Words On A Wire

Sundays at 12 noon

Words on a Wire is a show about fiction, poetry, the writing community, the publishing world and whatever other issues concern literary writers and readers of books. Hosted by two active writers, each show will include an interview with an established or emerging writer who has a new book, from famous award-winning veterans to hot young writers with books to watch out for.

On “Poem of the Week” we will read a poem from a collection we love or talk about a new book we have just discovered, or sometimes re-discovered. We also have a segment called “Poetic License” which is our way of giving writers their say. We hand over to writers we admire a few minutes to talk about whatever they want.

Conrad Romo


   Our Poetic License features Los Angeles poet Conrad Romo.  This reflection is called "Cement God," and tells of spending some time with his abuelo during a heat wave.

Aired Sept. 6, 2015.

In a rebroadcast from July 6, 2014, Daniel & guest co-host Nancy Lechuga talk with Mary Szybist, author of Incarnadine, the winner of the 2013 National Book Award for Poetry.  Mary describes Incarnadine as a "religious book for nonbelievers."  She explains why the Annunciation plays such a dominant role in her book, and why "visual poetry" (imagine a poem about an apple written in the shape of an apple), though often seen as gimmicky, was a risk she chose to take for a few of the poems in Incarnadine.  http://maryszybist.net/

Today's Poem of the Week is "Night Shifts at the Group Home" read by Mary Szybist.  It comes from her award-winning collection, Incarnadine.

For today's Poetic License, Nancy Lechuga reads a love letter to humanity.

Aired July 6, 2014.

  Daniel & guest co-host Nancy Lechuga talk with Mary Szybist, author of Incarnadine, the winner of the 2013 National Book Award for Poetry.  Mary describes Incarnadine as a "religious book for nonbelievers."  She explains why the Annunciation plays such a dominant role in her book, and why "visual poetry" (imagine a poem about an apple written in the shape of an apple), though often seen as gimmicky, was a risk she chose to take for a few of the poems in Incarnadine.  In this online-only extended interview, we'll hear about Mary's writing process, why a knowledge of the different forms of poetry is important (or not), and Daniel & Nancy tell Mary about their favorite poems from Incarnadine.  http://maryszybist.net/

Aired July 6, 2014.

 In a rebroadcast from Feb. 9, 2014, Daniel & Ben talk with Liz Scheid, author of the collection of essays, "The Shape of Blue: Notes on Loss, Language, Motherhood & Fear."  Liz is also a poet, and she explains how poetry informs her writing.  She also talks about the notes that are found at the end of each essay in "The Shape of Blue."  Those notes, far from being purely academic, are almost essays themselves.  https://www.facebook.com/pages/The-Shape-of-Blue/737257809618871?ref=stream

Liz Scheid will read the poem "Magic" for this week's Poem of the Week.

In this week's Poetic License, native El Pasoan Paul Pedroza reads "The Rain Parade."

And...Ben & Daniel talk about elegies and epitaphs.

Aired Aug 23, 2015.


 In a re-broadcast from Jan. 5, 2014, Daniel and guest co-host Nancy Lechuga talk with poet Shin Yu Pai, author of the collection "Aux Arcs."  She talks about why she chose to pronounce the title of her collection "Ozarks."  Shin Yu is also a visual artist, and she talks about how her photographs complement or contrast the poems in her book.   http://shinyupai.com/

For this week's Poem of the Week, Shin Yu Pai reads "Inner Space" from her collection "Aux Arcs."

Daniel Chacon contributes this week's Poetic License with a remembrance from his high school days.  It's entitled "Two Stupid Boys."

Aired Aug 16, 2015.



  Daniel talks with Ilyse Kusnetz, winner of the 2014 T.S. Eliot prize for her poetry collection, "Small Hours."  Ilyse talks about why history and historical figures play a major part in the collection, and how her early love of science fiction interweaves with her sense of history.  Her works also tackle injustice, oppression, and the fear of technology.  http://ilysekusnetz.com/

For our Poem of the Week, Ilyse reads "Match Girls" from her award-winning collection, "Small Hours."

