Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Doppelgängers. Melinda Palacio Reads. News & Notes. On-Line Floricanto.

Los Doppelgängers Fun, Frolic, Convergence

Michael Sedano

Richard Montoya and Guillermo Gómez-Peña, Los Doppelgängers. What a bill for an evening's entertainment. Two geniuses, one certified one not. Ni modo, it is a dream bill.

A Mexicano and a Chicano, the two performers don't look alike; each is a spitting image of himself. Ricardo is not William nor is Guillermo Richard, so they're not tocayos. The one adheres to unscripted spontaneity the other a playwright, by nature dedicated to structure and plot. So what is the doppel part of this gang, and what are the two of them doing sharing the same stage at UCLA's Fowler Museum?

Richard Montoya, Guillermo Gómez-Peña

To believe the program, the collaboration offers "mana a mana" performance around border issues. The pair will perform reworked excerpts from older work. The promised result both a ‘profane’ border ritual and a ‘living archive’ that explores the rampant violence taking place in Mexico and the concurrent anti-immigration hysteria in the United States.

Guillermo Gómez-Peña, for one, explains some of the above, offering his willingness to see what would happen. Take it Montoya. Richard Montoya puts down his chain saw to flash the pages of a script for the evening then admits he has little idea what will actually take place in this space. Montoya apologizes for the placement of the massive stone fountain smack aplastada in the center of the room. It’s on loan to be returned to the Getty Villa tomorrow. He lied; I learned the fountain is permanently installed there.

The performance consumes the four corners of the enclosed courtyard. Gómez-Peña diagonal from Montoya. Musicos--Chicano Son--play kitty-corner from a dazzling spotlight. The ornate fountain holding center stage requires the audience--limited by the Fowler to an elect handful—to bunch up around the periphery or, until the last act, fountain perch and swivel to the active corner then pivot 180 degrees to watch the counterpart act. 

Alternating time in the pink light, the actors let flow streams focused on  language, communication, identity, politics. Gómez-Peña elects to go a la brava, extemporizing when he holds the stage. Montoya orates and spiels, reads his father’s gem,  El Louie, accompanied by bluesy horn, also reads from Ricardo Flores-Magon’s “Tierra y Libertad."

The doppels work simultaneously in the evening's final segment. Montoya narrates a wild romp in the water by a diaphanous-gowned woman while Gómez-Peña circles through the audience, mic in hand, echoing key phrases or words plucked from Montoya's stream. The world's oldest cholo makes an appearance, dances with the angel. She splashes water with hands and hair on as many onlookers as possible all the while following Montoya's sometimes risqué stage direction. Click below for “Los Doppelgängers” samples.

The link above mixes still frames with video snippets. Taken with an iPod Touch camera in puro available light, the results are a colorist impression of a challenging and entertaining event. I'd asked about photography and was told the event was to be an intimate setting and no cameras. Glowing screens floated out of the deep shadow like giant fireflies, so I whipped out my iPod and voilà.

With the house lights dimmed to max, much of the white light illumination comes from the underwater lights and the surrounding hallways. The spotlight operator mounts a pink gel. The light burns away the performer's face. The operator sweeps the light across heads and faces to spot the performer in the opposite corner.

Conejos Raul Baltazar and Company Bunnies wear pink bunny outfits, circulating through the crowd taking videos. With the evening billed as be a “living archive” exploring US culture, I hope the conejo video will surface one day soon.

In the warm-up, Abby Ghraib aka Allison Wyper holds up a sign asking about cameras. She selects an unwitting volunteer, walks him to the podium where a noose awaits. Posing the hapless fellow, Ghraib invites gente to create their own home-made torture foto. At $25 a head instead of $1.2 trillion, that’s a bargain souvenir. I am too far to get a foto.

