Sunday, August 28, 2016

In Honor of Juan Gabriel: A Story

In honor of the Mexican music legend, Juan Gabriel, who died Sunday at the age of 66 in Santa Monica, California, I'm posting this story.

"Song for the Living"

It's from my Tell Your True Tale storytelling experiment by Diego Renteria, who tells of his time as a young mariachi playing in South Gate at Christmas at the home of a grieving family.

A beautiful story ... Read it! share it!

Xicana Nebraska: "Taking With Me The Land"

Chile Rellenos:  all ingredients from my Nebraska garden or locally grown in Lincoln, Nebraska 
This La Bloga entry offers a reflection about the recognition of "place"-- the importance of taking the time to look around, mindfully existing in the space where you find yourself--demanding the books/the education you need to conocer y contemplar quien eres/quien somos.  In this entry, I'm contemplating "place" that has often been constructed as "empty" and "white"-- yet first and foremost, a space that was and is Indigenous:  Lakota and Dakota, Ponca, Omaha, Pawnee, Otoe, Winnebago, and also continues to be a space where inmigrantes reside: Nebraska.  

Nosotras:  Chicanas y Chicanos write about land:  the land we left behind, the land we desire, the land we imagine, the land that defines us, the land that created or destroyed us.  I think of Tomás Rivera's . . . y no se lo tragó la tierra ( . . . and the earth did not devour him), a novella of inmigrantes, of struggle and survival.  I also think of Arturo Islas' Rain God which attends to the theme of identity so eloquently and painfully within and outside of familia and land; and Gloria Anzaldúa who wrote, "I was the first in six generations to leave the Valley, the only one in my family to ever leave home.  But I didn't leave all the parts of me:  I kept the ground of my own being. On it, I walked away, taking with me the land, the Valley, Texas," (from Borderlands/La Frontera).  

"[T]aking with me the land" resonates within me, although I continually add the phrase, "and merging it with another land."  Here's how it goes-- aqui te va:

Some of my experiences on this Great Plains land of Nebraska have been what I consider more Mexican, mestiza, Xicana, more "raza" to me than living in Los Angeles ever was (and the opposite is true as well, but I'm more surprised with the former). For example, I never planted, never grew or harvested chile or maize, tomate or ajo until I came here to Nebraska.  In Los Angeles, our backyard had two kinds of fig trees (white and black); grapefruit, lemon, peach, quince trees, chayote, and cactus.  My memories of our Los Angeles jardin stay with me.  Yet, the wonders I have seen on this Nebraska land (lightning bugs, thunder snow, cicada melodies, the migration of thousands of sandhill cranes from Mexico no less!) only emphasize what Professor and writer, Norma Cantú told me when I first considered "migrating" to Nebraska to teach at The University of Nebraska-Lincoln:  "There is magic here, if you can see it."  

Maize from my garden: Lincoln, Nebraska

red maize from my backyard garden (Lincoln, Nebraska)
I've lived on the edge of the sea (California) and now here.  Nebraska writer, Willa Cather, describes the Nebraska land in her novel My Antonia like this:  "As I looked about me, I felt that the grass was the country, as the water is the sea.  The red of the grass made all the great prairie the color of wine-stains, or of certain seaweeds when they are washed up.  And there was so much motion in it; the whole country seemed, somehow to be running." (click here for the Willa Cather Archive)

The Plains of Nebraska
I read My Antonia in California long before I ever thought about moving here.  I was in San Francisco, at a friend's house.  It was raining. I was sitting next to the window reading and intermittently watching the rain create uneven trails down the pane of glass.  While reading one of Cather's descriptions much like the one I quoted above, I remember looking up and saying, "I must go there."  I never meant to say, "I must live there."  Pero aqui estoy--and I find myself constantly surprised at the connections, the familiarity of "place."  

The prairie is like a tide pool.  From far away, a tide pool looks like rocks and water--that is all.  One could call it "empty."  But if you immerse yourself within the tide pool, if you bend down, if you use your fingers to reach in toward the greens, reds, and orange colors, you will discover sea stars, mussels, sea anemones, sea palms, urchins, sponges, surf grass.  The anemone reminds you (when it grabs at your finger and holds on) of the powerful life forces within.  John Steinbeck wrote:  "It is advisable to look from the tide pool to the stars and then back to the tide pool again."  Where from a distance, the tide pool may look like rock and water (nothingness to some), it is teeming. The earth and sky are teeming if you seek to observe with passion.  

In Nebraska, winter snowstorms encourage hidden communities.  Shoveling snow, one may think that nothing, absolutely nothing is underneath all that snow.  Yet, like the tide pool, here you have what's called the subnivian zone where it can be 50 degrees warmer than where the person above is shoveling snow.  If we were small enough (like a mouse, vole, grouse, or bunny) we could go down to that zone and be quite comfortable.  

The Subnivian Zone
This subnivian zone and its inhabitants remind me of California's drywood termites in East L.A.  One day my uncle Frank gave me a memorable gift.  He had called me into the garage to give me a bottle, its mouth wide enough to have probably been a peanut butter container.  At first I only saw pieces of small spindly wood through the glass.  It took a bit of time, but finally I could see the almost see-through segmented bodies (two of them) of termites, with fine shiny wings.  I sat there, transfixed, watching their mandibles have at the wood.  

