Monday, April 28, 2008

In the Grove special issue: homage to Andrés Montoya

In the Grove was founded by Lee Herrick in 1996. Since that time, In the Grove has proudly published established and emerging writers from California's Central Valley and throughout the state. Each issue features nationally recognized, award-winning writers alongside vibrant new voices.

Daniel Chacón, acclaimed author of and the shadows took him and the short-story collection Chicano Chicanery, guest edits the new issue of In the Grove. It is a special issue devoted to the life, poetry, and influence of the late Andrés Montoya, whose book the ice worker sings and other poems won the American Book Award posthumously and has been the subject of great respect and study for poets across the country. The University of Notre Dame established a memorial prize in his name, and there have been remarkable poets to win the prize--Sheryl Luna, 2004 (awarded by judge Robert Vasquez) and more recently Gabriel Gomez, 2006 (awarded by Valerie Martinez).

I asked Chacón if he could send a little something about this special issue. He kindly obliged with the following:

The title of the issue is Pákatelas, which is also the title of a long poem from Andres Montoya's Universe Breath and All, the posthumous manuscript. It's a beautiful poem that ripples down the page like spirit and water. It's an exploration of what Jimmy Santiago Baca calls Coming into Language, the moments in the lives of poets wherein we hear words for the first time, I mean really hear them, so much so that they connect us to the dead, our antepasados. Suddenly it's not enough for us to scribble our verses on napkins and college-ruled note paper, but to voraciously read other voices, to fall in love with poetry. It asks the question,

"when was it that poems came crawling
from the lonely
recesses of my
gut?"

Carlos Castaneda's Don Juan teaches us the difference between seeing and seeing. Artists will tell you it's harder to see than it is to express, and for poets, that seeing is hearing. Pákatelas is a journal about coming into the ability to hear. It is about how Andrés listens even to the pigs, "whose squeals opened to the sky like a peach."

Borges says when you read a book you breathe life into the dead, and the same must be true when a living poet writes a poem, they breathe life into the dead and the not-yet-living, those who will pick up their work and imagine their reality into being, hearing what they hear. For the dead, time is not linear, and hearing is outside of time, so Andrés may have influenced many young poets--even if they do not know it--but many young poets also have influenced Andrés--even if he didn't know it. In this journal, you can find Andrés spirit flowing through the conduit of every line of every poem, and when the lines break, his energy is released. (Montoya pictured above.)

Pákatelas is a gathering of voices that are somehow similar to Andrés' voice, "kindred spirits" you might say, singing their songs in different ways.

The first three parts of the journal are called Voices that Echo, Family and Friends, and Teachers.

The Voices that Echo section has poets like Javier O. Huerta. His first book is winner of the same prize Andrés' first book had won--the Chicano Literary Prize out of UC Irvine--and you can hear Andrés in his poems (and if you could go backwards in time to when Andrés was writing his poems longhand on a legal pad at a cafe in Fresno, when Javier was a child in love with wonder, you can hear Huerta's voice in his lines). This section also has Oscar Bermeo, Rigoberto González, and Sheryl Luna, whose first book won the Andrés Montoya poetry prize out of Notre Dame University. We include Mónica Teresa Ortiz (pay attention to that name), whose first chapbook is due out this month. There is David Dominguez, La Bloga's own Daniel A. Olivas, and so many others, including my favorite poet Sasha Pimentel Chacón.

The second section, Family and Friends, are the voices of those who knew and loved Andrés, like his baby brother Maceo, now one of the most exciting new Chicano artists (see maceomontoya.com), Tim Z. Hernandez, El Maestro José Montoya, and Lee Herrick. In this section is the poet Augustine F. Porras, who along with Jack Boyd went to the University of Oregon for his MFA.

We were all four friends in that MFA program, all of us Brown people, Andrés, me, Augie, and Jack, three Chicanos and a Skin, three from the barrio, one from the rez, all of us so close to the earth from where we came that we didn't have to develop a friendship, we were family from the first day we met.

Boyd is from Elwha Klallam, the rez in Washington State, and in his poem the "The Iceworker Still Sings" he writes, "the man made of songs sings."

Also made of songs is Michael Luis Medrano, whose first book is forthcoming from Bilingual Review Press, and who was a student in the only poetry class Andrés taught at Fresno City College. There is the voice of my own gang-banging-turned-English-professor brother, Kenneth R. Chacón, who allowed Andrés' friendship to lead him away from the streets and into love for poetry and justice.

The third section is made up of his poetry teachers, including Juan Felipe Herrera, Philip Levine, Garret Hongo, and Corrine Clegg Hales. It doesn't take much of an effort to hear the voice of these great poets in the work of Andrés, but if you really listen, you'll find the voice of Andrés in their work.

The final section is made up of Andrés' poetry, including some poems from The Iceworker Sings, translated into the Spanish by Verónica E. Guajardo. These poems are just as beautiful and powerful in Spanish as they are in English, showing that his voice can be understood in any language, can be sung in anyone's tongue.

