Thursday, March 13, 2008

Various Voices: Prose, Poetry, Politics

Various Voices is a collection of letters, essays, interviews, short prose fiction and poetry. Pinter wrote to directors and newspaper editors and critics in response to questions and reviews of his plays. He states his plays speak for themselves and that the characters in them don’t have any concrete histories, either before or after what has happened on the stage.

Pinter states he can't legitimately comment on the meanings of his work, because once written, it has an independent life of its own. Even during the writing process his control over the work is limited, because the characters themselves dictate how they act and speak; Pinter states is simply there to keep the shape and structure of the play. He believes that his writing is instinctual and intuitive:
"There’s no aim. I do not have an ideology in my plays. I just write; I’m a very instinctive writer. I don’t have a calculated aim or ambition; I simply find myself writing something which then follows its own path."

Starting with a concrete visual image or verbal impulse, Pinter creates the characters that fit. He describes the writing process as painful, but that's how he knows he is on the right path. In a typical Pinteresque spin, he writes that he's being unfaithful to the characters if they emerge too easily.
He speaks of language as ‘highly ambiguous business’ because we're all inundated with a barrage of words in our everyday lives, a barrage that many times carries little or no real meaning.

It's this ambiguity every writer must break through, "such a weight of words... the bulk of it a stale dead terminology; ideas...platitudinous, trite, meaningless."
But he advocates confronting this, looking underneath what the words are saying, looking at what isn’t being given, what isn't said. Pinter believes there are two kinds of silences, when nothing is being said and when there is a ‘torrent of language.’ In both these cases there is a hidden language and it is here that the writer confronts the truths of his characters, it is here that they ‘possess a momentum of their own.’


Palabra Pura This Month

Palabra Pura, Chicago's home for cutting edge, innovative Latino poetry is evolving in exciting ways, with its 2008 calendar of stellar talent solidly in place. While still basing itself at the California Clipper, Palabra Pura has begun to also hold events at Latino venues throughout the city. This month, join the fabulous writers profiled below. The skinny:

March 19th. 8:30 pm California Clipper
1002 N. California. Chicago, IL

Aracelis Girmay writes poetry, fiction, & essays. Teeth, her collection of poems, was published by Curbstone Press in June 2007. Her poetry has appeared in Ploughshares, Bellevue Literary Review, Indiana Review, Callaloo, & MiPoesias, among other journals. Her collage-based picture book, changing, changing, was published by George Braziller in 2005. Girmay is a Cave Canem Fellow & former Watson Fellow. She teaches writing workshops in New York & California.

olga m ulloa
Born in Matanzas, Cuba, 1958. Grew up in Madrid, Spain. Family came to Chicago in mid 1970’s. After college and grad school, worked as a Spanish language teacher for the City Colleges of Chicago for a year, long enough to realize that teaching was not in the stars. Since then has worked as a free-lance editor, translator, and writer. During the 80s and 90s lived in New York City, Philadelphia, Washington DC, and Miami for brief periods, always returning to Chicago as home base. Moved to Costa Rica in the mid nineties and after three years once again returned to Chicago. Writing has always been the constant objective, while art, literature, photography, and music create the background chorus.


From Rich Villar and Acentos

on 8th Street
between 6th Avenue and Broadway
there are enough shoe stores
with enough shoes
to make me wonder
why there are shoeless people
on the earth.

You have to fire the Angel
in charge of distribution.

--"Psalm For Distribution"
by Jack Agüeros
(from LORD, IS THIS A PSALM?, Hanging Loose Press 2002)

Dear friends and colleagues:

I'm writing to you about a friend of ours: Jack Agüeros.

I say "friend," not because I have known Jack for decades (I haven't), but because of what Jack's work has meant to the writers, artists, and activists here in New York City's Puerto Rican communities. In these decades, through his work as a poet, translator, fiction writer, and community organizer, Jack Agüeros has spoken to us with clarity, humility, intensity, and dignity about our shared experiences as Puerto Ricans.

As a community activist, he worked with the Henry Street Settlement, the Puerto Rican Community Development Project, and various city agencies. As a journalist and essayist, he has written about the alliances between Chicano and Puerto Rican activists, and about his own life as a Puerto Rican in New York. As an invaluable historian, he has translated and researched the work of Jose Martí and Julia de Burgos. Through his ingenious use of the sonnet and psalm forms, he has perfected the very human art of advocacy, conveying our struggles with unflinching imagery and a smart comedic sensibility. As a cultural worker, Agüeros brought art, music and a Three Kings' Day parade (with real camels) to East Harlem through his stewardship of El Museo del Barrio.

Jack Agüeros has committed his life to the educational and social wellbeing of his people. Now is our chance to contribute to his wellbeing.

For quite a while now, Jack and his family have been dealing with the onset of his Alzheimer's Disease. It's been a difficult time, but the family has always been able to count on the support of friends and loved ones. That support will be made palpable on Tuesday, March 18th, when Jack's friends and family will come together for a benefit reading at Taller Boricua, in the Julia de Burgos Center, in the heart of Jack's birthplace, East Harlem. The location—1680 Lexington Avenue at the corner of 106th Street--is particularly appropriate, since the Center is named for the famous Puerto Rican poet whose work Jack translated, and is also the former home of P.S. 107, where Jack attended grammar school.

Scheduled to appear that night will be fellow poets, fiction writers, and kindred spirits who know and love Jack, many of whom are longtime friends of his: Martín Espada, Sandra Maria Esteves, Naomi Ayala, Aracelis Girmay, Lidia Torres, Robert Hershon, Donna Brook, Hettie Jones, Lynne Procope, Rich Villar, Tara Betts, Rachel Eliza Griffiths, Julio Marzán, and Edgardo Vega Yunqué. His children, Kadi, Natalia, and Marcel Agüeros, will also be on hand.

The event starts at 7pm with a special performance by the young students of Taller Boricua's Tuesday dance class, who were gracious enough to move their gathering in order to accomodate this event.

The authors will have books for sale, the proceeds for which will go toward Jack's care. Signed copies of Jack's books, including DOMINOES, SONNETS FOR THE PUERTO RICAN, and LORD, IS THIS A PSALM? will also be available, courtesy of Hanging Loose Press and Curbstone Press. In addition, Sandra Maria Esteves has graciously donated one of her prints, which will be bid upon in a silent auction that night.

A $10 suggested donation will be collected at the door. No one will be turned away.

If you cannot make it to the fundraiser, but would still like to make a contribution toward Jack's care, you can send along a check payable to Marcel Agüeros at the following address:

Marcel Agüeros
Columbia Astrophysics Laboratory
Mail Code 5247
550 W. 120th Street
New York, NY 10027

This is our chance to pay tribute to a true giant of Puerto Rican, Latino, and U.S. literature. Please distribute this letter far and wide, to as many as possible. We hope to see you all in East Harlem on March 18th, 7pm sharp.

Rich Villar.

Lisa Alvarado

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