Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Reflecting on NHCC. Bless Me, Ultima Opera Sets Date. Get Lit in LA. March On-line Floricanto

Time for NHCC to Bring Back the NLWC

Michael Sedano

A foto on Facebook brought back warm memories. There were Greta Pullen and Carlos Vazquez smiling out at the lens. I last saw Greta and Carlos at the 2014 Rudolfo Anaya academic conference Roberto Cantu organized at Cal State Los Angeles. It was a joyous reunion.

Pullen and Vazquez, along with Katie Trujillo, organized a decade of National Latino Writers Conferences, cementing a reputation for the National Hispanic Cultural Center (link) as a pre-eminent cultural incubator.

Seeing Greta and Carlos on the screen was a remembrance of good things gone too soon. The National Latino Writers Conference brought important raza writers, literary agents, and emerging writers into a paradise for writers. The event sparkled with spirit and sense of purpose, enhanced by the physical plant of the National Hispanic Cultural Center.



Times are tough in the land of enchantment, forcing NHCC's shift from identifying itself as an important cultural institution to a role as a regional entertainment venue. That should work in a high-culture deprived market, but I hope the director and staff get more out of the effort than they put in. It's a courageous undertaking. I hope also the gente on top open their hearts and squeeze a few thousand dollars out of the Off-Broadway road shows to resume hosting latina latino writers. A cultural center, especially one named for a gente, should be a place to nurture cultura, as well as display it.

I am following the evolution of the National Hispanic Cultural Center with concern. Recently reorganized in a changing of the guardians, the center took on the ethos of an entertainment center that keeps itself funded selling tickets and subscriptions to a mix of local productions and a steady diet of traveling acts, often those who rent the auditorium and put on their own show, a "four wall" production.

Entertainment programming takes a high risk for a middling return. But hit big with an audience and count the revenue as income rolls in from donations, subscriptions, individual seats, collateral spending, and customer loyalty. That’s how it works. Make a product, sell the product, satisfy customers. Then do it again.

NHCC survives facing off against an arts-hating governor who atavistically watches all the state’s cultural institutions twist slowly in the wind. They're going to have to make it on their own. Hijole, there’s no wonder major art acquisitions are a rarity at NHCC. Curators mount exhibitions from the art museum's stunning collection. This rich resource lets the museum fashion new themes out of familiar canvases and work rescued from the vault. Another strategy is long-running exhibitions.

An exhibition on the patron saint of farmers, Outstanding in His Field: San Ysidro—Patron Saint of Farmers, runs now, through the harvest. Curating on a shrinking subsistence budget must be daunting to people who care about art. They send out resumes.

Renting out the hall pays bills but it’s doubtful even the governor would want to see NHCC rent out one of its multiple performance spaces to cualquier tipo just to fill the calendar.

The impresario promoting NHCC’s season pursues bright lights, big city entertainment lineups. In March, for instance, the center drew a sold-out audience the night Pussy Riot performed the world premiere warm-up for its upcoming world premiere in Seattle. An Elvis impersonator rented the venue for a one-night stand in April. The Philharmonic—they rent the hall as their home auditorium—satisfies with a steady diet of sweeps week music featuring up-and-coming virtuosi soloists.

NLWC writers in el Torréon with muralist Frederico Vigil
NLWC policy forbids fotos of the mural.

There are food events, readings, crafts sales, workshops, gallery walks, and the myriad experiences that draw people to a place; couples for a big night out, families for an afternoon’s low-cost and educational recreation. A visit to the woefuly underplayed el Torreón is reason enough to detour off Interstate 25 at Ave. César Chavez and visit the arts center when in Alburquerque.

The National Hispanic Cultural Center is a gem of a cultural destination but it’s also the nation’s best-kept secret. United Statesians are hungry for affirmation, raza are starved for inclusion. The National Hispanic Cultural Center has a lot of what it takes to satisfy.