I catch one foto, center below, of Guillermo Gómez-Peña as he flashes past me and through the pink beam. He's moving and I pan with him. The high contrast and absence of detail cry out for color experiments, hence the triptych here:

Guillermo Gómez-Peña

After LA Times writer Reed Johnson so enthusiastically wrote up the performance in advance, the program reprints the piece and thanks Johnson for his work: both Artists wish to thank: Josefina Ramirez of the Irvine Foundation Rene Yañez, their artistic Godfather Reed Johnson EI Gringo Simpatico Del Los LA TIMES! Everybody who bought a ticket! Gente wishing they’d been there could have been part of that elect group, with a subscription to the Fowler Museum’s e-news.

Gente attending the current ASCO tribute at the LA County Museum of Art understand the bottom line of “Los Doppelgängers.” LACMA’s walls do little to express ASCO’s identity nor add to appreciation of their actual work, which is not a bunch of fotos. Performance art constrains itself to time, place, attention. If you’re not in place when the thing runs, you’ve missed it and it’s gone forever. In other words, you shoulda been there. Los Doppelgängers proved itself a highly worthwhile “mana a mana.” Tighten up the structural threads, make something of those bunnies--or add gorilla suits and other critters, quien sabe--make the piece more coherent, and it's ready for the road.

El Louie is a genuine masterpiece that deserves a better reading. It's not that Montoya père's reading is the final word on that monument of carnalismo because son's blue atmospheric reading simmers with potential. The gruff voice limits what can be expressed. Now Montoya and Gómez-Peña have to bring back Los Doppelgängersat least one more time, to do El Louie justice. Y si no, san pinche or los doppelgängers are in for it.

Melinda Palacio Brings Ocotillo Dreams to Tia Chucha's

Saturday was the annual Lascano Pelada, and I was glad Tia Chucha's Centro Cultural scheduled Melinda Palacio's Ocotillo Dreams reading for an early start. Sadly, the hour proved too early for readers so a big crowd did not get to enjoy the repartée, reading, and fun.

This is the second reading I've attended at Tia Chucha's that had a small house. Indie booksellers provide  an important community service by opening business hours to itinerant writers like La Bloga's Melinda Palacio. Every signed book indicates a sale, and perhaps new business to the enterprise. Cash flow and growth, two magic words for the bottom line.

The centro sits on the road to LA Mission College, at the fringes of densely populated neighborhoods. I hope some advanced student considering a communications or marketing career makes a project of drumming up colas en sillas. For instance, there's a large apartment building across the street, an ideal target for shoe leather intensive advertising, i.e. door-to-door pamphleting. At the college, identify twenty students and five teachers. Deliver personalized messages with time & place. Get commitments, not definite maybes. Bring a few opinion leader tipas tipos in the door and word of mouth will soon have gente competing for a chair at crowded readings.

Building audiences remains a constant struggle for the artist and entrepreneur. I suppose if they knew there would be an audience sing-along to "Cama de Piedra" they'd be knocking down the doors.

News & Notes
One Hundred Thousand Poets For Change Berkeley Schedule

La Bloga friend, poet Vibiana Aparacio-Chamberlin, advises she is reading in Berkeley as part of the event broadsided below. Vibiana's venue, Subterranean ARTHOUSE, is at 2179 Bancroft Way. 100,000 Poets for Change stages a global event September 24. Click here for details.

News & Notes
New Short Fiction Series Spotlights 1973 Festival de Flor y Canto Writers

Mark your calendars for October 29 for a wonderful reading listening experience. Vibiana, along with Alejandro Murguia and Ron Arias, are the featured writers in the October 29 staged reading, Diga Me/Pacific Standard Time at The Fowler Museum, UCLA. I am moderating the post-performance discussion.

The reading is produced as part of the fifteenth anniversary season of The New Short Fiction Series produced by Sally Shore. It is the longest-running spoken word series in the region.

La Bloga will share details as they emerge. The spoken word series is an every second Sunday of the month event in Santa Monica. The series moves to UCLA's Fowler for this event.

