Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Foto ése: Floricanto En Aztlán. Banned Books Update. On-Line Floricanto Mid-May

UCLA C/S Research Center Re-Publishes Landmark Alurista Collection

Michael Sedano

Floricanto en Aztlán. Poetry by Alurista Art by Judithe Hernández. Los Angeles: UCLA Chicano Studies Research Center Press, 2011. ISBN 780895511478 0895511479


Nationchild Plumaroja is Alurista’s best early poetry collection. At any rate, that extensive collection of gems has always been my preferida of the poet’s early work. In contrast, Alurista would sigh longingly in various chats we've had over the years about his work, he always preferred his firstborn, Floricanto En Aztlán.

At the 2007 National Latino Writers Conference when he agreed to join the reunion floricanto at USC should one come to pass, he expressed no objection to my revising the anthology he edited initially out of 1973's Festival de Flor y Canto. My plan is an edition adding reunion material to the existing volume, then either publishing a deluxe multimedia resource, or offer the materials as a free webpage.

Then Alurista hit me with his dream, would I republish his first collection, Floricanto En Aztlán? If we had but time and lana enough, dang tootin, and my favorite, too.

A couple years later, 2010, Alurista and I worked together in another dream come true, Festival de Flor y Canto. Yesterday • Today •Tomorrow. He reiterated his dream then, too. Republish Floricanto en Aztlán. The USC grant offered too little other than go first class rasquachi. 

Then last year, Alurista and I found ourselves in the lounge at the NLWC hotel and he has a now hopeful dream, he hints that, maybe, UCLA would be republishing Floricanto. A ver, I say, a ver.

Did you ever see a dream walking? Well, I did. Walking, and flipping through the pages, reading the good old stuff straight from the pages of a republished, casí facsimile of that first collection with the old but new name, Floricanto en Aztlán. Poetry by Alurista Art by Judithe Hernández.

The publisher enlarges authorship by including artist Judithe Hernández and  changing Alberto H. Urista to puro Alurista, who's penned a 2011 Preface. UCLA CSRC Press elects a photograph of the burlap-covered original cover, keeping price to a mere $24.95. Otherwise, these 100 pages are exactly what Floricanto en Aztlán looked like the first time UCLA published the volume. 

Judithe Hernández' linocuts perfectly express a complementary sensibility of their own on pages showing her work. Hernández sends her regrets at missing the event. Her attendance would have added a measure of immediacy when Alurista proudly praises the arte. In addition, the final poem he reads revolves around a Judithe story. She misses that, but the audience enjoys the heck out of work-in-progress Órale.

The UCLA C/S faculty exhibits low-key excitement about this significant event. The sparse audience includes Dr. Marissa López, who provides the academic part de rigueur at a University event (one attendee complains "he wasn't introduced right"), staff, and gente from the community. Chon Noriega, CSRC Director, excuses himself to teach a class after he introduces the faculty member.

CSRC's video crew tapes the event, from Noriega's three minutes to Marissa López reworking and extemporizing off an academic treatise. She pulls her punches, thankfully, adapting to the setting and reading the audience interest level.


López allows herself to grow flustered that some slides haven't shown up or something. Ironically, owing to her numerous apologies, the entire audience shares her discomfort. Otherwise she would have been alone in knowing something went wrong. When something goes wrong, say nothing. No one will be the wiser.

Here was an Oracy moment, another shoulda woulda coulda for lack of the word. Dr. López could have read the absent quotations aloud, guiding her listeners through the agency of practiced oral expression. An effective oral reading of poetry, whether snippets or, mejor, entire poems, reinforces and elucidates conclusions the speaker otherwise supports solely through ratiocination. Life should imitate art, in these instances.

Alurista lends an empathetic posture to the profa's dissertation when she directs a few questions his way. López is particularly aware of him as her conclusions put thoughts and intentions in Alurista's mind, or effuse his name.

The poet sets up his  Floricanto en Aztlán agenda by asking gente to open their copies and call out requests. “Sixteen” the first volunteer chimes out.  Then, illustrating the folly of appositional translation, calls out “diezyseís”.

The poet leafs through the table of contents, then abruptly stops and gets into it with the requestor. He gets into it a lot these days, muy interactive, the vato.

Look at the titles then give me the numbers como escritos, he advises. The titles come with their numbers, so cinco "libertad sin lagrimas", “in the barrio sopla el viento” sixteen.