Interior, el Torreon. Link below opens interactive view of the Vigil mural.
http://mundos.nationalhispaniccenter.org/torreon_interactive/

Pero, sabes que? There’s a major emptiness in Alburquerque. What is missing from NHCC’s cornucopia of cultural delights is a writers conference. For ten years, NHCC’s National Latino Writers Conference admitted a small number of emerging writers to workshop various genres and issues with professional writers, meet with publishers and literary agents, hone their art. For three years, I workshopped “Reading Your Own Stuff,” with the goal of helping writers become more effective oral presenters of their own work.

The National Latino Writers Conference went by the wayside with a staff change-over a couple years ago. Chisme probably fills books over that but I don’t know anything I didn’t read in the board minutes. I lost track of the NHCC when NLWC went away and after a year, didn't renew my membership.

Over the years I saw a musical chairs game of new guys in charge. I met three of them, I couldn’t really figure them out, organization men, not arts people. The new leader is a woman, Rebecca L. Avitia. It’s her vision that drives the programming and audience strategy. She has to answer to the Board. Above all, she has to turn her cultural centro into an active, busy, modern theater. The rest is gravy, or goes away.

2010 NLWC Writers 

Avitia and her NHCC board need to reignite the center’s commitment to literacy and training writers, as a way of investing in their raison d'etre as a cultural centro or an entertainment destination. For sure, nothing gets on stage until someone writes it down. A libretto doesn’t write itself. A nonverbal dance performance follows a written score. Every movie and film started with words on paper and after every day’s filming someone sat down and revised tomorrow’s lines. It’s ironic in a sad way that a cultural center riding the coattails of talented writers isn’t proactive about nurturing writing.

It’s a bitter realization that when our cultural institutions don’t support our own writers, pues, peor. Writers and critics struggle to foster a culture of written expression, banging at the doors at AWP, starting their own presses, managing their own blogs. The noble struggle will go on, only without the national cultural centro. And that’s a lástima.

Years from now, historians will look back and wonder why New Mexico and the Nationial Hispanic Cultural Center abandoned writing, how NHCC didn’t find its way back to the NLWC. They shot our cultura in the foot. Rhetoricians will ask after the ethos of the place, how the institution made profits on spectacles and reinvested in more of the same without diverting a sum to support a renewed NLWC. How the institution recruited donors for highbrow endeavors but couldn’t scrape up the funding equivalent of a penny for the old guy.

Eliot’s vision of “Shape without form, shade without colour,/ Paralysed force, gesture without motion” is what glittery stage happenings are, without writing. They don’t happen. Taking care to nurture and advance writers guarantees the possibility of having new spectacles to lure ticket-buying audiences. Avitia’s got her work cut out for her. I wish her energy and staff to accomplish all that, and one more goal next year: renacimiento of the National Latino Writers Conference.

NLWC writers 2012

Sponsoring the rebirth of NLWC defines a distinctiveness and importance for NHCC, an important step for NHCC recovering its national stature no matter how the political winds twist. I have a vision of talented raza writers walking across the broad plaza rushing to a seminar, smiling at the sound of the acequia's agua gushing into the pool. There's also a vision of those artists today, standing at the gates of the NHCC, shaking the bars and angrily kicking at the gates wanting to be included, wondering why they got kicked out in the first place?




Bless Me, Ultima Opera Premiere Scheduled for February 2018

La Bloga has followed with interest developing news of an opera based on Rudolfo Anaya’s novel Bless Me, Ultima. In January 2017, La Bloga-Tuesday (link) featured an interview with the opera's creator Héctor Armienta. Performance dates were still pending as Armienta was still finishing the music.


Recently La Bloga friend Teresa Márquez shared the good news Armienta, Opera Southwest, and the NHCC have set a date for a workshop performance in February 2018. The company has hosted tryouts and workshops in San Jose, CA and is taking the show on the road for the first time.

This premiere creates the ideal opportunity to visit New Mexico in Winter, both to enjoy the state’s spectacular landscapes and to see the work in progress for Héctor Armienta’s opera, Bless Me, Ultima.

