Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Happy Children's Day/Book Day

Children's Day/Book Day, also known as El día de los niños/El día de los libros (Día), is a celebration of children, families, and reading held annually on April 30. The celebration emphasizes the importance of literacy for children of all linguistic and cultural backgrounds.

Día is an enhancement of Children’s Day, which began in 1925. Children’s Day was designated as a day to bring attention to the importance and well-being of children. In 1996, nationally acclaimed children’s book author Pat Mora proposed linking the celebration of childhood and children with literacy to found El día de los niños/El día de los libros.

For more information visit

Celebrate El día de los niños/El día de los libros


Send an e-card

Catch a kid reading… and show how proud you are by sending an e-card to a child, friend, or relative. This beautiful e-card was created for Colorín Colorado by David Diaz, the Caldecott Medal winning illustrator of Stormy Night, Roadrunner's Dance, and other favorites.

10th Annual Literary Conference

An Evening with the Authors- "Fiesta Style", Tuesday, May 6, 2008

The San Benito CISD Library Department.

Click on the flier for a better view

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Pieces & Bits

Michael Sedano

Better Late Than Never - Rudolfo Anaya Bless Me, Ultima Sculpture Park Opens in Santa Rosa New Mexico

La Bloga received an email from Chuck Braithwaite, Editor of the Great Plains Quarterly, whose issue on the television program "Deadwood", received
accolades from the author of Bless Me, Ultima. Anaya appended the P.R. announcing the March 1, 2008 dedication of the writer's and novel's eponymous sculpture garden, including a photo of the writer and sculptor (left, right).

The announcement describes the sculpture, by Reynaldo Rivera with an eye to what visitors to the park will see: The “Bless Me, Ultima” public artwork consists of a two-part bronze sculpture - one being a larger-than-life bronze sculpture of Rudolfo Anaya and the other a bronze bas-relief plaque set in a rustic adobe wall depicting historic representations of Santa Rosa, Route 66 and Guadalupe County, with the “Bless Me, Ultima” characters – Ultima and Antonio at the center of the piece. The landscape park will also feature a natural stone waterfall and a shallow pool with a golden carp tile mosaic, benches and sidewalks.

Next time you take a trip on Route 66, plan to cruise by Santa Rosa NM's Park Lake, where, near the north entrance, you'll come across the sculpture park. For more information, contact Richard R. Delgado, 575-472-3763.

Clarification on Readership for How to Raise Emotionally Healthy Children / Cómo Criar Niños Emocionalmente Sanos.

Last week I shared news of a project I am engaged in, recording Dr. Gerald Newmark's important and useful book into an audiobook, in an effort to increase its accessibility.

In our conversation, Dr. Newmark had recounted a few anecdotes of people telling him they "hadn't gotten around to reading it yet." We'd discussed that many people are hooked on what Marie Winn calls "the plug-in drug" and have lost interest in reading books, and our mutual belief that our culture is growing away from books and toward other media.

Out of this nexus came my unspecific
remarks that gente were not reading the book after gaining possession of one. The Newmarks were upset that such an impression had been miscommunicated, after all, over 300,000 copies are in circulation, and the book provides the core for numerous parenting programs across the nation.

Of course folks are reading the book! But more need to read it, hence the audiobook project I described last week. Much as I bemoan people not reading, there's no reason not to make the information available through their ears and the four CD discs comprising each set. After all, a book in the CD player is worth one on the "haven't gotten around to it yet" list.

Sometimes It's Better Not to Pay Attention to the Ads.

So I'm reading through my electronic NY Times and click on the horror story from Austria, a freak imprisoned his daughter in a basement, impregnating her multiple times. I'm about to click away from the text when I notice the ad bug running below the email this link, to the right of the text. "Love knows no boundaries" it reads. I wonder if this is an example of technology run amok context placement, where the ad robot "reads" text in the article and places advertising congruent with the lexical data. I browse a few more stories in the Grey Lady, and different stories have different ad bugs. So who knows how this happens, but criminy, I'd think the Times might want to hire an editor to avoid such unfortunate ironies.

Oaxaca Wood Carver Jesus Sosa Calvo at Avenue50Studio. Speaking of sculpture, Oaxaca produces some of the most delightful exemplars of sculpture. These critters beg to be handled, smiled at, given to someone who deserves them. When I received an email Highland Park's (Los Angeles) Avenue 50 Studio was hosting a trunk show featuring the work of master wood carver Jesus Sosa Calvo, I looked at my calendar with trepidation, hoping not to find a Taper show or Disney concert or some other obligatory fete that would keep me from enjoying the array of delights sure to be seen at Avenue 50.

I arrived early enough to take my time enjoying the current exhibit, "Natura: Mythology, Spirit, Memory," featuring paintings and assemblages by El Lay artists Pat Gomez, Karen Bonfigli, and Andrés Montoya. Intriguing work like this deserves leisurely involvement of eye and mind.