Aired Jan. 25, 2015.



  In a rebroadcast from Jan. 25, 2015, Daniel talks with Ilyse Kusnetz, winner of the 2014 T.S. Eliot prize for her poetry collection, "Small Hours."  Ilyse talks about why history and historical figures play a major part in the collection, how her early love of science fiction interweaves with her sense of history.  Her works also tackle injustice, oppression, and the fear of technology.  In this online-only expanded interview, Ilyse talks about entering her collection in contests while also looking for publishers...social protest poetry...and quantum mechanics.


Aired Aug. 9, 2015.


  In a rebroadcast from Jan. 18, 2015, Daniel & Tim talk with poet Soul Vang, whose latest collection "To Live Here" is a collection of poems that unfolds as a memoir.  The book tells of the Hmong experience in the US, and of Soul's experiences as a Hmong writer in Fresno CA and a US Army veteran.  Soul is also a founder of the Hmong American Writers Circle http://hmongwriters.org/

For this week's Poem of the Week, Soul Vang reads "Chino" from his collection, "To Live Here."

Plus, Daniel & Tim reflect on the loss of Chicana writer and humorist, Michele Cerros.  You can listen to NPR's remembrance of Cerros at http://www.npr.org/2015/01/07/375640110/remembering-generation-mex-writer-and-proud-outsider-michele-serros.

Aired Aug. 2, 2015.


In a rebroadcast from Dec. 14, 2014,  Daniel talks with Azar Nafisi, bestselling author of "Reading Lolita in Tehran."  Her latest book is "The Republic of Imagination: America in Three Books."  The three books referenced in this nonfiction work each describe the very American traits of nonconformity and individuality.  In this interview Nafisi explains why reading, writing, and imagination can unify and transport us - regardless of station, ethnicity, and income - to other worlds, and why this "republic of imagination" is made up of a community of readers.  http://azarnafisi.com/

Aired July 26, 2015.

 In a rebroadcast from September 21, 2014, Daniel & Ben sit down in the studio for a chat with author Sergio Troncoso, an El Paso native who has republished his novel "The Nature of Truth," which follows a half-Mexican, half-German Yale research student who tracks down the Nazi past of one of his professors.  Sergio explains what drove him to republish the work, and he reads an excerpt for us.  Sergio also explains to us why Ysleta is his favorite part of El Paso...and in this online-exclusive extended conversation,  he, Ben and Daniel argue over which El Paso restaurants are the best.   http://www.sergiotroncoso.com/ 

Aired July 19, 2015.

 In a rebroadcast from December 7, 2014, Daniel talks with Guy Johnson, son of the great American poet Maya Angelou, who died earlier this year at the age of 86.  Johnson helped compile over 200 of Angelou's inspirational quotes, bits of advice, and observations, and they are available in the posthumous collection, "Rainbow in the Cloud."  Johnson talks about connecting with his mother through her words after her death, and how going through her works was a way for him to not only say "goodbye" to her, but "hello."  

Johnson also reads the poem that Maya Angelou read at the 50th anniversary of the United Nations: "The Brave and Startling Truth."  You can view Maya Angelou reading the poem at the UN event here 

Also in today's show, Daniel feels betrayed by Apple's Siri app for making him pronounce Spanish words with a gringo accent.

*the music heard on this show was performed by Maya Angelou: "Stone Cold Dead in the Market" and "Run Joe"*

Aired Dec. 7, 2014.

