Monday, August 19

Serros thrust into spoken-word world


Serros thrust into spoken-word world

UCLA student tours as road poet with Lollapalooza

By Gaby Mora

Daily Bruin Staff

If you thought your summer was cool, imagine playing basketball
with the Beastie Boys, performing on the same stage as Billy Corgan
of Smashing Pumpkins, touring the country in a luxury liner, and
most importantly, doing it all under the pretext of fulfilling your
career dreams.

Michele Serros had all of this, and more, to tell after
returning from her tour with Lollapalooza ’94. The graduating
Chicano studies major joined the summer’s most popular concert
series as one of 12 road poets performing on the side stages.

"It was pretty much like a circus," she laughs, "but it was all
very organized and surprisingly luxurious. We stayed in some
incredible hotels. But the most exciting thing was being a part of
the whole show with such amazing performers."

After publishing her first book of poetry, "Chicana Falsa," last
April, Serros became a performer herself. She did spoken word with
prominent poets and authors like Sandra Cisneros ("The House on
Mango Street"). This gained her enough publicity for Lollapalooza
scouts to approach her with an offer to join the tour.

"Since Nirvana cancelled," explains Serros, "the Lollapalooza
promoters had a lot of extra money which they decided to use for
acts on the side stages. They asked me for a press kit, so I was up
all night at Kinko’s trying to put something together and I just
sent it out thinking that I wouldn’t even be chosen for an
interview."

But on Mother’s Day she received a surprise that would change
her opinion of the holiday forever. "I always hated Mother’s Day
since my mother died," Serros says. "But this year was different.
It turned out to be one of the most exciting days ever. First I got
to read with Sandra Cisneros, and then when I got home I received
the phone call asking me to join the tour."

Despite all of the excitement last Mother’s Day, Serros still
couldn’t forget her mother, her prime inspiration for writing. It
was after her death that Serros finally became serious about her
writing, despite barriers posed by the rest of her family
members.

"I come from a traditional Mexican background which dictates a
woman’s position and a man’s position in society. And a woman’s
position is not as a published writer," she explains. "I had always
written in my diaries and other private things, and it wasn’t until
I had to write my mother’s obituary that I finally went public. I
decided I had nothing else to lose after that, and so I started to
seriously consider getting my work published.

"I never really felt any barriers from the outside, instead the
pressure was always from family members who still saw me as a
little girl. They are the ones who I was most afraid of performing
for."

In her poem "Annie Says," Serros relates how her aunt always
told her she could never be a poet because she had never traveled
to the cities listed on the back of an Oil of Olay bottle, and
because she had no relations with men.

And despite the many writing courses she has taken at school,
Serros’ best advice to students interested in getting their work
published is to look for inspiration outside of the classroom. "The
best influence for my writing has come from outside of an academic
setting. I write from the heart, from passion, and it’s very hard
to do that when you’ve got the fear of the big red pen after
you."

In a collage of poetry and short stories, "Chicana Falsa" comes
straight from the streets that the 27-year-old has walked.
Laughing, she warns that a lot of the material for her short
stories comes from eavesdropping on UCLA students’ conversations.
From the childhood recounting of seeing her first nude male body in
the poem "Shower Power Hippie Man," to the inner city speculation,
"Tag Banger’s Last Can," Serros’ work explores both personal and
public issues in her life.

But none is more moving than her struggle with being what she
describes in her book title, a "Chicana Falsa." "Some of my work
deals with the issue of racism within a race. I’ve been posed with
the question of, ‘Who is more Chicano or Chicana,’ all of my life,"
she says. "La Letty," the first poem in her book, perfectly
illustrates a young girl’s confusion about her heritage and the
culture she now identifies with.

It was the especially sensitive pieces like "La Letty" that made
Serros nervous when performing this summer. But she says that all
audiences, even those from cities with a low Chicano population,
were very receptive and open to her work. "I still get letters from
people on the tour and from people I met in the different cities,
which keeps the memory of my summer even more alive."

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