Thursday, January 31, 2008

Spotlight on Sheryl Luna

Sheryl Luna was born and raised in El Paso, Texas. Her collection of poetry Pity the Drowned Horses won the first Andres Montoya Poetry Prize sponsored by the Institute of Latino Studies and the creative writing department of the University of Notre Dame. The judge was Robert Vasquez. The collection was profiled in "18 Debut Poets who Made their Mark in 2005" by Poets and Writers Magazine. A graduate of Texas Tech University, she earned a doctorate in contemporary literature from the University of North Texas and a M.F.A. from the University of Texas at El Paso. She also holds a M.A. in English from Texas Woman's University. Her work has appeared in Feminist Studies, Notre Dame Review, Georgia Review, American Literary Review, and many other nationally acclaimed journals. She's received scholarships from the Provincetown Fine Arts Work Center and the Napa Valley Writer's Conference. Pity the Drowned Horses was a finalist for the National Poetry Series and the 2006 Colorado Book awards. Her second manuscript of poems, titled 7, was recently runner-up for the Ernest Sandeen Poetry Prize sponsored by University of Notre Dame. She currently teaches at the University of Colorado in Boulder, Colorado.


Once, as a girl, she saw a woman shrink

inside herself, gray-headed and dwarf-sized,

as if her small spine collapsed. Age

and collapse were something unreal, like war

and loss. That image of an old woman sitting

in a café booth, folding in on herself, was forgotten

until her own bones thinned and hollowed,

music-less, un-fluted, empty.

She says she takes shark cartilage before she sleeps,

a tablet or two to secure flexibility and forgets

that pain is living and living is pain.

And time moves like a slow rusty train

through the desert of weeds, and the low-riders

bounce like teenagers young and forgiving

in her night’s dream. She was sleek in a red dress

with red pumps, the boys with slick hair, tight jeans.

She tells me about 100-pound canisters of lard

and beans, how she could dance despite her fifth

child, despite being beaten and left

in the desert for days, how she saw an angel

or saint glimmer blonde above her, how she rose

and walked into the red horizon despite

her husband’s sin.

I’m thinking how the women

in my family move with a sway, with a hip

ache, and how they each have a disk

slip. The sky seems sullen, gray, and few birds

whisk. It’s how the muse is lost

in an endless stream of commercials, how people

forget to speak to one another as our ending skulks

arthritically into our bones, and the dust

of a thousand years blows across the plain,

and the last few hares sprint across a bloodied

highway. Here in the desert southwest, loss

is living and it comes with chapped lips,

long bumpy bus rides and the smog of some man’s

factory trap. And there are women everywhere

who have half-lost their souls

in sewing needles and vacuum- cleaner parts.

In maquiladoras there grows a slow poem,

a poem that may only live a moment sharply

in an old woman’s soul, like a sudden broken hip.

And yet, each October, this old woman rises

like the blue sky, rises like the fat turkey vultures

that make death something beautiful, something

towards flight, something that circles in a group

and knows it is best not to approach death alone.

Each October she dances, the mariachis yelp

and holler her back to that strange, flexible youth,

back to smoky rancheras and cumbias, songs

rolling in the shadows along the bare Mexican hills.

She tells me, “It’s in the music, where I’ll always

live.” And somehow, I see her jaw relax,

her eyes squint to a slow blindness

as if she can see something I can’t.

And I remember that it is good to be born of dust,

born amid cardboard shanties of sweet gloom.

I remember that the bare cemetery stones

in El Paso and Juarez hold the music, and each spring

when the winds carry the dust of loss there is a howl,

a surge of something unbelievable, like death,

like the collapse of language, like the frail bones

of Mexican grandmothers singing.


Danny Lopez was so dark that some thought he was black.

His eyes were wide and wild.

When he ran, his short frame’s stride heated the streets.

Sweat trickled down his bony face, and his throat

lumped with desire, the race, the win.

We used to sit on the hood of my parents’ car,

gaze at the stars. He would win state,

dash through the flagged shoot in Austin,

get a scholarship to Auburn, escape the tumbleweeds,

the dirt floors of his pink adobe home, his father’s rage.

We were runners.

Our thin bodies warmed with sweat, and the moon round

with dreams of release. We lived a mile from the border;

the Tigua Indian drums could be heard in the cool evenings.

Our rhythmic hopes pounded dusty roads, and cholos

with slicked hair, low-riders, were only a mirage.

We drove across the border, heavy voices, drunk

with dreams, tequila, and hollow fears. We ran

trans-mountain road, shadows cast cold shivers

down our backs in the hundred-degree sun.

Danny ran twenty miles, finished, arms raised

with manic exultation.

The grassy course felt different beneath his spikes,

and the gun’s smoke forgotten in the rampage of runners,

his gold cross pounding his chest to triumph, his legs

heedless to pain, his guts burning.

Neither of us return to the cement underpasses,

graffiti, and dry grass, though I know

the drums still beat when we look at the stars,

and our eyes flicker with ambition.