News & Notes
Call for Papers on Carlos Fuentes • Due date January 31, 2012

Carlos Fuentes

La Bloga friend Roberto Cantú from California State University Los Angeles has organized what promises to be another spectacular event in May 2012. As with any academic conference, the focus is up in the air other than having to do with Fuentes. For example, here are some suggested paper topics:

13.  The Gothic literary tradition in the novels of Carlos Fuentes.
14.  The Avant-Garde, Latin American literature, and Carlos Fuentes.
15.  Carlos Fuentes and European Realism, from Cervantes to Balzac.
16. Carlos Fuentes and Mexico's post-Boom generation of novelists: continuity and change.
17.  Archaeology at the Templo Mayor, 1976-present:  revisions in Mesoamerican history, and impact on Mexican art and literature.

That last one has a good ring to it. And trece would be a good session, too. Visit the conference website for the exquisite details.

The keynote talk, too, sounds like a good draw. CSULA's food services does a great job on banquet cooking and serving, so guests will sit back well satisfied when Dr. Georgina García Gutiérrez Vélez, Centro de Estudios Literarios del Instituto de Investigaciones Filológicas,  Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México gives her talk on “Carlos Fuentes and Diego Rivera: Leading Creators of ‘Renaissances’ in Mexico”.

CSULA is on the eastside of town, in El Sereno. UCLA, a co-sponsor, is westside, near the edge of the continent.

News & Notes
Siquieros Mural Subject of Upcoming Sunday Lecture

The dazzlingly modern entertainment that Montoya and Gómez-Peña mounted stands as an encouraging sign that artistic liberty--or license, go for it--lives vibrantly in the halls of the Academy.

Across town on Calle Olvera, in 1938--hopefully a far different era--censors elected to whitewash a dramatic 18' x 82' mural depicting the crucifixion of a  campesino. Painted by David Alfaro Siquieros, it is one of three murals the Grande painted in this city.

Today, the mural is almost restored. Shortly, the mural will be unveiled to the public. (A copy created recently adorns the west wall of the old Self Help Graphics building on Gage and Cesar Chavez in East Los.)

The Getty's conservation scientists, numerous public officials--many self-recruited--and the gente in the background like Carol Jacques and Amigos de Siquieros, must savor the moment. What satisfaction knowing the job approaches completion.

The lecture, conducted in association with the new La Plaza de Cultura y Artes, advances los Amigos de Siquieros' public education efforts about the mural, the next phase of the mural project. No rest for the weary, but nothing reinvigorates volunteer energy than seeing one's work come to fruition. Next.

Anyone who enjoys a cobbled street, a sidewalk table to people watch, and acceptable cooking, enjoys Calle Olvera. With the addition of Plaza de Cultura on one side and the Obregón Medal of Honor Memorial on the Union Station side now joining the ongoing program of the Mexican Cultural Institute, the area, officially named El Pueblo Historical Monument, is being reinvigorated as an important cultural site.

La Bloga On-Line Floricanto • Penultimate Tuesday in September 2011

This week, the moderators of the Facebook group, Poets Responding to SB 1070, submit work by five poets: Doroteo García, Devreaux Baker, John Martinez, Susan Deer Cloud, Monica King.

1. "Los Janitors Soñamos Despiertos" por Doroteo García
2. "Oiling the Immigrant's Bowl" by Devreaux Baker
3. "The Line" by John Martinez
4. "Reading The Names, 9/11/2011" by Susan Deer Cloud
5. "Learn English" by Monica King

"Los Janitors Soñamos Despiertos" por Doroteo García

Alguien camina por las noches
Hasta muy tarde, en la Universidad
De Stanford
No es un estudiante
No es un profesor.
A veces lo encuentras, dentro
De un salón de clases,
Dentro de un auditorio,
Otras veces lo puedes ver
Dentro de un taller o
Dentro de un laboratorio
Pero no es doctor
También lo podras ver
Adentro de algunas oficinas
Pero no es administrador

No lleva libros ni cuadernos
Usa un trapeador y un sacudidor
En vez de una computadora
Trabaja con una aspiradora
Mantiene limpia la universidad
Mientras todos duermen.

