Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Review: Frida Kahlo Her Photos. On-Line Floricanto: Japan. Conjunto Update.

Review: Frida Kahlo. Her Photos. Ed. Pablo Ortíz Monasterio. México DF, Editorial RM, 2010.
ISBN : 978-607-7515-51-7 (Spanish) / 978-84-92480-75-3 (English)

Michael Sedano

Readers do not come to photography books for text, particularly with the title Frida Kahlo Her Photos. Turn page stop enjoy, turn, enjoy, turn...page after page, 401 photographs in all.

So many faces, places, and still lifes. Some instantly recognized, others sublimely anonymous. Editor Pablo Ortiz Monasterio has filled his six hundred pages amply with both. Mejor, Editorial RM ordered 130-gram Lumi Matt Art paper that holds detail superbly in the warm-toned grayscale and sepia reproductions.

Three preliminary essays set the context for the collection. When Diego Rivera died, he directed a friend to hold the material fifteen years. Instead, the thousands of fotos remained locked in a disused space at La Casa Azul for fifty years.

The collection amasses personal snapshots typical of any family album. As well, the collection includes signed work by such photographic luminaries as Man Ray, Imogen Cunningham, Edward Weston, Tina Modotti. Some images are signed by Kahlo, others most likely are her work but unsigned. Several defaced fotos display Kahlo's active involvement in images as tokens of enmity or other emotional connection.

There’s also a trove of historical images purchased by Rivera and Kahlo of European and Soviet history. The section essayist avers such artifacts inform a view of the collectors' interests and values. Maybe. That section could easily have waited for another volume, its pages instead taken with more family, friends and at-work subjects.

Ortiz divides the book in seven sections, each with a leading essay. The essays are helpful and adequately brief. Still, to consume and enjoy these images, no other knowledge required but eyes to see.

Nonetheless, historically aware readers will recognize Frida, Diego and numerous famous people. Famous people know famous people, and Diego and Frida were really famous so there's no dearth of famous faces to learn or acknowledge. Connecting faces with art, O'Gorman and Orozco, for example adds to the book's multiple pleasures.

The collection presents a significant number of bled-to-the-edge fotos and a few double truck pages reproducing exceptional frames. Descriptive text with fotos adds context, leading to numerous “So that’s what Mrs. Trotsky looked like!” moments. (326)

As mementoes, fotos act as a kind of prosthesis for memory, for example, a photograph of a drawing. Enhancing the point, facing that there's a foto of the artist, Miguel Covarrubias, and Kahlo.

Another image, signed by Kahlo, appears twice in the collection, a deluxe double truck on 202-203 and on 384-385 back and front. On a straw mat, a doll lies on its back, a toy horse kicks back its rear legs breaking loose from its carreta. The essayist suggests it a metaphor for the accident that put Kahlo in pain for the rest of her life, as well as a reminder that Kahlo’s pain occupies a central role in her art.

Ensuring against failed memory, many gente turn the print over and document the obverse. Delightfully, Ortiz photographs the backs, too. Lipstick imprints, autographs, dedications further contextualize the image, and if one can make out the cursive hand, read Kahlo’s thoughts on the subject for oneself.

Despite a photographer's best intentions, inevitably anonymity infects a memory. There’s the smiling woman on page 289, sprawled on a chaise, legs spread offering her crotch. She’s autographed her snapshot, “My normal position in life.” Perhaps a reader will have a “there’s bis-abuela!” moment and send in granma’s name. Per the publisher’s invitation, several subjects remain unidentified. Should you possess any information regarding these issues, please contact: info@editorialrm.com. That would prove delightful. An unidentified foto is a lot like Ozymandias, without the inscription.

Kahlo’s face has generated a large market for painters and other graphic artists. Frida Kahlo Her Photos comes with dozens of new images probably never seen heretofore. There’s Frida at two years old (left), the first plate in the book. Somewhat later, there's Frida circa 1952, which may be the most recent portrait in the collection. One troubling feature of the collection is the non-chronological layout within the generally organized sections. Then again, the lack of sequencing allows each image to stand on its own.

Obviously, this collection is a marvelous tribute to Frida Kahlo. Diego Rivera makes his de rigueur appearances here and there. But this is Frida's book. One three page sequence editorializes sin palabras their relationship:

A somber Kahlo looks into the lens on October 16, 1932, confronting anyone who will look into her eyes.

