Friday, December 05, 2008

From Literary Salon to Best Books to New Books to Crime Poetry

John-Michael Rivera, Creative Director of the Amatl Project, sends our readers the following message encouraging contributions to a literary project scheduled for April, 2009. This sounds unique and full of possibilities - give it some serious thought. You should contact John-Michael for details about submitting your contribution.

Dear Folks,

For those of you who do not know me, I am John-Michael Rivera, an Associate Professor of English at CU Boulder and Creative Director of The Amatl Project, a center for the cultivation of Latina/o Arts and Literacy.

The Amatl Project grew out of EL Laboratorio, which was an award winning Latino Literary arts space that held innovative Literary Salons in 2007-2008 and worked closely with The LAB at Belmar, Arte Público Press, and the University of Colorado at Boulder's Creative Writing Program. We are continuing our programs with Latina/o artists and facilitating Literary Salons, but now we are adding important dimensions: we are working with El Centro Su Teatro in Denver and will add Latina/o literacy to our programming elements. I am currently working with El Centro Su Teatro and this year's NEA sponsored Big Read.

Making sure that Latina/o literature and culture are highlighted nationwide, we plan this year to create programs and honor the work of Rudolfo Anaya.

We are writing you all to ask that you contribute to a creative project that will take place during the 11th Annual Pablo Neruda Literary and Poetry Festival in Denver, Colorado on April 16th, 17th and 18th. At this festival, we will have a digital and live-action literary salon made up of writers, scholars and artists who have engaged or been influenced by Rudolfo Anaya's work in the broadest sense. We are looking for essays, poems, short stories, graphic novels, documentaries, and other creative work that responds to Anaya's long career as a writer.

Your contribution will, in part, serve as the basis for a literacy project with high school students in the Rocky Mountain area who have historically been left behind in literacy projects or have not had a chance to engage Latina/o artists and scholars at their own schools. The Amatl Project will work closely with teachers and students, and your contributions will serve as models for their own writing. Through your creative or critical work, we will help students find their own voices and begin their life long passion for writing.

The deadline is March 15th, on The Ides of March, and selected works will be posted on La Bloga and will be highlighted at our live performances held at El Centro Su Teatro in April, the weeks leading up to and during the Neruda Festival. If you are in the area, you will also be invited to read or perform at this event. I am also currently in conversation with three publishers who are interested in publishing a book length manuscript that may emerge from this project. This is the first of many literary salons and live blogs we will be sponsoring. Please stay tuned. Thanks for your time and if you have any questions please contact me at

Con Respeto,
John-Michael Rivera
Creative Director, The Amatl Project

The New York Times recently released its annual list of 100 Notable Books and we take note that Half of the World in Light: New and Selected Poems by Juan Felipe Herrera (University of Arizona) and 2666 by Roberto Bolaño, translated by Natasha Wimmer (Farrar, Straus & Giroux) are on the list. The Times says that "Herrera, known for portrayals of Chicano life, is unpredictable and wildly inventive." About 2666, the Times summarizes: "The five autonomous sections of this posthumously published novel interlock to form an astonishing whole, a supreme capstone to Bolaño’s vaulting ambition." Bolaño's novel also made the Times' Best 10 Books of the Year.

This past week I received two catalogs from university presses - here are a few upcoming titles in 2009, with the catalog blurbs.

University of New Mexico Press

Sweet Nata: Growing Up in Rural New Mexico
Gloria Zamora

Grandparents are our teachers, our allies, and a great source of love. They supply endless stories that connect us to a past way of life and to people long gone - people who led ordinary lives, but were full of extraordinary teachings. This is the subject of Sweet Nata, a memoir about familial traditions and the joys and hardships the author experienced in her youth. Set during the 1950s and 1960s in Mora and Corrales, New Mexico, Zamora reveals her interaction with her parents, grandparents, and other extended family members who had the greatest influence on her life. She paints a picture of native New Mexican culture and history for younger generations that will also be nostalgic for older generations. "Zamora offers a unique and authentic perspective on the Hispanic experience in New Mexico. As a memoir, it's a rare glimpse into the daily living of a family and a community." Ana Baca, author of
(UNM Press)

Gloria Zamora is a retired orthodontic assistant who lives in Corrales, New Mexico. Her short stories about family, culture, and heritage have appeared in La Herencia Magazine.