Jesus Sosa Calvo arrayed dozens of totally affordable pieces. I bought the two silver colored gatas shown in the upper left quadrant of the photomontage above. And as I was driving home I regretted not buying several of the gatitas in that photo. I have no idea why I didn't; maybe because the silver cats had so arrested my eye.

Sosa carves his figuras de madera copal. I asked if it were the same copal tree that gives incense, and he replied yes. But there's a difference. The copal negro is the resin-rich one that yields the aromatic sap. The copal blanco produces less resin and is the wood Sosa uses for his sculpture.

I asked him if he had access to the internet so I could email him the photos and he replied "it's an internet world." Of course he has
correo electronico at home in San Martin Tilcajete, Ocotlan, Oax.

Folks planning to attend one of Avenue 50's outstanding events, such as the 4th Sunday of every month's poetry reading, "La Palabra," or the Saturday, May 3, 2008 poetry event, The Black/Brown Dialogues: Inspiration House Poetry Choir at 7:00 p.m., should arrive early enough to park behind the gallery, as the Avenue 50 events attract energetic crowds.
From Avenue 50's website: Commissioned by Kathy Gallegos, Director of Avenue 50 Studio, “The Black/Brown Dialogues”, featuring Inspiration House PoetryChoir, honors healthy and ethical cultural dialogue between the African and Latino communities, at one of Latino LA's most important independent galleries. Using the Inspiration House PoetryChoir format, poets read their work while master musicians improvise musical responses to the poetry, blending words, intonations, audience responses, and dynamic silence into a sonic tapestry that's entrancing and exhilarating. The poetry series is curated by Peter J. Harris, artistic director, Inspiration House, which produces work dedicated to leaving its audiences renewed and recommitted to cultural work that contributes to the creation of a humane society.

Read! Raza. Buy! Raza. Support Your Local Indie Bookseller / Support Your Local Raza Bookseller!

Yesterday's Daniel Olivas column carried the dismal tidings of the impending shuttering of Orange County's Libreria Martinez. For most small businesses, the only remedy to this type of bad news is sales. People need to patronize these businesses and buy books there. Not at Amazon, not at some internet joint, but at a brick-and-mortar concern, or the internet outlet of a real bookseller, like Libreria Martinez.

Please comment, tell La Bloga's readers where you buy your books in your community. The greatest resource in your city could be around the corner from a reader who doesn't know it.

If you're in Los Angeles, you will want to buy your books at places like IMIX in Eagle Rock, or out in the Valley, at Tia Chucha. Support your local bookseller, buy books, buy art, buy curios, buy jewelry, buy coffee...whatever they're selling, be a customer. Please.

So it goes, this April's final Tuesday.

It's springtime. La Chickenada continues productive outlay, a reliable four brown blanquillos daily.

My Salmon Epiphyllums are blooming with spectacular gratification. the red epis are covered with blossoms promising a fabulous next two weeks' show.

Today, the first Aster opened a deep magenta bud. Giant blooms coming this weekend. And if California's 90 degree days continue unabated, I'll wilt as the flowers thrive. All in all, a worthwhile tradeoff.

See you next week!

La Bloga welcomes your comments, just click below. La Bloga encourages you to be our guest for a day. Want to recommend a book or an author La Bloga hasn't discovered? Want to offer a counterstatement to something you read? Want to showcase an artistic or literary idea? Let a bloguera or bloguero know by leaving a comment on their post, or by clicking here to email your willingness to be a La Bloga guest columnist.

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

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, 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


tiny y smokey
shy girl and monstro and chuy and boobi.

i find myself
in song
the streets,

"i am large
i contain

as if i was
busting out
cumbia style,
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!

Friday, April 25, 2008


an·thol·o·gy: a collection of selected literary pieces or passages or works of art or music

The Latino Cultural Center (LCC), Dallas, in collaboration with the Writer’s Garrett
and Nuestra Palabra: Latino Writers Having Their Say, presents a literary and music ensemble performance with music by Santiago Jiménez y su Conjunto, David Garza and Joel Garza. Readings from the acclaimed Texas anthology Hecho en Tejas: An Anthology of Texas Mexican Literature, Dagoberto Gilb, editor, (University of New Mexico Press, 2006) by Tony Díaz, Christine Granados, Dagoberto Gilb, Macarena Hernández, Tammy Gomez, Diana López and Rolando Hinojosa-Smith.

Where: LCC Oak Farms Dairy Performance Hall
When: 7:30pm, May 3
Admission: $15 adults, $10 seniors & $8 students

Contact Phone: 214-671-0045

Fresh from the printer: Open Windows III is an anthology of poetry, fiction and essays compiled by the editors at Ghost Road Press (Denver, 2008). The 2007 edition won the Colorado Book Award and the 2005 edition was a finalist in that contest. Included in the third edition are the First, Second and Third prize winners in Ghost Road's annual creative writing contest as well as several other invited contributors. Among the writers are Juliana Aragón Fatula, Carol Guerrero-Murphy, Katie Gutierrez, and yours truly (represented by my poem, This Mestizo Thing Has Me All Mixed Up, which some La Bloga readers may remember. You can get more information including an order form on the Ghost Road website.