Ticket-buyers don’t have to wear tuxedoes or evening dress to opera productions, but it’s likely some tipas and tipos like to show for the opera all dressed up in their Thursday best, especially February 18 for the first night. Others will be equally well turned-out through the Sunday matinee on the 25th. I wear my Pendleton or a sweatshirt when I go to an LA Opera spectacular. Placido and crew don’t care, as long as I enjoy the show.

Opera is a genuine visual and aural treat, with a few conventions about when to applaud and stuff, that someone inevitably miscues and gets dirty looks from the cognoscenti. Raza can be cognoscenti, too. Just be there and dig it. And dig it you will.

A night at the opera is fun so long as one remembers it's the “u” in fun that counts. Wrap yourself in the music—the power of the human body to produce sound will be a punch in the gut to some. Ultima’s cast features a 14-year old boy singer. This could be the launch of a major career.

In opera, the story, humor, melodies, and visual riches like sets, costumes, lighting and staging can be enchanting. I don’t know if the Producers plan on supertitles so listeners can read the words in Armienta’s English-language libretto. Subscriptions are open now. Individual seats go on sale in July.

I would not wait. Click here for ticket information: http://www.operasouthwest.org/operas/bless-me-ultima


Mail Bag
Arte Público Press' Kanellos Honored




GetLit Poetry Slam Hosted by LATC
Michael Sedano


Los Angeles Theater Center is a theater multiplex of five performance spaces joined to a luxurious marble-walled grand hall and lobby. The descent to the basement rest rooms takes visitors along a massive bank vault. Remodeled stairs to the balcony feature half inch thick glass and stainless steel rails. the balustrade overlooking the lobby gives unobstructed vistas of the huge and luxurious space.

The LATC is a great place for theater and a fabulous place for a poetry slam competition among teams from local high schools. That's what drew me to Spring Street early Thursday and Friday morning. Lend a hand with administrative chores and share the energy of dozens of Get Lit staffers and a thousand or more kids gathering to perform or cheer on their spoken word artists.

GetLit Classic Slam follows a wondrous format. The contestant chooses a poem by a well-known poet and writes a response poem. The contestant knits the two with narrative, working from memory to meet a time limit. It's a beautiful way to link generations by remembering in one's own voice good work from another time.


Rachel Kilroy put me to work at the merchandise table where I would sell "Poet" merchandise. A jumble of colors, sizes, styles, teeshirts, tank tops, sweatshirts, beanies, filled plastic storage bins. Git Lit's first book is hot off the presses, and several boxes wait under the table skirts. Rachel's mother is there. Later I meet her dad. The family that supports literacy and oracy together make up just three of the dozens of volunteers and paid staff bustling through the lobby, theatres, and outside foyer, getting the crowd set to make a beeline for their seat.

Thursday, I worked with one other volunteer. Friday three knowledgeable women took over. Two, who were mothers of contestants, and a retired high school English teacher, organized the garments, folding and laying them out across twenty feet of table space. I hope the clean-up crew labeled those stacks before moving them to the bins and transport to the finals on Sunday.

Thursday and Friday, school teams competed in the quarter-finals and semi-finals. The winners move to the final competition, this year taking place in the opulence of the Orpheum movie house.



Registration keeps the kids outside as the coaches sign in and take a bag of credentials outside to waiting and cheering teams. A signal from Get Lit executives Diane Luby Lane or Amanda Pittman and the lobby doors fill with excited kids thronging toward their stage. There, an MC whips up enthusiasm before introducing the first contestant.

A panel of judges scores the panel of competitors. A few get selected to compete in the day's second round of competition, the afternoon's semi-finals.

The Get Lit experience cannot be matched by any other competitive activity. Reciting and performing spoken words to audiences of hundreds of peers produces pure exhilaration. At the end, the kid walks off stage into the waiting arms of the team.

For finalists, the experience of taking the Orpheum stage to a screaming full house will make all the work of honing the performance into a winner worth it. And it is.

Teams and individuals pose in front of a Get Lit seamless. An official photographer is there to document every team. 
When the formal pose is done, the cell phones come out for exuberant selfies.

Get Lit published its first collection of work by Get Lit participants. A single copy sells for fifteen dollars at the venue. For details, click here. I sold one person the show special, 10 books for a hundred dollars. In addition, Get Lit would donate ten books to a participating high school, or a school of the customer's naming.