The Naked Rainbow and Other Stories: El arco iris desnudo y Otros Cuentos
Nasario García
Author, poet, linguist, and oral historian Nasario García turns to his childhood home, the Río Puerco Valley southeast of Chaco Canyon in northern New Mexico, for the setting of this collection of fictional short stories. These tales are based on García's personal experiences or stories he heard about people or events while growing up in his valley. They illustrate the vibrant culture of rural northern New Mexico and its inhabitants with a cast of common characters, above all women, whose compassion, willfulness, humor, observation, and spirit reflect the rich heritage of the environment that inspired their creation. Some of García's characters proclaim their own goodness and live on to enjoy that righteousness; others fall victim to the shortcomings of human nature. Regardless, laughter, empathy, and introspection are the common threads that connect these wonderful stories to one another. García originally wrote these tales in his native tongue, Spanish, and later translated them into English. Both versions appear here with a bilingual glossary that places regional terms and local idioms side-by-side for those unfamiliar with northern New Mexico Spanish. Master folklorist and native New Mexican Nasario García has published numerous books dealing with Hispanic folklore and the oral history of northern New Mexico and for three decades has dedicated his time to the preservation of Hispanic culture and language of the region whose primary roots rest in Spain and Mexico.

Northwestern University Press

Souvenirs of A Shrunken World
Holly Iglesias
April (Kore Press First Book Award winner for 2008)
Souvenirs of A Shrunken World is a collage of startling, unsentimental prose poems written by the Spanish-speaking midwesterner Holly Iglesias. Contemporary and vertiginously terrifying, this important collection about the 1904 World’s Fair, also known as the Louisiana Purchase Exposition, was written after 9/11 when there was a lot of rhetoric flying about savages and barbarians. The poems are a textual analog for the snapshots taken at the fair, which took four years to build and three months to raze to the ground, thus creating a sort of "instant nostalgia". It was the largest fair ever held, and the largest collection of "uncivilized peoples" ever put on display—Pygmy, Ainu, Patagonian, Bontoc, Igorot, and Native American. A wonderland and a nightmare, full of opportunities for uplift and cheap amusement, a showcase of consumer goods and of a nation’s prowess, it held the dreams and sins of (unconscious) white America.

Spoken through the voices of figures as diverse as Geronimo (who was there as a prisoner of war), Helen Keller, and African pygmies, this work reveals the dangers of accepting the stories we are handed. Astonishingly timely in a moment such as ours, when all manner of simulacra are offered up in place of the real world and real experience, Souvenirs of a Shrunken World reminds us that, though what is false ultimately fails, failure exacts its price, and, even when it all comes crashing down, "admission will be charged to view the wreckage."

"In this collage of startling, unsentimental images and tense fictions, Iglesias has stuffed the box of each small "souvenir" with the dreams and sins of (unconscious) white America at the beginning of the twentieth century, which would soon blast the world wide open. This is an important work, contemporary and vertiginously terrifying." —Maureen Seaton, Venus Examines Her Breast

Heart's Migration
Linda Rodriguez
April (Tia Chucha Press)
Simultaneously clear yet mythically transcendent, the poems in Heart's Migration speak power in a woman's voice. Rodriguez unmasks the human heart in its many beguiling and compelling forms: passion, oppression, and liberation. She evokes and re-imagines classical, biblical, Cherokee, Latino, and other American themes in strikingly personal and sometimes humorous ways as she lovingly renders the heart's eternal encounter with joy and loss.

Rodriguez has published poetry and fiction numerous journals and anthologies, including Primera Pagina: Poetry From the Latino Heartland (Scapegoat Press, 2008). She also has published a cookbook, The "I Don't Know How To Cook Mexican" Book (Adams Media, 2008). Rodriguez is vice-president of the Latino Writers Collective, founder/coordinator of the annual Kansas City Women Writers Reading Series, and founding board member of The Writers Place.


Here's something aimed at those of us who like poetry and crime fiction, not always an easy mix. Gerald So, with help from Patrick Shawn Bagley, R. Narvaez, and Anthony Rainone, has created The Lineup, intended as an annual anthology of crime-themed poems. The first edition came out in 2008 and the editors are putting together the 2009 issue.

Gerald So writes in the Introduction to Issue 01: Before I ever thought to write poetry, I was a fan, editor and writer of crime fiction. I especially enjoy how every paragraph, every sentence, every word has a purpose: to plant clues, reveal character, move toward resolution. I've come to appreciate the same purpose in poetry and have learned there are some moments, some images poetry captures much better than prose.

I've had the pleasure of reading Issue 01, and it's great. The lineup of writers for The Lineup is impressive and, although it may be a reviewer's cliché, there isn't a weak piece in the book. For the readers of La Bloga, I'll point out the chilling, and surprising, poems of R. Narvaez, especially Metro; the gritty, urban, cop-influenced stories from Sarah Cortez (who also happens to be a co-editor of the upcoming Hit List: The Best of Latino Mystery, due from Arte Público Press in March, 2009); and the contribution of A.E. Roman, the author of Chinatown Angel, the first book in the Chico Santana series, (Thomas Dunne/St. Martin's Minotaur, 2009). The collection also includes, in addition to the editors, Ken Bruen, Graham Everett, Daniel Hatadi, Daniel Thomas Moran, Robert Plath, Misti Rainwater-Lites, Stephen D. Rogers, Sandra Seamans, and KC Trommer.

I suggest you pick up a copy from your favorite book store - you can also check out the latest on The Lineup's blog, click here.

That's it for this week.


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