The Empress of Poetry – Santa Fe High School’s Carmelita Jaramillo leads a pack of New Mexico’s most talented teen poetsFebruary 3rd, 2007 by admin
There is silence as I stand amid a thousand tombstones, there is silence as time sweeps concentric circles around me. Long tendrils of human emotion grope my flesh and bring my bones closer to harmony. The emerald locusts that know me as their empress shudder nervously in adiabatic contentment. My words become the white hot copper filaments in lonesome street lamps. The soft moths who beat their bodies in towards the ambient beauty, so terrified of darkness they chose to kill themselves with light.
Carmelita Jaramillo carries a notebook on her like a survivalist carries a water canteen. Wherever she can find room for it, in a backpack or back pocket, she opens its pages whenever the creative mood strikes and sometimes when it doesn’t. Her journal is almost as necessary and common to her as a heartbeat. One doesn’t exist without the other.
For an 18-year-old poet like Jaramillo, there is much to write about in the New Mexican landscape, and many other brilliant poets to share ideas with. The state has earned a familiarity in many lay persons’ minds for its dry desert lands, high-reaching cacti that blot out the sun, a mountain range and some roadside adobe dwellings, and its tombstone cemeteries.
True artists and art collectors, both nationally and around the globe, know there is much more to New Mexico than turquoise costume jewelry and paintings of windblown landscapes with wagon wheels and tumbleweeds. The state is actually home to dozens of art galleries, artist colonies, performance venues, and bestselling authors like David Morrell and Natalie Goldberg.
Jaramillo, a senior at Santa Fe High School in Santa Fe, New Mexico, hopes to join the ranks of the state’s most notable writers and performers through poetry slam performances. Like many artists, Jaramillo works to realize creative inspirations inside of her, yet she also feels her writing fulfills a personal sense of duty. The words that she puts to paper are from her soul, and she brings them out to brighten people’s eyes to the beauty and emotion of the world they walk through.
“Poetry is a very cathartic exercise,” Jaramillo said. “I really feel like it is my personal responsibility as a human being to try to do something to inspire other people and inspire change.”
Last fall, Jaramillo came in second in a statewide online Webslam sponsored by New Mexico CultureNet (NMCN), a state-funded organization that supports and promotes the work of local artists. Since 1998, NMCN has conducted an online poetry contest for New Mexican teens that lasts three weeks and challenges writers to contribute poems on a given mood or subject each week. Juniors and seniors from a dozen high schools throughout the state submit entries in hopes of placing with the state’s most prolific young writers.
From the age of 10, Jaramillo has been writing. She ventured into poetry at 14. Her enjoyment of the writing craft led to her involvement as the president of Santa Fe High School’s Poetry Club and in numerous other activities, including drama. Those who work closely with Jaramillo tout her as one of many upand-coming poets on the New Mexican spoken word scene.
“I have never seen someone so dedicated to creative expression as a necessary part of life – not just a hobby or a distraction or entertainment, like song lyrics,” said Michelle Holland, coordinator of NMCN’s Poets-in-the-Schools program. “She has fallen headfirst into the world of poetry and spoken word.”
NMCN has partnered with Santa Fe Public Schools since 2004 to produce the Poets-in-the-Schools program at high schools, academies and middle schools in the Santa Fe metropolitan area. The organization screens, hires and evaluates poets who work directly with students and teachers.
Julie Hasted, an English instructor and the sponsor of Santa Fe High’s Poetry Club, works weekly with Jaramillo and her teammates on written pieces and presentation. While Jaramillo has displayed the focus and organizational skills to pull together a band of poets – a talent many artistically inclined individuals do not share – Hasted said her poetry shows an opposite side.
“Her poetry is deeply emotional, incredibly symbolic, and ranges in subject matter from basic everyday tedium to the more fantastic in their initial sense,” Hasted said. “From facial anomalies to cell phones, she can draw connections to things way above the level of most high school students.”
There’s much more to poetry slam competitions that simply writing and reading impressive poems. Performers attempt to convey the meaning behind their works through body language, movement and voice inflection. On stage at small cafés and at numerous poetry club events, Jaramillo has worked to refine the delivery of her own poems.
“I always try to have a natural rhythm that the audience can relate to and think, ‘Yeah, that feels right,’”Jaramillo said.” I don’t want anything that sounds contrived or false. I try to relate as much as possible to the words I am saying. Every move you make, every inflection has to go along with your poem.”
A goal of Santa Fe High’s Poetry Club for 2007 is to compete in poetry slams in Albuquerque and sponsor a competition at a Santa Fe venue. Later this month, Jaramillo will face a steep challenge when she participates in NMCN’s Poetry Jam ’07. Begun in 2002, Poetry Jam is a two-day festival of poetry workshops, readings, panels and public performances.
Jaramillo has already begun preparing her work for the event by further developing the writing approach she used in previous contests.
“I try to talk about things no one else talks about,” Jaramillo said. “Not necessarily the subjects, but how I portray the subjects. I like to use a lot of metaphors. They might even seem like ridiculous symbols, but I try to make my writing as unique as possible.”
Out among the tombstones and the snowcapped mountains, Jaramillo has found a peaceful soul in poetry. In her words, she hopes others will find similar consolation, taking her path to personal enlightenment before the moths find a bright finale and everything else comes down to bone.
For more information on New Mexico CultureNet, visit http://www.nmcn.org/.