Thursday, January 10, 2008

Palabra Pura Kicks Off Its Third Year

ariel robello
and Juan Manuel Sánchez

Gente! Exciting poetry news here in Chicago...Palabra Pura kicks off their third year January 16th, 8:30 PM, at their usual local, California Clipper, 1002 N California Ave.

For those of you unfamiliar with this superb salon of Latino poetry, here's an interview I did with one of its founders, La Bloga friend and excellent poet in his own right, Francisco Aragón. Believe me, a Palabra Pura experience is NOT to be missed, and it's been my pleasure to be part of the local steering committee, especially in the company of the likes of Ellen Placey Wadey, Mike Puican, Mary Hawley, y La Divina, Johanny Vazquez. Below is the first line up of what promises to be a stellar year of local Chicago poets paired with poets who've made their mark on the national scene.


In her debut collection of poems, My Sweet Unconditional, ariel robello meets us at the horizon, where worlds blend in the blush of sunrise and sunset, where land meets sea, air – earth, and where man and machine interrupt the natural ebb and flow of life. Unapologetic, she declares her faith in a love that defies borders and with each poem she weds herself to a belief that unconditional love can still be found in the cracks of a urban sidewalk, dancing above puffing smoke stacks, behind a guerrilla’s mask, in the worn paint brush of an island love, blundering below a street lamp in Ensenada, spelled out in daisies on a Veteran’s tombstone, in the stitch of a huipil and most importantly—deep inside one’s own reflection. With language as radiant and dangerous as broken glass ariel robello cuts away at the political dogma and superficial beauty of a world unhinged to reveal a bloody but dignified glimpse of love in the hands of a New World survivor.

Having earned her chops on both the stage and the page, ariel robello represents a generation of poets as concerned with performance as they are with line breaks. ariel robello received a PEN West Rosenthal Emerging Voices Fellowship in 2002 and published her first collection of poems, My Sweet Unconditional in 2005 with Tia Chucha Press. The inspiration for her poetry stems from her work as a poet-in-residence and mentor to teens, advocate for immigrants’ rights, and teacher of English in schools, sweatshops, juvenile detention centers, and most recently at the community college where she now lives with her hijito in Tampa, Florida.

“Effortlessly, swimmingly, yet every line a ‘florescent ember’, seething and praying, these poems mark the debut of a powerful woman of letters; young yet wise, weary yet hopeful. ariel robello is the revolution in verse we’ve been waiting for – the spoken unspoken, the dreaded effervescence of truth conspiring with our souls. Chicana voices have always pushed deeper into the emotional terrain of conscience and witness, ‘My Sweet Unconditional’ does what poetry collections should always do – pull us into a universe so familiar yet frighteningly unknown with poems that awaken us to the political and personal traumas of our times, yet sweetened by the beauty of word and verse.

—Luis J. Rodriguez is an award-winning poet, journalist, memoirist, children’s book writer, essayist and fiction writer. He is author of the critically acclaimed “Always Running: La Vida Loca, Gang Days in L.A.”

"Ariel Robello's My Sweet Unconditional is never insincere or sentimental. This first collection of point-blank narratives of the heart never misses. Playful and reasoned, witty and serious, My Sweet Unconditional's insinuation beckons and disarms. Ariel Robello's voice is one of a kind."—Yusef Komunyakaa, Pulitzer Prize-winning poet.

"Poetry Lover, beware the fire-and-ice urban joys of Ariel Robello! These are brutally savvy and deliciously vicious paeans to life, relentless in their celebrations of love, sacrifice and sex--and once beheld by the eyeheart, humbles rescues redeems."
—Wanda Coleman, poet, Los Angeles

"Ariel Robello has crafted remarkable poems that demand no less than a pure appreciation of art from you, even as they break your heart. There is nothing easy here: the music is grafted from a painful if illuminating life, but they shimmer with a rage that is transformative.
A voice to watch for."
—Chris Abani, author of GraceLand and Dog Woman.

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Juan Manuel Sánchez was born and raised on the US side of the San Diego/Tijuana border. He holds an MA in Literature from UC San Diego and is currently in the final throes of his MFA at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. He has worked as an assistant editor for Ninth Letter, has lectured at various universities and is now Lecturer of Spanish at the University of Chicago. His work is forthcoming in Pembroke and in the anthology Junta: Avant-Garde Latino/a Writing.

Lisa Alvarado


Johanny Vázquez Paz said...

You are also muy Divina, my dear Lisa. Thanks for the apodo and for the support for Palabra Pura.

Feliz Año Nuevo!

un abrazo,


Francisco Aragón said...

I plan on being in town for the launch. Looking forward to it.