Michael Sedano, with Jesus Salvador Treviño
Jesús Treviño and I arrived at Rudolfo Anaya’s house mid-afternoon and spent several delightful hours videotaping while we chatted about Rudy’s four most recent publications, Poems From the Rio Grande, Randy Lopez Goes Home, The Old Man’s Love Story, and The Sorrows of Young Alfonso. In the current edition of Latinopia, Trevino presents the first video of our conversations. Click to navigate to Latinopia.
The following transcribes the latter part of conversation. Here, the questions, •mvs for Michael Sedano, •jst for Jesús Salvador Treviño, transition from discussing The Old Man’s Love Story into The Sorrows of Young Alfonso. Click here for Manuel Ramos’ La Bloga review of The Old Man’s Love Story, and here for Michael Sedano’s La Bloga review of The Old Man's Love Story, and here for Sedano's review of Randy Lopez Goes Home. Click here for Sedano’s review of The Sorrows of Young Alfonso.
•mvs: The themes are coming back, like you say, it’s a cycle. As a preamble, a couple questions on The Old Man’s Love Story. Some people say writing is a form of therapy. Was The Old Man’s Love Story a therapy for you?
•RA: Was The Old Man’s Love Story therapeutic for me? Absolutely. The Old Man’s Love Story is about grief, and my wife had just died, I was going through grief. A woman came here, you know they have grief counselors. She gave me pamphlets, that didn’t do it for me. Some people said get into a group that is talking about grief. I thought, no my grief is too personal. I don’t want to talk about it, to other people. And so I started writing, using the tool I have used all my life, writing. What I know best was the way to express my grief, was to write about it, was to write these passages that the old man goes through. Yeah, that’s therapy.
•mvs:The old man wondered before his wife died, what she saw. He’s in a part where he’s talking about soul and how imagination is pure, like the soul is pure. Have you found out what the old man’s wife was seeing before she died, was it soul?
•RA: We’ve been discussing the idea of soul, the idea of essence. And I have written many places, “The creative imagination is the soul.” My and yours and everybody’s imagination that creates is soul. Soul creates. And on a personal level, in The Old Man’s Love Story, I would say that my wife was a very creative person. She was very intelligent very loving. She was into reading esoteric stuff that was very interesting, building up her soul. That’s what we all do, we build soul. We build soul. Like a brick at a time. Absolutely, she was building, she still is.
•mvs: The soul is eternal. In the hollyhock garden the old man spoke with her soul in the hollyhock garden. He was looking for it. Can one produce that communion by looking for it, or does it simply appear because it appears?
•RA: For me the communion with my wife is always there. It’s not that I ask for it, it’s just there. The scene in the garden, the hollyhock garden, I can take you to the back yard where I have a little ramada with grape vines and a nice swing. And I’m sitting there, and my wife appeared. And she started walking down. In June I have beautiful hollyhocks out there, beautiful; the whole garden is full of color. And she started walking down the hollyhock path and that's when she turned and told me she was going. So she knew all along. We know all along. It’s not a secret. Some of us don’t pay attention to our soul, to our creative imagination.
What did Wordsworth say, “this world is too much with us, late and soon getting and spending, little we know that is ours.” Getting and spending, and not paying attention to that which is ours, the soul. And it’s always there. It’s like I am sharing something with you very personal. That my wife is always with me. She is in this room, she’s in the photographs, she’s in the chair that she loved to sit in to read. On and on, it doesn’t go away.
And it gets better when I’m gone and I go to her. Then we’re gonna take a trip. The first trip we’re gonna do is take us to Mazatlán. We loved the beach in Mazatlán. We loved the people. We had such good time. We already made a deal, the moment I’m gone like that, vamonos, we’re gonna fly to Mazatlán.
•mvs: It’ll be a good trip.
•RA: Oh man, la playa de Mazatlán, the gente. Beautiful.
•mvs: Let me segue into The Sorrows of Young Alfonso in the point of the soul, and seeing, speaking, communing with the soul. You raise the point about the quantum physics that when you look at something you change it. How does that theory affect your perception, or your interaction with the soul, what are you seeing?