The following recently came across my desk:

This is a call for submissions for The Greenwood Encyclopedia of Latino Issues Today for Greenwood Press. This two volume set will offer a broad and succinct overview of current issues in U.S. Latino Communities through topical essays organized alphabetically. This valuable resource, targeting high
school and university students on to the general public, will include approximately one hundred essays focusing on different aspects of the Latino experience in the U.S. such as: education, health, lifestyles, history, politics, immigration and the arts. Numerous sidebars will also appear with bios, profiles, documents, snippets and the like. This will truly be a collection of crucial Latino Issues of the day.


The Greenwood Encyclopedia of Latino Issues & Trends Today will feature short articles (2,500-4,500 words) authored by leading experts and emerging scholars offering an in-depth description of key issues, concepts, terms and trends facing Latinos today. In addition, the encyclopedia will provide a compendium of terms, definitions and explanations of concepts, models, and acronyms.

Invited Submissions

To ensure that this publication has the most current and relevant information possible, we are asking experts, practitioners and scholars for their particular area of research, to contribute short articles on suggested topics or other related topics in their area of interest. Individuals interested in submitting short articles on
suggested topics (This is quite a list that I won't reproduce here -- contact the editors for more information - MR) or other related topics in the area of Latino issues should submit an email with a proposal for an encyclopedia entry by May 14th, 2008. The proposal, not exceeding 3 pages, should include the possible title of the article, authors names and affiliations, one or more topics on which the short article could be contributed, background information and a brief description of the suggested article. We encourage potential contributors to also consider topics not included in our list of topics, especially if the topic is related to the area of their special expertise. This also provides an excellent opportunity in building a publication record for emerging scholars and graduate students. Proposals will be accepted based on pertinent criteria and topic balancing needs.

Please forward your e-mail with the proposal to Dr. Juan M. Benitez and Dr. Jose F. Moreno and no later than May 14th, 2008. You will be notified about the status of your proposed entry by May 30th, 2008. First drafts of entries will be due to the editors by July 14th, 2008. Final drafts will be submitted to the publisher August 1, 2008. This book is tentatively
scheduled for publishing by Greenwood Publishing Group,, in 2008.

Upon acceptance of your proposal, you will have two months to prepare your article (2,500-4,500 words). Guidelines for preparing your short piece as well as a sample article will be sent to you upon acceptance of your proposal.

Important Dates for Contributors:
May 14th, 2008 Deadline for submitting proposals of encyclopedia entries (3 pgs)
May 30th, 2008 Notification of Authors regarding the acceptance of proposals
July 14th, 2008 Deadline for submitting first drafts of articles of the accepted proposals
August 1, 2008 Deadline for submitting final/approved drafts of articles to publisher


April 25: Latin Nights -- La Ley Scholarship Foundation sponsors Mariachi Vasquez, Mundo de Sol, Orquesta la Salsa, and others ... $30 tickets can be purchased at Tonalli, 3810 Pecos, Denver; 720-434-3164. 7 p.m. to midnight; Kiva: 3090 Downing, Denver.

April 26: artEXPOsed -- Free family event. Dance, performance art, culinary art, visual art; students of
artEXPOsed showc
ase their talent at the Thornton Community Center, 2211 Eppinger Blvd., Thornton, CO, 1 - 4 p.m. More info at 720-977-5817. Participants in the artEXPOsed program are between 11 and 16 years old, and over the past 8 weeks have studied in one of four areas: Visual Arts - features mediums such as watercolors, pastels and acrylic oil paints; Performance Arts - involves stage performance, dramatic interpretation and comic sketches; Culinary Arts - introduce kids to cooking and artistic food presentations; Dance - create and perform their choreography.

April 29: Zapatista -- a bilingual play, written by written by Dañel Malán, performed by Teatro Milagro, at El Centro Su Teatro, 8:05 p.m. Teatro Milagro’s new work, Zapatista, shares the struggle of the man behind the mask, Subcomandante Insurgente Marcos of the Zapatista National Liberation Army. Join Teatro Milagro on the intriguing journey exploring the myth behind the man who, in his fight for human rights, proves that the spoken word is a powerful implement for social change. Zapatista opened at El Centro Milagro, in Portland, Oregon on January 11, 2008, before beginning its national tour that will continue through November of 2008.

May 1: Un Toque de Mexico -- 6th annual Cinco de Mayo concert presented by Newsed CDC, the Mexican Cultural Center, the Consulate General of Mexico and the Colorado Symphony Orchestra. Jeffrey Kahane, music director; Robert Alvarado Switala, violin; José Medina, tenor; Jeff Nevin, arranger & trumpet; Mariachi Sol de Mi Tierra, Juventino Romero, director; Bryant Webster School Mariachi Juvenil; Fiesta Colorado Dance Company, Jeanette Trujillo, artistic director. Boettcher Concert Hall, where you can pick up free tickets. 7:00 p.m., Performing Arts Complex, Denver.