Brown children in tattered shorts still beg for pesos,

steal pomegranates and melons.

Young men with sweaty chests and muddy pants

ask my mother for work, food,

passage to that distant win

somewhere on the other side of Texas.

Today the green trees are wet with rain,

and I am too lazy to run. The desire to run my fingers

down an abdomen tight with ambition, is shaky, starved.

It’s been too long since I’ve crossed that border,

drunk tequila, screamed victorious

at the mountain. The stars seem small tonight,

they don’t burst over the sky like they did back then.

These poems, these books don’t ravish me

the way Danny could, the way the race could.

His accented English, broken on the wind, and his run,

his lean darkness, drove exhaustion to consummation.

The wind seems too humid in this preferred place,

and when I hear throaty Spanish spoken in the lushness,

I long for the grimy heat,

the Rio Grande’s shallow passage,

the blue desert, and the slick legs of runners

along the smoggy highway.

The Cordova Bridge

I’m not writing delicate silver birds or some Southwest

aubade. I am rough in a pebbled and stickered dead sea.

And here, crazy-sad among the flowerless places

I sweat my way through the dirge of horns and radio

blues. Smog- filled air. Sweaty dark-dirty children hang

on my car. Their paper cups hold out a coinless surrender.

El Pasoan’s call them scam-gangs. Bumper to bumper

as a rainbow smears the sky, window-washers beg for dimes.

The streets narrow in Juarez. Gaudy green hand-painted

school buses block signs. The poor wait. A bright scholar

described las ciudades hermanas as unmoving. Blue hills,

the river’s banks deceiving us to see one-sided, blind. Juarez,

me later driving in circles, cursing the mad stops, the move-over

hurriedness. El Paso’s streets are wide, people erect chain-

link fences, bars over windows. They love their small plots

of land, their jalopy cars. A poet once sang a maid’s daily

dread over Cordova. I think I see her sweating away.

I once drew a breath of lush serenity, words danced

as small breaths, gilded beads. But you see, I was cursed

in this dust, crystallized among charcoal frowns and smiles.

At times, anger is an unnamed cry. Must one sing lichen,

lagoons, a glint of sky, creamy white breasts? Here, men

and women living bare dance among crumbling things. A man

without a leg has hopped that bridge for thirty years eyeing

shiny red Firebirds. What was a bird of red-fire to him?

Do we all rise phoenix-like from our tumbleweeds? Rain-

wash twirls about brown knees, rolled jeans, bare feet.

Popsicle-sellers close tiny carts, cigarette boys cover

damp cartons. And I am dry as an American can be.

  • ISBN-10: 0268033749
  • ISBN-13: 978-0268033743

Lisa Alvarado

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

How I Became a Teacher

By René Colato Laínez

Every time I read my books to elementary students, I always give them a message of perseverance.

When I came from El Salvador to the United States, I brought with me a backpack full of dreams. I dreamed of being a good student, becoming a teacher, and writing a book. As an immigrant child, many times these dreams can be hard to reach. But they are not impossible if you fight for them. Yes! Dreams can be accomplished. I did well in school. I was an ESL student but I graduated with honors from High School and college. I became a teacher and now I am an author.

"Never give up. Do your best," I say and the children clap.

I wrote Dear Journal for a class I took with Alma Flor Ada and F. Isabel Campoy. This journal is about me and my journey from kindergarten to my own classroom as a teacher. It is full of ganas and perseverance. Isabel told me, "this is a powerful story." Many teachers have also told me, "Our students need to read your journal."

Now amigos from La Bloga, I want to present this humble but sincere message of hope to all of you. Let's start with kindergarten.

Copyright © by René Colato Laínez


Dear Journal:

Mamá got a job in the detergent factory where papá works. Papá’s salary is not enough. I have always been with mamá during the day but I won’t be with her anymore. I need to go to “Kinder Garden”. I was excited.

“I will play and run in the “Garden,” I said to mamá. “I love birds and butterflies!”

Soon we came to a big house without flowers, birds nor butterflies.

“This is not a Garden! I don’t like this place!” I said I as stomped my feet.

Mamá gave me a big hug and left. I tried to run but one of the teachers closed the gate.

“Mamá don’t leave me here! I’m scared!” I said with tears in my eyes.

Today was my first day and it was awful. I don’t like the teachers. I want to stay with mamá.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Review: Tell Borges If You See Him.

Tales of Contemporary Somnambulism. Athens, U of GA press 2007. By Peter LaSalle.
ISBN 0820329983

Michael Sedano

Peter LaSalle’s chosen a provocative subtitle for his volume of eleven very modern short fiction. Is there a traditional somnambulism? Idle speculation it turns out, for the “contemporary” refers to the writing itself, and “somnambulism” for the nightmarish reality LaSalle’s narrators treat so matter-of-factly.

It’s a pretty joyless reality for these characters. LaSalle’s male narrators form an unprepossessing lump, not a winner in the lot. Women characters come in for short shrift as frail, hapless victim or self-destructive loser.

