Jorge Mendez, author of "Poems I Stole From My Imaginary Friends"
Jorge Mendez, Melodic Movement’s special guest for the open mic on Jan. 15th, is releasing his fourth book in March titled "Poems I Stole From My Imaginary Friends." His book release celebration will be held at The Venue on 35th on Feb. 25th at 7pm ($5 entry). All are invited and welcome.
Jorge’s voice is remarkable and his story is even more incredible. We’ve asked him a few questions to better understand him and his writing.
What is your inspiration for your upcoming book?
I wrote a short poem called Imaginary Friends about how my imaginary friends and I aren’t sure which one is real and which is imaginary. That led to another poem called Identity that explores the different sides of my personality as if they were different people. These two pieces became the core idea for Poems I Stole from My Imaginary Friends. From there it was just a matter of deciding which of my “imaginary friends” wrote which poems. Each personality gets their own chapter in the book with its own unique tone.
Has it been in the works for a while?
It has! I released my first book in 2016; I wrote the first poem of this book later that same year. The idea and concept have been incubating since then. However, I released Candy & Rigor Mortis Vol. 1 and 2 in the meantime, which were shorter and horror themed, while I worked on this one.
Can you remember how old you were when you started writing? Did it come naturally?
I honestly can’t remember. My mother says I used to write stories with pictures before I knew how to write words. So, like, 3 or 4 maybe. I’d apparently draw something then have a whole story attached to it. I guess that qualifies as coming naturally. Our 6th grade teacher introduced us to poetry with diamond poems (mine was about astronauts). Then in 7th grade I found Shel Silverstein’s A Light in the Attic in the school library. I was a goner after that. I wrote mostly funny poems for myself until I got old enough to start having crushes, which changed my writing, and I began writing romantic poems.
Do you prefer to write poetry for publishing or write to perform?
I don’t know that I have a preference. I publish my performance pieces and my page work together in the same books. I don’t always know what type of piece I’m writing when I first get the pen moving. I’m not intentionally writing a rap, or a page poem, or a performance piece, or a short story. I’m just writing. The piece will eventually tell me what it wants to be and just transform during the process. I absolutely love performing, but not every poem wants me to perform it. Some demand to be heard aloud but, some prefer to sit quietly on the page.
Can you describe the feeling you get when performing poetry? Is it a near out of body experience?
As a performer your goal is to connect with the audience in a genuine capacity. I want each person in my audience to feel like I’m speaking directly to them. I can feel and sometimes even see the moment when that happens. It’s like, “Ok, we’re in this state of emotion together now. I’ve got your back and I know you have mine. Let’s go.” At that point I’m flying. I vaguely remember the performances afterwards though. It’s very much about the moment.
Do you find yourself in the same mental state while performing as when you wrote that poem?
Sometimes. Depending on the poem. I used to think that to effectively perform a poem it was necessary to revisit the mental state I was in when I wrote it. Firstly, that’s unhealthy and I don’t recommend it. However, you also can’t perform a heart break poem with a huge smile on your face. This is where acting comes in. Spoken word is the marriage of poetry and theatre. Being able to act to fit the mood of your poem is very important. I have poems where I’m acting during my performance. Others, like the mental health poetry, are easier to revisit because it’s a constant in my life, but also because I know that at any given show, someone in the audience will be feeling that way too.
Where did you get the idea/inspiration to write horror spoken word poetry?
My first love is horror. I’ve always loved Halloween and all things creepy, dark, and macabre. The first spooky thing I wrote was a rap called The Ghost of Studio B which was inspired by the beat I wrote it to. It just had a Scooby Doo kind of vibe and called for me to write something spooky but funny. Later on, I was taking an acting for poets class from the late DD Delaney and he challenged us to write a persona poem, a poem written in the voice of someone other than yourself. He added the extra challenge of creating the character. That exercise birthed my poem Piggies. A first-person narrative from the perspective of a serial killer. Horror writing for me is escapism. I use my writing as a mental health tool so frequently that it’s nice to also be able to use it to just have fun with the writing. I find that fun in the horror genre.
What led to you becoming VP of the poetry society of VA?
My mentor and first publisher, Jeff Hewitt, was the President up until his passing. During his term he appointed me as a literary advisor along with other very talented writers. In 2022 the PSV reached out and asked if I would take the VP seat for the Southeastern region. It was an easy decision solely based on my love for Jeff. I want to carry on what he wanted for the PSV. I think he’d be proud of me.
Can you elaborate on your near-death experience which pushed you to publish and perform your poetry?
I have struggled with anxiety and depression my whole life. A lifetime of physical and mental abuse from my father led to a very poor self-esteem and a lack of motivation for fear of failure. I was bullied at school and at home. There was no escape. This broken child grew up to be an even more broken adult who felt his only escape was to leave the world of the living. This led to a very unhealthy decision to begin preparing for my suicide. I wrote my goodbye letters, prepared my financials, and created a list of my social media passwords so whoever found me could delete my profiles.
On January 10th, 2012, I made an attempt on my life but failed. While at the time I only saw this as yet another failure on my list of failures, I later grew to see it as the best thing that could have happened. I spent the next few days angry and upset that I threw-up all the pills and didn’t kill myself. Then came the morning of the 13th. I woke up that morning and the first thought in my head was that I had been alive for 33 years but had done little to no actual living. I decided that morning before I even got out of bed that I was going to take my life back and begin living for the first time in my life. That decision led me to The Venue on 35th where I shared my writing for the first time….now it’s 11 years later and here we are. Thriving and doing art for a living.
When looking at your journey as a poet, what are your top takeaways or lessons learned?
Be honest. In your work, with your audience, and mostly with yourself. That’s the absolute biggest takeaway from not just my poetic journey but my life journey. Being honest in your work doesn’t mean everything you write is a true story. It means that everything you write comes from a genuine and real place within you and that you’re not compromising your integrity as a person for the writing. Be honest with your audience. If your goal is to connect with your audience then you must present your most honest self. Otherwise, they’re connecting with a false version of you, if at all. Finally, be honest with yourself. So much of my hurt came from my unwillingness to see the truth of what was hurting me. Deciding to finally be honest with myself on January 13th, 2012, is what opened me up to the world I’m now a part of. It was the best decision of my life.