, acted as faculty commentator for Montoya’s talk. Martin asked Montoya to comment on the hybrid nature of his work. The book, published by Copilot Press, combined Montoya’s original visual artwork with a variety of hybrid written forms, moving through prose poetry, creative nonfiction, autobiography, and epistolary modes.

Martin praised the book for how it acknowledges the artist’s “anxiety of influence,” but also uses that acknowledgment as a way toward freedom.

The next scheduled event in the Brown Bag Book Chats series will be on Wednesday, May 13 in 228 Voorhies, when Maxine Craig of Women and Gender Studies will be joined by commentator Laura Grindstaff of Sociology to discuss Craig’s book Sorry I Don’t Dance: Why Men Refuse to Move. Stay tuned as more events get added to the Book Chats calendar for the spring quarter.

– Katja Jylkka, DHI Graduate Student Researcher and doctoral student in English