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Gary Soto: The Next Poet Laureate

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Satya Yerrabolu

on 18 May 2011

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Transcript of Gary Soto: The Next Poet Laureate

Gary Soto Born in 1952 in Fresno, California "A Red Palm" Analysis Soto: An American and a Great Poet. Starting From the Beginning... Background (Pertinent to Soto's works)... Born to poor Mexican - American parents.
Grew up in a barrio (a poor Mexican neighborhood).
Parents were laborers in the San Joaquin Valley.
He had an older brother and younger sister. Farmers Father also worked in dangerous packing houses. Father died on the job when Soto was only 5 years old. Soto was heavily impacted, both emotionally and economically. Soto's family was left with only their mother to
provide. So, all of the children (including Gary) had to
work in the fields and do various jobs in order to earn money for the family. As a result, Soto did not pay attention in school and was a very poor student. As a young adult... He maintained a D average at Roosevelt High School.
He began reading books from the school's library and developed a passion for reading.
The books he read inspired him to pursure higher education and he enrolled in Fresno City College.
He did not have any idea what he would major in, but he knew that he loved to read. Introduction to poetry... When he was 19, Soto read a poetry collection.
It showed Soto that poetry can be whatever you want to write about, not only nature.
He saw that contemporary poetry was not what he had thought it was.
He decided he wanted to become a poet. More... He pursued further education and earned a degree.
Began writing while he was in college.
His career kicked off with his publication of his first collection of poems: "The Elements of San Joaquin." From there on, Soto has developed as a poet and person and produced amazing works, such as this... You're in this dream of cotton plants.
You raise a hoe, swing, and the first weeds
Fall with a sigh. You take another step,
Chop, and the sigh comes again,
Until you yourself are breathing that way
With each step, a sigh that will follow you into town. That's hours later. The sun is a red blister
Coming up in your palm. Your back is strong,
Young, not yet the broken chair
In an abandoned school of dry spiders.
Dust settles on your forehead, dirt
Smiles under each fingernail.
You chop, step, and by the end of the first row,
You can buy one splendid fish for wife
And three sons. Another row, another fish,
Until you have enough and move on to milk,
Bread, meat. Ten hours and the cupboards creak.
You can rest in the back yard under a tree.
Your hands twitch on your lap,
Not unlike the fish on a pier or the bottom
Of a boat. You drink iced tea. The minutes jerk
Like flies. It's dusk, now night,
And the lights in your home are on.
That costs money, yellow light
In the kitchen. That's thirty steps,
You say to your hands,
Now shaped into binoculars.
You could raise them to your eyes:
You were a fool in school, now look at you.
You're a giant among cotton plants.
Now you see your oldest boy, also running.
Papa, he says, it's time to come in.
You pull him into your lap
And ask, What's forty times nine?
He knows as well as you, and you smile.
The wind makes peace with the trees,
The stars strike themselves in the dark.
You get up and walk with the sigh of cotton plants.
You go to sleep with a red sun on your palm,
The sore light you see when you first stir in bed. Other Works Contributions and the Future $35,000
As Poet Laureate, he would nationally spread awareness and appreciation of poetry.
He would use money to fund the multitude of educational and cultural programs he runs and holds.
He would also use the money to help advance the Library of Congress, because he realizes the importance of reading and writing. "A Red Palm" - One of Soto's best works.
Viewpoint of a farmer.
Farmer is very hardworking, is dignified, and has honor. Farmer is very mature.
Understands the importance of work and the value of money.
Loves his family.
Made mistakes as a child.
"fool in school..."
He accepts his life and works hard.
Proud of his children.
He is not complaining to the readers.
The poem shows us the great characterisitcs of the farmer and importance of the work that he does. Farmer - Soto's Father
The poem reveres him.
Farmer motivated his children.
Soto's father may have done the same.
This may have led to Soto's young interest in poetry and present career. Appealing.
Relatable to the readers.
Inherently American.
Figurative Language.
Strong meaning/message.
Very powerful. Contact? Conclusion The Next Poet Laureate....
True American
Connects with his readers
Amazing poetic skill
Very passionate about poetry
Will strive to expand awareness and will greatly affect poetry as the Poet Laureate. The Elements of San Joaquin (1977)
The Tale of Sunlight (1978)
Where Sparrows Work Hard (1981)
Neighborhood Odes (1992)
New and selected poems (Chronicle Books, 1995)
Partly Cloudy: Poems of love and longing (Harcourt, 2009) Awards and Accomplishments (Poetry) United States Award of the International Poetry Forum (1976 for The Elements of San Joaquin)
Nominated for the Pulitzer Prize in Poetry (1978 for The Tale of Sunlight)
Before Columbus Foundation's American Book Award (1985 for Living Up the Street)
The Nation/"Discovery" Prize
Bess Hopkin Prize
Literature Award from Hispanic Heritage Foundation
And many other honors from magazines and small organizations. He has produced many works, both poetry and novels.
Recently, he has picked up his pace and has been producing writings rapidly.
He has contributed works regarding Mexican - Americans, which is an area that is not very known in poetry.
Critics say that Soto is at the prime of his career and that there is no indication that he will slow down.
So, Gary Soto will continue to produce work and increase the American awareness and knowledge of poetry.
In the future, Soto's skills will continue to improve and he will become more prominent in common American literature. Criticism "Gary Soto's poems are fast, funny, heartening, and achingly believable, like Polaroid love letters, or snatches of music heard out of a passing car; patches of beauty like patches of sunlight; the very pulse of a life." - Joyce Carol Oates
“Soto’s poetry conveys a tone not usually found in Chicano writers…if this may make his poetry at times linguistically complicitous with the object criticized, it also allows poetry to speak to a you who is part of the middle class he is attacking.” - The Latin American Literary Review
“Soto continues…in a fascinating pattern of discovery throughout his poetry and prose; each time he invokes his father in his writing.” - The Western Literature Association First Stanza You're in this dream of cotton plants.
You raise a hoe, swing, and the first weeds
Fall with a sigh. You take another step,
Chop, and the sigh comes again,
Until you yourself are breathing that way
With each step, a sigh that will follow you into town. Second Stanza That's hours later. The sun is a red blister
Coming up in your palm. Your back is strong,
Young, not yet the broken chair
In an abandoned school of dry spiders. Dust settles on your forehead, dirt
Smiles under each fingernail.
You chop, step, and by the end of the first row,
You can buy one splendid fish for wife
And three sons. Another row, another fish,
Until you have enough and move on to milk,
Bread, meat. Ten hours and the cupboards creak. You can rest in the back yard under a tree.
Your hands twitch on your lap,
Not unlike the fish on a pier or the bottom
Of a boat. You drink iced tea. The minutes jerk
Like flies. Third Stanza It's dusk, now night,
And the lights in your home are on.
That costs money, yellow light
In the kitchen. That's thirty steps,
You say to your hands,
Now shaped into binoculars.
You could raise them to your eyes: You were a fool in school, now look at you.
You're a giant among cotton plants.
Now you see your oldest boy, also running.
Papa, he says, it's time to come in.
You pull him into your lap
And ask, What's forty times nine?
He knows as well as you, and you smile. The wind makes peace with the trees,
The stars strike themselves in the dark.
You get up and walk with the sigh of cotton plants.
You go to sleep with a red sun on your palm,
The sore light you see when you first stir in bed. Overall... Why This Poem? Connection to Soto's Life Prize Money The first few lines establish that the person being described in the poem is a farmer.
The work involved with reaping cotton is described.
The next few lines serve to indicate the extensiveness and repetition of the farmer's work.
The end of the stanza stresses that the farmer's work is his life.