The most interesting story is the title piece, fifth in the middle of the book. It’s written mostly as one long sentence that LaSalle breaks up by inserting ellipses here and there to incomplete a thought and move along its 25 page length. The broke, down-on-his-luck Vietnam vet has been lured into laundering Argentine cash for a taste of the action. The scheme blows up and the narrator escapes back to the States, leaving behind an Australian fitness instructor whose jealous stalker turned in the plot.

The opening story, “Where We Last Saw Time”, sets the tone for the book as it jumps around from time to time. The middle-aged narrator was a Harvard student with a term paper due in the morning and date with his girlfried. The first person narrator talks about wandering the streets avoiding the meeting as if that would prevent what eventually befalls the dreamy coed, death from amoebic infection in Cameroon.

LaSalle pulls the wool over his reader’s eyes in The Actor’s Face. The writer makes the petty narrator just mild enough that we’re pulling for him to get the girl despite the obvious bias in the narrator’s description of his rival’s faded presence. When the girl gushes that she’s just read the review of a fabulous novel, and the rival just happens to be the author of that novel, the narrator doesn’t realize she’s just exposed the depths of his own pettiness.

The one sore spot I had in going through the stories is the Mexico set “The Christmas Bus.” I hope the broad portrayals are meant as counter-stereotypy that didn’t work—the piece reeks of ethnic stereotypes such as the bus driver who daydreams of the teenaged prostitutes waiting for him at the turn-around, or the bicultural chicano who loves the colorful antics of his Mexican gente.

In “French Sleeping Pills” the self-destructive waif is a Seven Sisters student on the Paris semester abroad. She’s abandoned her classes, her boyfriend, her contact with reality. Her film professor asks if he can take advantage of her and she meekly says “OK”. When things turn kinky she says meekly, “OK”. The medicine starts to wear off and she panics.

“The Spaces Inside Sleep” reads like a conventional moment of truth story. A failing bookseller has a chance to make a windfall but won’t sell to a drug dealer. Later, he has a chance to help a decent but eccentric friend take advantage of a woman, but doesn’t. The somnambulism for this tale is its Austin setting, an imputed surreal political landscape controlled by a corrupt dictator, and routine armed attacks by Barnes & Noble destroying high profile Borders stores.

Some stories finish themselves, even if LaSalle doesn’t finish the stories. Instead he suggests alternatives and leaves it to someone else to work things out. The sleeping pill story, for example, when the woman realizes the depravity she’s about to wallow in, she knows it’s too late to get dressed and just leave this man’s bedroom, go find some more pills. She instead imagines she’s just stepping onto campus that morning, she takes a different turn, life is different…

I found Peter LaSalle interesting yet so taxing I renewed the volume twice and have it now overdue from the Pasadena Public Library. I’ll return it, pay my fines, and hope the new titles shelf has something.

That’s the Tuesday word at La Bloga! The last Tuesday of January 2008. Interestingly, it’s the first Tuesday of my retirement. Monday marked the beginning of Friday every day for me. All those projects I’ve been touting now have no impediments.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Mexico in the Heartland

New Madrid, the official journal of the low-residency Master of Fine Arts program at Murray State University, announces the publication of its Winter 2008 issue, dedicated to the theme of “Mexico in the Heartland.”

The issue features artwork by Mexican muralist José Luis Soto González and includes literary works by nationally and internationally recognized writers such as Philip Garrison, Socorro Venegas and Daniel Olivas. Through an interview with Fred de Rosset, it also highlights the contributions of the Kentucky Institute of International Studies (KIIS) in fostering relationships between Kentuckians and Mexican nationals.

The issue also features “The Mexican Mural Project,” a series of oral histories inspired by the growing Mexican population in western Kentucky.

Copies of the “Mexico in the Heartland” issue are $8.00. They may be purchased from Pamela Miller, Secretary, MFA Program, Department of English and Philosophy, Murray State University, 7C Faculty Hall, Murray, KY 42071-3341. For further information, e-mail Pamela Miller. Annual subscriptions to New Madrid are $15.00.

New Madrid is edited by Ann Neelon. Advisory and Contributing Editors are Squire Babcock, Brian Barker, Dale Ray Phillips and Holly Goddard Jones. The next issue will appear in July, 2008, with Nicky Beer as Guest Editor. New Madrid accepts on-line submissions only. Check the New Madrid website for submission guidelines and announcements of future issues.

[New Madrid front and back cover art by José Luis Soto González.]

◙ Kathleen Alcalá’s The Desert Remembers My Name: On Family and Writing (University of Arizona Press) was recently selected as one of Margaret Guerrero's "Top Picks" in the 2007 Southwest Books of the Year competition. Southwest Books of the Year is a prestigious award in Southern Arizona sponsored by the Pima County Public Library, Friends of the Pima County Public Library, Arizona State Library, Archives and Public Records, and the Arizona Historical Society.