The subnivian zone in Nebraska, the California termites remind me also of Mexico and the flying cockroaches en Torreon, Coahuila with my tia Panchita--swatting them on a hot August night, which then reminds me of the time that my cousin Angelina and I found opals imbedded in rocks when we were playing in a cave outside Guadalajara (perhaps near Tonalá). On that particular day, not only did we find opals, after walking out of the cave, we observed a truck down the road (filled to the brim with mangos) suddenly jackknife and turn over on its side.  Thousands of red orange (some greenish) mangoes covered the side of the road.  The truck driver, who didn't seem hurt--only quite upset--pleaded with us to take as many as we could.  And we did--creating pouches with our shirts, grabbing at any pockmarked plastic bags we could find, filling them up, laughing and intermittently stopping just to look at this red orange road this "mango spilling" had created.  So many discoveries just by being open to mindful observations.

The Bison Trail in Lincoln, Nebraska
During the spring, summer, and fall, I ride my bike and take a route that sends me out of Lincoln. I ride past fields of family farms, of bike and foot paths, of streams and trails where, at times, herons or hawks have flown so close I can hear their whoosh of wings.  I can almost feel the soft downy of feathers in the sound.  One morning, I saw what looked like a surreal drapery of black curtains ahead of me on the bike path, only to realize that a flock of turkeys were hurrying down the road and taking to flight in a mighty awkward effort.  I never knew turkeys could take to flight at all-- and here they were raising their black wings, lifting their heavy bellies up a few feet, then back down in such an interestingly odd, almost helpless way.  This happened near the home of a Mexican family from Sonora who have a number of chickens and a rooster that often calls as I bike past their place.

I mention this Mexican family's "Sonoran" home in Nebraska because it is exactly during this part of my ride where I swear I'm in Mexico--en Guadalajara or en Torreón, Coahuila hearing the tunas vendor going down the street, pushing his tunas cart, shaking the bells attached to the side, and calling, "tunas, tunas."  

"Tunas" in western Nebraska:  Scotts Bluff donde tambien viven muchas Latinas y Latinos
In some ways, I am doing what Anzaldúa describes as "taking with me the land."  Another explanation is what geographer Doreen Massey calls, "different experiences of time-space compression."  She writes:  "Instead then, of thinking of places as areas with boundaries around, they can be imagined as articulated moments in networks of social relations and understandings, but where a large proportion of those relations, experiences and understandings are constructed on a far larger scale than what we happen to define for that moment as the place itself, whether that be a street, or a region or even a continent.  And this in turn allows a sense of place which is extroverted, which includes a consciousness of its links with the wider world, which integrates in a positive way the global and local."  Given what Massey says, this "Mexican Nebraska" description (my description) functions as a way to disrupt fixed constructions of place.  

Once, during a reception (hosted by The University of Nebraska-Lincoln English Department)  for fiction writers and poets from out of town, the conversation turned to living in Nebraska.  One of the writers turned to me and asked how I could live in such a barren geographic region.  "There is nothing here on the Plains," he said with an authoritative tone.  I agreed that there was nothing--for him.  He wasn't looking.  "Nothing" registered for him because he had always been told, he explained, that there is nothing here.  He reminded me of the main character Clithero in the 1799 novel, Edgar Huntly: or Memoirs of a Sleep-Walker by Charles Brockden Brown, a gothic novel illustrating what has been described as the white man's fear and desire to control nature, to maintain rationality and harness the imagination because of the horrors an active conscience can conjure or encounter.  Clithero seeks not to cross the line between what is defined as "civilization" and what is considered "wild."  He is constantly fearful of nothingness, of what is beyond what he knows. And I too was fearful when I arrived here in Lincoln--thinking as well there was "nothing" because of the overwhelming stereotypes this country has constructed regarding all of its regions. For example, Nebraska is part of the region often considered as "the fly over zone."  

Near the Bison Trail, Lincoln, Nebraska
Yet, from the moment I arrived in Lincoln, so many connections to what I knew registered for me.  The Nebraska State Capitol architect (Bertram Goodhue) is the same architect who designed The Los Angeles Public Library.  As soon as I saw the building, the facade, the type of calligraphy font carved into the stone, it felt familiar. I remember thinking, "I recognize this place."  The land outside of Lincoln (Nine Mile Prairie, for example), the tall grasses that Cather described-- red and sea-like in its movements (big and little Bluestem grasses, switch grass, etc.) are present south on the Gulf of Mexico (as well as in Latin America:  the Gran Chaco of Bolivia y Argentina). 

The Los Angeles Public Library
The Nebraska State Capitol
However, I also question the use of "taking with me the land" even though it is in the title of this blog entry.  I often hear myself say, "My Mexican Nebraska," "My Los Angeles," "My Califas."  Nothing . . . nothing is ever mine.  Nothing is ever ours, and in thinking this way, I may be more appreciative, more respectful to see "land" and "people" as they are without assuming how "a people" or  "a place" should be, without fear, without judgement.  I like thinking of the term, "constant migrancy:" from the tide pools to the subnivian zone and everything in between.  "Mestizas," "Xicanas," are everywhere-- and we carry with us our books, our history, our experiences, our complex perspectives which illustrate our deeply rich and complex raza.

