The award recognizes Latinos who have contributed significantly to increasing understanding of the Hispanic community and/or culture through literary arts, scholarship and publications.
A member of the ILS since 2003, Aragón is the author of the poetry collection “Puerta del Sol” and editor of the anthology “The Wind Shifts: New Latino Poetry,” which earned first place in the Poetry in English category at last year’s International Latino Book Awards. He also is the author of a forthcoming collection of poetry, translations and prose titled “Glow of Our Sweat.”
In 2008, Aragón organized The Wind Shifts: New Latino Poetry ONTOUR, which concluded in October with the help of a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA). The tour, which featured 25 poets, traveled to seven cities in two years with stops in Palm Beach, Fla.; Minneapolis; Seattle; Chicago; Berkeley, Calif.; Kansas City, Mo.; and New York.
The NEA grant also is helping fund Palabra Pura, a bilingual poetry reading series in Chicago. The series and tour both are joint ventures between Letras Latinas and the Guild Literary Complex in Chicago, for which Aragón formerly served on the board of directors.
Aragón’s poems and commentary on poetry have appeared in a number of anthologies and literary publications, including Crab Orchard Review, Chelsea, Jacket, Poetry Daily, and the Web site of the Poetry Foundation. He also serves on the board of directors of the Association of Writers and Writing Programs.
Letras Latinas seeks to enhance the visibility, appreciation and study of Latino literature, both on and off the Notre Dame campus, with a focus on projects that identify and support emerging Latino writers.
(From the University of Notre Dame Newswire)
Interview with Francisco Aragón
By Lydia Gil
LG: Could you tell us about your literary career? Was the role of editor a natural extension of your poetry work?
FA: I became serious about poetry and editing upon returning from a ten-year residence in Spain in 1998 to enroll in the MA program at UC Davis. Among the people I studied with at UC Davis was the Chicano poet Francisco X. Alarcón and Gary Snyder. It was also at UC Davis where I met the fine poet Maria Melendez. I mention her because she is one of the poet-friends I have worked with closely over the years on poetry-related projects, like Momotombo Press. My introduction into the world of editing came about after I had the experience of having a chapbook of my poetry published in 1999 by Gary Soto . One of the lessons I learned by that experience was the lesson of inclusiveness: although my background was Nicaraguan-American (and not Chicano), Gary's generous gesture of including me in his Chicano Chapbook Series provided a lesson I came to practice as an editor when it came to questions of Latinidad. My role as editor, over time, became a natural outgrowth of my work as a cultural activist. In more recent years, I have also become a literary programmer and book series editor, curating PALABRA PURA--a reading series in Chicago, and CANTO COSAS, a new book series at Bilingual Press at Arizona State University.
LG: Do you write in Spanish, English, or both? What, in your opinion, is the role of language in Latino literature today?
FA: I write primarily in English. Having said that, my first book, Puerta del Sol (Bilingual Press, 2005) is completely bilingual: inspired by a creative writing class I took at UC Davis from Francisco X. Alarcón, I decided to translate all the poems from Puerta del Sol from English into Spanish to produce a completely bilingual book. I also have a decent bibliography as a literary translator (from Spanish to English) with projects that have included the work of Federico García Lorca, Gerardo Diego, and Rubén Dario. The role of language in Latino literature is the same as its role in any literature: huge. The only added dimension, at least in the United States, is that many Latino writers, in one way or another, have a relationship to the Spanish language. So its presence---or its absence---can come to play a role in the work. Having said that, Latino literature does not, in view, depend on the presence of Spanish for its latinidad.
LG: How did Letras Latinas come about? How has it evolved from its initial goals?
FA: I joined the staff of the Institute for Latino Studies (ILS) at the University of Notre Dame in 2003. At the time, ILS did not have any literary component to speak of. Since that time, I have conceived of and developed a number of initiatives that make up Letras Latinas. Among the projects I oversee in this regard are: the Andrés Montoya Poetry Prize, Latino Poetry Review, PALABRA PURA, and Momotombo Press, among others. Here is our website: http://letraslatinas.net
LG: What do you hope this award will mean for your career as poet, critic and editor?
FA: Well, first of all, it's gratifying to be acknowledged for one's efforts. But I also realize that one never starts out in this field to win awards. In terms of my own writing, I don't expect this award to change anything. Having said that, if it causes me to gain a few more readers that would be nice. But on a more practical level, the work I do as a literary arts administrator depends on my ability to find resources to carry out the various projects I oversee: in other words, fundraising. In this respect, if the award serves to bring some attention to certain projects and the writers who are affected by these projects, my hope is that this might lead not only to greater visibility for Latino writing and writers, but perhaps to future patrons of the literary arts.
LG: Thank you so much for your time. ¡Y adelante con los éxitos!