May 1 - May 31: Return of the Corn Mothers -- A show about the sacred bounties of the earth; honoring women, art, music, dance, poetry, and the "divine creative energy in us all." Artists include Meggan De Anza, Renee Fajardo, Li Hardison, Santiago Jaramillo, Arlette Lucero, Mike Penny, Todd Pierson, Carl Ruby, Evelyn Valdez Martinez, Suzanna Vega, Rita Wallace, Holly Wasinger, Robert Lopez Dussart (in memorial). Opening night extravaganza on May 2, 6:00 p.m. - 9:00 p.m. CHAC, 774 Santa Fe Drive, Denver.

And speaking of anthologies: Rudy G. and I host a reading and celebration of Latinos in Lotusland: An Anthology of Southern California Literature, edited by Daniel Olivas (Bilingual Press, 2008), at the Tattered Cover, East Colfax and Elizabeth, Denver, on May 21 at 7:30 p.m. I'm thinking our topic might be What Are Two Illiterate Peasants From Denver Doing in a Book About Southern California? Stay tuned for more details about this and other Lotusland events.


Chicano Vampire Author Hits L.A. - Late Breaking News

Mario Acevedo signs his latest novel, The Undead Kama Sutra, featuring vampire-detective Felix Gomez Friday, April 25  and Saturday, April 26.

Friday. 7 to 8 p.m.
Dark Delicacies
4213 W. Burbank Blvd.
Burbank CA 91505

Saturday. 1 to 2 p.m.
LA Times Festival of Books
Booth #614 on the Main Campus

Thursday, April 24, 2008

April is Poetry Month!!!!!! (and some other news)

cover of Raw Silk Suture
copyright Maria Arango 2008

Dear Reader: First of all, much love and congratulations to Daniel Olivas for the gorgeous work of Latinos in Lotus Land, and to Manuel Ramos, whose poetry continues to garner well-deserved attention and acclaim. (Ay, I am one lucky writer -- Michael, Manuel, Dan, Rudy, Rene and Ann make me bring (I hope) my best self every week....)

And if you only have limited reading time DO NOT HESITATE to buy the following books of poetry:

The Republic of Poetry -- Martín Espada

187 Reason Why Mexicans Can't Cross The Border -- Juan Felipe Herrera

Teeth -- Aracelis Girmay

Raven Eye and Naked Wanting -- Margo Tamez

I Praise My Destroyer -- Diane Ackerman

The Wind Shifts -- edited by Francisco Aragón

and Full Woman, Fleshly Apple, Hot Moon --- because if you're not reading Pablo Neruda, there is something seriously wrong with you

Personal Notes:

I'd be kicking myself for a very long time if I didn't share with you some wonderful news. I have recently signed a contract with Floricanto Press for the release of a volume of poetry, Raw Silk Suture, edited by Carlos Mock, author of Papi Chulo. This project has been blessed by Carlos' unflagging support, the wonderful layout by Bill Rattan and by the phenomenal illustrations by woodcut artist, Maria Arango. Advance copies should be ready mid-summer, with a full release scheduled in September.

Here are two advance quotes about the project I am very gratified to have received.

Alvarado's call for "a quiet remaking of cells" is northing short of revolutionary. Read this book, look at yourself and the world around you and know: anything is possible.
Demetria Martinez, author, Confessions of a Berlitz-Tape Chicana.

The poetry of Lisa Alvarado thunders across the page. Fiery and smoky, these are poems for midnight whiskey and pre-dawn espresso. These are poems for what ails us.
Manuel Ramos, Moony's Road to Hell, Author La Bloga, Founder and Columnist


En este sueño

estoy completa.
No tengo que guardar
las historias de otra gente.
No tengo que buscar y escudriñar
a través de los restos de sus palabras.
En este sueño
paso mis dedos
através de la cabellera de Frida.
Con esa cabellera,
tejo flores obscuras
del color de la sangre.
Y me dice
que el jaguar viene a traerme
su poder.
La medicina que calma este dolor
es como comida para
calmar esta hambre.
En este sueño
hago magia
con el lodo del Rio Grande.
Arropado en corridas y música ranchera,
que son el hechizo y el encanto
que anula la edad
del olvido y el adoctrinamiento.
En este sueño
tengo un amante
cuya cara es de piedra,
como el antiguo marcador del templo.
Su boca es carnosa,
sus ojos están entrecerrados y
Ven conmigo mi India,
mi pequeña perdida.
Recuerda quien eres.
Recuerda quien eres.