When I moved here, I was afraid some of my Califas friends would be right when they told me, "You'll lose your Xicana roots."  Pues what has happened es que I've planted Xicana roots here "taking with me the land de alla."  When I was little (five or six years old), I remember my parents constantly instructing me: "If someone asks who you are, you tell them you are an American."  They would tell me this with worry imbedded within the inflection of each word.  They were recent immigrants.  Perhaps my mother worried they would somehow take me away or take all of us.  This worry is still alive and real today in Nebraska and many other states (Texas, Arizona, etc.).  My parents wanted me to say I was American not knowing I would make the term "American" a life-long pursuit of study.  And throughout my life, I've read how the Puritans, and later nineteenth, twentieth, and twenty-first century writers have defined the term "American."  Waves of immigrant writing throughout the years have described personal journeys regarding identity, a multitude of legislators have forced their opinion on what "American" is in order to have license to deport, license to ban individuals, multicultural teaching, license to ban diverse literary perspectives, license to ban Ethnic Studies curricula, license to take away books or change what has been written by raza to promote a definition of "American" that is narrow and excludes certain voices.  

Raza continues to bring books to students whose classrooms lack a rich variety of literature, las palabras de tantas culturas, de tantas voces from where we live,  from where we came, from where we walk "taking with us our land." 

Friday, August 26, 2016

Everything You Wanted to Know about Reyna Grande's New Book

Melinda Palacio

Reyna Grande's Los Angeles Book launch benefits HOLA

In two weeks, Reyna Grande will launch the publication of the young adult version of her memoir, The DistanceBetween Us. This book is already gaining critical acclaim, a starred review from Booklist, as well as acclaim by the Junior Library Guild. Join this event in Los Angeles on September 10, 2016 at noon. All the proceeds from this event will benefit HOLA (Heart of Los Angeles) and fund programs for underserved youth. Space at the Heart of Los Angeles' Gallery & Art Studio is limited, RSVP to Anna Martin, Also, if you can't make this limited-seating book launch, Reyna has over 25 events scheduled for this Fall. Check out her website, for an event near you. Reyna took time out of her busy schedule to answer some questions about this new book for La Bloga.

La Bloga:
How does the adult edition to your memoir differ?

Reyna Grande:
The young adult version is 35,000 words shorter than the original.  I took out content that is not appropriate for middle grade readers,  like my crazy uncle who used to masturbate before me and my sisters or the chapter where I lose my virginity.  However,  even though I was adapting the book for young readers I didn't want to sugar coat the story or dumb it down.  I think young readers are very smart and perceptive and they don't need to be protected from the realities that exist in the world. The issues that I write in the book are issues that affect them too,  some more than others of course. Also even though I write about the immigrant experience,  I also write about something that is universal,  something young readers can relate to -- the longing for a home,  a family,  a place to belong.

La Bloga:
Are you happy with the changes?

I'm happy with the changes I made to the book.  I had never had to worry about a word count until now,  and it was great to be forced to look at my manuscript line by line and make each word count.  This version is tighter than the other one.  Because I did such a good job paring the chapters down,  I was able to add new scenes that are not in the original.

La Bloga:
You are working on a sequel to your memoir. Will there eventually be two versions as well?

The new memoir I'm working on will not be for young readers,  at least I don't think it will be.  I'm exploring issues that I experienced as an adult,  like jobs and bills, my crazy love life, the challenges of motherhood,  the pursuit of my writing dream--in short, my struggles with being a grown up. Hopefully youth will be interested but my target audience is college age and up.

La Bloga:
The sequel covers more recent events in your life. What are some of the challenges writing about more recent events of your life or is it easier? Is non-fiction easier for you to write?

The sequel is easier to write because I remember more of what happened to me as an adult.  When I wrote the Distance Between Us I relied on the memories of my older brother and sister and my parents,  other relatives.  This time I can get through a first draft with my own memories.  On my second draft I will interview my relatives just to add details I might have forgotten.  I'm also excited to say that the first draft of my new memoir is in much better shape than the Distance Between Us was!  Now I know how to write memoir.  That said,  I do worry that this book can't compare in terms of the intensity and emotional level of the Distance Between Us. This is a more quiet book. The subject matter and the themes are different as well. The Distance Between Us has really resonated with so many people,  young and old.  The new memoir might be more limited in terms of appeal. When I told my mother-in-law about this new book her first question to me was,  "Do you have enough to say in this book?"  That was the wrong thing to ask me because now I live in fear that the answer is no!  However,  isn't that the fear for every book a writer writes?  I'm just going to keep on writing and hopefully the book will be what it needs to be.

La Bloga:
What future books do you have in mind or are you working on?


For the past few years I've been working on a novel that is set during the Mexican- American war.  That novel has really kicked my butt because it's a 'first' book for me--first historical fiction,  first book written from a male perspective,  first book about a culture not my own (Irish!).  I'm two hundred pages into it and by the looks of it, the book will be closer to 450 pages. I'm horrible with research so the writing has been slow because as much as I want to write,  I can't write anything unless I do the research first.  This is going to be a long term project but I will certainly get it done.  It means so much to me! The Mexican- American war has been practically erased from American textbooks and consciousness.  I want to bring it back.

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Yoss... Yes!

  Cuban science-fiction master and heavy-metal rocker Yoss has been world-building for decades, but for most U.S. readers, he may as well have inhabited one of the remote planets he writes about—until now. Yoss will tour the US to present his books A Planet for Rent, an allegory of alien colonization that speaks to contemporary Cuban-American relations, and Super Extra Grande, a romping space opera following the adventures of a gigantic veterinarian who specializes in treating gigantic aliens—and saving the galaxy.

