What a pleasure to have writer, Luis Alberto Urrea in the La Bloga house today! Urrea is the author of 13 books of fiction, non-fiction, and poetry. He has been a Pulitzer Prize Finalist (non-fiction), and an American Book Award and Lannan Literary Award recipient.
Some of his best selling books are, The Hummingbird’s Daughter, (historical fiction), and The Devil’s Highway. In 2009, our own La Bloga writer, Olga Echeverría reviewed his book, Into the Beautiful North, another popular novel. His non-fiction works, Across the Wire: Life and Hard Times on the Mexican Border and Nobody’s Son: Notes from an American Life are poignant and gritty accounts of his coming-of-age in Tijuana. Urrea has also been an important voice against the banning of books and of Mexican American studies in Arizona. Here is a link to his poem "Hymn to Vatos Who Will Never Be in a Poem" that was read during the LibroTraficante caravan, a protest march that took place in 2012 to take banned books back to Arizona. (Click here to listen to the poem.)
Urrea’s latest book is a collection of poetry entitled, The Tijuana Book of the Dead. He is currently on a book tour, but was kind enough to take time for an interview. I also want to give a "shout-out" to artist/photographer Art Meza (on twitter, find him at @Chicano-Soul) whose photo is on the cover of the book!
Amelia Montes: Gracias, Luis, for taking time out from your book tour. How did this poetry collection, The Tijuana Book of the Dead come about?
Luis Alberto Urrea: The Tijuana Book of the Dead was about six books over the last ten years. My life kept changing too fast for the poems to hold. But then, the racist cabrones in the Tucson Unified School District started their bannings. Oh, excuse me, their “book boxing.” Sorry. My rage boiled over and I got all Chicano. It turned into 1971! Ha ha. The book was a cry from the heart. An explosion. The other million poems from the interim are moving into the new and selected collection I’m preparing.
Luis Alberto Urrea: “Vatos” is in it. I never meant for “Vatos” to be a book. It was always meant as the prayer at the end of the new book. Remember, the poem is called, “Hymn to Vatos Who Will Never be in a Poem.” If I had done that book, it would have been called “Hymn.” Better that I didn’t! Vatos was so much more marketable.
As far as Ghost Sickness . . . one hopes the work evolves. New voices, new melodies, new milieus.
Amelia Montes: You are most known for your fiction and non-fiction. How does the writing of poetry sustain you differently from the other genres, or is it connected?
Luis Alberto Urrea: Poetry is the wellspring. The secret source. I have often said that The Hummingbird’s Daughter is really 25,000 haiku in a row. It is more of a ritual for me, and you probably know all writing is a ritual for me. Not a career at all.
Amelia Montes: Is there anything else you’d like to tell “La Bloga” readers?
Luis Alberto Urrea: I just want to thank the “La Bloga” community for keeping our beautiful Raza vibrant and brilliant. Our song, our story, our thought, our art, our soul, WEAR THE CABRONES DOWN.
Amelia Montes: Gracias Luis! Check out Luis Alberto Urrea's website for details regarding his book tour, and his latest publications! (Click Here!)