Yvonne M. Estrada's My Name on Top of Yours
Yyonne M.Estrada's My Name on Top of Yours: A Crown of Sonnets With Photographs, is a compact powerful distillation of poetry and photographs that pays homage to the most pernicious and rebellious of incidental artists; the tagger/graffiti artist. As Estrada explains, “a crown of sonnets is a sequence of interlinked sonnets in which the last line of one becomes the first line, sometimes with variations, of the next.” Estrada fuses both the classical form of the sonnet (Elizabethan) with the modern eye of photojournalism, and while there are minor poetic liberties (frequent slant rhyme) taken by the poet, overall, the book successfully conveys its message: taggers are practicing/will practice their art whenever/wherever time and circumstance allow.
My Name covers not just the bravado of taggers in the poems “A long name on a freeway overpass,” and “A fresh coat of night ends another day,” but also how they affect their environment, as in the poems “Shoot them in the back with yellow paint balls,” and “She was fed up, that neighborhood was hers,” which explores the other side of the issue, that of the frustration from home and property owners whose walls become the defacto tagger's canvas. The environment Estrada deftly describes in her poems is one of mounting deprivation, territorial disputes, and the driving need to claim a piece of the world for oneself, often at the expense of another. What is an artist to do? Where/when/how is an artist supposed to express him/herself in a world that constantly attempts to annihilate individuality, freedom of expression, and, on a more personal scale, a human being's existence as Estrada so eloquently asks in the poem “Oh he's too high to shout, or hide, or run”:
Oh he's too high to shout, or hide, or run.
He's pinned under the ghetto-bird's spotlight,
then unfreezes, drops the bag and it's on;
he bolts past squad-cars, escapes into night.
Torn pocket and blue under fingernails
help him tell the story all the next day.
Homies in dead cars go over details,
migrate inside to play World of Warcraft.
Any motivation goes up in smoke.
Their boredom rolls downhill, getting bigger.
They feel it close in, they know it's no joke;
they're not at work, they're not in jail either.
They're just taggers, each one has what he has -
his name on a freeway overpass.
My Name on Top of Yours is a cautionary tale of what can happen to art, and to freedom in a society that's overwhelmed to the point of entropy. The next time you see a splash of graffiti, consider viewing it as not an intrusion on the landscape, but as a manifesto for art and life on the most personal level.
My Name on Top of Yours, Yvonne M. Estrada, copyright 2013 Silverton Books, ISBN 978-0-9629528-7-6, $7.59, 36 pages