My heart went out to the schools who prepared for the competition but didn't make it to LA on time. On Friday morning, two forlorn registration bags lay tossed behind a sign. Maybe those teams can find a donor to pay for an overnight stay in DTLA. These kids and their coaches deserve a night in the big city.



On-line Floricanto On the Verge of Spring
Chuck Cuyjet, Devi S. Laskar, Jolaoso PrettyThunder, Jenuine Poetess, Get Christie Love


“Untitled” by Chuck Cuyjet
“Alive, Burning” by Devi S. Laskar
“winds of the West murmurs” by Jolaoso PrettyThunder
"mother of all bombs" by Jenuine Poetess
“Dear Pepsi” by Get Christie Love

“Untitled”
by Chuck Cuyjet

We woke up 49 years ago and the world was on fire. Today we wake to gassed children and wonder...
Someone asked the question
Who raised these crazed men
who gas children
who poison our air
who pour filth into our water
who fill our schools
with ignorance called knowledge
and who pontificate on their
own greatness?
We did.
No, of course not.
We shield
our loved offspring
with our own bodies
and love.
We teach them to respect
themselves, our values,
to work hard, to look
out for the other fella,
to protect our tribe,
And honor our god.
But as we look across
oceans, into the
hearts of darkness,
as we rattle our self righteous
swords, do we seek justice
or vengeance, or glory?
The riches the few gather
befoul their souls yet
in our secret selves
we envy them their ease
and never question
the cost.
So we replicate it
in our screams and calls
to our god to punish
them and reward us,
the good fathers and mothers
who have no sin, no stain
for we gas no children
in our warm houses
in winter and cool our frosty
asses on patios in the summer
sipping tea with ice cubes
rum drinks mixed with faux
concern of deaths so far away.
We don't gas children
We starve their souls
with the contempt for those
we arm.



Alive, Burning
by Devi S. Laskar

Burn everything to the bone.
Start clean and again will rise
hibiscus, diesel, dung, mango
mingling with night skin in this taxi.
Start clean and again will rise
a rw odor of green—
mingling with night skin in this taxi.
Money, envy, hunger filling the air.
A raw odor of green—
cauliflower patches and cabbage replace the landfill.
Money, envy, hunger filling the air.
From garbage grows food, from thieves spring farmers.
Cauliflower patches and cabbage replace the landfill.
The road hooks like shoelaces around shantytowns.
From garbage grows food, from thieves spring farmers.
All you see are red clay roofs and jaded faces.
The road hooks like shoelaces around shantytowns.
On his dashboard the driver keeps a statue of Durga.
All you see are red clay roofs and jaded faces.
The bronzed feet of this goddess of war will never touch the ground.
On his dashboard the driver keeps a statue of Durga.
But for my American dollar I would be you.
The bronzed feet of this goddess of war will never touch the ground,
pounding a rich man’s laundry on stones by a man-made lake.
But for my American dollar I would be you
eating food off the sooty plate of the street,
pounding a rich man’s laundry on stones by a man-made lake
alive and filled with resentment and wonder.
Eating food off the sooty plate of the street --
hibiscus, diesel, dung, mango,
alive and filled with resentment and wonder.
Burning everything to the bone.



winds of the West murmurs
by Jolaoso PrettyThunder

we summon you winds
of the West,
mother sister Jaguar,
come protect our medicine space
hunt down and devour those energies that do not belong to us,
teach us your ways beyond fear beyond anger beyond death,
beyond guilt,
beyond shame,
beyond all the mythologies and beliefs that no longer serve us.

teach us to be impeccable luminous beings who have no need
to engage in battle,
internally or eternally,
unless we choose to.

help us to be able to support ourselves and
have the ability to ask for and receive what we desire
so that we may step into who we are becoming.



