AWP2016 launched in a storm of controversy. Writers from the disability caucus protested their exclusion from the program. Writers from raza caucuses felt the sting of rejected panels and raised their voices in unison. Then a Los Angeles publisher, poet Kate Gale, wrote a DickCheney-like screed telling the protestors to get over it. A chastened Gale subsequently deleted the post.
That not only failed to bring the dissident writers to heel, Gale’s “I’ve got mine” attitude fanned the flames. One writer, Xochitl-Julisa Bermejo found publisher Gale’s screed offensive beyond tolerance such that Bermejo withdrew her book--her first publication--from Gale’s Red Hen Press. The courageous Bermejo has a new publisher, release in the Fall. La Bloga's Michael Sedano has offered to host the launch in a backyard floricanto for the principled poet.
Rigoberto Gonzalez spoke to the issue, noting that AWP provides notable benefits to balance out the organization’s ethnic and cultural myopia. Still, in the hundreds of panels spread across multiple sites, the absence of diversity was striking.
|Hector Tobar on the big screen and at the lectern|
It wasn’t all that difficult finding non-dominant cultura panels, however. At least one such event, featuring Elizabeth Alexander, spoke in a mid-size auditorium three-quarters full. A diverse audience attended, preponderantly people of color. Another diversely attended panel Creating Literary Community in a City of Freeways featured host Terry Wolverton, joined by Jessica Ceballos, Traci Kato-Kiriyama , Michael Kearns, Conney Williams.
|Michael Kearns, Conney Williams, Jessica Ceballos exchange ideas|
Publishing coach Marcela Landres has a solution to the diversity conundrum in publishing that applies equally to AWP. Landres says “get a job in the industry.” That’s the solution, too, for making AWP more inclusively diverse. Verónica Reyes has taken the lead in this already. At least two panels noted their debt to Reyes. See last week’s La Bloga-Tuesday for fotos of these.
Firme Tejana-Califas Reading featured Xochitl-Julisa Bermejo, Guadalupe García Montaño (emcee), Emmy Pérez, Anel Flores, Laurie Ann Guerrero, and acknowledges Veronica Reyes' role in bringing the panel to fruition. Likewise Puentes=Bridges: A Queer-Straight Mujeres Reading that included Olga García Echeverría, liz gonzález, Melinda Palacio, Estella González, Karleen Pendleton Jimenez, credit Reyes with the diligent follow-up required to guide the panels through AWP’s screening processes.
There was no shortage of diversity in Off-Site Events, reported by several La Bloga writers in recent days. This is akin to Landres' strategy. La Pachanga, a traditional gathering of AWP raza melded this year with the launch celebration for the book Poetry of Resistance, at Avenue 50 Studio.
Here is Part II of my foto essays of the writers reading their own stuff at the Coiled Serpent book reading at downtown LA’s Ace Hotel, and the Macondista alumni reading at LA Plaza de Cultura y Artes, one of the city’s newest museums and an important showcase of Chicana Chicano el Lay.
Looking for Diversity In AWP Right Places
|Sonia "La Mujer Araña" Gutíerrez is in the book.|
Edward Vidaurre at Poets Responding AWP Panel
|Odilia Galván Rodriguéz co-edited with Francisco X. Alarcón qepd|
The Coiled Serpent: Poets Arising from the Cultural Quakes and Shifts of Los Angeles
|Beyond Baroque hosted the event. Richard Modiano Director, greets the crowd. Published by|
Tía Chucha Press, publisher-poet laureate Luis J. Rodriguez welcomes the audience.
