Tuesday, August 05, 2014

Beyond Boundaries Part II. Ten On the 5th of the 8th: On-line Floricanto

Beyond Boundaries: Networking and Workshopping in Lake Como, Italy, Part II

Guest post by Thelma T. Reyna.

Here's a link to Part I of Thelma's Guest post on Melinda Palacio's Friday column. That column opens like this:

I was invited by one of my publishers to attend a national/international conference they co-sponsored at Lake Como last month. This “Abroad Writers Conference” (AWC) was designed as advanced learning for published authors from the U.S. Their “faculty” included 4 Pultizer Prize winners and 2 National Book Award recipients teaching intensive one-week workshops. Embracing this rare opportunity, I headed to Lake Como in my first overseas networking, workshopping, poetry reading experience. . . . 

Debut Reading from My New Book

My poetry reading at Lake Como was a highlight for me. How often do we have the opportunity to “debut” a new book in Europe? Instead of reading poems from my two chapbooks (all the poetry readers read from their chapbooks), I chose my new full-length collection—Rising, Falling, All of Us. I also purposely selected poems that my workshop fellows had not seen. It was my way of breaking from the norm.

Comprised of published poets and other authors, it was a tough audience. Pulitzer Prize winning poet Rae Armantrout sat in the front row to my left. Next to her was Paul Harding, a Pulitzer novelist. The famed poet Nikky Finney sat farther back. One of the conference co-sponsors, editor and publisher of Kentucky’s Finishing Line Press, Leah Maines, sat in the front row to my right. For about 20-25 minutes, I shared my poems about famous and infamous people, real and make-believe, dead and alive: my “persona poems,” for this new book is a gallery of snapshots of people we know or wish we did, people we’ve read or heard about. My opening poem was appropriate for being in Italy, I told the audience: “Pope Francis.”

With much relief, I can say that the audience was engaged, kind, and receptive.                       
Reading in the lovely, architraved              
room of the Villa Galliata.   
My Poetry Workshop colleagues,
with Rae (in black jacket) in the center.
Looking to the Future…for All of Us

The next AWC is scheduled for Spain (http://abroadwritersconference.com/). Though I had never heard of these AWC’s, I learned that Como was the tenth. Others were held in France, Ireland, Thailand, and other exotic places. Sometimes some of the same top authors (“faculty”) teach the 15 intensive hours of each workshop. There is, thus, a cyclical consistency, with faculty and attendees making repeat appearances.

Regardless of where other AWC’s are held, I hope there will be greater ethnic diversity in attendees as well as faculty. At Como, Nikky Finney, a divine African-American poet and National Book Award winner, taught a workshop. Of approximately 50 attendees, I met 3 African-Americans and the 2 Asian-Americans in my poetry group. As stated before, I never saw other Latinos.

A colleague of mine believes that more ethnic minority authors are not involved in international venues such as AWC primarily for economic reasons. This may be so. AWC presenters, however, are subsidized; and this is where diversity can be injected into AWC as a jumpstart. Imagine if our Latino heavyweights, especially our Pulitzer Prize winners (See http://hispanicreader.com/2012/04/15/latinos-and-the-pulitzer-prize/) were included as faculty. Or if Asian-Americans, such as Amy Tan, taught workshops along with African-American authors. The more diversity, the better.


There are those who’ll say, “If Latinos are not in attendance, interest in them would be moot.” Perhaps. But if it is beneficial for all authors to have visibility in international settings, to build national networks for learning, collegiality, and visibility purposes, then a means must be found for Latino authors to do this. Perhaps this is a discussion for La Bloga or other literary forums. How can authors of color obtain necessary resources for enhancing our work, our careers on a broader stage? Can there be “common pots” of financial support, for example, that are identified, created, and nurtured? Or do these exist already? How can awareness of these be expanded and leveraged?

I know that, personally, going to Lake Como was worth my investment of time, money, and effort. I believe that, for months if not years to come, my experiences there will impact my work somehow. For example, I am still in email contact with several friends I met there, and at least two book projects in which I’ll be involved are under consideration.