In a rebroadcast from September 14, 2014,  Daniel talks with Dylan Landis, author of the novel "Rainey Royal," a book about a 14-year-old girl (described by Daniel as a "Mean Girl") growing up in Greenwich Village in a very unconventional household. The book follows her along a 10-year span in which she makes & breaks friendships and relationships.  Dylan explains how Rainey was a character introduced briefly in an earlier short story, and after a failed attempt at a Typhoid Mary project, Dylan decided to dedicated an entire book to Rainey. http://www.dylanlandis.com/

Today's Poem of the Week is Gwendolyn Brooks' "A Song in the Front Yard," read by local poet Nancy Lechuga.

And today's Poetic License is a reflection on remembrance read by Carolynne Muehsam-Ayoub.  The piece is entitled "Garden Tomatoes."

Aired July 5, 2015.

  Daniel talks with Pulitzer Prize-winning poet, Tracy K. Smith.  She has written her first memoir, Ordinary Light, and she talks about why she waited many years to write about the death of her mother.  She also explains why the memoir allowed her to explore the subject of race and to reflect on how her parents lived & coped in the segregated South.  

Tracy K. Smith also reads today's Poem of the Week: "In Brazil" from the collection Duende.

In today's Poetic License, El Pasoan Azucena Dominguez reflects on the first date that never happened.

Aired June 25, 2015.

  Daniel & Tim talk with Ben Holden, co-author with his father Anthony Holden of the collection "Poems that Make Grown Men Cry: 100 Men on the Words that Move Them."  Filmmakers, artists, and actors such as Stephen Fry, Nick Cave, Daniel Radcliffe, and Christopher Hitchens are among the 100 men who shared their stories behind the poems that offer up a wellspring of emotions.  https://www.facebook.com/makemencry

Daniel & Tim also talk about the poems that make them emotional.  Tim reads an excerpt from Jimmy Santiago Baca's "Crying Poem," and Daniel shares audio of Corinne Clegg Hales reading her poem "Bigger."

Aired June 21, 2015.


   Daniel & Tim talk with Natalie Scenters-Zapico, a poet who grew up on the El Paso/Cd. Juarez border.  Her debut collection is called "The Verging Cities," and she tells us about the long process it took to write and the satisfaction she felt upon its completion.  The collection focuses on the personal and political dynamic along the US/Mexico border, and she explains how growing up and studying in El Paso (including taking an Intro to Creative Writing class with host Daniel Chacón)  influenced her work.  http://nataliescenterszapico.com/

Natalie Scenters-Zapico reads the Poem of the Week: "Mouth in My Kitchen" from her collection "The Verging Cities."

Plus...Daniel & Tim reflect on why so many writers likes to write about the El Paso/Cd. Juarez border.

Aired June 14, 2015

  Daniel & Tim talk with Dominican-American author, Junot Díaz, whose books include "Drown," "The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao," and "This is How You Lose Her."  Díaz talks about how he confronts the lack of diversity in writing programs at educational institutions,  why he is not a writer other writers should emulate, and why his mother was not impressed by his Pulitzer Prize.  http://www.junotdiaz.com/

Aired June 7, 2015.

  Daniel welcomes humorist Andy Selsberg, former staff writer for The Onion, author of "The Jottery: Thought Experiments for Everyday Philosophers and Part-Time Geniuses."  This book goes above & beyond the "Mad Libs" of our childhood by asking us to engage our creativity by presenting questions & suggestions such as "You create something called Soul Lotion. What are the best places to rub it? (Don’t limit your answer to human body parts.)"  Or "List twelve things you can have instead of “it all.”  Selsberg, who teaches English at John Jay College, explains how these exercises can also spark the creativity of writing students.