Editors of The Coiled Serpent include from right Daniel J. Olivas, Ruben J. Rodríguez, Neelanjana Banerjee
|Elena Minor is the originator of Palabra, a literary journal and among the|
earliest Los Angeles raza literary reading series. Chicana Chicano Literature owes a deep debt to
Elena's work. It is an honor for La Bloga to share her portrait here.
|One of those touching moments that occur only in poetry. Luis J. Rodriguez listens as his|
son Ramiro Rodriguez, reads his poem recounting abandonment, loss, and recovery.
|ACE Hotel literary host packed with readers who found AWP's diversity off-site in DTLA|
|Clockwise from top left: Jessica W. Cardenas, Sonia Rivera, traci kato-kiriyama, Xochitl-Julisa Bermejo|
|Left, Jessica Ceballos, Tina Yang|
Macondistas Please at LA Plaza
|Clockwise from top left: Norma Elia Cantú, José B. González, Sarah A. Chavez, Deborah A. Miranda|
|La Bloga's Amelia ML Montes|
Alicia Gaspar de Alba
|Anel Flores, Carla Trujillo, Reyna Grande|
Next week in our concluding celebration of AWP, fotos and video from Avenue 50 Studio hosting Con Tinta's La Pachanga and the book release of Poetry of Resistance.
April On-line Floricanto
Sister Lou Ella Hickman, George Wallace, Octaviano Merecias-Cuevas, Red Slider, Odilia Galvan Rodriguez
"For Fukushima: During the Fifth Year of Memory" By Sister Lou Ella Hickman
"Paso A Paso” By George Wallace
“Poesia Mixta” By Octaviano Merecias-Cuevas
“Three Poems” By Red Slider
"La Lloronas Sacred Waters" by Odilia Galvan Rodriguez
For Fukushima: During the Fifth Year of Memory
By Sister Lou Ella Hickman
the shore a worthy opponent
faces lost as they inhaled the water
under the fired edged sword
faces countless as sand
and the salt plume crashing
faces such faces swirling
with its stench breathing out of bodies and faces
yet this too a rice field
we will plant with the green stalks of memory
PASO A PASO
By George Wallace
step by step, by seed or by soil, by wind or by wing, by raft or by rail, by steerage, by sail, this passing through, this worst nightmare, this
great trespass, this due north, the next passageway to the next century,
i hear america crossing, crossing itself in new directions, singing with new blood and new directions, new languages beating in its veins, new
vision and new expectations, workboots and poetry yet to be sung, new utilizations,
hush! a footfall in the clearing where the deer are grazing, hush! the big transgression, the violation of ages, we are your fathers and your mothers,
your daughters and your sons, we will get ourselves from here to here, one world, one people,
and you are coming with us, you come from everywhere! to be here, as all who get here, over barbed wire, over walls, past jeeps, quadbikes, rifles,
dogs, past big american guns because guns are of no use against this solemn incursion,
this perpetual sweetness of mixing in, mile by inevitable mile, household by household, blood converging, and voices and tongue, because all roads
are the same road and curves towards itself, because every single mile is the same mile,
equal, equal equal this land which is your land and which is not your land, it is every man's land, plain, valley, boulevard, hill, paso a paso, step by
step, aspen cactus ironwood madrone, desert ocean raft river, truck by truck, foot by foot
by wind and by wing
by seed and by soil
By Octaviano Merecias-Cuevas
Words of healing for el maestro Francisco X. Alarcón
Cha’a ja skua tutu,
Ma ntukuia ini’ni
Sa’aa ntee’ ini'ni
There’s a teacher encircled by melodies and hands
Beneath el árbol del tule; they implore and inscribe;
Collected they transcribe the memory of history;
Letters levitate above the codex of one thousand songs;
Only healing and inner-peace can be found in that classroom.
Hay un maestro bajo las sombras del árbol antiguó;
rodeado de sentidos que escriben, ensalzando rezos
Un calmécac que transciende el alma;
una voz que retoma vuelo entre fronteras
un fuego que no se apaga con el paso de las lunas.
Hay cuatro direcciones y en el centro un corazón
Un día antes de nuestra tonantzin; hay una poesía.
