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Poet Gary Soto likes to ‘generate feelings and shake it up’

OCEANSIDE — Author Gary Soto will share more than two decades of his works at a two-day reading festival at MiraCosta College Feb 26 and Feb. 27. Soto writes in all genres, but is best known for his coming of age poems and stories written in the 1990s.

His poem “Oranges” tells the story of a boy walking with a girl he has a crush on to the drugstore and coming up short on cash when he wants to buy her a chocolate bar.

Author Gary Soto is participating in the two-day reading festival at MiraCosta College starting Feb. 26. Courtesy photo

The poem ends with the storekeeper noticing young love and allowing the boy to pay for the 10-cent candy bar with a nickel and an orange.

“The squirreliest boys in seventh, eighth grade freeze up when they hear it,” Soto said. “It’s interesting when you’ve caught people and they actually listen to you.”

Soto describes himself as a reliable writer who is good at his craft.

“My training is as a regionalist,” Soto said. “I talk about the region of Fresno a lot in my books.”

“Fresh imagery is my specialty,” Soto added. “Writing ought to be interesting.”

Soto’s most recent work is a play on undocumented youth.

“It’s a lot of fun, dance, songs, jokey things, and the serious side as well,” Soto said.

“In and Out of Shadows” shares the struggles, limitations and comedic moments of undocumented teenage immigrants.

“They are placed in very awkward situations,” Soto said.

“They can’t get a social security card or go to college. It’s very costly to get a drivers license and insurance.”

The play has been performed at The Marsh in San Francisco to rave reviews.

During the two-day lecture Soto will mix reading his works, clips of his play and banter with the audience.

“I like to generate feelings and shake it up,” Soto said.

“I want people to walk away and think poetry and prose writing are artful forms worth their attention.”

The Reading Festival will be held from 6:30 to 9 p.m. Feb. 26 and 9:30 a.m. to noon Feb. 27 at MiraCosta College Community Learning Center, 1831 Mission Avenue.

Admission is free.