Turn the page. On the left, 298, there’s Diego, arms crossed, crinkled eyes and contented smile. He’s looking off the page to the right. On the right, 299, there’s a naked woman--Nieves Orozco--sitting on a straw mat in pura mujer profile, face obscured by an arm, her back to the contented Rivera's eyes.

La Casa Azul in Coyoacán was one of those places, the one time I visited Frida Kahlo’s home in el Defie, that forbids cameras on the grounds, check your lente at the door. And don’t think for a moment I don’t want my own fotos of the pad. I want that bookshelf with titles Frida and I both read. I want to memorialize those alcatrices in the garden. No, and no. No photography. That is irony.

On-Line Floricanto - Japan
Guest Editor: Odilia Galván Rodriguez

On Thinking of Japan

by Devreaux Baker

I begin to pray

Even the birds will listen

The flower unfolds

Sometimes tears will fall

Even the moon falls sometimes

Trees let their leaves fall

Do not be worried

This morning I heard a lark

It made me grow calm

Ancestors call me

I hear their voices in wind

The world disappears


by Francisco X. Alarcón

the wings of the seas

weep so furiously inland—

tears mix with sea mist

water ignites fires—

buildings, orphan houses burn

out of shaking grief

waves carry this grief

to all the Pacific shores—

one Earth family


por Francisco X. Alarcón

las alas del mar

barren furiosas tierra

lágrimas, brisa

el agua incendia

edificios, casas huérfanas

arden de dolor

olas con dolor

van a todas las costas—

todos familia


by Francisco X. Alarcón

snow flecks weep over

the wreckage of erased towns

along Japan's coast

silence all around

is now only broken by

the sobbing of trees

a lone cherry tree

is getting ready to bloom

in spite all this doom


by Francisco X. Alarcón

cópulos de nieve

lloran los destrozos de

pueblos costeños

el silencio es roto

sólo por el lloriqueo

de los árboles

un cerezo solo

se alista a florecer

entre tanta pena

Tanka for Japan

by Elizabeth Marino


Two groves --a cartographer's dream

Your blooms --a sudden sweetness

Here, your openhanded gifts

thrive under our militant sun.

Cherry blossom dreams.

Cherry blossoms, heavy water

Fall from legacy saplings.

In a moment, the earth

Rose and met the sea.

Time's idea meets

Your blooms --a sudden sweetness

Our pinks singed by snow.

Four Haiku, the Earth, Turtle Islands

By Alma Luz Villanueva

Earth spring dances sweet

new axis, new birthing time,

salt, roses, one song.

* * * *

Children jump the waves,

innocent as dolphins leap,

claim our oceans back.

* * * *

May the greedy shrink

to fit their wallet's shadow,

stay there for-ever.

* * * *

May the sharing ones

flow over time space to love

the other, the one.

Fukushima Daiichi 1

Por Xánath Caraza

Al oscilar la tierra

Caen las casas

La gente desespera

Hacia la isla noble

Corren las olas

Agua cubre la tierra

De reactores sale

Yodo radiactivo

Agua marina cerca

For Japan

by Lorna Dee Cervantes


Butterfly wakes, bees

Still, hearts go out with a surge

Melt down the hours


Single mourning dove

Kura who who who who who?

Green river, no town


Ocean apart: same

Surge as cherry trees shudder

Sad sunrise waiting


Turtle Island wakes

Stretches of waves take life while

She paddles. Love her.


Cherry blossoms' pink

Shrouds quake, ocean becomes wind

Wood shreds. So many lives!

Rising Sun

by Ivan Torres

for Japan...

The sun needs to rise

to help heal all the people

shaken, awakened.

- - -

The sun needs to rise

and so do we, earth siblings

to mend the broken east.

"Warrior Zen of the Dishes"

by Meg Withers

"I however, am a woman of warrior descent." (Shido, c. 1304)

Do not forget

you are handling a knife.

The window disappears

into steam.

Wet yellow plates squeak

new shoes.

What has this moment to do

with ancient texts?

Haiku for Japan

By Sabrina Vourvoulias

Petals on each face,

white and fragile spring flowers.