Yoss opens his tour in Brooklyn with a live heavy-metal show, cohosted by BOMB Magazine.

Author Events:

September 15: Restless and BOMB Present an evening of Cuban Heavy Metal and Sci-Fi with Yoss (Brooklyn, NY)
September 18: Tash Aw, Yoss, and Restless at the Brooklyn Book Festival (Brooklyn, NY)

October 8: Yoss at Chicago Public Library's Indie Author Day (Chicago, IL)

October TBD: Northwestern University (Evanston, IL)

October TBD: City Lit Books (Chicago, IL)

October TBD: McNally Jackson Books (New York, NY)

October TBD: Brookline Booksmith (Brookline, MA)

October TBD: Boston University (Boston, MA)

November 14: Yoss and Ilan Stavans at Instituto Cervantes for the Philip K. Dick Film Festival (New York, NY)

November 18 – 20: Yoss at the Miami Book Fair International (Miami, FL)

For more info, visit Restless Books.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Alegría. Poesía cada día

Alma Flor Ada and F. Isabel Campoy are happy to present Alegría.

We are delighted to have been able to collect this treasure of poetry in Spanish to be used in K-6 classes.  

The program contains:

  • teacher’s anthology with poems for each day of the year
  • three very large size books with a selection of the poems
  • a most complete website that offers:
  • every poem read by either of the authors
  • many poems turned into songs performed by Suni Paz
  • songs from the folklore on a musical rendition that includes a sound track only for singing along
  • numerous suggestions for activities
  • possibility for students to print out all of the poems to create their own personal anthologies

For a more detailed description of the program and to watch a video where the authors talk about Alegría, visit:

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Honoring Luis Omar Salinas. Submit! August's Next On-line Floricanto.

In Memoriam for a Friend: John Martinez Honors Luis Omar Salinas

Luis Omar Salinas left giant footsteps across the landscape of Chicano Literature. Chronologically, Salinas' work stood both as elder and avant garde to el movimiento's thundering voice. Stylistically, Omar Salinas was the movement's lyric voice, favoring a personal subject matter often flavored with an indelible sense of humor. He was an Aztec angel, offspring of a woman who was beautiful.

At the 1973 Festival de Flor y Canto, Salinas stood next to Alurista and passed the baton when Alurista honored Salinas' greatness, declaring Salinas "our greatest poet." Salinas smiled, put his hand on the San Diego poet's shoulder. "You're the man," the great Fresno poet told the up-and-coming lion, the young Alurista.

La Bloga is happy to honor Luis Omar Salinas through the voice of Salinas' friend and erstwhile roommate, John Martinez. Click here to read a guest column about Salinas in his late years.

All rights reserved. No copying or duplication without express written permission.
Omar Salinas 1973: Festival de Flor y Canto, USC

By John Martinez

Para Luis Omar Salinas

The night is swollen
In the puffed chest of a sparrow
Manicured Bermuda
With mumbling cats,
Television heroes
Fade into pixel dust

And sleeping bankers
On leather couches, dream,
Of nothing

So, tonight, I salute
My wandering,
And call out to
The faraway coffin
Of Luis Omar Salinas

And think of his memory
In pastel yellow
And orange peel orange,
And bruised poems
Scattered like milk
Chocolate Kisses
Under the tin roof
Of Lindsay and for
The world to see

The bones of his Tia,
Forever trotting across
The tar knot streets,
Whispered to me in a dream

“Está Vivo, Luis Omar Salinas,
Durmiendo encima de un
Bus stop bench"

A caravan of ice cream trucks
And unborn babies
Falling from his pencil hand,
Stop signs moan and bend
Around him-
In life and in death

"Still, this god damned loneliness"

And Barbital itches,
And Navane, sueno,
And College girls
With unscripted secrets
Undressing to
To his romantic rue
In a cloud of Kool-

His stanza fingers

Let the tower of
The Catholic Church,
Near the liquor store
Ring its bell,
Scatter the derelict dogs,
The unemployed
Deer Dancer,
The cross dressed
Little boy and his mother,
A murdered scream
Of his father in a lunch box,
The pessimistic trucker
And his bipolar parrot-

Let them open
To the Quixotic belch;

"Omar, está vivo, en las calles de
Lindsay, Califas…”

En los llantas of trucks,
Bent chain linked fences,
Wooden houses on mud,
Politicians and their
Runaway tumbleweeds

“Huelga, Huelga,
Huelga, against the common grid,
The sculpted dream,”
Is the harmony they sing-
This flock of drugged pigeons
In white tuxedos-

"Está vivo,
Luis Omar Salinas"

Under the Orange tree
Behind his Tia's house,
Whining his shadow
Onto trawled stucco

Forever grinding
Lead onto paper

Spinning the world
Into flour dust metaphors,

Dressing dead soldiers
Of liberation in khaki clean,
And hands painted red,
Breaking the cell
Of Miguel Hernandez

This Gypsy poet,
This lazy eye, meaty faced,
On to us,
With a sinew smile…his smile,
That meant, only;
He loved us with his pain
(C) John Martinez 2016
All Rights Reserved