Follow Andy on Twitter https://twitter.com/andyselsberg

Aired May 31, 2015

  Kerouac supposedly wrote "On the Road" on one continuous roll of paper in a period of 3 weeks. The improvisatory nature of the book is legendary. But is there anything truly special about improvisation in prose, poetry, or music? Daniel talks with writer Randy Fertel, who examines the nature of literary improvisation in his book A TASTE FOR CHAOS: The Art of Literary Improvisation.  https://www.facebook.com/randyfertel

Aired May 24, 2015

  Daniel & Tim talk with Mecca Jamilah Sullivan, whose collection of stories "Blue Talk & Love," has drawn critical praise.  She talks about the true stories that inspired the collection, and about her use of multiple perspectives within individual stories.  Music also plays a big role in these stories, and the title of the collection is drawn from Earth, Wind & Fire's "September" (heard in the closing of the show).  http://www.meccajamilahsullivan.com/

Aired May 17, 2015.

  Tim & Daniel talk with Janaka Stucky, author of the poetry collection "The Truth is We are Perfect."  The book was published by Third Man Books, a division of Third Man Records (http://thirdmanrecords.com/), which was founded by White Stripes band member, Jack White.  He explains the influence music has on his writing, and has even created a playlist of songs that he recommends accompany his poems: http://www.largeheartedboy.com/blog/archive/2015/04/book_notes_jana.html (Songs from the playlist - Aéroport Évolution by Ô Paon and a selection from Earth's The Bees Made Honey in the Lion's Skull - are heard in between segments and closing out the program)  http://janakastucky.com/

Janaka reads 2 poems from his collection: "Recreating a Miraculous Object" (more insight at http://www.poetrysociety.org/psa/poetry/crossroads/own_words/Janaka_Stucky/) and "The Art of Loss is a Lost Art."

Aired May 10, 2015

La Bloga

  Daniel talks with one of the pioneers of Chicano Literature, Felipe de Ortego y Gasca.  Felipe taught the first Mexican-American/Chicano Literature course at the University of New Mexico in 1969, and he talks about the changes he's seen in the genre since that time.  He also talks about his little known appearances on film, including 1998's "Dancer, Texas Pop. 81," and the time he spent teaching French at El Paso's own Jefferson High School.

Plus...Daniel shares his Top 10 List of Books To Read Before You Die (or "...While You're Still Alive," as Daniel prefers!  Read the list here: http://borderzine.com/2014/11/chacons10-books-to-read-before-you-die/.  Some of his picks may surprise you!

Aired May 3, 2015.

  Tim & Daniel talk with Santiago Vaquera-Vásquez, author of "One Day I'll Tell You the Things I've Seen," a collection of stories that take the reader to the US/Mexico border, to Iowa cornfields, to Madrid, and even to Turkey.  This is Santiago's 1st book to be published in English, and he explains why he made the decision to not italicize the Spanish words in the book.  Santiago is a professor in the Department of Spanish & Portuguese at the University of New Mexico.  http://spanport.unm.edu/people/directory/santiago-vaquera-vasquez.html

Aired April 26, 2015.

  Daniel and Tim talk with poet Laurie Ann Guerrero and artist Maceo Montoya.  Laurie Ann is the author of "A Crown for Gumecindo," a heroic crown of sonnets written in memory of her late grandfather.  Maceo provided the illustrations for the collection.  Laurie Ann talks about why she chose to write her collection in sonnet form, and Maceo explains how his illustrations were influenced by Laurie Ann's words.  http://laurieannguerrero.com/http://maceomontoya.com/

The Poem of the Day is read by Laurie Ann Guerrero:  Sonnets 10, 11, and 12 from "A Crown for Gumecindo."

Aired April 19, 2015.

  Tim talks with Elijah Burrell, author of the poetry collection, "The Skin of the River."  This is Eli's first collection, and water and landscape play an important role in the poems, which have a narrative link.  Eli's mother was very ill when he was writing these poems, and he explains how the theme of spirituality erupts in the collection's "Plague Songs," which depict Old Testament plagues such as frogs, fire, and lice set in modern times.

Today's Poetic License comes to us from Quetzani Montaño Sevilla, who sings us an original composition, accompanied by her guitar.

And as we celebrate National Poetry Month, host Tim Hernandez shares a touching story of how poetry touched one young teen's life.