Mañana durante el día, en este lugar,
Se hablará de economía, de historia
De polítíca. Tal vez se invente una nueva
Formula física, o tal vez, se descubra
Una nueva galaxia.
Pero ahora a la una de la mañana
Un janitor sueña despierto
Añorando un mejor futuro
Para sus hijos.

Oiling the Immigrant's Bowl

by Devreaux Baker

I stuck my hands in my mother’s apron
pulled up pictures of her holding long dead babies
in her arms

I stuck my hands in her apron
felt the sting of asophedite on my tongue, a cure for cursing,
a cure for flu, a cure for stormy relations

I stuck my hands in my mother’s apron
smelled her cedar chest opening, found moth balls
like globes of sugar sprinkled across my uncle’s navy uniform

I pulled up pictures of the dead, resurrected color into their faces
jumped off   jumping off places,
stuck my hands in past the wrists, up to the elbows, shoulders,
this is my collar bone ringing my neck

I pulled her apron over my head,
tied it in a bow across my belly, her pockets next to my pelvis
I stuck my hands in, pulled out blackjack nights I had forgotten
pulled out river smells in her hair, cypress sap on her fingers

I dusted my hands with flour, measured in salt, rolled out the dough
flattened out days, lifted up her first dates in Austin,
farm boys waiting on the porch, live crawfish in a bowl
on her table

I stuck my hands in her apron, pulled out the Queen of Wands,
determined, strong, oiled the immigrant's bowl,
covered the bread


by John Martinez

Between two trees a line is drawn
But high in the sky
The diving birds
Witness their branches
Piercing clouds
To meet
And embrace

Soon their roots will tangle
Deep in the soil and fuse
So that eventually
Each tree has a bit
Of the other one’s bark

The rain falls at an angle
The sun moves in precise time
Spreading rays on each tree

Between two trees a line is drawn
But this line is weak
Drawn with a pen
This line is temporary
As the wind
The rain
The scurrying leaves
The raising root
Will turn it back
Into the earth it was
And then
It will be gone

John Martinez © 2011


by Susan Deer Cloud

                              Reading the Names   9.11.2011

Today I stood under sky,
violet at dawn then graying
to rain by noon.

I started reading
the names of the dead …

every Indian who died
in terrorist attacks,
beginning with Columbus.

Thunder cracked nearby
and made me think of the guns.

I remembered the ghosts
beaded with bullet holes,
the ones in canoes

who wave to me
from the Susquehanna.

I prayed they fared okay
in this week’s flood and will eat
pancakes once more at Manny’s Diner.

I read until twilight mists
silvered in.  Raindrops wet

my lips like multiple delicate kisses.
I wondered if ghosts kiss …
maybe more delicate than this.

When the rain stopped
I watched a star shine out.

The terrorists stole my language
so the names shone out mute.
My heart knew

the dark city was still
in a state of emergency.

                           © Susan Deer Cloud   9.11.2011
First published in Counterpunch, September 17-18, 2011.

Editor's Note: Normally I prefer to let a poem speak for itself and include no graphics. Susan Deer Cloud's poem put me in mind of Lalo Alcaraz' pure genius  9/11 drawing. Lest we.
Lalo Alcaráz. Collection of msedano.

Learn English

by Monica King

Learn English

When a little girl,
she was told learn English.
Other moms did not want her
to play with their children.

"Go back to where you came from"
were the words spoken each day.
But a little girl,
she learned English.

She did not care to play with the children
whose moms did not like her.
She found the words,
"I am from here".

A confused teenager,
trying to find a place
not just in the world
but in herself.

Going to a school where
she was too "brown" to be white,
and too "white" to be brown.

Living where girls did not want to talk,
torment was their passion.
A confused teenager,
who pushed her way and made a place to stand.