•RA: It’s just a theory. It’s very true whatever this idea if we look at an object we change it. And it must change us, too. It’s a reciprocal, it works both ways. The quantum mechanics idea is not very far-fetched from my definition of soul. Everything I look at is changing, nothing is standing still. If there’s a particle in the universe you cannot know its position and its speed at the same time. It’s impossible. It’s moving too fast so you measure the speed then you lose sight of where it is. But the soul can do this. The soul can change and be changed for its own good, you know. So we become better persons. So we’re more alive when we see a tree, the sky, the clouds are building. The cloud people are coming today, by the way. I hope it rains. Every day I sit out in my portal and when the clouds start building over the mountain I tell my housekeeper "Nora the cloud people are coming."
I’m changing the way I look at things, it’s nature. Nature is in the garden. It’s not just up in the mountain in the wild rivers. It’s all around us in the little casita even if you have only one bush. Or if you only plant one tomato plant. It’s the natural world, it’s all around us. We’re in it. We’re part of it. You see how we change it? If you’re in it you’re changing it, it’s changing you. I grow every time I can be more responsive. There are times when we’re not too responsive to this thing that we’re in, that we call nature. We’re lazy, or we’re too busy, we don’t have time. We’ve got to get and spend, most of the world is out there getting and spending. But if you stop, the natural world is all around, it’s changing and it’s changing you.
•mvs: You mention “bilocation” two or three times. Where does the theory of bilocation fit in that?
•RA: A very famous figure, como se llamaba, María de Agreda, she was from Spain? She was a nun. And they say that she could bring herself to New Mexico, to Texas, to this area. And people have talked about is it possible that your body can go somewhere else? Yes. We dream. We dream, everytime you dream you go somewhere else. So whether you believe this idea of this nun whether she came here or not. They say she’s still in her coffin, she hasn’t decomposed. She’s still dreaming.
•mvs: A poco.
•RA: Algo asi, that’s what I think.
•mvs: So your out of body experience, and our deaths, are they bilocational, are they dreams, are they our soul temporarily separating and coming back?
•RA: My out of body experience I describe during the swimming accident when I was paralyzed in the water and I was going to drown and I saw my soul rise is real to me. It’s real. When I look back on it and I think about it often because the image is so clear in my mind what happened that afternoon. It’s part of something I had to go through in order to be here.
•mvs: When you’re out there, do you have a shape? Everything is external to the perception; there’s no you there. Do we use literature to fix the location of that idea of that pure imagination?
•RA: I think you’ve answered your question, que no?
•mvs: I’ll take that as an answer.
•RA: The thing is we tend to separate body from soul too much. This is my body and this is my soul over here. When this body dies my soul goes off somewhere. Or if I have an out of body my soul is lifting somewhere and it comes back. You need body for soul to grow and you need soul for body to grow. The question is, are they that separated? Like I say, when I had that experience it’s one of the most real things that’s ever happened to me. So it’s a difficult question to answer but it’s an interesting question that we should go around and think about all the time. Because we do write about it. I wrote about it in, The Sorrows of Young Alfonso.
•mvs: A technical question about The Sorrows of Young Alfonso. You mentioned you’d come full circle now in The Sorrows of Young Alfonso. The characters, incidents, the images, the places many of them are not repetitions but new explorations.
•RA: They’re from Bless Me, Ultima.
•mvs: There’s Randy in there. What motivated you to write The Sorrows of Young Alfonso?
•RA: Agapita said the world is full of sorrow, so I had to start writing. What did she mean? And then Alfonso—my middle name is Alfonso by the way. So I am in many ways the character in the book and I have as every person in the world, I have experienced sorrow. And so maybe that’s what led me to write. What are the sorrows that I have gone through and how have they built me, how have they made me? And so I started writing.
