North Texas Daily

UNT slam poetry writer uses past to influence his work

UNT slam poetry writer uses past to influence his work

Slam poet Daniel Garcia poses for a photo. Sasha Calamaco

UNT slam poetry writer uses past to influence his work
January 29
17:25 2017

Bianca Mujica | Staff Writer

He stood in front of the microphone, his body moving to the beat of his words and his face revealing the emotions from which those words emerged. At one point, he even twerked.

Daniel Garcia, an English junior and slam poet, stood tall in front of the crowd, with powerful things to say.

This specific poem was about sexual assault, one of the many topics Garcia has experienced, writes about and performs. His work is metaphorical yet blunt, vulnerable yet witty. To him, the work and world of poetry is what everything else revolves around.

“When I discovered slam it was a way for me to use what I liked, writing, and do what I wanted to do, speaking and get in touch with myself,” Garcia said. “The only time I really feel connected to the world is when I’m in front of a mic. It’s where I feel human.”

Despite this determination, Garcia still experiences periods where he cannot produce the work he wants.

“There’s this weird thing called life and it gets in the way sometimes,” Garcia said. “If I’m not taking care of myself in small aspects it tends to snowball. If I’m sick, I can’t function. If I can’t function, I can’t work.”

Born in Queens, New York, Garcia’s family moved often due to money and various job opportunities for his mother. He lived in Orlando, Florida for nine years before coming to Texas, where they continued to relocate. His family consisted of him, his older brother Franky Gonzalez and his mother. He briefly knew his father, whom Garcia described as violent, abusive and “more in love with alcohol than his family.”

Self-care has often been difficult for Garcia.

At 13 he began experiencing depression. At 14 he felt for the first time that he no longer wanted to live. At 17 he developed an eating disorder. He has attempted suicide three times, the last attempt being two years ago.

“I’ve made decisions to address my mental health problems and actively do what I can to recover,” Garcia said. “It’s a thing I’m working on, not a thing I’m working to get to.”

Gonzalez, Garcia’s 25-year-old brother who lives in Frisco with his family, said Garcia’s loud and abrasive persona simply disguises an observant and sensitive person.

At a recent event, Gonzalez was performing a monologue and Garcia could be heard from the audience, yelling out support through the monologue. Gonzalez said that’s his brother in a nutshell, he will be heard.

But the fondest memory Gonzalez has of Garcia came at one of the darkest moments in his own life.

“He came into my room and held me very close and said ‘it’s going to be okay, I promise,’” Gonzalez said. “And I think that’s a common thread for him as a writer. It’s going to be okay, there’s always a tomorrow. It’s a beautiful memory I have of him.”

At only 21 years old, Garcia and his work have seen success with the help of his brother. He wrote a play titled “Happy and Free” when he was 17, which was later produced and funded by Gonzalez. It was featured in a film festival in 2016, as was another of his plays.

In addition to being a published playwright, Garcia writes nonfiction and has been working on novels, one of which is completely in verse. He sells chapbooks, which are small pamphlets with a collection of works inside.

“I’m always honing my craft, and if I’m not then I’m failing as a writer,” Garcia said. “If you’re not engaging with the written word, you’re not going to get anywhere.”

When it comes to his writing, though, Garcia knows he cannot have a personal connection to everything and acknowledges what he has yet to learn.

“I’m only so much aware of the world around me that it extends to here,” Garcia said, putting his finger to the tip of his nose. “So if I’m not questioning myself, I’m doing something wrong. Part of being a writer is engaging with your own writing and asking if it’s BS.”

And while Garcia is critical of himself, he never attempts to write about what does not pertain to him. He said he believes it wrong to use another’s experience to prove his own point.

Instead, he focuses on his own experiences. His work is personal and honest, exposing parts of himself that even those closest to him do not know. He said using the stage to express himself is empowering and liberating.

“Mental illness, recovery, trauma, these are things I know inside out,” Garcia said. “So why not raise my middle finger to them and put it all down on paper? I have my time in front of the mic to say what I want to say. As poets, we speak our truth and just go from there.”

Featured Image: Slam poet Daniel Garcia poses for a photo. Sasha Calamaco

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Kayleigh Bywater

Kayleigh Bywater

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