Episode 6: Loretta Collins Klobah and Robert Vasquez

The 7-inch reel-to-reel tape that captured Loretta Collins Klobah and Robert Vasquez reading their poetry in December 1988 for KFCF Radio 88.1 FM appears, according to the label on the box, to have been recorded over an original broadcast from the 1986 Schwetzingen Summer Festival of opera and classical music.

Editor’s Note: This is Episode 6 of the Fresno Poets Archive Project. It features Loretta Collins Klobah and Robert Vasquez, with hosting by C. W. Moulton, recorded in December 1988. Background research and closed captioning for this video was compiled by undergraduate student Naomi Carrillo in Fall 2016. A native of Five Points who grew up in Fresno, Naomi is a senior studying English Literature at Fresno State. Her favorite authors include J.K. Rowling, Jane Austen, and Maya Angelou, and her love of musicals has led her to become obsessed with the work of Lin-Manuel Miranda. Naomi plans to pursue a career in book publishing.

By Naomi Carrillo
For the Fresno Poets Archive Project

There’s nothing I love more than a good mystery. Mysteries were actually the first stories I sought out to read when I was a child, so they hold a special place in my heart. They’re all about discovery, and your mind gets to be an adventurer while your body sits still.

When I was given a reel-to-reel audio tape recording to work on — the only reel-to-reel tape in the Fresno Poets Archive Project collection — I was told that no one involved with the tapes had the slightest clue what was on it. I felt like a kid on Christmas morning! Was I really going to be the person to uncover some great piece of Fresno literary history? Was it going to be an interview? A reading? Some obscure thing that my imagination couldn’t picture? I’ve always considered myself a nerd, but my reaction to holding this artifact in my own hands solidified that belief: Not everyone can get excited about a nameless audiotape.

The piece of history ended up being an incomplete recording of a live radio broadcast on KFCF 88.1 FM from December 30, 1988. It was an excerpt of a poetry show hosted by C. W. Moulton, featuring Loretta Collins Klobah and Robert Vasquez as the special guests.

It took me only a second to recognize Moulton’s distinctive gruff voice, because my previous assignment familiarized me with him. When you have to add closed captioning to videos by hand, the replay button becomes your best friend, and the voices of people you’ve never met are forever ingrained in your mind. It’s inevitable.

While listening to Collins Klobah and Vasquez recite their poetry, it strangely felt like being reacquainted with old friends. Though I had not heard Collins Klobah read her poetry before, I did remember her poems from the anthology How Much Earth: The Fresno Poets. I remembered how her poem “El Dia de los Muertos” really struck a chord with its painful honesty. Her lyricism is grounded in the imagery of the Central Valley and in human emotion, and the delicate way in which she recites her work adds another layer to the beauty of her poetry. I thought: Oh, I know you! It’s nice to see you again.

The poetry was wonderful, but this tape also gave an unexpected peek into the history and culture of Fresno and the nation in the late 1980s. There were on-air announcements (some voiced by KFCF station manager Rych Withers, who still works at the station) that called attention to local arts and political events. During a news break, there was a mention of President Reagan being subpoenaed to testify in the trial of Oliver North that took me completely off guard. There was even an announcement in Hmong and Lao telling listeners that there would be no “refugee radio” show that day due to Hmong New Year celebrations.

It was fascinating, being transported back in time through something as simple as a news announcement. It dated the audiotape for me in a way that the poetry reading wouldn’t have been able to do on its own. When it came to editing the audio for uploading, I had the option of cutting out the announcements and focusing on the poetry, but I found the idea almost absurd when I thought about it. Why would anyone want to cut out the authenticity and historical context of the live broadcast?

So, I kept everything in.

Poetry and a little bit of history coming together to form a gem of an artifact, and my only hope is that others find this recording as remarkable as I did.

Editor’s footnote: When contacted to request KFCF’s permission to post this recording to the Fresno State MFA YouTube channel, Rych Withers remembered that Moulton never missed a radio show, which he hosted semi-regularly for the Fresno Poets’ Association in the 1980s. Withers said: “Sometimes Moulton showed up a few weeks late, or a few weeks early, but he always showed up to record the show.”

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