Del rezo brotan mariposas en formas de poesía
Como soles y espíritus de canciones llegan a ti;
abrazan tu espíritu y dicen; Sa’aa ntee’ ini'ni,
Cha’a ja skua tutu, Tata Chiku Alarcon nani de.
By Red Slider
The Great Father is not all Powerful
Not all knowing, not all seeing
The Great Wheel creaks and wobbles on its spindle
The Grand Design of creation is flawed
The handle of life turns, the oil of death lubricates
Shavings of sorrow and ash fall unnoticed.
The Great Mother is not all protecting
Not all nurturing, not all creating
Her milk is not always sweet or plenty
Some of her rivers spawn destruction,
While others poison themselves
No mystic purpose prevails where two galaxies collide
And a trillion aspirations blaze and die.
Seven grains of vaporized desire
Perfectly writ on the cold blue sky
Reborn as cattle on an ionized plain
Where one in ten thousand mutations make it
And the remains fuck like crazy to survive.
Grace, Sacrament, and Mystery sift through the cracks
Revived somewhere in a darkened pit
of copulating strangers.
Oh, Great Mother, hear us now,
We cannot speak of your grand design,
But cry out in pain from every wound upon your body,
We do not weep for your great losses,
But for the bitter taste of your great rivers poisoned.
And for the trees we cut and mountains laid low,
We carry off your precious gifts until there are no more.
And of the air we breathe and rain we catch,
It is only our want that prompts us to give thanks.
And in our loneliness, neither the songs of birds nor animals
Do we hear, but only the babble of our own species.
And blind be wandering over your sacred land,
Seeing nothing but our own ambition there.
For we are a selfish species, now come to plead with you,
To grant your screaming, crying, greedy, thirsty, eyeless children,
One more day upon your breast, one more sun be lifted,
One more thirst be quenched, one more tear be wiped away.
One more awakened child be delivered into your keeping;
To heal your wounds.
To clean your waters.
To plant your trees.
To clear your breath.
To sing in the chorus of all living things.
Oh, Great Mother, open our eyes to what we've given away,
And let a truer selfishness take hold in our hearts,
Please do not abandoned us, Oh Great Mother
Hear us one more time.
We are all tired, always tired,
sleepwalking around the edge
of catastrophe, aroused from our dreams
rising from the safety of our shock cocoons,
the smoke of sleep still in our eyes, our skins
paled under the fallen ash, we awake
to the dim light of ruin, the ghosts
of Vesuvius underfoot as we wonder
at one another, reach out towards
the lost dawn, guided only by the sounds
of children we will never meet.
[fr. "I Dream the Children," vol 2, 2014]
La Llorona’s Sacred Waters
By Odilia Galván Rodríguez
|La Llorona's Sacred Waters, acrylic paint on stucco, 35' x 70', Juana Alicia ©2004. |
Photo by Ben Blackwell, 2016.
She holds us in the wing of her arm and
all we hear at the edge of the world is
las ranas crying perdiendo se gana
perdiendo se gana perdiendo se…
for our survival she throws us into the
we are hurled
left to swirl
down to where we all
began and return again
in the ancestor’s
a desperate mother
must return herself
to the blue void
where the waters
are not still
nor rushing but
a soothing place
to rock her
to the big sleep
their souls to keep
to plant them as seeds
in a watery tomb
the universal womb
from where all life springs
a better place
no longer sought in a cruel
world who cares not
to use them
to rule them
for their own
money or profit
We come in tiny little writhing drops
in a sea of blue darkness swimming up
a perilous canal a life journey not to be
stopped then a half of us must penetrate the
luminous calabash of life
to become whole a higher form of life
then swimming semi-conscious
in a briny stew in the curve of
our mother’s bright red womb
until we are done
then we emerge spurting and stopping
causing her much pain at the same time joy and
for that first communion nine months
earlier resulted in an us
a new flower blooming red
in a gush of sacred water flowing out
to greet the world once again
© Odilia Galván Rodríguez, 2004