All rights reserved. No copying or duplicating without express written permission.
Omar Salinas and Alurista at 1973 Festival de Flor y Canto at USC. ©michael v sedano

John Martinez studied Creative Writing at Fresno State University, in the late seventies, early eighties with the late, Philip Levine. During this time, he also performed music with Teatro De La Tierra (Agustin Lira) and toured with them for 2 years. After four years, at Fresno State University, and touring, on and off with Teatro, Martinez began working with the, now, U.S. Poet Laureate, Juan Felipe Herrera, and they formed the Music-Art -Performance Group, TROKA and, subsequently, went on tour, performing throughout the United States. He then moved to Los Angeles to further his education, and to possibly attend Southwestern Law School. But, owing to economic obligations (he was a single parent, and had a child to support) be began work in a Los Angeles Firm as an Investigator. 3 years later, he was appointed Chief Investigator for that firm. In 1987, he met his wife, and they purchased their first home in Los Angeles. For the next 24 years, Martinez did not write poetry. It wasn't until the passing of his brother, award winning Novelist, and Poet, Victor Martinez, in 2011, that John Martinez begin to write again; a last promise to Victor. Since then, John Martinez has produced three books of poetry, two of which are being published by Izote Press and will be ready for AWP in Washington in 2017. In addition, he has produced an unpublished novel, Wilshire Rain, which covers white collar crime in Los Angeles in the late 80's, and chronicles the formations of Special Investigation Units that are now mainstays in most large Insurance Companies.

Smithsonian's National Portrait Gallery Adding Rudolfo Anaya to Collection

This foto of Gaspar Enríquez' portrait of  Rudolfo Anaya appears in the Albuquerque Journal.

Visitors to next year's AWP in Washington, DC will want to carve out time to visit the National Portrait Gallery to see in-person Gaspar Enríquez' portrait of Rudolfo Anaya.

The commission, accepted by the Smithsonian board in May 2016, is slated for unveiling in November at the New Acquisitions exhibition.

Anaya's is the only portrait of a Chicano in the National Portrait Gallery. No Chicana portraits hang in the gallery. Director Kim Sajet's letter to Don Rudy attests to the portrait as "the first that we devote to a Hispanic figure." La Bloga looks forward to reporting the Smithsonian's second, and subsequent, commissions of raza notables.

Latinopia Adds Interviews, Essay: Anaya on Poetry. Hutton and Ortego on Geronimo. 

La Bloga values our relationship with Latinopia. We are text-oriented, Latinopia video. We are multidimensional, or multimedia, as both sites feature foto, video, and essay.

This week, Latinopia adds depth and immediacy to two recent La Bloga columns, Michael Sedano's review of The Sorrows of Young Alfonso, and his Interview with Rudolfo Anaya on recent works. Last week, Sedano's review of Paul Andrew Hutton's The Apache Wars, linked to a Latinopia interview with the historian.

Click these links to navigate to an interview with Anaya discussing poetry, an interview with Hutton on the inevitability of Apache defeat. The third links to Felipe de Ortego's essay on the inevitability of conflict and Unitedstatesian hegemony.

Rudolfo Anaya

Paul Andrew Hutton

Felipe de Ortego

Call for Papers
The Inter-University Program for Latino Research in co-sponsorship with The University of Texas at San Antonio’s Mexico Center will host in San Antonio, Texas on May 17-19, 2017 the sixth biennial Siglo XXI Conference on the Mapping of Latino Research.

For detailed instructions, visit the University's Call for Papers website here:

The proceedings from the conference will be included in a report on the state of Latino research which will focus on what we know, what we need to know on how to achieve new knowledge. This publication will be geared towards private and public funders of research. We encourage cross-disciplinary discussions as well as panels that include practitioners.

Awards and Ceremonies

The new publicity for the annual Latino Book Awards bills itself as "The Academy Awards of Latino Literature & Culture." More power to the academy, entonces.

The affair should be a fun gathering of author hopefuls, friends, familia, and the raza servers schlepping drinks and finger food to the paying guests.

The producer promises "we will be saluting Zoot Suit (the movie) and many of the cast and crew will be presenters for the Awards. This adds a special Hollywood effect for our first independent Awards to be held in Los Angeles and will create an evening not to be missed."

You can order tickets for the event at this link.

Penultimate Tuesday of August 2016: La Bloga On-line Floricanto
Edward Vidaurre, Tom Sheldon, Tim WoZny, Elizabeth Marino, Ivonne Gordon

“Stray Bullets” By Edward Vidaurre
“cloudland” By Tom Sheldon
“The Emperor Has No Brains” By Tim WoZny
“Furrow” By Elizabeth Marino
“You Sang to the Sun” By Ivonne Gordon

When I was training salespeople the most challenging behavior was to ask for the order. The salesperson would do it all effectively and build to stressing the benefits and value of the proposal, and stop. The customer would say something like “that’s interesting” and the sales call was over.

Writers and writing is analogous, except instead of not asking for the order, some writers don't submit and don't get published.

What if they say no?

Do the math if rejection intimidates you. You have a 50-50 chance of a “Yes” if you ask. You have a 100% chance of “No” when you don’t ask.

The lesson about asking for the order comes out of today’s La Bloga On-line Floricanto, the fifth selection, “You Sang to the Sun.” Ivonne Gordon submitted the poem last year but it did not go into a floricanto. “You Sang to the Sun” had been submitted, thus the poem stood a 50-50 chance of nomination to the On-line Floricanto.