◙ PALABRA ISSUE 3 RELEASED: Just released and ready for the reading, the new issue of PALABRA: A Magazine of Chicano & Latino Literary Art, is filled with a diverse assortment of fiction, poetry and drama that is wistful, intense, contemplative, searing, fresh-eyed, muscular, surprising and funny.

The latest issue features new poetry by Margarita Engle, Carolina Monsiváis, María Luis Arroyo, Alfaro, Damacio García and Marielena O. Gómez. Also included are a novel excerpt by Richard Yañez, a new play by Caridad Svich and short fiction from Marisela Norte, Louis Reyna, Nick Padron and Daniel Chacón.

With the release of its third issue, PALABRA continues its quest to showcase an eclectic array of new and established Chicano and Latino literary voices speaking in a wide range of styles—writing as distinct and varied as the experiences that created them.

PALABRA is available through its website and at:

Imix Bookstore - Los Angeles, CA

Tianguis - Chicago, IL

Trópico de Nopal Gallery - Los Angeles, CA

REDCAT - Los Angeles, CA

Over at the Letras Latinas blog, you can read an enlightening interview with elena minor, the editor and founder of PALABRA.

◙ We received this call for assistance from Thania Muñoz concerning her project on the late Mexican novelist, Jorge Ibargüengoitia (pictured below):

My name is Thania Muñoz and I’m a master student of Latin American literature at Cal State Los Angeles. I’m doing a research paper that I will be presenting at the Pacific Coast Council on Latin American Studies conference in November, 2008. I’m interested in Mexican detective fiction and my research will focus on Jorge Ibargüengoitia’s novels, The Dead Girls (1977) and Two Crimes (1979). I intend to analyze how Ibargüengoitia utilizes detective fiction to expose, through his portrait of provincial Mexico, the reality of a nation. Below is a short summary of what I’m focusing on; if any La Bloga readers have done research on Mexican detective fiction, the hard-boiled genre or is just interested in knowing more about these genres and helping me out, I would love to hear from you. My email is: Thanks.

Here is Muñoz's formal abstract of her project: “In Jorge Ibargüengoitia’s novels, The Dead Girls (1977), and Two Crimes (1979) the settings are not the enormous and dark cities, such as the D.F., but the little provincial towns of the Mexican republic. The intuitive and cool detective is Don Pepe, an old pharmacist. Prostitution is legal, until the authorities stop accepting briberies and as a result many prostitutes are found dead. In these two novels, the author ventures, in a literary way, out of Mexico’s urban centers, not to show the variety of nuances in Mexican culture, but to show that its vices are the same. As in the cities, the police are corrupt, families are greedy and their greed for power even greater. Jorge Ibargüengoitia transforms the genre of detective fiction and adjusts it to the Mexican reality. This not only proves the genre’s adaptability to other realities, but it also turns it into the writer’s criticism tool. His criticism, in the two aforementioned novels, unravels Mexico’s imperfections and its pursuit for the idealized modernity.”

◙ Scott Jaschik, editor of Inside Higher Ed, tells us of an interview/Podcast with the leading scholar on Américo Paredes, Ramón Saldívar, a professor of English and comparative literature at Stanford University. You may access the piece here. Last month, the Modern Language Association gave its Prize in United States Latina and Latino and Chicana and Chicano Literary and Cultural Studies to Saldívar for his monograph on the work of Américo Paredes, The Borderlands of Culture (University of Duke Press). The article, by Scott McLemee, notes that the “podcast offers a good introduction to Paredes’s own life and work, and expresses some of Saldívar’s deep engagement with them. It could be time for others to start sharing that interest: a local ballad from the Tex-Mex borderland might yet be on the soundtrack of 21st century American politics.”

◙ Don’t forget to visit The Mark on the Wall, the blog created by Lisa Alvarez (aka Rebel Girl). She has a recent post on many interesting items including Cheech Marin’s book signing to launch the Chicano Art and Soul Exhibition at the MUZEO. Alvarez is the co-author of Writer's Workshop in a Book: The Squaw Valley Community of Writers on the Art of Fiction (Chronicle Books), and a contributor to the forthcoming Latinos in Lotusland : An Anthology of Contemporary Southern California Literature (Bilingual Press).

◙ Rigoberto González reviews in the El Paso Times Juan Felipe Herrera's 187 Reasons Mexicanos Can't Cross the Border: Undocuments 1971 - 2007 (City Lights Books) observing that “Herrera has combed through no fewer than nine of his previously published books and chapbooks to map out nearly 40 years of political writings and to celebrate a lifelong commitment to literary activism.” González states that this book “is a momentous achievement for this activist writer…”

◙ All done. So, until next Monday, enjoy the intervening posts from my compadres y comadres at La Bloga. ¡Lea un libro!