Writing—as is true of any other complex, serious undertaking—requires ongoing economic sustenance. True, all authors, except the big names, struggle to an extent. And AWC is not a be-all, end-all resource. But we can see what is and work toward what can be…for greater benefits for greater numbers.
* * *
Photo by Jesus Treviño
Thelma T. Reyna, Ph.D., is the author of four books, including Rising, Falling, All of Us—issued in summer 2014. Reyna’s short fiction, poetry, and nonfiction have appeared in anthologies, literary journals, textbooks, blogs, and regional print media off and on for over 30 years. Visit www.ThelmaReyna.com

Ten On the Fifth of the Eighth: August On-line Floricanto
Mark Lipman, Odilia Galván Rodríguez, Devreaux Baker, Ralph Haskins Elizondo, David Romero, Antonio Arenas, Iris De Anda, Josefa Molina, Gerardo Pacheco Matus, Xochitl-Julisa Bermejo

Four years ago when La Bloga and the Facebook group, née Poets Responding to SB1070, launched this ongoing series of On-line Floricanto readings, energies and passions drove hundreds of poets to fashion thousands of poems, giving them an audience via postings on Poets Responding to SB1070: Poetry of Resistance, the group's current identity. From those, the Moderators nominated five poems to appear in On-line Floricanto.

Moderators of the internet group, founded by Francisco X. Alarcón, nowadays name five exemplary works for monthly publication in La Bloga's On-line Floricanto. The volume of work entering the literary churn had been so ample that On-line Floricanto went weekly.

In recent days, poets' voices rise again. Sparked by world events and increasingly empowered racism at home, a deluge of poetry floods the Moderators. Reflecting the upswell of expression, this month the Poets Responding Moderators advance ten voices, several of them familiar from those heard in poetry's initial throes of disgust at Arizona's state-sponsored hate.

"The Border Crossed Us" By Mark Lipman
"Collecting Thoughts from the Universe" By Odilia Galván Rodríguez
"Ten Aspects of The World Without War" By Devreaux Baker
"Murrieta’s Morning Sun" by Ralph Haskins Elizondo
"The Ladder - Anastasio Hernandez-Rojas" By David Romero
"Sin Fronteras" By Antonio Arenas
"Here" By Iris De Anda
"La Llorona" By Josefa Molina
"The Children of La Frontera" By Gerardo Pacheco Matus
"The Boys of Summer" By Xochitl-Julisa Bermejo

The Border Crossed Us
By Mark Lipman

I step onto land
where my ancestors
planted our family tree
over 1,000 years ago.

I have known no other sand
between my toes
under my feet
this is my only home.

One day though
a stranger arrived
sat down at our table
drank our wine
ate our bread
raped our women
burnt our village
then declared me illegal.

The color of my skin
the language on my tongue
the god that I chose to believe in
demonized in order to justify their cruelty.

The freedom that I enjoyed
my right to self-determination
gone, victim to yet another
military occupation.

My peace,
simply a broken olive branch
cut from the tree they tore down.

My home,
rubble, beneath the tracks
of their bulldozers.

All I have ever had
all that I’ve ever known
all, taken from me.

My blood,
turned into their gold.

My heart,
broken from generations
of lies and betrayals.

If you cut me, do I not bleed?

Crushed, beneath the boot of technology
by persons with no soul or body to touch

with no heart to feel

eyes, blinded by hatred
ears, closed to any reason
mouths, shut out of fear

comfortably tucked away in their beds
while human beings die in the streets
under the batons and artillery shells
of a militarized police state

Wrapping oneself in a flag
worse yet, a religion
while making excuses for genocide
sanctioning the murder of children.

News actors continue to blame the victims
force feeding us lies, calling us terrorists
because we were born onto the land that they coveted.

Who is the real enemy,
the one who believes in something different than you,
or the one uses what you believe in to change who you are?

There is no escaping the soul staring back in the mirror
regardless of the shifting lines on some map
human rights have no borders.

Collecting Thoughts from the Universe
By Odilia Galván Rodríguez

What do the stars say
about children dying
or is it their spirits
twinkling down
big smiles on their faces
there's no suffering there
At the border
people act less than human
frighten traumatized children
in yellow school buses
their small faces pressed
against the windows
they see
the gnashing of teeth
hear shouts of rage.
What kind of war
is being waged here
these children fleeing war
fleeing death
looking for a place to dream
or looking for what's left
of their family
that's already flown away
for fear or promise
We wage wars
support criminal
heads of State
murderous coups
the false war on drugs kind
the raining down bombs
on innocents kind
the scaring of innocent children
riding on yellow school buses kind.
And who do we help
does all this war make life better
who is the real enemy
in a land
where one percent of people
owns more wealth
than the rest of us put together and
can we be put together again

Ten Aspects of the World without War
By Devreaux Baker

This is the morning soldiers dismantle guns
And abandoned tanks become nesting grounds
For cranes and starlings

This is the morning that trees are planted in the ruins
Of village streets and bunkers become seed exchange
Stations for non-gmo farmers

This is the morning that prayer flags fly
From the highest buildings in cities
That ring the world with chants or songs

This is the morning that snipers learn
The ancient recipes for baking bread
And distribute their loaves for free

This is the morning long tables are set
In the middle of rubble strewn fields
And musicians gather to welcome everyone

This is the night where stars are recognized
In the deepest recesses of space
As a saving grace

And men, women and children
Drift into sleep where there are no longer
The faces of war…but only the sound of wind
In trees, or water forming waves
Against some forgotten

Murrieta’s Morning Sun
By Ralph Haskins Elizondo

Murrieta’s morning sun had beamed
with hope for hospitality and shelter.
Greyhound buses filled with teddy bears
and dolls drove into town today.