La Bloga On-line Floricanto is a joint project of La Bloga and the Facebook community Poets Responding to SB1070: Poetry of Resistance, founded by Francisco X. Alarcón qepd. In the community, poets submit poems on an Open Call. Moderators of the group read current submissions and review archived candidates. La Bloga limits the Moderators to five nominations per floricanto. It's not surprising some fine work doesn't get an immediate nod. This month, the Moderators decided Ivonne Gordon’s tribute to Francisco X. Alarcón had waited long enough.

Submit is easily typed, less so to do. In Los Angeles, Women Who Submit, an artivist collective of writers, invites peers to make submission a mutually-supportive community event. Writers don't have to be in LA to participate.  Visit Women Who Submit's Facebook page (click here to visit) and get details):

SEPTEMBER 10, 2016, JOIN US from 12-4pm at THE FACULTY: 707 N Heliotrope Dr., Los Angeles, California 90029.
"We, Women Who Submit, want to celebrate the last four years of submissions, rejections, and acceptances with one giant nationwide online submission party.
We are inviting all women and non-binary writers around the country to submit to at least one tier one journal on 9/10/16.
PARKING: Street parking is available, but there is restricted parking near LACC. MAKE SURE TO READ THE SIGNS. 
Let's inundate these top journals with our best work and shake up their slush piles."

Opportunities rarely knock after a few months. A regular flow of submissions keeps hope alive; every  submission has a 50-50 chance of being "Yes."
 - - Michael Sedano

“Stray Bullets” By Edward Vidaurre
“cloudland” By Tom Sheldon
“The Emperor Has No Brains” By Tim WoZny
“Furrow” By Elizabeth Marino
“You Sang to the Sun” By Ivonne Gordon

Stray Bullets
By Edward Vidaurre

Some people have
poems coming to them
in the form of shovels and graveyards.

In the form of broken
neck prose and romantic
death sonnets.

In molotov cinquains and
abstract chalk outlines.

In nonet form,
in a café
with a slow view of sundown.

The poem will hit you like
a bop and stray bullet
begging for a blood

A shadorma that leaves
the seventh line blank
with a sigh.

By Tom Sheldon

The trials and trying of my life

in one breath i am living and dying

I've been waiting for showers to fall

I've been standing on these shifting sands

reaching out for an open hand

gyros and lightning speak to me

perched birds breathing in secrecy ~ days drift into night...

seasons collide in change...

cloud generators and steam rise

a gentle rain falls

as night unfolds...droplets caressing stone

seedlings grow

the sun rises

one eye goes laughing,

one eye crying.

By Elizabeth Marino

Many fields lie fallow, waiting.
The hand lingers over
the pulse from the rounded belly.
Even when the potential is gone
the mystery remains.

No perfect child will unfurl tiny fingers here.
It goes to the heart of who we are, and beyond.
Imaging seeks and finds
one intact ovary. The other
hides behind fists of gristle and blood.

The hand lingers over
the pulse from the rounded belly.
Belly and hand are mine. Many fields
lie fallow, waiting.
I am legion.

The Emperor Has No Brains
By Tim WoZny

Sing a song of Trump/Pence,
A party full of hate,
Four and twenty liars
Start the world on fire.

When the fire started
The racists began to sing—
Wasn't that an ugly thing
We did to anoint our King?

The king was in the counting-house
Counting out his money,
The queen was at the beach
Stealing words for her speech,

The GOP was in an awful state
Now the party of no hope.
Neck deep in troubled waters
With no one to throw a rope.

You Sang to the Sun
By Ivonne Gordon

To Francisco X. Alarcón

You sang to the sun
and crossed yourself
with the moon. You heal,
you healed the leaves
wrapped in the trees.
You are the root
Edged on Mother Earth.
You are not alone.

Meet the Poets
“Stray Bullets” By Edward Vidaurre
“cloudland” By Tom Sheldon
“The Emperor Has No Brains” By Tim WoZny
“Furrow” By Elizabeth Marino
“You Sang to the Sun” By Ivonne Gordon

Edward Vidaurre is the author of four books. I Took My Barrio On A Road Trip, (Slough Press 2013), Insomnia (El Zarape Press 2014), Beautiful Scars: Elegiac Beat Poems (El Zarape Press 2015), and his latest collection Chicano Blood Transfusion (FlowerSong Books) was published this year. Vidaurre is the founder of Pasta, Poetry, and Vino--a monthly open mic gathering of artists, poets, and musicians. He resides in McAllen, TX with his wife and daughter

Tom Sheldon was born and raised in New Mexico and comes from a large Hispanic family. He has always loved and appreciated the gift of creating in various forms. Southwestern themes and landscapes are among Sheldon’s favorites—the wonder and beauty of New Mexico’s history and his surroundings continually inspire his artwork.

Tim Wozny started writing poetry on napkins at the coffee counters in his hometown of Chicago Heights. He eventually went on to publish "Heart of a Poet" in 1998 and continues to write poetry, take pictures and work hard at saving the world in Humboldt County California

Poet and educator Elizabeth Marino's work most recently appeared in print and online: LaBloga Best of 2014, The Significant Anthology (India), The Muse of Peace (Gambia), Overthrow Capitalism (RPB), 2016 Hessler Street Fair Poetry Anthology (Cleveland), Poets Responding to SB1070, and the online jazz poetry collection As Sweet as You Are. She studied with Juan Felipe Herrera at the first Las dos Brujas writing workshop."