iridescent electric pink

line the boulevard
next to where
someone’s pissing
right in the middle of the day
yesterday’s pozole
slick and greenish
stains the street
around the corner
from the Monument to the Revolution
where a golden angel
looks down on prostitutes
with imitation Chanel bags
and taxis are
green and yellow beetles
carrying sour businessmen
who ask the teenage pimps
how much
the cross-eyed
boy in the Lucha Libre mask
stares at me
and runs past barefoot beggar children
in clown makeup
but the clowns never smile
and they’re on every corner
they block the path
of women going to work
wearing not quite
put together
cheap copies
of clothes they saw
in Vogue or Cosmo
but nothing really matches
they always wear
white heels
or a belt with a giant buckle
and the requisite miniskirt that makes
their ass stand out
so that the pesero driver
with one gold tooth
always holds their change for just that extra second
I don’t get the shits
but baby-faced doctors run IV’s in both arms
for migraines and food poisoning
the fat man who served me
chiles rellenos
laughed at my buzz cut
and winked
when he slid me the plate
outside the ER
stand private guards
with tight lips and clenched pistols
working their job
they scowl at the howling sushi delivery boys
on motorbikes
who rush to the bar for a quick one
in between deliveries
inside the Museo Bellas Artes
I see the outstretched arms of Rivera’s peasants
and refuse the outstretched arms
of the Indian sitting at the bus stop
I clutch my postcards
with Frida’s self-portraits
the one with the red dress
the one with the hammer and sickle body brace
down the street from my favorite helado stand
the one with flavors like
guayaba mango cajeta
a man grabs my crotch
to see if I have any balls
I almost knock over
a tianguis stand of charro Barbies
the seller’s daughter
a girl with an olive oval face
blinks her long lashes in disbelief
What is this American doing here?


Thursday, April 24: 7 PM, Studio Theatre, College of the Arts, California State University, Long Beach, CA. Contact: Víctor Rodríguez, 562-985-8560;

Friday, April 25: 8 PM, Fé Bland Auditorium, Santa Barbara City College, Santa Barbara, CA. Contact: David Starkey, 805-965-0581, X2345;


Thursday, May 1: Lecture, 7 PM, The Redemption of Pablo Neruda,
Centennial Hall,
Milwaukee Public Library, Milwaukee, WI.
Contact: Sandra Rusch Walton, 414-286-

Friday, May 2: Reading, 7 PM, Woodland Pattern Book Center, Milwaukee, WI.
Contact: Chuck Stebelton, 414-263-5001;;

Saturday, May 3: Reading, 7 PM, Escape Java Joint, Madison, WI.
Contact: Allen Ruff, 608-257-6050; 608-255-0240;

Lisa Alvarado

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Happy Earth Day

The first Earth Day was organized in 1970 to promote the ideas of ecology, encourage respect for life on earth, and highlight growing concern over pollution of the soil, air, and water. Earth Day is now observed in 140 nations with outdoor performances, exhibits, street fairs, and television programs that focus on environmental issues. It is celebrated on April 22.

Facts and Tips from CNN to Save the Earth

Tune it up! Keeping your car tuned up is an easy way to help the environment. A well-tuned car uses up to 9% less gasoline than a poorly tuned car. (source: "30 Simple Things You Can Do to Save Energy," The EarthWorks Group)

In one year, we generate enough hazardous waste to fill the New Orleans Superdome 1,500 times over. (source: "Save Our Planet," Diane MacEachern)

Recycled glass uses only 2/3 the energy needed to manufacture glass from scratch. That means for every soft drink bottle you recycle, you save enough energy to run a television set for an hour and a half. (source: "30 Simple Things You Can Do to Save Energy," The EarthWorks Group)

Everyday Ways You Can Help Clean Up the Earth

It's a jungle out there: Increasing herbicide use has created a jungle of at least 48 "super-weeds" that are resistant to chemicals. (source: "Save Our Planet," Diane MacEachern)

Ceiling fans consume as little energy as a 60-watt bulb- which is about 98% less energy than most central air conditioners use. And ceiling fans can save energy in the winter as well as the summer. The secret: running their motors in reverse (there should be a switch on your fan). This pushes warm air caught near the ceiling down to where you can feel it. (source: "30 Simple Things You Can Do to Save Energy," The EarthWorks Group)

Installing the most efficient tire available on the market today would improve the fuel economy of most cars by 1 to 3 miles per gallon. (source: "Save Our Planet," Diane MacEachern)

We're talkin' trash: In 1987, Americans generated almost enough trash to fill a 24-lane highway one foot deep from Boston to Los Angeles. Disposable diapers alone make up enough trash to fill a barge half a city block long, every six hours, every day! (source: "Save Our Planet," Diane MacEachern)

¿Dónde jugaran los niños?

Cuidemos nuestra tierra.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

If people won’t read, give them books on CD. Bits & pieces.