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Calendario Romano: Priestcake 2008

Now I have to admit, I have always been obsessed with religious paraphernalia, as a recovering Catholic I look at the more gaudy of accoutrement with fascination, like my Tío Victor who, when he stopped drinking forever kept the assortment of variously filled booze bottles around his office as a reminder. Among my most prized possessions are a Pope John Paul the II snowglobe that I purchased in Pisa (which upon unpacking I discovered to my delight glowed in the dark) and a revolving Virgen de Guadalupe picture, complete with flashing eternity lights and gold plastic frame. And I am the office keeper of the hot pink Jesus, a Pepto-Bismol colored
statue of the son of God himself, that when you ask him a yes/no question, you can turn him over and find a religious-themed magic eight ball prognostication tool that says things like, “Pray Harder” and “No Chance in Hell.” But even to my hardened, Kitsch-collecting self, the newest addition to my collection takes the cake.

“I got something for you Ann, I won it at a Yankee gift exchange and I just know you’re the only one who’ll appreciate it” my friend Tom told me earlier this month. “My brother got it at the Vatican.” He set it down in front of me, a 2008 calendar featuring black and white photographs of thirteen handsome young priests, one for each month and the best looking for the cover. And it is “con cenni storico artistici sul Vaticano.” With historic notes about the Vatican! Yeah! As I flipped through the pages, each month boasting another dark-haired, dark-eyed young man in vestmental garb, my jaw was on my chest. “It’s a priestcake calendar!” I exclaimed. “This is the weirdest thing I’ve ever seen!” Tom’s smile couldn’t have been wider: he had found the calendar the perfect home. As I left his office—did I mention he’s our college president?—I decided I just had to know more about the calendar’s history.

Upon doing some web research I came to discover that the 2008 edition is in fact the fifth one that was produced (how could I have not heard of this? I’ve been in the dark for five long years). I couldn’t find any official quote from the Vatican as to their position on this calendar (if you find one, let me know) however since it is sold all over Rome and around the Vatican (not to mention worldwide on it is highly unlikely that they are unaware of it. I would imagine that the publicity around these hunky men of the cloth ensures a steady stream of young women—and men—in the pews every Sunday.

My mind was, and still is, a vortex of questions. Since when is Catholic church touting it’s men of God as pinups? Is this really Vatican-approved? And why the hell did Father May pose with a lit cigarette and a bottle of Jägermeister? The photographs border (and perhaps plunge right into) homo-eroticism—particularly Father March who is poised with eyes closed and lips parted as a woman’s hand feeds him a piece of bread, the Eucharist I imagine. I mean, come on! The best part is that according to the British publication The Guardian, Father March isn’t even a priest, but rather a Spanish real estate agent who was eating cake during an Easter procession.

Hey look, I love me a good beefcake calendar—my office wall has been blessed with the image of Hugh Jackman all year (of course I ripped out the other X-Men pics so he could remain)—but I was under the impression that the Catholic church had to maintain a level of decorum, to be an example to the sheep in its fold. And given all the sexually related scandals that surround the church of late, this could not be more ill-timed. But still, it fascinates me.
My fascinations are sacrilegious, you say? I don’t think so. You see, my mother brought me up to believe that the church is the people, not the clergy, and like the good mangia preti she was, she went to mass, prayed her rosary and argued with the priests about the ERA. But all those in my family seem to share a fascination with kitsch (is there a Spanish word for this? Some things just must be said in Yiddish), and I can’t help but think she would have loved the Calendario Romano. So though I am appalled, it is like a New York City car wreck: I find I can’t look away. I wish I could totally condemn this calendar, to warn my beloved La Bloga readers to not purchase one if they wish to preserve their immortal souls. But alas, I can’t. For whatever reason, things such as the Calendario Romano captivate me, remind me that though the nuns at Corpus Christi grammar school told me different, the clergy make bad choices…they are indeed, human.

So, will I be logging on to next year to get my 2009 edition? As we say in Vermont, you betcha!

Friday, January 25, 2008


Bits and pieces of cultural news, and one more march for peace.

Saturday, January 26 7:00 PM to Sunday, January 27 12:00 AM
85 E. 4th Street, NYC

Lisa Alvarado mentioned on La Bloga earlier this week that Sheryl Luna was in New York City on Friday night. Here's info about a Saturday event with more poets.

"Erika T Wurth (Indian Trains), Sheryl Luna (Pity the Drowned Horses),
and Gabe Gomez (The Outer Bands) represent a fresh perspective not only in ethnic writing, but in poetry. Rather than attach themselves to a particular school of writing, their work is about people, and landscapes and works on more than a purely intellectual level. Although none of them would do well in a hallmark, all of them express themselves in ways that are new and unique but that still speak to people not just below the waist, but more importantly, below the neck."

The KGB's website says this about itself: "In the years since it opened in 1993, KGB has become something of a New York literary institution. Writers hooked up in the publishing world read here with pleasure and without pay to an adoring public over drinks almost every Sunday evening (fiction), Monday evening (poetry), and most Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays. The crowd loves it. Admission is free, drinks are cheap and strong, and the level of excellence is such that KGB has been named best literary venue in New York City by New York Magazine, the Village Voice, and everyone else who bestows these awards of recognition."
Read more here.

Sounds like a great place to listen to some great poetry.