"mother of all bombs"
by Jenuine Poetess

you cannot call a bomb
"mother"
mother is one
of any gender
who protects life
who gives life
who cherishes life
who nurtures life
who sustains life
who fosters life
who celebrates life
who empowers life
who cultivates life
who nourishes life
who heals life
you cannot call that
which destroys
which kills
which carves scars into the flesh
of people
of villages
of Earth
"mother"
do not poison such a word
with your filthy
greedy
murderous
treachery
no bomb is a mother




Dear Pepsi
by get christie love

Dear Pepsi
If you want to be a product of the revolution
Then send yourself into the fray,
Get gassed and pepper sprayed get trampled
Become marginalized and scary
Become irrelevant then made into a fetish.

There are steps involved and you haven't followed even the first rule of a revolt.
Say
Something.

Are you for all lives matter, against women who receive lower wages and
Yes you hired the tatted up gurl with the weave to deliver soda but,
Wait,
Nevermind
That was coke.

Pepsi,
If you wanted a March you should have
Sponsored one.
If you wanted product placement you should have sent
The Million men to the March on
Pepsi buses.
Given away pink pussy hats with every
Case of pop sold or
Maybe pink cans with cat ears.

You could have sent backpacks to underfunded schools or
Put Pepsi swirls on the drum kits at HBCU'S

Pepsi if you want  to be a product of the revolution
Why send the most generic  culturally ambiguous person alive-
No ass
That flat
Ever created a civilization

Dear Pepsi
 if you want to
Be a product of the revolution,
Write your manifesto on a spool of aluminum
Then send it to factory for cutting into cans.
Then tell the people to talk to each other, ask each person to post
Hashtag-
'What part did you get'?

Pepsi,
No jenner, no Kardashian,  no trump
Will ever be culturally relevant to any group who ever needed a spokesmodel.
Madonna at least
Would drink  the Pepsi then lift her leg to pee it out on the boot of a stormtrooper.

Dear Pepsi
To be a product of the revolution,
You will need more than stolen recycled images from Vietnam protests

You will need a legacy of
Conscious thinking,
And permission from water protectors
There is water in Pepsi, right?

Fly Pepsi to  Syria for
A photo op-
And see if I don't
Drive it all back in my chevy.

Dare me
Be daring

Corporate redundancy
Lack of imagination
Lazy marketing

Zero empathy
Zero taste
Zero filling
Zero flavor

You managed to anti revolt.
And you spent a lot of money on
Air.




La Bloga On-line Floricanto April 25
“Untitled” by Chuck Cuyjet
“Alive, Burning” by Devi S. Laskar
“winds of the West murmurs” by Jolaoso PrettyThunder
"mother of all bombs" by Jenuine Poetess
“Dear Pepsi” by Get Christie Love



Chuck Cuyjet. I'm a sixty-nine year old leadership and executive coach. I grew up in Philadelphia, went to college at The University of Maryland Eastern Shore. Over the last decade or so I've featured at Busboys and Poets here in the DC area, but my primary focus with my writing is essay and memoir. The opening lines of the poem reference what it was like waking up the morning after Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated. Currently living in the DC Metro area and raising two children. .




get_christie_love (YPK) performs poetry in Detroit, Michigan and Windsor Ontario. She began writing on the Def Jam Poetry message board in 2002, where she connected with a Detroit poet, Legacy Leonard (may peace be with her),  and was invited to read poetry at her first open mic reading.. She taught herself how to use MIcrosoft Publisher and began creating Chapbooks to sell and trade. She founded OpenAir Publishing in 2004 which has produced 7 chapbooks to date. In October 2014 she hand painted chapbook cover art covers using oil paint on card stock which maintained the $5.00 price for her books and included small original works of abstract art.  Her  goal for 2015 is to publish a collection of poems from her Def Jam Poetry Posts.
She maintains her first poetry board OpenAir to this day, and enjoys writing and sharing poems.
She wrote this,
and left out a bunch of
stuff to save time.
 It’s not a poem.
She thinks she will save it and call it “Not a Poem”
fge

1 comment:

Odilia Galvan Rodriguez said...

Love this Tuesday's La Bloga, as always thanks to you Em and the poets for the great poems featured in the Floricanto. Loved the other articles too! Saludos.