Little eyes peered out from tinted windows
searching for their welcome party.
Instead the darkened crowds had gathered
blocking out all rays of hope.

Their signs and chants eclipsed
the chance for children.
Buses stopped and turned around,
every child a delicate piñata
filled with fear, ready to be broken
with the stick of hatred.

And as the day wore down
the heavens blushed in shame.
Sickened by the hateful scene below,
the mourning sun plunged off the western sky,
it spilled its darkest red upon the land
and died. There are no children left
to mourn Murrieta’s morning sun.

The Ladder – Anastasio Hernández-Rojas
By David Romero

This poem was written during a session of Last Words: Giving Victims a Voice.

Is a ladder
San Diego
Is a ladder
My name is Anastasio
I know all about climbing ladders
I’m a painter
A roofer
They tell me
Coyotes or police
One day
I will fall off
In screams and shadow
In bones and blood
I smile
You’ll only fall
If you look down
Will only look down
If you’re too afraid
To climb
I’ve never been afraid
I know all about climbing ladders
I’m a painter
A roofer
This life is a ladder
Tijuana is a ladder
The desert is a rung
Parched lips are a rung
Dry throat is a rung
Blistered feet are a rung
Hours waiting for work are a rung
The bosses are a rung
Cheap pay is a rung
La migra
La policia
But between the cold steel
Is a view
Each view
More beautiful
Than the one before
My kids go to college
They find work
In the shade
Never have to spend a day
Climbing ladders in the sun
I buy my wife a car
One that doesn’t immediately break down
She puts her feet to the pedal to visit her cousin
It runs
A new washing machine
A dryer
They run
For the first time
My wife
Every child
They run
Under one roof
This house
This freshly painted house
Our house
Shines like the afternoon
It rests at the top of the ladder
I can see it
I can breathe it
I can taste it
Like when I rise from my work
And rest on my haunches
Look out over a roof
See the tiles
Near completion
Like a glass jar of money
Almost full
I can see it
I feel it
The border is a ladder
And I am getting closer
With each job
Each crossing
Even at night
I will climb
My hands will grasp each rung
Because I have to
Because I am almost there
My hands
“Hands up!”
Grasp air
“Hands up!”
I fall
“Hands up!”
My hands reach out
"Hands up!"
The ladder is gone
“Hands up!”
I hit
"Hands up!"
They surround
On the desert floor
More than a dozen
Black uniforms
Shouting figures
Malevolent faces
Illuminated by the glow of tasers
Striking like rattlesnakes
They sting and bite
I cringe and cry
Each kick is a rung
Each baton is a rung
Each kick is a rung
Each baton is a rung
Each kick is a rung
Each baton is a rung
So many, many rungs
Bones and blood
Somewhere far in the distance
I see San Diego
But where
Has the ladder gone?

Sin Fronteras
By Antonio Arenas

Sin fronteras caminamos por el mundo,
Gritando a los cuatro vientos,
Que viva la paz entre hermanos,
Y liberando nuestros sentimientos.
Libertad de pensamientos,
Libertad de expresión,
Libertad de correr bien fuerte,
Por la emoción,
Como vuelan libres las aves,
Cantando un estribillo,
De paz y amor,
Y Teniendo de coro a un pueblo,
Que canta con el corazón,
Queremos paz en la tierra,
Sin fronteras en ninguna región,
Sin discriminación de razas,
Ni convicción política, ni religión.
Sin fronteras jugamos al fútbol,
Sin fronteras nos inventamos los juegos,
Sin fronteras escuchamos la música,
Que viva el idioma de los pueblos.
Regresan las aves a sus nidos,
Porque no podemos regresar a nuestra tierra,
Si es una tierra de hombres libres,
Un manantial de paz y belleza,
Donde se respira un aire puro,
Que no tiene fronteras.