El Centro Su Teatro will proudly present the regional premiere of world-renowned composer Daniel Valdez’s stunning original play, Ollin, February 21 – March 29, 2007 at El Centro Su Teatro, 4725 High Street, Denver.

Ollin is a spectacular recreation of one of the most profound cultural collisions in human history—the conquest of Mexico by Spain. The poetic interpretation of the meeting of these two great empires was something Valdez felt drawn to create as a symbol of both his cultural and personal identity, as the Conquest marks the birth of the Mestizo—the mixed blood race to whom most Mexicans and Mexican Americans trace their heritage.

Valdez has included elements from multiple disciplines to tell this dramatic tale, including theater, dance, music, and visual art. Distinguished painter Carlos Frésquez, local musician Tony Silva, and Boulder choreographer Concetta Troskie are working with Su Teatro actors to augment the artistic layering of the play. Add in Valdez’s original music and the result should be, as Valdez describes it, a sort of modern codices—a stunning visual and musical tablet.

Originally developed by Valdez as a radio play, Ollin was given a workshop production in San Diego and a full student production at Stanford University. Valdez is excited to work with Su Teatro in bringing the final evolution of this remarkable piece to Denver.

Valdez was an instrumental figure in the birth of Chicano Theater—working alongside his brother, the famed writer/director Luis Valdez, in the agitprop California theater group Teatro Campesino. Valdez went on to make a name for himself as a brilliant songwriter with the release of his solo album Mestizo. Valdez also worked alongside Linda Ronstadt on her album Canciones de mi Padre.

Su Teatro has enjoyed a longstanding relationship with Valdez, beginning in 1975 when he and El Centro Su Teatro Artistic Director Tony Garcia met and exchanged ideas at a theater workshop in Denver. More recently, the two teamed up to create the original Su Teatro productions The Westside Oratorio and El Sol Que Tu Eres. Ollin marks their third collaboration.

Ollin, written and directed by Daniel Valdez, February 21 – March 29 at El Centro Su Teatro, 4725 High Street. Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays, curtain at 8:05 PM. Tickets are $18, $15 students/seniors, with special group discounts available. Call (303) 296-0219 for tickets and information.

Albuquerque, New Mexico
May 21–24, 2008

Nationally known authors, agents, and editors will present in workshops and panel discussions. All attendees will have the opportunity to have three one-on-one appointments with an agent, author, and editor. Accepting a total of 50 fiction and nonfiction writers. If submitted early authors will read a sample of your work. Workshops will include hands-on exercises.

2008 Literary Genres
Novel • Short story (fiction/non-fiction)
Screenwriting • Playwriting • Poetry
Mystery/Detective • Comics • Special features

2008 Faculty
Martín Espada - Helena María Viramontes - Javier Grillo-Marxuach - Frank Zuñiga - Benjamin Alire Sáenz - Alfredo Corchado - Kathleen de Azevedo - Rolando Hinojosa-Smith

For information and to register contact Katie Trujillo 505.246.2261, x148 • • NHCC 1701 4th Street SW • Albuquerque, NM 87102

Chicano Humanities & Arts Council’s (CHAC) 9th annual silent auction and fundraiser - Friday, Feb 8, 2008 6-10 PM - Space Gallery
765 Santa Fe Drive, Denver

Celebrate Valentines and help support CHAC's cultural art and community outreach programs with an evening of live music and hors d'oeuvres. Place bids on a wide variety of unique hearts, gift baskets, services and original artwork, created and donated by members and guest artists, local schools, business and community supporters.

Music provided by Latin Fusion Band Debajo Del Aqua
Cocktail attire optional.
CHAC Gallery (see below) will be open during the event.

Tickets are available for $7.00 each or $12.00 per couple at the event or in advance by calling CHAC at 303-571-0440.

From the Vietnam Veterans Against the War website:

From March 13-16th 2008, Iraq Veterans Against the War will gather in Washington D.C. to "break the silence and hold our leaders accountable for the Iraq and Afghanistan wars."

This spring, the largest gathering of veterans who served in Iraq and Afghanistan will share their experiences in a public investigation called Winter Soldier: Iraq and Afghanistan. Providing testimonies to war crimes the United States perpetuates with the ongoing wars and occupations as well as the increasingly poor treatment of returning veterans by US government agencies here at home. Vietnam Veterans Against the War are seeking members and friends to host fundraisers, provide monetary donations, personal support and spread the word about Winter Soldier Investigation.


Thursday, January 24, 2008

The Bearable Lightness of Being

In Being Bodies, Lenore Friedman and Susan Moon offer the perspectives of a variety of women with varying Buddhist practices. The result is a contemplative and compelling work dealing with what it means to be female, what it means to fully and consciously inhabit the female body.

The last wave of the Western women’s movement critiqued the idea that a women was her body. In fact, a major focus of that movement was the position that biology was not destiny. This was primarily a response to the social construction of women’s identity, the objectification of a women as nothing more than physical self. However, there was little offered to support women in learning to fully live in that physicality, to know it as both vessel and endpoint.
Being Bodies offers a view that a woman’s self-knowledge is rooted in the flesh. Women’s awareness is based in surrendering to the body’s impermanence, its joy, its suffering, and its death. One of the most thought-provoking essays is Linda Chrisman’s "Birth".