 “Twenty-six” I call out. I have ganas de hearing Must be the season of the witch again.

Back in 1972 I’d crafted a multimedia piece--that's what they called those things; six projector three-screen and loudspeakers slide shows--Alurista: Six Poems featured young Alurista reading “season of the witch” and "dawn eye cosmos", I remember, from Nationchild Plumaroja, published by San Diego's Toltecas en Aztlán publishers, an outgrowth of el Centro Cultural de la Raza. Those interpretive readings sizzle with energy.

The young reader Alurista reads with the passion of a true believer unleashed. Today's seasoned poet reads with a curious inattention to the audience. Devotion to text keeps his eyes on the page. He makes eye contact with the audience in the transitions. I wonder when he read, or saw, these last, he begins tentatively but intently.

He maintains controlled, restrained vocalic animation that soon takes on a practiced fluidity. His  tongue is reviving muscle movements remembered from however long-ago upsofloating many readings.

The young Alurista sings of Amerindian genesis, la razared, in a code-switching mezcla that, like fresh cement, incorporates disparate compounds into a mass that assumes a solidity that withstands time, weather, vandalism. Mezcla serves as foundation for new structures that rise to greater heights and increasingly elaborated design. Ay, raza and other gente, you should hear those youthful readings! You can.

The slides from Alurista: Six Poems, are long gone, but I still have the technical script—manual slide changes in event the Digicue machine failed--and the audiotape. The audiotape. Seven and a half inches per second quarter inch BASF tape, probably brittle as can be. I will digitize this material and present the program for La Bloga readers. Right now, USC's Digital Archive preserves Alurista's performance program from the 1973 Festival de Flor y Canto, giving La Bloga readers access to notables from that era.

Alurista concludes readings by opening his notebook and reading from work-in-progress drafts. Printed neatly in pencil, the sheets are clean, reflecting work that nears "done", or a well-prepared reader

The wip stuff reads well-polished, presumably ready for Alurista's next collection after Aztlán Libre Press' Tuna Luna, published, like Floricanto en Aztlán, with art by Judithe Hernández.

Q&A time arrives when a staff member announces we have the room for another ten minutes. One vato, the MEChA Advisor at Santa Monica College, Natividad Vázquez, asks the poet about his MEChA tee shirt. Alurista appears taken aback and gets into it with the vato. A tense moment draws all eyes  when Alurista invades Vazquez' space. Momentary quiet takes over an expectant audience, semi-amused, semi-curious.

Then the poet cracks wise and Natividad gets it. It's all part of today's Master Class on Chicano poetry. Alurista has captivated and served his audience, given them the newest stuff, a lot of the old stuff, a firme hour with the vato and a motivation to take that signed copy of one of the world's first collections of Chicano poetry, and read it cover to cover and backwards and all the favorites over again.

You can see the events via CSRC video, once the production team completes the editing and posts it to You Tube. La Bloga and I will keep you posted on its posting.

Banned Books Update

"Shoot if you must, this old grey head, but spare your country's flag" Barbara Frietchie says in Whittier's poem. 

In Arizona, there's a variant on that skein of patriotism, it goes "Teach if you must, your Mexican American Studies, and we'll hand you your heads in a burlap bag. Screw the flag." That's what Sean Arce, curriculum designer of a public schools program assessed as "one of the most influential educators in the 20th century" is doing nowadays, carrying his head around.

Arce was called to account by the TUSD board who banned his program. With MAS and all those books banned, fiscal prudence dictates they fire the guy.

There's a term for TUSD's thinking. "Tautology" might fit. I'll use ekpleiktonto, which comes from an Attic Greek verb that says "completely struck out of my wits". If I remember my Xenophon, the Greeks feel like this when they think about the fearsome Persians they are sneaking up on. In campfire light, Greeks see Persians up close for the first time. The cucui are preening and combing themselves as they lounge about the fire. I don't remember if the suddenly puro human Persians are singing home on the range or green grow the lilacs, but they probably were.

In the mouths of TUSD majority, "Aye" becomes a code word for that standard seven-letter repartée hurled by woefully inarticulate racists, the blinded by hatred TUSD electeds.

And they are getting away with it. Hatred is defended by the US Constitution right now. TUSD has legal authority that allows the board to ban books, fire competent educators, erase raza.

Today throughout Arizona, Old Glory continues to fray to tattered, disrespected rags. Left untended, symbols disappear. This used to be a good country. It's no country for gente decente.