The final poem is the story of the poet, our story, his story, her story, the story of how we are learning to hear. It is the poem "Pákatelas," in its entirety, over twenty pages.

"Pákatelas" is the sound the poet hears while working in the Central Valley's packing houses, the music of the belts and machines and the yells of the foremen to the fruit packers, Pákatelas! Move quicker! Pákatelas! the imperative to never stop working, Pákatelas! Pákatelas! Pack those things!

"there are no spaces

between borders
and it is in the spaceless
that i find my lips

shuddering
people"

cesar
ruben
cuahtemoc
gabriela
llorona
tiny y smokey
shy girl and monstro and chuy and boobi.

i find myself
in song
assaulting
the streets,

singing,
"i am large
i contain
multitudes,"

as if i was
busting out
cumbia style,
"pákatelas
pákatelas
pákatelas
da da da-ran"
with a line i saw scrawled
on a wall in pinedale.

◙ Many have already heard via the Web the upsetting news: Libreria Martinez, one of Orange County's last independent bookstores, is threatened with closure. As Lisa Alvarez notes in her blog, The Mark on the Wall:

As you know, it's difficult for independents to make a go of it in today's market of online bookstores and mega chains but Libreria Martinez is much more than a bookstore, it's a community resource and treasure. You don't see the kind of programming they offer at the big chains: bilingual storytimes for children, free creative arts workshops for young people, free ESL classes for the community, an impressive array of local, national and international writers...and much more. Check out their website for more information: click here.

Read Lisa’s entire post to find out how you can help. She notes that Gustavo Arellano will be appearing this Friday, May 2 at 7 p.m. to sign his bestselling book, ¡Ask a Mexican!. Lisa says: “Drop by then if you can or before would be even better.” And read Arellano’s take on this craziness. He notes, in part: “You know we live in dark times when a Macarthur Genius-winning mensch like Rueben Martinez has to close his legendary Libreria Martinez, the country's premier Latino-themed bookstore visited by every author from the legendary (Carlos Fuentes) to the terrible (yours truly).”

Libreria Martinez
1110 N. Main St.
Santa Ana, CA 92701
Telephone: 714-973-7900

◙ La Bloga’s favorite literary loco, Dr. William “Memo” Nericcio, appears today at CSUN. Go here for more information. Sadly, even though I live in the Valley, I will be in downtown toiling at my day job. But if you go, give Bill a big abrazo for me.

◙ Álvaro Huerta let’s us know that his essay, "La Pistola," was published by the prestigious literary journal, ZYZZYVA, and it is now available online here. But don’t forget to support your favorite literary journals…buy an issue and keep up with the latest in literature.

◙ I’m delighted to note that I have a poem in the collection, A Poet’s Haggadah: Passover Through the Eyes of Poets (CreateSpace) edited by Rick Lupert. Passover ended last night but get your copies for next year.

◙ In case you haven't already seen it, PALABRA is featured in the current issue of Poets & Writers Magazine in the Project LitMag special section (pp. 58-59) titled "Twenty New Journals Ready to Read Your Work.” If you want to submit and/or subscribe to PALABRA (which is edited by the brilliant elena minor), visit the journal’s website or drop her an e-mail.

◙ Well, the reviews are beginning to come in for Latinos in Lotusland: An Anthology of Contemporary Southern California Literature (Bilingual Press) edited by yours truly. The anthology (available in both hardcover and paperback and may ordered directly from the press, various online sellers or through your local bookstore) spans 60 years of Los Angeles fiction and features 34 stories and novel excerpts from new and established Latino/a authors. Writing for yesterday’s El Paso Times, Sergio Troncoso said, in part:

In California, the setting is more urban, often suffused with the world of Hollywood and movies, while the protagonists of these stories run the gamut from dirt-poor to those straddling the world of their fathers and mothers, and their own unique place in the sun. Latinos in Lotusland creates new possibilities to consider and explore for the community of readers and writers, and beyond. [Read the whole review here.]

◙ Speaking of Latinos in Lotusland, public radio station KCRW ran a piece on Friday by author and journalist Kevin Roderick (of LAObserved fame) who mentioned several new L.A. books including Latinos in Lotusland. You may read or listen to it here.

◙ All done. I had a wonderful day yesterday at the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books seeing wonderful writers such as Alex Espinoza, Dagoberto Gilb, Yxta Maya Murray, Michael Jaime-Becerra, and so many more. So, until next Monday, enjoy the intervening posts from my compadres y comadres. ¡Lea un libro!

1 comment:

Gustavo Arellano said...

Gracias for highlighting the plight of Libreria Martinez, Daniel. I urge all La Bloga readers in Southern California to pay a visit to this wonderful store ASAP, and for out-of-state readers to order something online from them. If we lost this treasure, Latino literature would suffer immensely