Of course you know the title comes from Goethe. He wrote The Sorrows of Young Werther. I borrowed his title. My wife and I were in Heidelberg once, very much Goethe country. Hearing about him, and I had read The Sorrows a long time ago when I was a student. I also borrowed the idea of the letter writing. And of course it’s not at all like Goethe’s book, it’s not a romance or letters to the woman he loves or anything like that, it’s an exploration of sorrow. And some of them are very personal, that I write about, are autobiographical.
•mvs: So Rudolfo Anaya is Alfonso?
•RA: Rodolfo Anaya is Antonio, a Chicano in China, Sonny Baca, Alfonso.
•jst: I read it as Rudy looking back with love and compassion to his childhood, to the young Rudy. A kind of love treatment of you dealing with yourself as a young man.
•RA: The Sorrows of Young Alfonso is me looking back at my life, just like I did in Bless Me, Ultima. Young Antonio lives in this small town of the llano and now I have young Alfonso living in this small town of the llano. And describing town characters bigger than life. I tried that in Bless Me, Ultima. I often said one reason I wrote Bless Me, Ultima is the people around me were so beautiful. They shouldn’t pass away forever, I could capture them in a book. The Sorrows of Young Alfonso is very much like that.
I was delivered at home by a couple of older women who lived in the village. And so I have Agapita. I make those women bigger than life by giving Agapita this character and this role in the story. It is she who begins to teach Alfonso about a little bit about life, a little bit about the llano, nature, the animals, the respect he owes them. And then it moves on to realistic scenes. Alfonso getting thrown by the train is me at that diving accident, except that I chose not to go to the diving accident, I chose to have it in the village.
And if you look at the village where I was born the geography’s there. You can go today. The railroad tracks are still around. It’s deserted now but the houses are there, there are two or three families living there. I chose to go that route, that made a different way by which my main character gets hurt, and therefore he has to go through life hurt.
Is that me? Yes, it’s like I said a while ago, I am the main character of every book I’ve ever written. Part of me.
The characters take on their own life, of course. And to repeat, I always thought when I wrote Bless Me, Ultima that the people were beautiful. Poor people, small town, rancheros, sheep herders, no education. Some of them were drunks, they were beautiful. Like Narciso. Narciso is the town drunk and yet when Antonio sees him he is a god, he’s big. He comes walking across the llano like Walt Whitman does later in a poem, “Walt Whitman Strides Across the Llano of New Mexico.” Who is that? It’s Narciso. And he was a real person, and they were beautiful. And perhaps I’ve gone back, in The Sorrows of Young Alfonso to make sure they don’t disappear. Go back and describe the village and the llano and nature and the stories that Agapita makes up, how she teaches him the zodiac how she teaches him about the animals of the llano, what to believe in.
And that’s what I did with Ultima in Bless Me, Ultima. This woman who was a healer who helped the people, is the same as Agapita. It’s almost the same person in time and memory traveled from when I wrote Bless Me, Ultima in the 60s, to recently when I wrote The Sorrows of Young Alfonso. And during that time I have developed other main characters that have come to me; usually the character comes to me and says to me "write my story". That’s the way it goes.
Does that happen in a poem? In my fiction I’m dealing with characters. A poem can be about a tree or a river. Those are characters, too. But mine are human characters and they appear and they say "write my story" and that’s where it takes off.
I guess that’s where Agapita appeared. How many years later, over 40 years since I wrote Bless Me, Ultima. And she appears again because they’re strong people. The curanderas were the healers, they helped the people. We had no doctors. They had to take care of the village, of the ranchers, of women giving birth. I honor them. Somewhere I call them the first spiritual feminists. The first spiritual feminists. Because they were spiritual, that’s what they dealt in. They were women who were strong. Did their thing. They learned curanderismo, and practiced it and weren’t afraid. When they were called witches, they weren’t afraid. They were going to go into the soul, they were going to heal the soul. And then some people would say "look what she did, she’s a witch". She has to be strong, the curandera has to be strong, and in that sense they were the first spiritual feminists.
Randy Lopez Goes Home was the beginning of how to deal with my wife’s eventual death. I had finished the novel and my wife was ill but she read it. She really liked it, "you’ve got something there" she said. So it was a preparation for both of us. Me writing it, she reading it. As I talk what story is all about, we share.