By Iris De Anda

here we are
after years
crossing borders
wings & wire
monarch butterfly
flutter over under
forest trees
storm clouds
arid deserts
spring flowers
hope in heart
future in fingertips
truth in tongue
I AM dreaming
this here now
this you I
this us them
we are all together
there was no time
no space
no borders
only jade spirals
obsidian death
coral life
growing blooming
touching creating
sleeping awakening
luz consciousness
la Mujer
rises morning sun
roja, amarillo, naranja
refleja reflects
a mirror
deep ocean waves
profundo azul
everywhere floating
lotus crying
daughters of desert
Mother Earth drum
mud feet
clay dance
bruja guerrera
lagrimas lapis lazuli
copal fire
after years
here we are

La LLorona/ Cihuacoatl
By Josefa Molina

Let me drop the withered bodies of my young
at your doorstep, children eaten
by the Beast or left to die in deserts
next to bone dry water tanks shot full
of holes by local cowboys with
delusions they were sheriff.

Let me drop my dying children at your feet,
praying for refuge from the coyotes that follow,
that you've fed, that salivate
over the fear-filled scent of frightened children.
Coyotes call, promising home, then slit
small, smooth, brown throats and devour their prey.

Let me drop my ghost children at your border,
hoping for compassion in a land where full~ bellied,
ranting "Patriots" want to send them back
to the slaughter they've risked life and limb to escape.
"Patriots" cursing and spitting out jagged shards
of hate that dismember with a familiar terror.

I howl with anguished cries as I mourn
my sons and daughters. If only I could feed them
with my withered breast and let them drink salty tears,
I might save them. Instead, I'm left to wail
each dread full night, as I gather up the remnants
of their souls and softly call them each by precious name.

Copyright: 2014
Josefa Molina, PhD
All rights reserved.

The Children of La Frontera
By Gerardo Pacheco Matus

we are the children of la frontera
left to live, to rot and to dream en el desierto

day and night, we follow the old coyote’s shadow
through this dry world of cacti and rattlesnakes

en el desierto, the dead speak to us
disguised with our father and mother’s voices---

we listen to their feeble hearts
beat as soon as they tell us
the old coyote left them to die
alone and thirsty en el desierto

some dead children smile too glad to see us
others cry and shriek like crows
too fearful to see the old coyote
guide us through this wasteland

day and night, we follow the old coyote
through this labyrinth of bones and shadows
hoping we will live
free en el gabacho

we wear La Virgen de Guadalupe’s medal
for protection
so mother Death knows
we are the children of la frontera

day and night, we wait en el desierto
chewing and gnawing at dry cactus roots
until la migra breaks our spell…

day and night, we wait for la chansa
de cruzar la linea, no matter what…

as we are the children of la frontera;

The Boys of Summer
By Xochitl-Julisa Bermejo

In Carpinteria, California a preteen boy in red shorts
runs down a clouded over beach to play at junior lifeguard.
He is lost in a sea of boys and girls just like him
all smiling and learning lessons on how to be safe.

In Brooks County, Texas a boy with a note pinned to his shirt
addressed to an aunt in New Jersey
wrestles with his mother’s hopes pinned to this his shoulders.
Death pins his dehydrated and cramping leg muscles together.

On a beach in Gaza four cousins play soccer.
One calls Messi while another calls Neymar before the injury.
The score is tied. They set up penalty kicks on the edge
of the surf. A boat in the distance sets up its shot.

The boy digs toes into sand and waits for his turn
to relay to a solo buoy bouncing in the water.
He asks the cute and sunny blond in line next to him,
“If you could live anywhere, where would you live?”

Alone in the desert, the boy lies down in the dirt.
As he closes his eyes he dreams of the home he is to build
for his mother and sister where he will watch all the T.V.
he wants, and no one worries about being killed.

On a beach in Gaza the four boys are blown to Jello-y pieces
of matter, and now they’ll never know a life without fear.
The mothers and fathers gather outside the hospital and scream
into the air because they couldn’t give their boys a safe place to play.

Meet and Greet Some of Today's Poets
Mark Lipman, Odilia Galván Rodríguez, Devreaux Baker, Ralph Haskins Elizondo, David Romero, Antonio Arenas, Iris De Anda, Josefa Molina, Gerardo Pacheco Matus, Xochitl-Julisa Bermejo

Mark Lipman, founder of VAGABOND, is a writer, poet, multi-media artist, activist, and author of six books, most recently, Poetry for the Masses; and Global Economic Amnesty.  Co-founder of the Berkeley Stop the War Coalition (USA), Agir Contre la Guerre (France) and Occupy Los Angeles, he has been an outspoken critic of war and occupation since 2001. In 2002, he became writer-in-residence at Shakespeare and Company in Paris, under the guidance of its founder George Whitman.  In that year he worked with Lawrence Ferlinghetti, Jack Hirschman and the Italian poet, Igor Costanzo, in Back to Beat, a Fluxus art and poetry event in Breccia, Italy. He is currently a member of POWER (People Organized for Westside Renewal), Occupy Venice and the Revolutionary Poets Brigade.  www.vagabondbooks.net