The farmer is still young.
He is blistered by the work that he does, again stressing the difficulty of his job.
His back is not yet broken by all the work that he has to do.
Soto beautifully makes a metaphor to compare the back of the farmer to a chair in a school.
The work is hard and the farmer becomes dirty as a result of it.
The farmer can directly relate his work to what he receives from it. These lines tells us that the farmer sees his work as a means to provide for his family.
Every row of cotton he farms will result in food for his family.
In a day's worth of work, the "cupboards creak" because they are laden with food.
The farmer loves his family, because they are foremost in his mind as he works, and he work for the sole purpose of providing for them.
After the day of work is done, the farmer rests.
His hands twitch because his body is still used to the repetitive motions of farming.
The hard work has caused this.
In the next three lines, Soto brilliantly makes use of figurative language.
He first compares the twitching of the hands to fish in a boat. This is to visually describe the twitches, because fish on the bottom of a boat twitch after they have been caught and continue to do so.
Then, Soto compares time with flies. He did this to explain to the readers that time doesn't flow smoothly. The jerking of the time is similar to the random movements of flies.

The farmer's work is done and he is at home with his family.
He again shows his understanding of how his work is connected with his life.
He also understands the importance of money, because he acknowledges that light costs money and that is equivalent to thirty steps of cotton.
His hands are cringed in the shape of binoculars because the work is so intense that they remain in the same shape as they are when he is holding a sickle.
The farmer did not care for school when he was a child and now he has the life of a farmer.
The farmer acknowledges his life and accepts it. He ironically describes himself as a giant.
The farmer is very dignified man. After a hard day of work, with his body injured and he is tired, he still has time for his children and sits them on his lap.
He is very proud of his children and quizzes them on math. He wants his children to be as dignified as him, but he doesn't want them to be farmers.
The farmer's life is the work he does. He goes to sleep and wakes up to the same work and life every day. Analysis of "A Red Palm" Produced by... Satya Yerrabolu Vivek Koganti Shae Darough
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