Uncertain beauty.


by Raul Sanchez

Steel sky turns iridescent shades

heaven's torch emerging

across the horizon blinding me

Five Senryu ~ an offering to Ocean

by Odilia Galván Rodríguez

on wings of ocean

water gives life or destroys ~

they were carried skyward

ocean endless

with no bottom to speak of

she cannot be blamed

for mysteries of life painful as they are deep

clouds without answers

mighty ships sinking

as if gravity were no more

a chasm

earth-water fissures

a breach in realit

your safety lost

©Odilia Galván Rodríguez, 2011

In A Few Words ~ Poems for Japan

Weeks after northern Japan was devastated by an earthquake and tsunami, the number of confirmed dead and people missing has surpassed 28,000, and the nuclear crisis continues to threaten even more lives. We know that we are but a tiny part of this grand web of life, and that what has happened to Japan affects us all.

In response to this tragedy, in addition to prayers, Poets Responding to SB 1070 asks that the community also continue to offer any other forms of assistance that they can lend.

Additionally, in mid-March we organized a call for Haiku and Senryū poems to be dedicated to the people of Japan, with some to be selected for a special edition of La Bloga's weekly floricanto to be published on April 19th. Odilia Galván Rodríguez, one of our moderators, agreed to coordinate the effort and we extend to her our heartfelt thanks.

Our solidarity, condolences and prayers continue to be with all of the people of Japan.

United in struggle ~

Sí, se puede!

The moderators of Poets Responding to SB 1070

A note on the Haiku and Senryū and Tanka (Waka) forms:

There are many forms of Japanese poetry, three of the forms most popularly written in the English language are haiku senyru and tanka (waka). Both haiku and senryu are expressions of what is called the “The American Haiku Moment."

The Japanese equivalent of syllables are much shorter and carry less informationthan in the English language. The 5-7-5 format, which is traditionally employed in writing these forms, is difficult to achieve and many Western writers of haiku feelthat a 12 syllables, with a 3-5-3 syllable meter, achieves the same quality as theJapanese form, both forms are used and are acceptable.

Senryū poems are similar to haiku, except they reveal an aspect of human nature juxtaposed with an image of nature. In contrast, haiku are short poems that inviteus into a shared experience of nature. In the Japanese tradition, seasonal words areassociated with haiku. The use of seasonal words may or may not be used in thesenyru genre of poetry. The waka or tanka, is an unrhymed verse of thirty-onesyllables or sound units. It is given rhythm by writing to a pattern of 5/7/5/7/7syllables and employ similar themes as those of haiku or senyru.


Devreaux Baker is a writer who lives in Northern California. Her most recent book is "Red Willow People" published by Wild Ocean Press.

Francisco X. Alarcón, award winning Chicano poet and educator, is author of twelve volumes of poetry, including, From the Other Side of Night: Selected and New Poems (University of Arizona Press 2002), and Snake Poems: An Aztec Invocation (Chronicle Books 1992) His latest book is Ce•Uno•One: Poems for the New Sun (Swan Scythe Press 2010). His book of bilingual poetry for children, Animal Poems of the Iguazú (Children’s Book Press 2008), was selected as a Notable Book for a Global Society by the International Reading Association. His previous bilingual book titled Poems to Dream Together (Lee & Low Books 2005) was awarded the 2006 Jane Addams Honor Book Award. He has been a finalist nominated for Poet Laureate of California in two occasions. He teaches at the University of California, Davis. He is the creator of the Facebook page POETS RESPONDING TO SB 1070 that you can visit at:

Alma Luz Villanueva was raised in the Mission District, San Francisco, by her Yaqui grandmother, Jesus Villanueva- she was a curandera/healer from Sonora, Mexico. Without Jesus no poetry, no stories, nomemory...
Author of eight books of poetry, most recently, 'Soft Chaos' (2009). A few poetry anthologies: 'The Best American Poetry, 1996,' 'Unsettling America,' 'A Century of Women's Poetry,' 'Prayers For A Thousand Years, Inspiration from Leaders & Visionaries Around The World.' Three novels: 'The Ultraviolet Sky,' 'Naked Ladies,' 'Luna's California Poppies,' and the short story collection, 'Weeping Woman, La Llorona and Other Stories.' Some fiction anthologies: '500 Great Books by Women, From The Thirteenth Century,' 'Caliente, The Best Erotic Writing From Latin America,' 'Coming of Age in The 21st Century,' 'Sudden Fiction Latino.' The poetry and fiction has been published in textbooks from grammar to university, and is used in the US and abroad as textbooks. Has taught in the MFA in creative writing program at Antioch University, Los Angeles, for the past eleven years. And is the mother of four, wonderful, grown human beings.
Alma Luz Villanueva now lives in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico, for the past five years, traveling the ancient trade routes to return to teach, and visit family and friends, QUE VIVA!! And taking trips throughout Mexico, working on a novel in progress, always the poetry, memory.