After she dies, the difference there is, I’m dealing with my grief. It’s the second step of where did she go? Where does soul go? Como dice la cancion, a donde van los muertos, where do we go? So we’re back to what I said earlier, in terms of a world view. What do I believe. I’m very eclectic. My altar has my mother’s statue of la Virgin de Guadalupe, all my photographs, a bottle of booze. Then I have this idea of the consciousness of the universe, that I am a part of that. I think the old man comes to the conclusion that his wife is there, is waiting for him. In a slightly different time space than he is living in, because he’s still here. And between here, and there, is a very small space.
•RA: Absolutely, that’s what every writer wants.
•mvs: Any take away message that the reader should stop and contemplate when they finish The Sorrows of Young Alfonso?
•RA: I have to say that about every book. Yes, some of my books, especially Bless Me, Ultima have been more popular, it’s still in print after over 40 years. But every book was important at its time. It had a certain reason for being written. By the time I get to The Sorrows of Young Alfonso, I think I’ve hit a really good height in terms of the character, the story, the way I told it, how it unravels and how it ends. I feel really good about it. I want it to do well. But as I say, I feel that way about every book.
You’ve gone through this journey. I’ve become that person in the novel that I’m writing. Can’t be separated. I am full of joy or I am suffering, as my characters are. By the time I get to the end of a novel it’s, "shwe man, where have I been?" Where have I been, I’ve been lost in that book I’ve written. I must be humble but I really think when I finish a book, I say, "wow that’s great." Because I invested a lot of me in it. You invest your most important part, your creative imagination in creating a story. You’ve got to be pleased at the end.
•jst: How would you like to be remembered, in our community but also obviously the world community because you’re now a world-class writer and you’re recognized not just by Latinos but by writers across the United States and the world? How do you think you will be remembered?
•RA: Up there in the clouds traveling with my wife back to Mazatlán, I hope people say that I did some kind deeds.
|Michael Sedano, Rudolfo Anaya, Jesús Treviño, Oso|
The invitations arrive with frustrating regularity. A fabulous lineup of poets reading at fabled venues. Wondrous foto opportunities, poets I've not heard, or not often enough. Then I confirm the time: 8 p.m. Ten p.m. Driving at night, staying up late. Drat, two activities I cannot or prefer not to do.
|Gerda Govine hosts "Poetry Within Reach"|
That's why I was jumping with excitement when the invitation arrived to a mid-day poetry reading at the Pasadena Senior Center. Poetry Within Reach readings, hosted by poet Gerda Govine, take place on Wednesday afternoons. A perfect hour for retired tipas tipos like my wife and me.
Marcia Arrieta and Teresa Mei Chuc are on the bill on Wednesday, August 3. It's my first visit to the Pasadena Senior Center.
|Marcia Arrieta reads in English and Spanish|
Marcia Arrieta is a poet, artist, and teacher, who has an affinity for islands, gardens,
and travel. The author of two poetry books: archipelago counterpoint (BlazeVOX, 2015) and triskelion, tiger moth, tangram, thyme (Otoliths, 2011), she has an MFA
from Vermont College. She edits and publishes Indefinite Space, a poetry/art journal—
A veterana of English Departments in LA high schools Roosevelt and Franklin, she equipped generations of students with awareness and love for poetry. Opening her reading, Arrieta remarks,
I believe poetry and writing and art are vital for the soul & spirit—so now I would like to share some of my work with you—my poetry tends to be minimal, language based experimental in nature—often visual—somewhat different.
|Teresa Mei Chuc reads in English code-switching to Vietnamese on occasion|
She is a wow.
Reading from several publications, Chuc's work haunts her listener with matter-of-fact readings remembering bodies pushed into the sea as survivors float on, poems drenched in agent orange producing misshapen embryos. There are lyrical pieces on roses, grandmother, children, and relationships.
I buy her collection, Red Thread Poems from Fithian Press, to add to my library.
