Imperfect Fragments by Joan Koerper

It’s National Poetry Month. My poetic soul celebrates as I honor the poet in me, and the poets, and poetic works that have nurtured my life. Like most of us I have been in conversation with poets whom I know only through their writings. At other times, I am sharing a repast or sipping a drink with a poet whose vitality is radiating the space around us.

One of the poets I am privileged to know is Deenaz Paymaster Coachbuilder. Deenaz is well known to most of us who are part of the Inlandia community, yet her many accomplishments and talents are sometimes hidden by her soft and nonintrusive demeanor. I met Deenaz in the summer of 2009 at the Inlandia Creative Writing Workshop led by Ruth Nolan, MA, MFA, at the Main Riverside Library. Our friendship solidified over the months, indeed years, that we participated in the workshops and has continued on. For us, the workshops were a way to connect with a community of writers and continually challenge ourselves.

Deenaz, a Riverside resident, is a published poet in the US and India. Her poems have appeared in Inlandia: A Literary Journey; Sun Runner; Sugar Mule Literary Magazine; Parsiana; The Elphinstonian; Slouching Toward Mt. Rubidoux Manor; 2011 Writing From Inlandia; The Riverside County Recorder; India Journal; and Crucible. As an artist, Deenaz exhibits her often mesmerizing works in oil. She is also an educator and environmental advocate. Deenaz received a doctorate in Theater, an MS in Communicative Disorders in the US, and an MA in Literature from Bombay University, India. A retired school principal, she is a consulting Speech Pathologist and university professor in “special education.” A Fulbright scholar, Deenaz is the recipient of several awards, including President Obama’s “Volunteer Service Award.”

Deenaz published her first book of poems, Imperfect Fragments in 2014. Having watched the work unfold, I wrote a review that is including in a final section of the book entitled “Words of Praise.” I am waiting to post my review at Amazon, whenever the book is available there. Until then, I am overdue posting it here to honor Deenaz and her work. Happy National Poetry Month.

Joan Koerper On Imperfect Fragments by Deenaz Paymaster Coachbuilder

Harvesting imperfect fragments arising from a full range of human experience, translated internally in a multitude of languages, sensations, and lingering emotions, Dr. Deenaz Coachbuilder transmutes swatches of vibrant phrases into a stunning outpouring of poetic expression. “Life is a pilgrimage. But where does the path lead?” she begins, extending an invitation to accompany her on this personal journey of questing and questioning. Deenaz’s poems illuminate a journey of compassion, grace and transformation as she contemplates and celebrates, time, love, faith, the human condition and the continuum of spirit.

In the end, however, it is the humility of her spiritual journey that is most telling, and the true stairway to the profundity of her poetry. Even in the days when she felt no affinity to any particular faith, her unfailing sense of connectedness to all forms of life, the Universe, and particularly her family, in other words, her spirituality, never wavered. Deenaz shares her acute awareness of class differences in poems such as “The Green Hedge,” her almost unbearable grief over the untimely and tragic death of her only brother, her struggle to confront her mortality as she battled cancer, and her joy at the birth of her grandson, Barjor. We feel her affinity with the desert rose rock, the dandelion, the Joshua Tree, her dissolution into, and oneness with, a monarch butterfly and other sentient beings in “Impermanence of Being.” We read her tribute to the labor of the earthworm in “Paradise Lost,” become hypnotized along with her by the sight of a tiger languishing in cooling waters, celebrate Ocotillo Lady in the deserts of California, and listen while “Cymbidium Orchid Speaks.” All of her poems are ultimately a spiritual “answering echo to one’s primordial being.”

Deenaz’s heartfelt, lyrical, sometimes painful reflections are augmented with visuals of her other talents in the arts: stunning photographs such as “Alki Sunset.” We run with the wild horses contemplating her painting of same and feel our own eyebrows lift to her painting “Startled Flight.” The array of family photos across time, generations, and place, solidify that strong sense of her cultural identity across borders as she wonders at growing things.

I have been privileged to read and watch Deenaz’s poems evolve over the last few years. Yet I am profoundly moved by this collection she has courageously assembled. Each time I read and reread the poems, I am taken to a different depth of thought and feeling than I traveled on the previous read. Deenaz’s fravashi, her guardian spirit, has given a gift to us all by not only being at her side, but by guiding Deenaz’s poetic hand to weave her imperfect fragments into a memorable work that the reader will want to return to, again and again. (c) 2013 MJ Koerper.

Imperfect Fragments © 2013 Deenaz Paymaster Coachbuilder. First published, 2014. ISBN: 9780991308507

For All Those Who Ask, What *is* Inlandia? by Cati Porter

Once again we are approaching that time of year when we give thanks for friends and family, take stock of what we have accomplished, and express appreciation for all those who have made it possible. So, thank you—we are all Inlandia.