Michael Sedano

Back in October 2005, I reported on a valuable parenting resource, How to Raise Emotionally Healthy Children and its Spanish-language translation, Como Criar Niños Emocialmente Sanos. In 1999, the company where I was working, gave a copy to every employee in the company’s 15 US and 4 Canadian cities, and to hundreds of trade show attenders. The NY Times’ November 19, 1999 business section carried a story about corporate support for family health, quoting me about my employer’s support for “family values.” As Human Resources Director, I made it a point to give a copy to new employees as I conducted their new hire orientation.

Recently, I had lunch with the author, Gerald Newmark, and his wife Deborah. They were excited about a documentary film in process, and the growing use of the book—now in its second edition--in social service, health, and educational agencies and schools. I asked Jerry what kind of feedback he’s getting from people once they’ve read the book. And ahí está el detalle, as Mario Moreno might quip. Newmark’s agency, The Children’s Project, was selling the book at a deep discount to the adopting agencies, but few people were taking the book home and actually reading it.

What a pity. The book is packed with valuable ideas and solutions to issues and problems revolving around child-rearing, family communication, and parental time-management. I asked the Newmarks if they’d considered offering the book in recorded form. It seems people in our cultures, neither the English-speaking nor Spanish-speaking U.S. cultures, can, do, or enjoy reading. Yet, given that many cars nowadays have CD players, kitchens and bedrooms have clock radio-CD players, CD technology might be a workable alternative to the labor and work of reading printed words.

The Newmarks were intrigued by the notion but lacked any concept of how to create a book on CD. That’s where I stepped in. I'm a long-time multimedia producer, dating back to the days of multiple carousel projectors synchronized by pulse-tones on audiotape soundtracks. Now technology makes quick work of what used to require six months or more. Hence, for the past three weeks, I have been working with three talented voice actors, Carolyn Zeller, Christopher Youngblood, and Reynaldo A. Pacheco, to create the aural version of Newmark’s book, in English and Español. We used an Azden wireless microphone received into a Macintosh PowerBook G4, recorded and edited using Bias, Inc.’s Peak Pro 5.2 software. This is fantastic technology. Back in the mid 70s, large studio equipment was the sine qua non of this type project. Audio editing required blank tape, a tape recorder, white china markers, razor blades, splicing tape, and infinite patience, not to mention long, uninterrupted hours of scrubbing marking cutting splice-taping trimming. Today, I follow along in the book. When the actor makes a flub, I mark the text, the actor retakes from the previous comma or period. Later, I open the file in the Peak Pro software, follow the wavy lines until the flub. I insert electronic place markers at the beginning of the flub and the beginning of the retake. Two keystrokes later, instant edit! Still a time-burner, but nowhere near the exhaustion of making hundreds of physical splices.

And the payoff! I visualize gente driving here and there listening to the good sense advice and sound analysis written by Dr. Newmark, read beautifully by the talented speakers, learning to, as Newmark writes in his Preface, use their abilities to help raise children who feel respected, important, accepted, included and secure, "who knows, we might just change the world."

U.S. Postage Stamp Honors Journalist Ruben Salazar Tuesday, April 22, the US Postal Service issues a 41 cent postage stamp honoring Salazar. Against a brown field and the outline of a water jug the designer has assembled like a ransom note torn from a newspaper pages the words, "during Chicano protest rally in East Los Angeles".

It was a police riot. And he was killed miles from the park rally.

It was August 29, 1970. The Chicano Moratorium had assembled massive numbers to march along Whittier Boulevard to a neighborhood park, where they would be entertained by poets, musicians, and speakers. But as the march reached its destination and gente had begun the rally, the cops, on a pretext (can you say agent provocateur?), went crazy, attacking people mindlessly, chasing mothers with babies in arms into private homes. By day's end, law enfarcement would notch three dead Chicanos: Lyn Ward, a 14-year old boy; Angel Diaz; Ruben Salazar.

Several Chicano novels cite the police riot in East Los Angeles. The earliest is Guy Garcia’s Skin Deep, where the riot marked a turning point in the character's life. Lucha Corpi’s Death of a Brown Angel, opens with her character fleeing the crazed cops. She turns into an alley where she discovers a murdered infant, whose dreadfully abused corpse will lead the woman to solve the mystery. More recently, Stella Pope Duarte's Vietnam war/movimiento novel, Let Their Spirits Dance, recalls the event as a focal point illuminating the contradictions of Chicano activism on one hand, military dedication on another. And I wish I remember the poet who wrote a heart-rending poem about a baby's shoe in the gutter littered with the detritus left in the wake of the panicked crowd fleeing the gas and batons of Laguna Park.