In Arizona, that's the state of the flag and everything it stands for. 

La Bloga Mid-May On-Line Floricanto 

“Cry in the Night” by Matt Sedillo
“Lote Bravo” by Pedro L Ramirez
“Our Serpent Tongue” by Daniel Garcia Ordaz
“Who Will Answer?" by Esmeralda Bernal
"Give Me Books on a Stick!" by Diana Lucas-Joe

Cry in the Night
by Matt Sedillo

Cry in the night
There is a cry
In the night
There is a terror
In these times
From which
The poor cannot hide
And whatever
Is left of a little bit of money 
In this country
Is only to be found
In the divide
The blood in the streets
And the blind eye
Anastasio Hernandez Rojas
Was beat to death
By border cops
For half an hour
As he joined
The chorus of
Eye witnesses
Begging for whatever life
Was left in his body  
There is a terror
In these times
There is a cry
In the night
It is Anastasios
It is Traevons
It is Oscar Grants
It is Ryan Kellys
It is Luis Ramirez’s
It is Sean Bell’s
It is Manuel Jamimes
Turn deaf ear
At your own peril
It may be yours

Lote Bravo An Offering to the Familias de Juárez 
by Pedro L. Ramirez

In the scorched Mexicano-Tejano bordered
Sonoran Desert where the young
Migrate like swells of swallows
and dwell to sift wind and sand
just as the Jicarilla, Mescalero, Chiricahua, Lipan,
And Kiowa Apache traversing across
A stick drawn line in the sand,
La Tierra roja burned on the souls of their bare feet
driven to the homelands
in flight to shantied dwellings
on a lote of settled space with
a blanket, toothbrush, family pictures, toiletries,
And clothing essentials
planted like rows of corn
for the work place.
Las Niñas de Juárez in the palm of the sun
brush downward-stroking their
black-silver hair
gently rinse brown skin
from the feet to neck with
silken soap strokes
like a blue spring breeze drying hands.
They are wrapped in sable shawls
Strewn over border-town squalor,
Eyes searching for empty heavens.
The Juarez avenues with strikers
Bannered names like Raquel, Maria, Elizabeth, Elodea...
Cienes y cienes de no sabemos,
And the Young women are
Las nombres de nuestra abuelitas
but the truth sucked
Into the Sonoran sand like
Quince cotillions with waltzes
on Aztlán dance floors.
The Juarez civilized lights
Bursting desert dreams as
border police dream catchers raise
Their absolved arms
Uttering "they are not ours, not our own or of us, our
"Era mi hija comenzando la vida,
Solo iba a trabajar, nos traía dinero para
Comida, zapatos y ropa para los niños.
Y le decía
que Dios la cuida, guarda y quita de todo peligro.”
And the Mexica lullabies hummed by Mamá
of oh Señor Santana
Sunk deep like fracked spirit songs
into Apache sand where Joshua tree roots
drift into the ears of our children and soothe
palmless dessert rivers with
Cragged stone parchments.
The crimson dried blood of
Our daughters spilled on lote bravo,
On a trashed strewn spot,
where squatters dwell in
lawless bliss.
© Pedro L. Ramirez

Our Serpent Tongue 
by Daniel Garcia Ordaz 

For Dr. Gloria E. Anzaldúa

Your Pedro Infantecide stops here.
There will be no mending of the fence.
You set this bridge called my back
yard ablaze with partition, division
labelization, fronterization
Yo soy Tejano
Chicano Chingado
Pelado Fregado
I drop the fork
at the tip of my tongue
con orgullo
que ¡Ahí viene
a woman is coming
a woman with cunning
a woman sin hombre with a forked tongue is running
her mouth—¡hocicona! ¡fregona!
a serpent-tongued ¡chingona!
a cunning linguist
turning her broken token of your colonization
into healing
pa’ decir la verdad
You are not my equal
You cannot speak like me
You will not speak for me
My dreams are not your dreams
My voice is not your voice
I scream “A la chingada!” in nightmares
not “Oh my dear God!”
Your Pedro Infantecide stops here.
There will be no mending of the fence.

Who Will Answer?
by Esmeralda Bernal 

  Lilly Mederos 2010 - 2012

Who gave the key to life,
so callously, to a mad jackal
willing to do the devil’s work .

Who placed this child into
the center of rage unbound,
to be hit by the fist of its hell?

Who allowed this distorted mind
out of its cage? What party gave
him the evil spirits to imbibe?