In it, she describes the process of labor, and giving birth to her son. What's striking about this experience was how Chrisman was both deeply enmeshed in that process and separate from it. The most telling lesson, for both Chrisman and the reader, occurred at the height of labor. Here she realizes that all her physical conditioning, all her contemplative practice would not save her from pain. This selection beautifully illustrates the message of
Being Bodies. There may be another path for women, rooted in surrender to the fullness and limits of the body. Through that choice, a woman may find self-knowledge and ultimately, freedom. While the focus of Being Bodies is the female experience, it is a universal and object lesson about Buddhist ideas of impermanence, and becoming fully present in every moment by letting go. I was moved to tears reading this book. It reminds me that true beauty is the sum of both pleasing things as well the scars.

I feel such a strong, visceral connection to the stories of the women profiled in this anthology. (Interesting that "visceral" is the only word that comes to mind in reviewing a book dealing with the experience of being grounded in the body and the odyssey of transcendence.)
This book is a pivotal one as I try to develop a deeper spiritual practice - moving East in order to come West, hoping to re-encounter and reinterpret my own ideas of embodiment, spirituality and existence.

ISBN-10: 1570623244
ISBN-13: 978-157062324


Acentos and AWP Conference News

On Tuesday, January 29th at 7pm, we break from our normal schedule to bring you ACENTOS on a FIFTH TUESDAY, in conjunction with the Bay Area's own Craig Perez and Achiote Press.

The featured poets that night will be two amazing young writers:

Marina Garcia-Vasquez
, acontributor to the press' ACHIOTE SEEDS, Volume 2, and Javier O. Huerta, author of the acclaimed debut collection, SOME CLARIFICATIONS Y OTROS POEMAS. As always, the Uptown's best open mic will precede the festivities, and your host will be John Rodriguez.

On Thursday, January 31st at 6pm, the Con Tinta collective presents its annual awards dinner and reading.

Lifetime achievement awards are to be presented to Nuyorican writers
Sandra Maria Esteves and Tato Laviera. The dinner will take place at Mojitos', located at 227 E. 116th Street, between 2nd and 3rd Avenue. The reading will be held in conjunction with PALABRA, a journal of Chicano and Latino literary arts. Your hosts for the evening will be Urayoan Noel and Rich Villar.

Finally, on Friday, February 1st at 6:30pm, El Centro de Estudios Puertorriqueños presents ACENTOS: A Gathering of Latino and Latina Poets.

The event is slated to take place at the
School of Social Work at Hunter College, 129 E. 79th Street, at the corner of 79th and Lexington. A lineup of more than 20 emerging and nationally recognized Latino and Latina poets are set to take the stage, including Martin Espada, Sandra Maria Esteves, Brenda Cardenas, Aracelis Girmay, Willie Perdomo, and many more.

It's going to be a busy January for your crew at Acentos, and we wouldn't have it any other way. Keep an eye on this list for further updates, news, features and even more poetry events for the '08, as well as information about our fifth anniversary show in March.

Details for all our January events are listed below. See you all there!

Rich Villar
for the Acentos crew.

Tuesday, January 29th @ 7pm
ACENTOS Bronx Poetry Showcase A reading in collaboration with Achiote Press featuring JAVIER O. HUERTA and MARINA GARCIA-VASQUEZ plus the Uptown's Best Open Mic

The Bruckner Bar and Grill
One Bruckner Blvd. (corner of Third Ave. and Bruckner Blvd.) 6 Train to 138th Street Station Hosted by John Rodriguez FREE! ($5 suggested donation) Thursday, January 31st @ 6pm Con Tinta's Annual Award Ceremony and Reading Honoring the work of Nuyorican poets SANDRA MARIA ESTEVES and TATO LAVIERA Mojitos' Bar 227 E. 116th Street (between 2nd and 3rd Ave.) 6 Train to 116th Street Station Hosted by Urayoan Noel, Rich Villar, and the Con Tinta collective FREE and open to the public.

Friday, February 1st @ 6:30pm ACENTOS: A Gathering and Celebration of Latino and Latina Poets Presented by El Centro de Estudios Puertorriqueños at Hunter College and Acentos Bronx Poetry Showcase

Featuring over twenty emerging and nationally recognized Latino and Latina poets:

The School of Social Work @ Hunter College
129 E. 79th Street (corner of 79th and Lexington) 6 Train to 77th Street Station, two blocks north to 79th and Lex. FREE and open to the public.

Acentos: The Bronx's Premiere Spot for Poetry

"Acentos is one of the best audiences, one of the best venues, I've ever seen. The organizers do a great job, not only in terms of spreading the word, but also in terms of creating anticipation. I feel like I'm part of a community, part of a movement. Aquí estamos y no nos vamos." Martín Espada




After a sold out run at Chicago Dramatists, MACHOS is moving to the 16th Street Theater in Berwyn, IL, conveniently located near the CTA/Blue Line Austin stop.