Some of the music in today's show is performed by today's guest, Elijah Burrell: "Behind That Locked Door" and "Mansion on the Hill."

Aired April 12, 2015.

  Tim talks with writer Benjamin Whitmer about his latest novel, "Cry Father," which has been compared to the works of Cormac McCarthy.  He talks about how this book grew out of a failed historical novel project, and of the importance of landscape in his writing.  Music also plays a critical role in Whitmer's life. He co-wrote a book about the great country duo, The Louvin Brothers, with Charlie Louvin.  (The music of The Louvin Brothers is heard at the end of the show - "Kentucky").  http://benjaminwhitmer.com/

In today's Poetic License, Carolynn Meuhsam-Ayoub shares a creative non-fiction peace about a wildlife project she took part in while serving in the Peace Corps in Panama.

Aired April 5, 2015.

  Daniel & Tim talk with poet David Campos, whose latest collection "Furious Dusk" won the 2014 Andrés Montoya Poetry Prize.  David is the first poet out of Fresno (the home of Andrés Montoya) to win the prize, and he explains how Andrés Montoya greatly influenced his style of writing.  David is also a screenwriter, and he talks about how that experience helps him organize his poems by "building a whole movie through poems."

For the Poem of the Week, David Campos reads "A Wage-Claim Conference in Fresno," from his collection "Furious Dusk."

Aired March 29, 2015.

Daniel Chacon

  Daniel talks with Philip Connors, whose latest memoir, "All The Wrong Places: A Life Lost and Found," tackles the aftermath of the 1996 suicide of Philip's brother.  As is evident by the notebooks in the picture, Philip wrote his way through the experience.  He explains how, as a suicide survivor, he felt like an "other," and actively sought to put himself in situations in which he was an outsider...all the wrong places, so to speak.  He finally found the right place in the Gila Wilderness, where he is a fire lookout.  http://www.philipconnors.com/

Aired March 22, 2015

  Daniel talks with humor writer Mike Sacks, whose latest book is "Poking a Dead Frog: Conversations with Today's Top Comedy Writers."  Sacks explains why the title of the book refers to over-analyzing comedy, which is not always a good thing.  He also explains the connections between poetry & comedy - both benefit from not being overwritten.   And Sacks talks about the freedom the writers of The Simpsons were given, which explains why every episode of the show still feels fresh, despite the fact that it's a quarter-century old!  Follow Mike Sacks on Twitter https://twitter.com/michaelbsacks

In the introduction to the show, Daniel puts forth his Theory of Puns.  Why does he consider them "half a joke"?

Aired March 15, 2015.

  Daniel & Tim talk with writer & poet Brian Turner, who served seven years in the US Army. He served in Iraq and in Bosnia-Herzegovina.  Brian's new book, "My Life as a Foreign Country," is a memoir, and in this conversation, he explains the visions & dreams in the book and how he was able to channel the lives of soldiers of past conflicts.  http://www.brianturner.org/

Brian Turner reads the poem of the week, "Insignia," which touches upon the topic of sexual assault of women in the military.  It comes from his 2010 collection, "Phantom Noise."  

Plus, Daniel & Tim reflect on their travels, and how they often feel like foreigners in a country as familiar as Mexico.

Aired March 8, 2015.


  Daniel talks with Carlos Aceves, author of "Diadema," his first published novel.  The book was inspired by a true event.  In 2001, a spiritualist told Carlos of a vision she had of a special place in Hueco Tanks that he had to find.  Carlos discovered a symbol in a cave that signified an astronomical alignment.  Carlos also talks about his self-help book "Nine Seasons: Beyond 2012," which is a manual of ancient Aztec & Maya wisdom that we can apply to our lives today.  

In today's Poetic License, we air poems read by the late poet & activist Phil Goldvarg, who, though not Hispanic, was considered a Chicano by his fellow poets.

Aired March 1, 2015.