Who, who, will answer
to this? Silence cannot be allowed.
I only hear Lilly’s sweet breath.

Who is now hiding? Your crime
is known! There are many
criminals! Don’t hide!

 Esmeralda Bernal 5/5/2012

Give Me Books on a Stick!
by Diana Lucas-Joe

Give Me Books On A Stick!
Tie them there for me.
Let me be seen with their weight.
Let me be seen with their worth.
Give Me Books On A Stick!
Chicano written books, read by Chicanitas.
Books that inspire the day, seen in the light!
Books that are banned in Arizona by haters of the raza!
Give me string made of hemp to tie them to the stick!
The stick long and strong, cut from the tree of life!
The stick that was once a part of something rests now, on my shoulder!
Give me books on a stick that will be seen as my companions over hills and valleys
and on down the stream!
There on the many streams reflecting in the cooled waters that I will walk in and barefooted!
Just give me books on a stick!

By Diana Lucas-Joe


“Cry in the Night” by Matt Sedillo
“Lote Bravo” by Pedro L Ramirez
“Our Serpent Tongue” by Daniel Garcia Ordaz
“Who Will Answer?" by Esmeralda Bernal
"Give Me Books on a Stick!" by Diana Lucas-Joe

Pedro L. Ramirez attended Fresno State University as an EOPS student and holds both a B. A. and M. A. from San Francisco State University. Since 1991, Pedro has been teaching at Delta where he has taught in the Migrant Transition Program working with farm working  and urban youth, but Pedro now teaches in the English Department, teaching basic composition, critical thinking, Chicano Literature, and Creative Writing. He also taught in the Puente Project. He is a founding member of Cultural Awareness Programs (CAP).  Pedro is dedicated to promoting diversity and cultural competency on the Delta Campus. Pedro has published poetry in Iowa Review, Blue Unicorn, La Opinion of Los Angeles, Sentimientos del Valle, Artifact, El Tecolote SF, La Voz de Atzlan and many other journals. A native of Fresno, Pedro began his teaching career at San Francisco/Fresno State University and Fresno City College. He credits the rich creative writing community there for inspiring him to write and teach. Pedro has published a semester poetry magazine which is student generated. He has worked as a farm worker, janitor, and a gas station attendant. He loves working with students.

Daniel García Ordaz, from McAllen, Texas, is a founder of Rio Grande Valley International Poetry Festival and the author of You Know What I’m Sayin’? García has been featured in Texas Latino Voices and Dallas International Book Fair, among others. His work is being taught at several colleges and universities.  García also appears in “ALTAR: Cruzando Fronteras/Building Bridges,” a documentary about Gloria Anzaldúa.

In addition to "Our Serpent Tongue," García's poem "Immigrant Crossing" also appeared in La Bloga's online Floricanto on Jan. 11 and has been accepted for the forthcoming anthology, Poetry of Resistance: A Multi-Cultural Response to AZ SB 1070 and Other Xenophobic Laws.

~Daniel García Ordaz, a.k.a. The Poet Mariachi

Please visit El Zarape Press 
Valley International Poetry Festival  April 26--29, 2012 

Baby Lilly and her mother Amber Mederos
Esmeralda Bernal was born in Raymondville, Texas; spent the major part of her life in California and currently resides in Phoenix, AZ. Her poetry has appeared in Yellow Medicine Review, La Bloga and is forthcoming in Nahualliandoing II, MALCS Journal Spring 2012, HaLapid Spring/Summer2012, and Poetry of Resistance: A Multi-Cultural Response to AZ SB 1070 and Other Xenophobic Laws.


jmu said...

Damn, that must have been a great event. I wish I had been there. Oh, wait, I was there. I just wish I could be as grandiloquent as you. And, no, I am not lambisconeando. It is just that your lyricism describing the event helps me to relive it with greater intensity. Unfortunately, you left out the tale of the santo árabe. Ni modo, probably length limitations. And you are right. It is a downright vergüenza that the event was not better attended. UCLA has a top-notch Chicano Studies Dept and the audience should have been SRO. After all el chaparrito is a founder of Chicano letters (OK, so he is truly a transplantado, but still!) and responsible for the poetry in the Plán Espiritual de Aztlán. Is it lack of publicity? Lack of respect for our raíces and/or elders? The effects of long-ago burnt bridges? Ignorance? Quien sabe and s/he ain't talkin'...

Anonymous said...

Daniel Garcia was my English teacher in memorial high school.