Tickets are already on sale, and I hope you will help spread the word!

Here's the scoop:

At 16th Street Theater 4 weeks only! January 25 through – February 17, 2008

Fridays at 7:30 PM Saturdays at 5:00 PM Saturdays at 8:00 PM Sundays at 6:00 PM


Lisa Alvarado

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Sheryl Luna reads in NYC, Friday 1/25!

Sheryl Luna, author of Pity the Drowned Horses, an award-winning book of poetry, will grace the NY poetry scene this Friday, January 25:

Here's the info....Bluestockings

Finding Us

Bluestockings is located in the Lower East Side of Manhattan at 172 Allen Street between Stanton and Rivington - which means that we are 1 block south of Houston and 1st Avenue.

By train: We are 1 block south of the F train's 2nd Avenue stop and just 5 blocks from the JMZ-line's Essex / Delancey Street stop.

By car: If you take the Houston exit off of the FDR, then turn left onto Essex (aka Avenue A), then right on Rivington, and finally right on Allen, you will be very, very close.....

Children's Writers Workshop at Chautauqua

René Colato Laínez

Chautauqua offers many quiet places. Dayton O. Hyde (right) and Rene
Colato find such a place to discuss Rene's writing.

In my classroom, I loved to tell funny, scary, sad, happy and adventurous stories. One day, one of my students asked me, "Can you write that story and draw the pictures?"

"What a wonderful idea!" I told him.

That night, I wrote and illustrated my first picture book- "El numero 1/ The Number 1."

I finished the book at 1:00 A.M. and I was thrilled.

Then, I wrote and illustrated more books. Soon, I had a box labeled “Mr. Colato’s Books”. I discovered that during independent and silent reading, this box was empty. All around the classroom, my students were reading my books. I was so excited and decided to write more and more books.

After presenting a new book, Elvis told me, “You are the teacher full of stories.”

“Sí, yes! He is the teacher full of stories,” all the children said at the same time.

And I became the teacher full of stories at Fernangeles Elementary.

One morning, children’s book authors Alma Flor Ada and F. Isabel Campoy visited my school and told me, “You have to send this wonderful books to publishers.”

Then I met Amada Irma Perez at CABE, California Association for Bilingual Education. Amada inspired me with her workshop about writing your own stories and get them published.

On March 2001, I was ready to drive the bumpy road to publication. I signed up for the Chautauqua Workshop in New York. Highlights for Children was one of my favorite magazine. I wanted to learn from their creators. This could be a great workshop for my writing career.

By July 2001, I had written two manuscripts and had rejection letters for both of them. I took the manuscripts to Chautauqua.

Patricia Lee Gauch, editor at Philomel Books, read my first manuscript and told me, “Good writing but I have seen many picture books about this topic. Do you have another manuscript?”

“Yes,” I told her. “It is in my room.”

That afternoon, I gave her my manuscript “Waiting for Papá.” Something magical happened. Patricia did not like my manuscript, SHE LOVED IT. Patricia sat with me and with her pen, wrote suggestions all over the manuscript. At the end of the workshop, she gave me a big hug and told me, “We can do this book together.”

Four months later, I received a lovely rejection letter for Patricia. She still loved the manuscript but the acquisition table did not select the manuscript. However, Patricia had more suggestions for me. I followed them and submitted my manuscript to Piñata Books/ Arte Publico Press.

On January 2002, my dream became a reality; my manuscript was selected for publication by Piñata Books. Bravo! Ahora era un autor, I was an author.

Yes, the Chautauqua Workshop changed my life and now it can change your life too.

Kent Brown, the executive director of the Highlights Foundation, is offering scholarships to Latino writers to attend the conference this summer. The funds are there but you need to apply before February 15, 2008. Get in contact with Kent Brown.

This is info about the scholarship:

Since the Highlights Foundation Scholarship Program was first established in 1988, more than 250 scholarships have been awarded to applicants who wish to attend the Foundation's Annual Children's Writers Workshop at Chautauqua, New York. These scholarships make the experience of Chautauqua possible for many individuals who might otherwise not have the opportunity or the resources to participate.

Individuals with a serious interest in writing for children and who have an established financial need are invited to apply. Scholarship applications are evaluated on an ongoing basis by the Highlights Foundation Scholarship Committee. Scholarships vary in the stipend awarded depending on an applicant's requirements and the funds available. Funds for scholarships come from two sources: a Foundation Endowment Fund or scholarships that are funded annually by donors.

This year the scholarship committee will be considering applications in two groups. It works in your favor if we receive your application early. The early group of applications is reviewed on December 1, and you are encouraged to apply BEFORE that date. The final deadline is February 15, 2008.

For more information on the Foundation Scholarship Program or to receive an application form, please contact:
Kent L. Brown Jr.
Executive Director
The Highlights Foundation