Odilia Galván Rodríguez, poet, writer, editor, and activist, is the author of four volumes of poetry, her latest, Red Earth Calling: ~cantos for the 21st Century~. She has worked as an editor for Matrix Women's News Magazine, Community Mural's Magazine, and most recently at Tricontinental Magazine in Havana, Cuba. She facilitates creative writing workshops nationally and is a moderator of Poets Responding to SB 1070, and Love and Prayers for Fukushima, both Facebook pages dedicated to bringing attention to social justice issues that affect the lives and wellbeing of many people. Her poetry has appeared in numerous anthologies, and literary journals on and offline.

Devreaux Baker’s awards include a 2011 PEN Oakland Josephine Miles Poetry Prize for her book;
Red Willow People, the Hawaii Council of Humanities International Poetry Prize, and the Women’s Global Leadership Initiative Poetry Award. She has published three books of poetry; Red Willow People, Beyond the Circumstance of Sight, and Light at the Edge and conducted both national and international poetry workshops. She has taught poetry in the schools with the CPITS Program and produced the Voyagers Radio Program of Original Student Writing for KZYX Public Radio.

Ralph Haskins was born and raised in Monterrey, Mexico. His family moved to South Texas during the social turmoil of the 60’s.  The new cultural challenges he experienced led him to express himself through poetry.   Many of his poems touch the cultural and political issues of our times.  Today, Ralph lives in McAllen, Texas where he supplements his poet’s income by moonlighting as a science teacher at a local high school.

David A. Romero is a Mexican-American spoken word artist from Diamond Bar, CA. Romero is the second poet to be featured on All Def Digital, a YouTube channel from Russell Simmons. Romero has opened for Latin Grammy winning bands Ozomatli and La Santa Cecilia. Romero's work has been published alongside poet laureates Jack Hirschman, Alejandro Murguia, and Lawrence Ferlinghetti. Romero has won the Uptown Slam at the historic Green Mill in Chicago; the birthplace of slam poetry. Romero has appeared in-studio numerous times on multiple programs on KPFK 90.7 FM Los Angeles. Romero's poetry deals with family, identity, social justice issues and Latin@ culture. www.davidaromero.com

Josefa Maria Molina, eldest daughter and granddaughter, a fourth generation mixed-race Chicana born in Tucson, Arizona. My early life was punctuated by the Sonoran desert, ranch life and frequent travels to and from Mexico. It is there that I became inspired and wrote my first poetry, reading it aloud to family. The poem Mestiza was published in Sinister Wisdom #47 - Lesbians of Color: Tellin' It Like It 'Tis. I currently work as a psychologist and am Chair of the Community Mental Health Program at the California Institute of Integral Studies in San Francisco, CA.

Gerardo Pacheco Matus, a Mayan native, was born in Huhi, Yucatan, Mexico. Pacheco crawled through The United States’ border at age 16. Pacheco’s Mayan and Mexican heritage influences his writing. Pacheco uses their magic and history to bridge these two worlds that have been in conflict. Also, Pacheco’s writing deals with migration's social and cultural hardships. Pacheco had published poems at Cipactli Magazine, Transfer Magazine, El Tecolote Newspaper, LA BLOGA Online Magazine, The Amistad Howard University Journal and Spillway Magazine. In 2012, The San Francisco Foundation awarded Pacheco the distinguished Joseph Henry Jackson Award. In addition, The Grantmakers of the Arts awarded Pacheco a stipend to support his writing, and also featured an excerpt of Gerardo’s current book project, “The Child of the Grasses,” in their 2013 Winter Edition. In 2015, Black Lawrence Press will publish Gerardo’s firs literary essay, “Institutionalized: My Influences as an American Poet.”
Pacheco’s first Poetry book, This Is Crow Land will be published in 2014.


Edward Vidaurre said...

Que lindo trabajo! Thanks for it all!

Thelma T. Reyna said...

I feel honored to be in the company, in this issue of La Bloga, of all the outstanding poets you've featured here. They're awesome. Continued successes to them and to you and Melinda, Michael.

Anonymous said...

I love the poetry; right out of front page news, all of it. Tearing at the very soul of innocent victims. Melinda and Michael, I very much love your choice of poems to post here. Simply WOW!!
Excellent job.
Me quede' con hambre!
Martina R. Gallegos