Two programs remain in Poetry Within Reach reading series. Details at their Facebook page:
August 10, 2016 12-1 PM at Pasadena Senior Center
Hazel Harrison Clayton
August 17, 2016 12-1 PM at Pasadena Senior Center
Dr. Mel Donalson
Poetry Within Reach is a project of the Border Council of Arts and Culture/Consejo Fronterizo de Arte y Cultura (COFAC) funded by the City of Pasadena Arts and Cultural Affairs Division in collaboration with Side Street Projects.
National Writers Union Activating in Los Angeles
There is a personal payoff for my attending the recent meeting of the Los Angeles chapter of the National Writers Union. The hosts are Terry Reyes and David Trujillo. Terry and David were students with me when I was a Speech Professor at Cal State LA, ya hace años. And we were members of the fabled Teatro A La Brava, Terry an actor, David a writer, I the Director.
Those were the days, gente.
|Left, David Trujillo, Ed Carrillo|
Offering a cafeteria plan of services, NWU features Spanish Language, Journalism, Book divisions, a highly valuable Grievance and Contract assistance service, and generalized services to freelancers or writers looking to turn their words into cash.
Membership dues flow along a sliding scale based on the writer's earnings from writing. Visit NWU.org for details on the union's services and membership.
In addition to the speakers, Ismael Parra--local chapter chair, Elle Febbo--Chapter Chair for Southern California, David Trujillo, Eric Gordon--Past Chair, several writers, members and visitors alike, shared their own work during the evening.
|Upper left, speakers Ismael Parra, Elle Febbo, Lower right, readers Thomas O'Shaughnessy, Eric Gordon|
|Clockwise from upper left, readers Sarah Forth, Dan McCrory, Colby Wagenbach, September Williams.|
Not pictured: Michael Sedano who read his 500 word memoir, "Snowy ride up the mountain."
Ed Carrillo captured my attention with a memoir from his days teaching high school, including a hostile vato named Luis J. Rodriguez. Carrillo memorializes a moment during a drive back to Alhambra from a research trip to the LA Public Library when Rodriguez declares his intention to write a novel. The other kids laugh it up until Rodriguez, the alfa dog riding shotgun, turns and delivers cachetadas, promising an ass-kicking if it persists. That is the moment Always Running was born.
I'm talking to Carrillo about doing a guest column for La Bloga sharing a version of that chapter of his in-process memoir. A ver.
9th Day of the 8th Month of the 2016th Year of the Modern Era: La Bloga On-line Floricanto
Katie Hoerth, Linda Romero, Victor Avila, Ana Chig, Nancy Green
Daughter of the Valley By Katie Hoerth
I Cry By Linda Romero
The Black Handkerchief By Victor Avila
Laboral Por Ana Chig
Rage By Nancy Green
Daughter of the Valley
By Katie Hoerth
Teach her tongue how to roll the names of flowers
tickling her toes, the lantana, nightshade,
primrose. Crown her ebony curls with willow.
Teach her the word for
beauty. Show her summers were meant for sipping
raspas in the shade of mesquites, sun a
mango color turning chamoy by evening.
Teach her the word for
joy. Then let her listen to chachalaca
songs at dusk, the chants of cicadas, chanclas
rapping on caliche, the mix of lenguas.
Teach her the word for
harmony. Now make her see her reflection
in the mirror, see her own birthplace, gaze
at this flat vale, viridian river, Eden.
Teach her the word for
By Linda Romero
I cry because there is hate out there,
a hate that kills innocents wanting to see
a movie one night, taking their families
with money they probably saved up for,
I cry because hate targets gay club goers who seek
acceptance and belonging … do we not
all seek the same?
I cry for families who are told their loved one
is not coming home tonight because of the color
of their skin
I cry because children have to learn lock-down
Drills at school instead of art, music and drama
I cry for those who fear mornings when wives or husbands
leave for work, afraid they won't be home for dinner;
they want only to keep the peace in their little
part of the world for their families
I cry because our children won't always know who the bad
guys are because sometimes they wear uniforms too
I cry for a world where children are safe at school, doing
homework with friends over pudding pops and peanut
butter and honey sandwiches, and love conquers hate
The Black Handkerchief
By Victor Avila
Because I did not have
The power of a corrupt government behind me,
Or the farce of a cowardly media
That failed to speak the truth on my behalf.