The deaths of those three Chicanos on August 29 was the third time law enforcement killed war protestors in 1970. Three anglo kids were shot by national guardsmen on the Kent State University campus. Ten days later, two black kids were shot by police at Jackson State University. Then came August 29. At Kent State, an iconic image of an anguished girl kneeling over the body of a fallen protestor, hit the cover of Newsweek magazine. The black kids were shot at night in or near their dorm rooms, with no “live” media, so their deaths largely went unmemorialized. The East LA event memorialized the Silver Dollar bar. The Coroner’s Inquest was broadcast live, for all the good that did. (See this satirical piece depicting Nixon’s Tape 231 discussing the Salazar, Diaz, and Ward killings). No police officer or Sheriff’s Deputy was ever brought to account in the shootings of Lyn Ward, a 14-year old Chicano, Angel Diaz, nor La Opinion and LA Times journalist Ruben Salazar. Salazar's murder included a mysterious phone call alerting Sheriff's to a "man with a gun" inside the Silver Dollar. The Deputy fired blind, through a curtain, decapitating Salazar, who was enjoying una chelada miles from the heat of the riot at Laguna Park.

None of this, of course, is in that stamp. Only the ongoing coverup, "during a Chicano protest rally".

There's something more, yet less, in the stamp story. It's "good" only for the next twenty days. The USPS issued the stamp at the current first class standard, 41 cents. On May 12, you’ll have to add a one cent mark-up if you want to honor Salazar with his stamp, since the first class rate goes up to 42 cents.

For a 300 dpi image of the Salazar stamp, click the image above. From the USPS site: Note: When reproducing the Salazar image, please include the following: Ruben Salazar, from the Los Angeles Times Photographic Archive (Collection 1429), Department of Special Collections, Charles E. Young Research Library, UCLA

Author Alicia Gaspar de Alba fighting women’s cancers

La Bloga is happy to pass along word that the author of Sor Juana’s Second Dream, Desert Blood, and Calligraphy of the Witch, Alicia Gaspar de Alba, has set a goal of raising $2000 in the 5 kilometer event Revlon RunWalk for Women. The event raises money to fight women’s cancers. If you’d like to contribute a few dollars for an important cause, click here. If the link is broken, just go to Revlon’s find participant site and search for firstname Alicia lastname Gaspar de Alba. The resulting page will guide your commitment.

Here’s another way to lend a hand to combating breast cancer and other worthwhile projects. Make it a daily habit to click at the free mammograms website. In addition, you can click to support children’s health, combat hunger, give free books for kids, save rainforest land, and help animals in shelters.

I do not know how much help the above provide, but I suspect it’s as productive, if not more, than giving six grains of rice for every word you get correct, in that vocabulary game that fascinates a number of people. Maybe readers of Denise Chavez’ Loving Pedro Infante will click, remembering Tere’s hope that her annual check to help a Latin American child isn't a foolish act of kindness.

There we have it, the penultimate April Tuesday. La Bloga welcomes your comments on anything you read here. If you have something of your own to present as a guest columnist, La Bloga welcomes guests. Just click here, or leave a comment indicating your interest in being our guest.


Monday, April 21, 2008

Latinos in Lotusland is here!

I am delighted to announce the publication of Latinos in Lotusland: An Anthology of Contemporary Southern California Literature (Bilingual Press) in both hardcover and paperback.

Spanning sixty years of fiction writing, this landmark anthology brings to life the Latino denizens of Southern California. You may obtain Latinos in Lotusland through your favorite bookstores and online sellers. Alternatively, you may contact Bilingual Press directly by visiting its website and calling the toll-free number.

Short stories and novel excerpts of thirty-four authors are featured here: Kathleen Alcalá, Frederick Luis Aldama, Lisa Alvarez, Victorio Barragán, Daniel Chacón, Kathleen De Azevedo, Alex Espinoza, Rudy Ch. Garcia, Estella González, Melanie González, Rigoberto González, Reyna Grande, Stephen D. Gutiérrez, Álvaro Huerta, Michael Jaime-Becerra, Manuel Luis Martínez,Alejandro Morales, Manuel Muñoz, Daniel A. Olivas, Melinda Palacio, Salvador Plascencia, John Rechy, Jennifer Silva Redmond, Manuel Ramos, Sandra Ramos O'Briant, Wayne Rapp, Luis J. Rodríguez, Danny Romero, Conrad Romo, Jorge Saralegui, Mario Suárez, Luis Alberto Urrea, Richard Vásquez, and Helena María Viramontes.

The stunning cover artwork is Heart Like a Boat (2002) by Maya González.

In honor of this occasion, I am reprinting here the introduction to Latinos in Lotusland. Stay tuned for news about future book readings around the country.


In spring of 2005, after receiving a “green light” from Bilingual Press, I set upon the waters of the Internet the following call for submissions:

I am editing an anthology of short fiction by Latinos/as in which the City of Los Angeles plays an integral role. I am interested in provocative stories on virtually any subject by both established and new writers. Stories may range from social realism to cuentos de fantasma and anything in between. Los Angeles may be a major "character" or merely lurking in the background. I'd like to see characters who represent diverse backgrounds in terms of ethnicity, profession, age, sexual orientation, etc.

