Aquarius Press/Willow Books/AUXmedia

me drawing a picture of me[n] by Rachelle Escamilla

Poetry collection by Rachelle Escamilla. 

A book of poems set in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania during the 2008 election.

The poems speak to various (usually white) male figures in time from the perspective of a Chicana who has just been diagnosed with a number of poverty-related illnesses.

In me drawing a picture of me[n], Rachelle Escamilla deftly captures the all-at-once-ness that is the basis of ecstacy in an ordinary life—when the threshold states of elation, despair and unknowing are experienced in rapid succession, alternating, blurring and at times joining together so that a person finds themself wrenched by sensations and standing outside themself, observing themself as they are touched exquisitely or ruthlessly by the people, localities and predicaments shaping their particular fate. Here it is the American city of Pittsburgh, where the foundational American problems of racial injustice, poverty, and political reckoning (or lackthereof), meet the universals of love, desire, natural beauty and religious peril in the body of the Chicana speaker, whose voice touches every register in its compelling address.

—Adam Soldofsky, Memory Foam, 2017 American Book Award Winner


In Rachelle Escamilla’s remarkable second book, me drawing a picture of me[n], the personal becomes powerfully and inextricably linked to an interpersonal lyric that strikes at the roots of (economic and male) malfeasance and toxic masculinity. Staged as four seasons in the city of Pittsburgh during the momentous election year of 2008, this complex book scours the cityscape for signs of permanence—some more illusory or sophistic than others—against a backdrop of transience and shimmering hope. Escamilla writes, “Here I am searching this city for fundamentals but finding lost / words like: beauty, sublime, or lascivious innuendo.” That these terms are fraught with the historical pollution of (white) male perspectives is part of Escamilla’s project, as she skillfully pieces together a dense portraiture of failed encounters, broken correspondences, and emotional contusions. Escamilla reconstructs the city from inside through its exits and disappearances. Between rituals of ascension and declension, me drawing a picture of me(n) chronicles the shifting apparatus of institutionalized poverty, illness, abuse, heartbreak, and renewal from the standpoint of a lyrical vulnerability that does not speak so much as reinscribes the self.

—Jose-luis Moctezuma, Place-Discipline, 2018 Omnidawn Prize Winner

Rachelle Escamilla is the proud descendant of campesinos and cholos. She is the producer and host of the longest running poetry radio show in the United States, Out of Our Minds (KKUP) and the founder of the Poets & Writers Coalition at San Jose State University. From 2012-2014 Rachelle lived in China where she co-founded The Sun Yat-sen University English-language Center for Creative Writing and headed a lecture series at the American Center of the United States Consulate of Guangzhou. She is the winner of the Virginia de Arujo Academy of American Poets prize and she teaches Creative Writing and Social Action at California State University Monterey Bay. In 2018, Rachelle was a Visiting Scholar at the Library of Congress, Hispanic Division, where she conducted research around her grandfather’s 1969 testimony for the fair treatment of migrant laborers in California and recorded poems for the library’s archive. Rachelle was born and raised in Hollister, California and currently lives in Monterey, California.