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Member Spotlight for the Month of July 2003 - Richard Paez

Richard Paez

When a reader compliments one of his poems, Richard Paez involuntarily asks himself, “Why?”

“I have a hard time accepting that anything I write is worth anybody else’s time,” says Richard.

He means it. The humble, clever Cuban who goes by Malachi hears a different kind of muse when he pens his works, and he knows it. So it is something of an anomaly to him when someone reads one of his poems and not only “gets it,” but enjoys it as well.

Richard starting writing in the 7th grade, when he was about 13 or 14 years old – at exactly the same time he discovered music. Like many teens who hearken to a muse, he dreamed of becoming a rock star ... but the fantasy fizzled before he ever actually played anywhere. “I hate to even say that I did it,” he laughs.

But understanding this is key to understanding Richard: music is and always was his greatest poetic influence. “I believe that music and poetry are related in the same way that painting and sculpture are,” he says. “Music doesn’t necessarily have to include poetry and poetry doesn’t have to include music, but they are related.”

While there are many poets at Pathetic whose works he adores, it’s the songwriters for his favorite music that motivate his muse. One band in particular that moves him is Tool, whose lyrics often depict seemingly dark or heavy themes, but with a positive push to overcoming life’s obstacles.

“This is a theme I try to reflect in my own poetry,” Richard says. “In a lot of my poems, I try to do the same thing. I don’t want to be a negative person, but at the same time I don’t want to forsake my negative side.”

Another aspect of Richard’s work is his formatting, using punctuational elements or color to further express his meaning. “Nine Inch Nails has really influenced me there,” he says.

A lot of Richard’s poetry deals with his past, and this is why he expects people won’t appreciate his work. “I have a hard time putting myself in the reader’s shoes,” he says, “to see if someone outside of me would care about what I’ve just written.” Even so, Richard tries to put everything he can into each piece. While the occasional poem comes to him nearly complete on the first try, the truth is that most are worked and reworked until every part of it has a reason for being.

“The poems I get the most satisfaction from, first and foremost, are the ones that when I look back on them I see all the little tricks I’ve done: word games, alliteration, double meanings; then I feel like I’ve done everything I can with it.”

One work that meets this criteria is “3 14 15 9 2,” what he refers to as his “pi poem.”

“I know that every letter of that poem is there for a specific reason,” he says, “every line is thought out, nothing is arbitrary about that plan.”

Richard has a knack for writing about subjects such as math (as in his “pi poem”), creating a piece that is not only unusual and entertaining, but easy to understand as well.

“I’m not bad at math,” says Richard. “The math that I know, I know very well. What I do understand I can explain very well.” While he understands math theoretically, he earned “horrible grades,” he says. “It still takes incredible effort.”

Another common theme is the end of a relationship. “There’s so much emotion that goes into it,” says the poet known as Malachi, “the anger, the sadness, the regret ... that’s all really distracting from the fact that the actual relationship broke up and all that that means. That’s part of the poetry writing process for me.”

The persona of Malachi is that of a poet. He acquired the moniker in high school, where a schoolmate once told a friend she wasn’t sure she liked Richard because he looked too much like the character Malachi in the movie, “Children of the Corn.”

“The actor that played that part looked a lot like me,” says Richard, “tall ... skinny ... red hair.” The fact that the characters in the Stephen King movie, who all adopted nicknames of prophets from the Bible, went crazy and killed their parents probably added to her discomfort, he figures.

Richard has been published in Miambiance, the Miami-Dade Community College literary magazine, Tallahassee College literary magazine, and Swamp, an e-zine. The poem he submitted to Miambiance, “Slave's Curse,” was subsequently entered in an intercollegiate competition and won third place in the Columbia Press Association’s 1999 College Gold Circle. Another poem, “we were told not to mourn the dead,” which was published in the Tallahassee College literary magazine, won an honorable mention in the 2002 College Gold Circle competition.

The following is a list of the highlights of Richard Paez's poetry:

Author:

The member spotlighted in this month's "Member Spotlight" is chosen by the pathetic.org Spotlight committee, which is made up of a small group of site patrons and administrators. Each month a member is selected for this privilege based upon contributions to pathetic.org and the quality of work.

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