Denver Lawyers’ Arts and Literature Contest: Poetry Writing Winner Manuel Ramos
Tell us more about your work. What was the inspiration? What techniques did you draw on? What do you like about this work?
I am a fiction writer but occasionally I aspire to be a poet. I have written a handful of poems over the years but I cannot explain the inspiration for the particular poems. They appear in my imagination as random phrases and concepts and eventually are transplanted to the page. “Fool Moon Madness” was born almost complete. I did very little re-writing, which is unusual for me. My fiction often takes years of re-writing, editing, and deleting to get to the point where I am ready for someone to read it. The poem, in an abstract, dreamlike fashion, attempts to deal with some issues that were prevalent when it was created and which, unfortunately, are still swirling in the atmosphere: endless war, repackaged racism, apathy that allows crimes against humanity, and, on a more personal level, confusing age with wisdom or maturity. And other issues.
How did you become interested in writing? What do you enjoy most about being a writer?
I have written since I was a young boy—I became a writer because I loved to read, a sentiment often expressed by writers. I wanted to write stories that allowed readers to escape but also that reflected my reality and consciousness, that is, the Mexican-American community and culture—something almost impossible to find when I was a boy, more than 50 years ago. The thing that I enjoy most about being a writer is the final read I give a piece when I realize that it is as complete as I can get it. Although I have never equaled the image I have of a story with the actual product, I have come close and there isn't a better feeling than that.
Why did you become a lawyer? What do you enjoy most about the profession?
I am lucky that I have survived as a legal aid lawyer, and that I have been able to work with people who share my values about justice, equality, and fairness. I don't think I would have remained in the profession if I had to do some other kind of lawyering. I don't say that as a judgment on any other lawyer, I only speak for myself.
Art and lawyering seem to draw on very different skills and different parts of the brain. How do you think being a lawyer helps your art, or vice versa?
The work I do for Colorado Legal Services has occasionally spurred my imagination. My legal work has provided starting points for characters, plot lines, and dialog. But only starting points. The finish is always total fiction. The discipline I need to practice as a legal aid attorney also carries over to the discipline needed for writing. When I am engaged in a writing project I mark out time in the morning, evening, and weekends for that project, just as I have to organize myself for my responsibilities at Colorado Legal Services.
Tell us briefly about your background as a writer and as an attorney.
I am the Director of Advocacy for Colorado Legal Services, the statewide legal aid program, and the author of seven published novels, five of which feature Denver lawyer Luis Móntez. I am a recipient of the Colorado Bar Association’s Jacob V. Schaetzel Award and the Colorado Hispanic Bar Association’s Chris Miranda Award. My fiction has garnered the Colorado Book Award, the Chicano/Latino Literary Award, the Top Hand Award from the Colorado Authors League, and an Honorable Mention from the Latino International Book Awards. The Móntez series debuted with “The Ballad of Rocky Ruiz” (1993), a finalist for the Edgar® award from the Mystery Writers of America. My published works include the mainstream novel “King of the Chicanos” (2010), several short stories, poems, nonfiction articles, and a handbook on Colorado landlord-tenant law, now in a fifth edition. I am a co-founder of and regular contributor to La Bloga (www.labloga.blogspot.com), an award-winning Internet magazine devoted to Latino literature, culture, news, and opinion. The short story “When the Air Conditioner Quit” is scheduled for publication in “Border Noir: Hard Boiled Fiction from the Southwest” (2012).