Ivonne Gordon was born in Quito, Ecuador. Her work reflects her nomadic vision, which she expands to limitless inner geographies and borders. She is a poet, literary critic, and literary translator. She has a Ph.D. from UC, Irvine in Latin American Literature. She is a Professor of Latin American Literature at the University of Redlands. She has published: Cuerpos de Ceniza (forthcoming); Meditar de sirenas (Sweden); Meditar de sirenas Second Edition (Chile); Barro blasfemo (Spain ); Manzanilla del insomnio (Ecuador); Colibríes en el exilio (Ecuador). Has been invited to International Poetry Festivals in Colombia, Ecuador, Hungary, Nicaragua, United States and other countries. She was also invited to read her poetry on two occasions at The Library of Congress in Washington, DC. Her work has been included in several Poetry Anthologies published in the United States, Uzbekistan, Latin America, and Europe. Also published in poetry journals in the US, Europe, Africa and Latin America. Her work has been translated to English, Polish, and Flemish. She was Keynote Speaker at International Literature conferences at several universities in the USA. Was recipient of the Fulbright Scholar Award. Among her distinctions she received the Jorge Carrera Andrade Poetry Award in Ecuador, Finalist of the International Award Francisco de Aldana, and Finalist in the International Extraordinary Award of Casa de las Américas.

Monday, August 22, 2016

Interview of Monique Gabrielle Salazar

Interview of Monique Gabrielle Salazar by Xánath Caraza

Monique Gabrielle Salazar

Xánath Caraza (XC): Who is Monique Gabrielle Salazar? 

Monique Gabrielle Salazar (MGS):  I am first and foremost, a survivor.

Second, I am an aesthetic hedonist who flourishes by creating. I find comfort in the macabre and ancient sayings, pleasure in the description of fabrics and worth of antiques. I am at home in a turn of the century New Orleans brothel smoking opium. I have a fascination but not belief in the paranormal. I believe that every human has a right to live how they please as long as they do no harm. I have a degree in politics. The Latin names of flowers make me tipsy.

All of these come through in my poetry.

XC: As a child, who first introduced you to reading? 

MGS:  My parents were assuredly the most vocal proponents of my reading, at least at first. We read all the time, me correcting my parents if they skipped a page or stumbled over a word. My best friend's father used to read to us from a book written in Greek about a king, a rooster and some gold in a barrel. I cried when we moved and my parents couldn't read it to me.

I was always a voracious reader, especially after we moved to Kansas City and I became very isolated. I had a weird accent and my skin didn't fit in with the rest of the kids. It was easier to read books than to explain that I had indeed, come into this world in the United States. Most of my vocabulary came from the books I read, so I spoke like a tiny eccentric British aristocrat, a habit I have yet to break. My parents started to refuse to take me to bookstores, since I read the book and was done by the time we got home. We would go to the library and I would take home stacks of fifteen books only to be back the next week for more. I caused a monumental scene at the school's library is second grade when I was denied access to Mark Twain's “Huckleberry Finn”. The written word was the flesh for my wendigo.

XC: How did you first become a poet? 

MGS:  I wrote poetry for class assignments in high school in Kansas City, and found that it came rather fluidly. So, much like anything that comes easily to me, I dismissed it for a couple of years. Jose Faus, a fantastic poet and a mentor of mine kept encouraging me to write poetry and join the Latino Writers Collective. I did, but I never felt like I was enough of a poet, or enough of a Latino to be authentic. My writing from that time seems stilted, with forced words and unnecessary anxious pauses. I was trying to shove myself into a stereotypical mold of my own imagination.

Wrote though, I did, in secret. In Rome at the Colosseum. At the border of Syria in Israel. Sitting by the aqueducts in Segovia. When I sipped submarinos in Argentina. After I terrified myself in a cenote in Mexico. At the airport in Paris.

I got liver cirrhosis when I was 27, after a few years of incredibly hard drinking. I was told that I was most likely not going to make it.  I did, however, defying all medical odds at every turn. I began to write poetry as a way to cope. I was going through a lot of intense outpatient rehab therapy at the time so everything from my past was coming out of the molding in the walls.

I kept writing, and gaining sober days. Another local Kansas City poet, David Arnold Hughes, invited me to come and share at his open mic at the Uptown Arts Bar. I kept going, eventually getting a job there and finally, my first book.

I published very recently in July of 2016. My first book is entitled, If You See My Ghosts Like I Do. When I was laying there on the hospital bed, dying, my only regret was never seeing my name on my own book.  I wept when I first touched it. My publisher, Jeanette Powers, rubbed my back. At the book reading, I held it up over my head with both hands and proclaimed what I had overcome to see this. “Now,” I said. “I can die in peace.”  I am crying now, as I write this. I was never supposed to publish a book. I was so discouraged from pursuing my artistic talents and told that I would never flourish. According to the statistics I should be dead or living on the streets. According to mainstream society I am akin to an abomination. People like me don't get out. They don't succeed. I tried too hard for so many years to kill myself spiritually and physically because I felt like I didn't deserve anything. Not even a life.

