I Am A Poet

I Am A Poet

UCR lecturer and poet Sara Borjas talks about the events that led her to become a poet
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Two years after graduating high school, Sara Borjas was getting bitter working at a Denny's. So, she and her girlfriends signed a contract on the back of receipt paper stating that by next year they would all go to college. And they all did.

"That's how I started going to college, just because I made a contract with my homies at Denny's basically," she said as she added a laugh at the end.

Now, Borjas is a lecturer in the Creative Writing department at UC Riverside (UCR). When asked about her work, one of the first things that Borjas described herself as was a poet.

"I am a poet. I am a lecturer at UC Riverisde. I am a contract based instructor. I'm like a working artist, teaching artist," she said.

Walking into Borjas' office, you can see the student projects from her spring course lined on the right side of the office, surrounding a file cabinet.

"When I was younger, I always had a plan, I'm going to graduate. I am going to get a master's or a doctor's and get married and have kids and live in Fresno. And then I realized that life doesn't work that way. You think you have control, but you don't have much control at all. But you can be there and make a choice," Borjas said.

In fact, there were many events that led to Borjas becoming a poet.

Borjas started to appreciate language after taking an English class taught by John Moses, a playwright, at Fresno City College. She then took a Latino/Chicano Studies class taught by a teacher who was half-white half-Mexican and a supporter of "La Raza."

"I knew I was Mexican, but I felt like I was supposed to be white. I have never embraced any type of identity. Taking that class and then taking writing helped me find out who I was," she said.

During Borjas' time working at Denny's, there were many Spanish-speakers who didn't speak English, but Borjas wasn't a Spanish-speaker herself. As a result, their orders came out wrong.

"So, I was imagining what if this person tries to go to a bank and need help getting a loan or what if this person has to go to a doctor? What if they are involved in some type of lawsuit? How are they going to navigate that if they don't have the power of language?" she said.

Borjas then thought that she would teach English, or major in English and Political Science at the same time. Then, go to law school to help and represent Mexican-Americans. But then she took another class in the English department, a Chicano Poetics class with Alex Espinoza, a UCR graduate and mentee of Susan Straight.

"It was the first time I saw people like me in literature, and I was like 21 years old," she said.

But she did not receive validation about becoming a writer until she took a poetry class taught by Juan Luis Guzmán.

"[He] is just my homeboy now," she said.

Borjas decided to just major in English but with law school still in mind. However, a year after graduated Fresno City College, she researched MFA programs and got accepted into UCR's MFA program.

"Everything was little choices here and there, I'll just do this and see what happens," Borjas said about her path to becoming a lecturer at UCR and a poet.

Borjas' inside advice to writers was to make friends.

"The best thing you can do is make friends. Because all these people that you are in school with, they are apart of other organizations. They have other friends that you don't know. Their friends work at presses or journals or other universities. And just be generous with them and your time. People want to work with other people that are giving and have good spirits. Being involved as much as you can, letting the professors know you are there and involved, making sure that if you have a reading or open mic to invite them. And just being really nice and really caring because that's all we have as writers. There is no financial gains attached to the job. Culturally, there is no value. We have to make our own value and see each other. Keeping that as a priority has definitely benefiting me," she said.

Even though she has a website with her poetry, Borjas' still continues to work on her artistry.

"I try to be disciplined about writing. It's hard, sometimes you go through spurts. Some months I'll be writing every day and then I won't write for some months at all. I write, send my work out. I work with others in small community workshops. I do attend conferences when I can and workshops," she said.

As cliche as it may sound, patience is key for people working in the arts.

"In arts, you have to be able to do the work for nothing and when people see that you are down, things will come your way," she said.

Cover Image Credit: Martha Delgado

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Nowadays, we put so much emphasis on our looks. We focus so much on the outside that we forget to really focus on what matters. I was inspired by a list that I found online of "Things I Would Rather Be Called Instead Of Pretty," so I made my own version. Here is a list of things that I would rather be than "pretty."

1. Captivating

I want one glance at me to completely steal your breath away.

2. Magnetic

I want people to feel drawn to me. I want something to be different about me that people recognize at first glance.

3. Raw

I want to be real. Vulnerable. Completely, genuinely myself.

4. Intoxicating

..and I want you addicted.

5. Humble

I want to recognize my abilities, but not be boastful or proud.

6. Exemplary

I want to stand out.

7. Loyal

I want to pride myself on sticking out the storm.

8. Fascinating

I want you to be hanging on every word I say.

9. Empathetic

I want to be able to feel your pain, so that I can help you heal.

10. Vivacious

I want to be the life of the party.

11. Reckless

I want to be crazy. Thrilling. Unpredictable. I want to keep you guessing, keep your heart pounding, and your blood rushing.

12. Philanthropic

I want to give.

13. Philosophical

I want to ask the tough questions that get you thinking about the purpose of our beating hearts.

14. Loving

When my name is spoken, I want my tenderness to come to mind.

15. Quaintrelle

I want my passion to ooze out of me.

16. Belesprit

I want to be quick. Witty. Always on my toes.

17. Conscientious

I want to always be thinking of others.

18. Passionate

...and I want people to know what my passions are.

19. Alluring

I want to be a woman who draws people in.

20. Kind

Simply put, I want to be pleasant and kind.

21. Selcouth

Even if you've known me your whole life, I want strange, yet marvelous. Rare and wondrous.

22. Pierian

From the way I move to the way I speak, I want to be poetic.

23. Esoteric

Do not mistake this. I do not want to be misunderstood. But rather I'd like to keep my circle small and close. I don't want to be an average, everyday person.

24. Authentic

I don't want anyone to ever question whether I am being genuine or telling the truth.

25. Novaturient

..about my own life. I never want to settle for good enough. Instead I always want to seek to make a positive change.

26. Observant

I want to take all of life in.

27. Peart

I want to be honestly in good spirits at all times.

28. Romantic

Sure, I want to be a little old school in this sense.

29. Elysian

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30. Curious

And I never want to stop searching for answers.
Cover Image Credit: Favim

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Coping With The Loss Of A Passion

It's hard to get it back once you lose it.

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In college, time to focus on passions seems limited. The homework, essays, group projects, and exams are never-ending.

In high school, I took my free time for granted. I was dancing four hours four nights a week, but I wasn't constantly stressed. I had time to focus on my passion, which is dance.

In college, I am a part of an amazing dance club. But I don't get to compete, take technique classes, or be with the team I was with since I was 8 years old. Now, I receive videos of my team from home's amazing performances, and it aches a bit. I am so proud and happy for their growth but jealous that they have more years than I do. It is nearly impossible to find technique classes at college to take with no car, little free time, and barely any money. I miss my team, I miss my dance teachers and choreographers, and I miss competitions, but most of all, I miss the person I was when I had the opportunity to pursue my passion several hours a week.

My passion will always be there, and I do get to pursue dance on a smaller scale with some amazing dancers in college, but I am coping with the fact that I will never do another competition with my team again, I will never be able to dance with them again, and I will never be able to learn from my dance teachers again. It's a hard loss, one that I think about every day.

To anyone who still has the opportunities to pursue their passions to the fullest extent, you are lucky. Not everyone gets the chance to keep up with their sport, passion, or activity that they dedicated all of their time to in high school. Don't take a single second of it for granted, and remember why you are doing what you are doing. Take time to reflect on why you love it so much, how it makes you feel, and how you can express yourself during it. Whatever this passion or activity is, make every second count.

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