She ignored the poison
and was no longer a threat.
A teacher now,
who was told she had an accent.

Parents say she should not be teaching their children.
Children love her and want her to stay.

Every day she goes for them,
not for the ones who create laws
to make her feel less than human.

She continues to believe,
and becomes a great successful teacher.

~Monica King


1. "Los Janitors Soñamos Despiertos" por Doroteo García
2. "Oiling the Immigrant's Bowl" by Devreaux Baker
3. "The Line" by John Martinez
4. "Reading The Names, 9/11/2011" by Susan Deer Cloud
5. "Learn English" by Monica King

Devreaux Baker has published three books of poetry; Light at the Edge, Beyond the Circumstance of Sight and Red Willow People. She has current poetry in ZYZZYVA, Borderlands: A Texas Review of Poetry, New Millenium Writings, Crab Orchard Review: The American South Issue, and Poecology. She was a co-editor of Wood, Water, Air and Fire:Poetry of Mendocino County Women and the producer of the Public Radio Program; Voyagers: Original Student Writing for Public Radio for KZYX . She directs the Mendocino Coast Poets and Writers Reading Series.

Susan Deer Cloud is a Métis Catskill Indian of Mohawk/Seneca/Blackfoot lineage.  She has a B.A. & M.A. Literature & Creative Writing from Binghamton University and an MFA in Creative Writing from Goddard College.  She has received various awards and fellowships, including a National Endowment for the Arts Literature Fellowship, two New York State Foundation for the Arts Poetry Fellowships (most recent one a 2011 Fellowship), a Chenango County Council for the Arts Literature Grant, First Prize in Allen Ginsberg Poetry Competition (twice), Prairie Schooner’s Readers’ Choice Award, and Native American Wordcraft Circle Editor’s Award for her multicultural anthology Confluence.  

Deer Cloud’s poems and stories have been published in numerous journals and anthologies (Sister Nations: an Anthology of Native Women Writers on Community, Unsettling America & Identity Lessons multicultural anthologies, American Indian Culture & Research Journal, Yellow Medicine Review, To Topos (Poetry International), Florida Review, Mid-American Review, Ms. Magazine, Prairie Schooner, Many Mountains Moving, North Dakota Quarterly, Poet Lore, Quarterly West, Earth’s Daughters, Shenandoah, Blood Lotus, Exquisite Corpse, Pembroke Magazine, Stone Canoe, Paterson Literary Review, Helicon Nine, etc.). Her most recent books are The Last Ceremony and Car Stealer (FootHills Publishing) and Braiding Starlight (Split Oak Press).

Deer Cloud has edited two anthologies ~ multicultural Confluence and Native anthology I Was Indian (Before Being Indian Was Cool) ~ plus the 2008 Spring Issue of Yellow Medicine Review, a Journal of Indigenous Literature, Art & Thought.  She is now an adviser to Yellow Medicine.  Currently she is editing the Re-Matriation Chapbook Series of Indigenous Poetry for FootHills Publishing, as well as an all Native issue for on-line journal Big Bridge (to be published in January 2012).  Her panel on the re-matriation of Indian people through writing poetry was a part of February’s 2011 Associated Writers Conference in D.C., where she also took part in three readings and a book signing.  In March 2011 she read, served on a panel, and spoke to a Native Literature class at the three day International Writers Conference at University of North Dakota in Grand Forks.

Monica Renee King (Morales) was born and raised in Mesa Arizona where she attended Mesa Public Schools.  After graduating from Westwood High School, Monica pursued a degree in Early Childhood.  In spring of 2009 Monica graduated from Arizona State University with honors and was hired by Maricopa County as a teacher in their Head Start Program.  Monica is going on her third year teaching for Head Start and is now a Site Supervisor.  Her goal is to go back to school and get a Master’s Degree in Early Childhood Education.  Monica enjoys hobbies such as:  photography, dancing, traveling, cooking, and writing. Currently Monica lives in Mesa Arizona with her husband and their two dogs.

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