Every poem I write is a form of revolution. I will have it no other way.  Pride is a funny word to me, but yes, I feel it. I am proud of what I have done.

XC: Do you have any favorite poems by other authors?  Or stanzas?  Could you share some verses along with your reflection of what drew you toward that poem/these stanzas?

MGS: I have an affinity for Baudelaire, being brooding and morose. A favorite line of his is “How little remains of the man I once was, save the memory of him! But remembering is only a new form of suffering.”


Having to become a sober person has forced me to create two different lives, one that ostensibly, has ended in a brutal death. If a new life is not created, the whole being will die, but you still hold out for those old spangings of nostalgia. They hurt so good.

Constant evolution is a recurring theme in my life. Taking what I have been and raising it to the next level. I describe them in my book as heads that I keep, all lined up like Bluebeards wives.

XC: What is a day of creative writing like for you?

MGS: I would like to say that every time that I write I put on my favorite 1940's red silk kimono and sip tea, but the reality of it is that I write when I can. I work 90-100 hour weeks as a shop owner, performer and bartender so I refuse to wait on muses. When the work comes, be it on bar napkin or typewriter, lipstick on the mirror, I record it all and revisit it.

I was able to take a sabbatical to write my first book and that was a little more idyllic. I would take the dog for a walk, eat a hearty lunch, have a nap and continue dreaming onto paper through the night. My usual pace is frenetic. I am hoping to take a longer sabbatical for the writing of my next book, which will be published early next year.

XC: When do you know when a poem is ready to be read? 

MGS: Honestly, as soon as I have struck the last key, it is done. Poetry to me is living, and I prefer to perform it the same day that I write it, if possible. I once made the deal with Jose Faus that I would write poetry but I would never edit it or rewrite it. While I'm not such a stubborn bull any longer, I do write with most of it composing itself as I let it out.

XC: Could you describe your activities as poet?

MGS: Currently I host a popular open mic at a local Kansas City Bar, the Uptown Arts Bar. We have a wide range of poets from all skill levels come to share their red, aching innards with us. I have read at vigils, protests and other manifestations all over the city. I am hoping to travel to other cities soon to share my work. As I mentioned, I recently published and have another book trapped in the cogs until next year.


XC: Could you comment on your life as a cultural activist? 

MGS: I've been a human rights activist since early teenagerhood. I'm currently a Novice Sister with the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence, an organization that started in 1979 in San Francisco. We dress as sacred clown nuns and educate about safe sex, HIV/AIDS testing, the abolishment of shame and promotion of frivolity. We raise money for various charities and lend community support during tragedy, such as the recent shooting at Pulse Nightclub.

As a two-spirit person, I am also actively involved in the trans community here in Kansas City. I have appeared on several panels and worked to help organize a Latinx vigil for Orlando. It is my hope that one day society will recognize the beauty and power of trans people, as well as our historical value. Being Latinx as well, the two often intersect in my subjects while speaking. It's a journey that is reflected often in my poetry.

I run a monthly vintage film show entitled, “Cinema Cabaliste”. I do monthly themes and find the oldest film clips that I possibly can. We are hoping to screen “Daughter of the Dawn” from 1919 soon, which was the first movie to have an entirely Native cast. The film has just been restored and we are excited to have it.

I was recently a subject in the HBO documentary “Abortion: Stories Women Tell”. It was released in theatres last week and will screen on HBO next year. I was honored to be a part of the film and was able to attend the Tribeca Film Festival for the world premiere in April. It has been sparking conversation all over the nation about abortion rights, and for that I am very grateful.

XC: What project/s are you working on at the moment that you would like to share?

MGS: I am currently opening my own store, The Skullery Maid, which is really more of an extension of my imagination than your average retail shop. It's an exhausting endeavor, but make dreams come true always is.

I have just confirmed my second poetry book to be published next year. My previous book focused on spirituality and this one I want to explore bodies and our relationships with them.

XC: What advice do you have for other poets?

MGS: Love yourself. I know that may sound trite and rather silly but there were years when I could not even look into a mirror. I had to force myself. Since then I have learned to cut out all toxicity and to focus on the contribution that I was meant to bring into this world, for whatever little time that I have. In order to fulfill that, I must be absolutely confident in what I am doing. To be confident in myself, I must love myself completely. I don't mean we should fall into a pool and drown, I mean we should learn to swim in the water.

Write everything you can.

XC: What else would you like to share?

MGS: In this world of ours, that is so dependent on greed and insecurity, the greatest revolution that we may achieve is to love ourselves, and love each other, unconditionally. To feel empathy, to lose yourself in a sonata, to discover unknown lands and secret boxes inside of yourself. Art is unconditional love. Poetry will never judge you.

Monique Gabrielle Salazar is a poet, performer, emcee, drag artist and business owner residing in Kansas City, Missouri. Having written poetry for almost half her life, she has released her first book entitled If You See My Ghosts Like I Do and is slated to publish another book early next year. Salazar is a fervent human rights and cultural activist with tendrils nourishing local poetic Open Mics, a monthly vintage cinema event called “Cinema Cabaliste” that seeks to highlight the oldest films available and is a Novice Sister in the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence. Owner of a shoppe of curiosities, The Skullery Maid, Salazar is always looking for the obscure and fantastical. A world traveler, she culls her images from graveyards, churchyards, protest zones and the mitered corner of self-reflection.