A question I get asked regularly is, what is Inlandia? We have now been writing these columns for well over a year, and I don’t think we have ever addressed that directly here. Sure, you can make out who we are by the patchwork of topics covered here; what you see is what Inlandia is and does: many voices, all hailing from Inland Southern California, celebrating the region. But on the heels of what has been a banner week for Inlandia, I thought I would try to explain it in a little more detail.

The Inlandia Institute was established in 2007 as a partnership between the City of Riverside and Heyday, our co-publisher, after the publication of the anthology Inlandia: A Literary Journey through California’s Inland Empire. The idea was to found a literary and cultural center here in the Inland Empire that focused on the writers and readers of the region. Soon after, Inlandia moved into our own office, incorporating in 2009, and in 2012 Inlandia was granted non-profit status as a 501(c)(3).

Inlandia has five core programs: Children’s Creative Literacy, Adult Literary Professional Development, Publications—both with our co-publisher Heyday as well as a locally-produced independent imprint, Free Public Literary Events, and the Inlandia Literary Laureate. What does this translate to? Just this past year, Inlandia has:

– Served over 2000 children, including at-risk youth through The Women Wonder Writers program of the DA’s office, resulting in a collection of written work and a public reading and discussion; and in programs in Title 1 schools like Fremont Elementary, where we held a book discussion and gave all 200 fifth-graders and sixth-graders a free copy of Gayle Brandeis’ young adult novel, My Life with the Lincolns, thanks to a generous Rotary sponsorship.

– Served over 2400 adults through public outreach events like Celebrate Mount Rubidoux and the Mayor’s Celebration for Arts & Innovation, and by hosting free monthly author events during ArtsWalk at the Riverside Public Library, and writing workshops throughout Riverside and San Bernardino Counties, including a Family Legacy Writing Workshop at the Goeske Senior Center.

– Published: No Easy Way, the story of the integration of Riverside schools, by Arthur L. Littleworth, a chapter integral to Riverside history; Vital Signs by Inlandia Literary Laureate Juan Delgado and Tom McGovern, which went on to win an American Book Award from the Before Columbus Foundation; and the Orangelandia anthology, which contains the fruit of Riverside’s citrus heritage. And launching this week, a new children’s chapter book, Tia’s Tamale Trouble, by Inlandia author and educator Julianna Maya Cruz.

Inlandia also undertakes special projects from time to time, like “Making Waves in Inlandia,” which chronicles the stories of the women’s environmental movement through oral histories and a very cool interactive component on our website, including a map of all the spaces saved by local environmental activists, and video interviews.

We also have two other interactive features on our website—a map that details the location of every Inland Empire site mentioned in our flagship Inlandia anthology (which, regrettably, is currently out of print—but we are working on a second edition! More about that in a future post). And, just this past week, with the publication of No Easy Way, we launched an interactive timeline, “Time Travel through Riverside’s School Integration History.”

Further, after the first of the year, we will be launching a six-part series of monthly public civic discussion forums featuring esteemed panelists and partner organizations, with the kickoff event at UCR’s Culver Center on January 31, 2015, at 1 pm.

One of the sound bites associated with Inlandia is, “celebrating the region in word, image, and sound.”

Planned projects include a new Adopt-a-School program which will bring literary arts education, taught by professionals in the field, to area schools; a Native American Voices conference at the Dorothy Ramon Center in Banning, featuring and celebrating indigenous peoples; a writing workshop at the Ontario Museum of History and Art celebrating black aviators in February, in honor of Black History Month. Not to mention our usual monthly Arts Walk series at the downtown Riverside Public Library and the free writing workshops held in six different cities throughout the region.

We are supported wholly through the generous donations of our members, supporters, and through grant funding from organizations like the City of Riverside, the Riverside Arts Council, the E. Rhodes and Leona B. Carpenter Foundation, and Cal Humanities. But like any arts organization, we are constantly thinking of creative ways we can ensure continued funding while also making it fun for contributors. Last week, we participated in the county-wide Give BIG day of giving, and to all of those who helped us meet our goals, thank you!

We are also currently in the midst of a book fair fundraiser sponsored by Barnes & Noble. If you missed the kickoff event on Saturday November 22, which featured readings by notable locals Larry Eby, Isabel Flores, Stephanie Barbe Hammer, Julianna Cruz, and a flurry of contributors to the Orangelandia anthology, know that you can still participate through the end of the week by shopping online or in store (any Barnes & Noble anywhere, as long as you have Inlandia’s code: 11484482), through Black Friday. So if like most people at this time of year you are beginning to think about holiday gifts, give a gift to Inlandia when you shop at Barnes & Noble this Thanksgiving week.

From all of us at Inlandia, we give thanks for you this week, and every week, throughout the year.