What happened next both surprised and delighted me. My call for submissions quickly spread like a happy virus through the Web, showing up on numerous literary sites, personal blogs, and even on the home page of the Department of Urban Planning at the UCLA School of Public Affairs. With the exception of several pieces I solicited from authors I knew, submissions started pouring in over my virtual transom from writers who found my call on the Web or learned of it through an e-mail from a friend, agent, or writing instructor. It was almost overwhelming. After making some tough decisions, I chose the pieces that make up this volume.

The stories presented here span sixty years, with the earliest being “Kid Zopilote” by the late Mario Suárez, which first appeared the Arizona Quarterly in 1947. I begin the anthology with this piece not only because of its literary merit and historical importance, but because its sets the stage for the stories and novel excerpts that follow. In Suárez’s story, the teenage Pepe García ventures out of his seemingly boring Tucson barrio to experience the more exciting life in Los Angeles. His friends and family are shocked when he returns a full-fledged pachuco, decked out in a zoot suit and smoking marijuana. He eventually slides into selling dope and pimping and eventually winds up in jail after the police round up (and harass) other Chicanos who have donned the pachuco style. On one level, it’s a cautionary tale of what big city life can do to young people. But on another level, Suárez explores the economic struggles of barrio life in postwar Tucson as well as law enforcement’s endemic bigotry and abuses of power with respect to young Chicanos.

Latinos in Lotusland concludes with a chapter from the 1970 novel Chicano by the late Richard Vásquez that was first published by Doubleday. In 2005, Rayo, the successful Latino imprint of HarperCollins, reissued this landmark novel in honor of its thirty-fifth anniversary. As Rubén Martínez notes in his introduction to the reissue, Chicano had long been out of print despite its importance within the relatively young canon of Mexican American literature. Martínez tells us that prior to Chicano, the only other Mexican American novel was José Antonio Villarreal’s Pocho, which Doubleday also published—in 1959. The selection from Chicano brings us to post-war Los Angeles and the construction of the now-ubiquitous freeways; by joining unions and taking advantage of the city’s need for skilled laborers, we see Mexican Americans working toward the dream of economic stability and upward mobility. It also stands in stark contrast to the vision offered by the first story of this anthology: where Suárez paints Los Angeles as a dangerously intoxicating and ultimately successful corrupter of Chicano youth, Vásquez envisions the city as a land of opportunity for those who wish to learn new trades and comply with the requirements of union bosses.

The stories and novel excerpts sandwiched in between “Kid Zopilote” and the excerpt from Chicano bring us to modern-day Latino denizens of Los Angeles and the city’s surrounding communities. And what a complex and diverse group of people we observe: young and old, gay and straight, rich and poor, the newly arrived and the well established. There’s a Cuban American screenwriter trying to pitch the “real” story behind the Bay of Pigs fiasco. We see a Mexican woman struggling with barrio life who believes she’s seen a miracle. There are youths trying to avoid gang life and others embracing it. And we’re introduced to aggressive journalists, cement pourers, disaffected lovers, drunken folklórico dancers, successful curanderos, teenage slackers, aging artists, wrestling saints, aimless druggies, people made of paper, college students, and even a private detective hot on the heels of a presumed-dead gonzo writer. These actors perform on a stage set with palm trees, freeways, mountains, and sand in communities from East L.A. to Malibu, Hollywood to the San Fernando Valley, Venice Beach to El Sereno. The storytelling comes in all packages: social realism, lyrical fantasy, tough-talking noir.

No anthology can give a complete picture of its theme because that would require a book of infinite pages. This is particularly true with this volume, which draws its stories from a wildly diverse group of people who can be loosely categorized under the umbrella of “Latinos” and who live in one of the largest metropolitan areas in the world. But if I had one goal in editing this anthology, it was to bring together some of the best contemporary Latino fiction about my home. In doing so, I believed readers would not only be entertained, but also be reminded that no group of people is monolithic and that Los Angeles literature is not limited to stories about scheming movie moguls and dazzling starlets with surgically enhanced figures (though several of this anthology’s stories do concern the movie and television industries albeit through a decidedly Latino prism). And notwithstanding the fact that the characters who populate this anthology may have feasted on the City of Angel’s lotus flowers, they do not live in blissful oblivion and they certainly have not forgotten who they are.

I once had the opportunity to interview Luis Alberto Urrea (whose work is featured in this anthology) about his magnificent novel The Hummingbird’s Daughter (Little, Brown), which is based on the miraculous life of Teresita, Urrea’s great aunt. One question I asked was why Urrea rendered Teresita’s life in novel form rather than biography. He said, “The simplest answer is you can’t footnote a dream.” I’d like to borrow this sentiment with regard to Latinos in Lotusland. While I could have recruited a scholar to write an extensive introduction analyzing the historical and literary significance of the pieces included in this anthology, I did not want to footnote a dream. So, without further ado, we invite you to partake of these stories and novel excerpts and enjoy them for their beauty, power, and eloquence.

--Daniel Olivas