I was born and raised in Los Angeles, California, to Mexican immigrants. We were poor, but that never stopped my parents from instilling a strong educational ethic on me. Even though we lived in the infamous neighborhood known as “South Central”, we made the most out of its colorful sights, complex sounds, and sharp smells. For a brief period we tried living in a small town in Texas, but the winter weather was unforgivable (to us Southern Californians), and thus we returned to our more embracing and beloved coastal climate. Currently I live in a small town in the California Central Valley, near the Sierra Nevada Mountains.
What is the greatest thing about the place you call home?
Living in a small town gives me a sense of tranquility and appreciation for a slower pace of life. There is a stark difference between a city of millions and a town of thousands, and the hot summers of the Valley are worth enduring if only to be closer to nature. Driving a few minutes outside town, I have the pleasure of seeing the colorful blossoms and smelling their sweet scent. Also, I love visiting the nearby national parks, located in the Sierra Nevada Mountains, and taking a walk through the lush trees and vivid wildflowers. And before I forget, the locally grown fruits and veggies always make a tasty meal.
What turns you on creatively?
The suffering and the ecstasy of the soul will always be necessary nourishment for my poetic spirit, as is the struggle of the individual for self-realization against social convention. Another source of inspiration are songs: take away the sound, let the words stand on their own, and a great song reveals itself as a poem. A song that combines words creatively presents itself as a challenge to further expand my own creativity. Also, from the first time I read Sappho (whatever fragments remain), I have been attracted by her simple use of words to passionately communicate her love and lust, and she has inspired me to compose a few poems about her.
What is your favorite word, and can you use it in a poetic sentence?
My favorite word is “embrace”, which I used in Your Embrace, my first poem published by Spillwords. I like the smoothness of its pronunciation, and the completeness of its meaning—full acceptance. Here is an example: You embrace all the goodness that I admire. Now come and embrace me with your warmth, that I may embrace you with my love, embrace this pain away.
What is your pet peeve?
What annoys (and saddens) me is when people discard their individuality in order to fit in with society’s demands. Fear of being unique, different, weird, etc., forces people to abandon their creativity and reject a fundamental part of their identity. As poets, we must embrace our quirks and resist such forces of conformity, or else the magnetism of our words shall fade. In a less serious note, I easily get annoyed when cleaning up after other people. I’m always very organized and clean up after myself, and I demand others do the same, but expectations can only go so far. Oh well, it is I who must become more flexible in embracing a bit of messiness and chaos in my life.
What defines Jose A. Tovar?
First and foremost I am skeptical, critical, and defiant against oppressive authority, constantly questioning its very source of power—I don’t like to be controlled. As for my softer side, I am a romantic who has always been in love with languages. Besides English and Spanish, I know a bit of French and Latin. I am shy and reserved, therefore it’s difficult for me to express my emotions face to face. For this reason, I deeply cherish the power of poetry to mold language into spirit. Poetry is not a luxury: it is my sanity and my necessity. As an introvert, I am always analyzing details and contemplating a multitude of possibilities, and so poetry keeps me grounded in reality. In the end, I am an enigma, a poker-faced mystery that cannot be easily unwrapped (or so people say), but if you find the key to the lock of my soul, I will (slowly) spill out the shadows within me…
Inquiring freethinker undertaking a journey of moral and intellectual transformation: I strive, I search, I hunt for the hidden and forbidden, mold it into poetry, and let the shadows within me burst free...
B.A. in Political Science, former Analytical Linguist, and lover of liberty.