Because they had threatened me
At gun point thinking it would be enough
To guarantee my silence—
Or because so many had disappeared already
That I would be too scared
To raise my voice.
But today I realized—
“What else can they do to me
That they haven’t done already?”
The mothers of Juarez cry out for their
And the ghosts of forgotten men
Haunt the very bridge you hung them from.
What else can you do to me?
You took everything from me
And that was your biggest mistake
Because you also took my fear.
And now I am no longer afraid…
If I don’t speak up now
I have only myself to blame
When the police come knocking at my door.
Are those their very trucks approaching?
And this simple piece of cloth
Once insignificant now stands for something more.
I wave it in the face of those cowards who took the 43.
I lift it high in my angry fist waving it, waving it.
I will no longer use it
To wipe away my tears or those
Of my brothers and sisters.
It is my banner in the face of overwhelming odds.
It lets the world know that I am not defeated,
That Mexico is not defeated,
And that we will bring the 43 home.
Por Ana Chig
El día se abre entre rostros y pasos.
Suelto la mano de mi hijo.
Atrás queda el temprano patio infantil, la higuera,
los cuervos, las letras, los números, las palabras.
Siempre a la derecha escenas…
−no he de nombrar la exclusividad de la miseria humana−,
la prisa en el pensamiento y su agenda,
¡Oh, el horizonte!
A veces siento la ruptura de los diálogos con ella–la poesía.
La marcha del autobús intenta adherirme a su designio.
Es tarde, no se llega, me distraigo ante el último celaje
de la bruma levantándose de los cerros.
Entonces, enciendo las maquinas,
me programo al ruido simultáneo,
al olor del papel y la tinta impresa, a los propósitos del calendario
a la rigurosidad de la postura erguida−sucedánea fórmula de la estabilidad.
Y sin embargo, todo es tan jodidamente bello
hasta el me-ca-nis-mo hiriente, artificioso, del desasosiego.
By Nancy Green
Rage wears a mask,
appears calm, pleasant,
sharp as a razor, convinces
others to let their guard down
Deep in her soul rage listens,
scouts the territory, scrutinizes
the intentions of others,
selects the best strategy to follow
Rage contains anger, nurtures
concern, cultivates willpower,
patiently uncovers historical
facts, discards wishful thinking,
false illusions, patiently unfolds
linings of hope, faith, determination
Rage moves forward in unity,
cautiously steps into a place
of certainty, acknowledges
divine intervention, genuine support
All in one deep breath
rage inhales purpose,
sees the light at the end
of the tunnel, thrives in the
knowledge that change
embraces hard work as
a human right, a human
value to be cherished
with honest integrity
Rage knows her power,
her ability to destroy
racist assumptions fostered
by a system of white supremacy
Rage knows her strength
to wave off petty attacks
Rage explodes freely, fiercely
overcomes useless resistance,
exerts a will so strong
to change the course
Meet The Poets
Daughter of the Valley By Katie Hoerth
I Cry By Linda Romero
The Black Handkerchief By Victor Avila
Laboral Por Ana Chig
Rage By Nancy Green
Durante este periodo coordina y dirige presentaciones literarias, recitales de poesía, festivales, exposiciones de pintura, en diversos foros culturales de la región.
En 2014 consolida el proyecto editorial independiente Nódulo Ediciones que publica: poesía, cuento, ensayo, novela, periodismo cultural y cuento infantil.
En 2015 forma parte del jurado para el Premio Nacional de Poesía Tijuana que convoca el Instituto Municipal de Arte y Cultura.
Photography note: The portraits of Rudolfo Anaya are mis-watermarked as ©2015. They are © 2016. To run a photograph, contact the photographer for permission and to receive a properly watermarked foto: email@example.com