By Brian Dunlap
Poets and book lovers braved L.A.’s rush hour traffic. It was a Thursday. February 27th. The destination was Diehl Marcus & Company in Hollywood, a Curio Dealer and Event Space of finely curated antiques, home decor and accessories from around the world. The crowd arrived for Ingrid M. Calderon-Collins’ release party for her poetic memoir Let The Buzzards Eat Me Whole.
Calderon-Collins is an L.A. poet, by way of her home country of El Salvador. She was born into a country at war, a civil war aided by the United States and President Reagan, who backed the military-led junta government and trained government death squads that consisted of child soldiers who deliberately terrorized and targeted civilians. It was in light of this terror and an unknown number of civilians who kept disappearing, that Calderon-Collins fled to the United States undocumented and is the context that sets in motion Let The Buzzards Eat Me Whole.
A large portion of the evening’s crowd came from the warm, intimate community Calderon-Collins has built as host of the monthly open mic, They’re Just Words. This included two of the night’s opening readers, poets Nikolai Garcia and Karo Ska.
But the night began on Fountain Ave. with alcohol, cupcakes and Babybel cheese and warm conversation with people who hadn’t seen each other in a while and others close to Calderon-Collins, including her husband and artist John Collins. Calderon-Collins’ open mic has been on hiatus since December as the bookstore that hosted it, Book Show, is in the midst of relocating to The Valley from Highland Park.
The release party set for 7:30pm, kicked off at 8pm with Karo Ska reading first. She opened the night in feminist style, reading an ode to her menstrual cycle inspired by Calderon-Collins’ own. A great way to add a little humor to a night that soon would get heavy. Then Nikolai Garcia read two poems followed by John Collins, who expressed his love and admiration for his wife by reading a poem about their relationship from his self-published book Aggregate, which chronicled their first year of marriage.
When the night turned completely to Calderon-Collins, she sat in conversation with Jen Hitchcock, the owner of Book Show and a woman Calderon-Collins has grown to call a best friend, since she first went to Book Show several years ago. She became a woman Calderon-Collins can talk to about anything and can text at all hours of the day. Hitchcock conducted the Q & A, asking several questions that provoked long, in-depth answers about Calderon-Collins’s process in writing different aspects of her memoir.
Let The Buzzards Eat Me Whole is a concise 60 pages, which Calderon-Collins felt was just right. “I didn’t want to dwell on all the trauma and have it go on for too long. I didn’t want to exploit it.” The rapes, the beatings from her father, the drug use, are all important part of her story, but this is not what defines her.
The rest of the discussion dove into Calderon-Collins’ trauma and trauma in general. About how she couldn’t trust men for years due to her father’s beatings and the sexual molestation she experienced in silence as a child. Yet, she spent a large portion of the talk discussing how she’s dealt with and has been able, in recent years, to finally fully move past it. With significant help from her husband.
“I believe that trauma always sits next to you,” she added because it’s shaped who you’ve become. It’s still with you after you’ve worked through the trauma so it sits next to you as a reminder of where you’ve been and where you are now.
Everyone gathered at Diehl Marcus & Company was there to celebrate the open mic host of They’re Just Words and this powerful story of her life and trauma, that began in that war torn Central America country. To hear Ingrid M. Calderon-Collins tell her own refugee story, now captured in Let The Buzzards Eat Me Whole.