Xánath Caraza is a traveler, educator, poet, and short story writer. She has published her original work and essays in Circulodepoesia.com
, Pegaso of the University of Oklahoma 2010 and 2009, Pilgrimage Magazine, Quercus Review, Thorny Locust, Antique Children, La Bloga, Latino Poetry Review Blog, Present Magazine.com, El Cid, Utah Foreign Language Review, and elsewhere. Additionally, her work has been published in the following anthologies: Woman’s Work: The Short Stories (Girl Child Press, 2010), Cuentos del Centro: Stories from the Latino Heartland (Scapegoat Press, 2009), Primera Página: Poetry from the Latino Heartland (Scapegoat Press, 2008), and Más allá de las fronteras (Ediciones Nuevo Espacio, 2004).

Meg Withers grew up in a small northern California town She has traveled a lot, living in England and all over the continental U.S.A. She lived in Hawai`i for nine years. She earned her MA and MFA from San Francisco State and currently teaches at Merced Community College – Los Baños campus – an island in the middle of cotton fields and dairy farms. She considers herself a really lousy example of Buddhist practice, but her first book of poems, Must Be Present to Win, based on Buddhist practice, was published by Ghost Road Press in 2006. Her second book of poetry, A Communion of Saints, based on her life working in gay bars in Hawai’i, in the midst of the AIDS epidemic of the 80’s, was published by TinFish Press in 2008. Forthcoming this year is a book of poems based on her simultaneous love and complete ignorance of the language of math and science, particularly theoretical physics. It is entitled Particular Odyssey: In Search and will be published by Slack Buddha Press.

Sabrina Vourvoulias was born in Bangkok, Thailand -- the
daughter of a Mexican-Guatemalan visual artist and an
American entrepreneur. She grew up in Guatemala and moved to
the United States when she was 15.
Her poetry has appeared in Dappled Things, Graham House
Review and in Scheherezade's Bequest at Cabinet des Fees;
her fiction in Crossed Genres #24, the Crossed Genres Year
Two anthology and forthcoming in GUD magazine. Read her blog
at www.followingthelede.blogspot.com. Follow her on twitter

photo credit: Dan Vera
Odilia Galván Rodríguez, is a poet/activist and healer. She has been involved in social justice organizing and helping people find their creative and spiritual voice for over two decades. Odilia is a moderator and one of the founding members of Poets Responding to SB 1070. She also co-hosts "Poetry Express" a weekly open mike with featured poets in Berkeley, CA.

Cultura es Conjunto! Make San Antonio Plans Now.

From Juan Tejeda, this update:

Camaradas: we're a little less than a month away from the Guadalupe Cultural Arts Center's historic 30th Annual Tejano Conjunto Festival en San Antonio 2011, and we hope you're making plans to be here.

The updated TCF Schedule includes the Free Seniors Conjunto Dance on Tuesday, May 10; the free Roland workshop on Wednesday, May 11 (digital accordions).

Conjunto Music Hall of Fame Dinner & Baile on Thursday, May 12, features performances by Hall of Famers. Hohner Accordion Tuning, Repair and Maintenance workshop on Saturday, May 14 at the Guadalupe Theatre.

The return to our original conjunto musical showcase line-up, Friday-Sunday, May 13-15, at Rosedale Park will feature 25 of the very best conjuntos, plus, a student recital, special presentations by Dwayne Verheyden from the Netherlands and Conjunto J from Japan.

First-time-ever: Accordion Conjunto Jams at the end of each night; accordion raffles, food and beverage booths, plenty of dancing and fun for the entire family.

You can order your tickets online by going to www.guadalupeculturalarts.org scrolling down and clicking on Tejano Conjunto Festival, or by calling 210.271.3151. Please spread the word and hope to see you here next month. Gracias. En conjunto carnalismo, Juan.


Kathleen Alcala said...

Thanks Em! Fascinating.

msedano said...


Thank you. Thank you. Did I find the floricanto interesting? Hmph! I was moved to tears by the moving floricanto. I am sharing them with my teammates and plan to share them in Japan. Please convey my thanks and appreciation to your circle of poets.

Carolyn Junko Baba Sillman