Wednesday, October 31, 2012

A Mummy in Her Backpack / Una momia en su mochila

 By James Luna
Spanish Translator, Gabriela Baeza Ventura

  • ISBN 9781558857568    
  • Published 30 Oct 2012    
  • Pages 64
  • Piñata Books/ Arte Público Press

A young girl discovers a shocking surprise in her backpack 
in this entertaining billingual tale for intermediate readers

Flor enjoyed her two-week trip to Mexico, though she’s glad to be back at school. But when she tries to pull her homework out of her backpack, she’s shocked to feel a cold hand clutching hers. Thinking that the pesky boys in her class are playing a trick on her, she turns around to look into her pack.

She’s even more stunned when she sees two yellow eyes peeking out at her.

Flor and her best friend Lupita stare in astonishment as a cowboy hat, followed by a small man with dark yellow skin and thin, stringy hair, emerges from her backpack. He introduces himself as Rafa, a mummy from the famous museum in Guanajuato. Flor visited the museum and learned that some people buried there mummified naturally. She can’t believe that an actual mummy hitched a ride with her to the United States!

Amusing hijinks ensue as the girls try to hide Rafa from their teacher, classmates and family. And when Rafa realizes that it’s almost the Day of the Dead, or El Día de los Muertos, he longs to return home. The girls are forced to reveal their secret and seek help from an adult. How can they get Rafa home in time for the annual celebration honoring deceased loved ones? Published in a bilingual “flip” format, young readers ages 8 to 12 will savor this entertaining story about mummies, friendship and responsibility.

Take a look at the book!

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Block Captain's Daughter. On-Line Floricanto.

Review: Two Novels, One Small Package

Demetria Martínez. The Block Captain's Daughter.  Norman, UOkla Press, 2012.
ISBN: 780806142913 080614291X

Michael Sedano

To make a long story short, Demetria Martínez does a wondrous job of showing, not telling. Martínez’ The Block Captain’s Daughter is an involving novel and a ninety-five page lesson in writing, a seminar in economy and incisive style.

Stories of three couples, friendships, and a pair of pregnancies, played out amid a confluence of cultures and languages, should be a thick, rich book weaving complicated interplay of love, birth, commitment, unity, mujerismo.

Martínez produces the same story by electing a route marked with just enough and only once. It’s a writing style of essentialist economy.

For example, Flor and Maritza are the novel’s happy couple. They are classic opposites. Flor is the epicurean, the sensualist, the dreamer. Maritza is the stoic, the pragmatic waste-not-want-not tipa. They’re perfect for one another.

Author Martínez doesn’t tell us all that stuff, though I’m sure she’d make it fascinating. Instead, the author shows us in crystal clear snapshots, like a poem sees infinity in a grain of sand. For instance, the episode when we meet Flor and Maritza.

Flor longs to listen to her collection of mariachi records. The music takes her back to daddy and when the girl was an uncomplicated teenager. Flor and Maritza don’t own a record player, so Flor would be overjoyed to have one as a gift. Maritza buys Flor a television set because they can use it for work. Ever practical, Maritza spends their discretionary income on tools.

But their personhoods aren’t all one-sided. Flor visits her psychologist regularly while Maritza looks to la curandera María. Curanderismo flies in the face of the skeptic's hard-nosed preference for science. Women’s health is one way Martínez brings Maritza into focus as the everywoman of the novel, committed, loving, decisive, complicated. In this climactic episode, Maritza goes to María to lift her guilt after a long-ago abortion. La curandera offers a baggie of copal and good reason.

As testified to by science, you stopped a beating heart. But if I had a million dollars, I’d bet every centavo of it that Jesus was looking down at you in that doctor’s office. True to his personality, he suffered with you, never abandoning you. Do we know if there was a soul in that fetus? No, we don’t. But if there was one, the gods of all our ancestors surely told it to fly away for the time being.

When grim is called for, Martínez gives grim. When funny is called for, the author serves up funny, especially when the situation bespeaks grim.

Cory and Peter have a wretched relationship, mostly owing to Peter being a dick. They’re discussing names for the baby. Cory has one picked out. Peter has to think about it and stumbles on Xochitl, all nationalistic and cool. Cory’s speech sums up the gulf between the bicultural couple: they are separated by a mutual culture.

Peter, love of my life. Why go all the way back to Mesoamerica, to the Aztecs for heaven’s sake? You want a good Indian name? we only have to go thirteen miles south of Albuquerque to Isleta Pueblo. Have you forgotten that my third cousin lives there? We’ll name the baby after her. Tiffany.

As if the narrative novel weren’t enough, The Block Captain’s Daughter contains a novel within the novel, Flor’s letters to her gestating daughter, Destiny. One day, that daughter will be all grown up and be able to read these letters, but not get the whole story.

You don’t have to wait. And you’ll know how it all fits together, the letters, the people, the fates. You can order a copy from the University of Oklahoma Press, or your local independent bookseller.

Floricanto on the Academy Side

The lobby of NYU’s Skirball Center for the Performing Arts teems with patrons jamming the wide steps descending to the auditorium where Chancellors of the Academy of American Poets will read. The front of the line has been stopped by closed auditorium doors and an usher posted at a velvet rope. Down winding steps the mass inches along the curving balustrade where couples jostle into the dense cluster of poetry lovers who hold their ground while gingerly holding plastic cups.

Marilyn Hacker
Anne Waldman
At the rope it’s a madhouse of passive aggressivity. Nicely dressed women and a few scattered necktied men bunch up at the closed auditorium doors, angling to step casually into someone’s path to gain an advantage when the doors open to the unreserved seating.

I take the elevator, whose doors slide open to the bar a few steps from the velvet rope. I find myself miraculously fourth in line behind the rope, to amazed stares. So begins my whirlwind foto safari making portraits of today’s leaders of mainstream United States modern poetry.

The Poets Forum produces packed audiences in evening and mid-day events. NYU and The New School, in association with the Academy, illustrate the strong market for poetry books and floricantos.

You’ll find a complete gallery of portraits and sundry images at Read! Raza.     .  For a collection of videos, look for links in the gallery, or click here.

Capturing video on the Canon T2i machine requires careful listening and planning. The planning element incorporates limits of the machine. When processing HD video, light, and audio inputs, the chip inside the camera sizzles. To protect itself from melting, the camera captures gorgeous video then shuts down after a minute or less. Turning turn off the camera for a period before taking video extends the duration of the take.

Ron Padgett

Planning means getting to the hall early. Which I did not for the Friday afternoon events at the New School Theresa Lang Center on West 13th Street. I arrive in time to sit to find several heads and shoulders between me and the speakers rostrum.

Naomi Shihab Nye

An ideal of Oracy for writers is being able to express the art and imagination compressed within one’s words and sentences. Movement, gesture, eye contact, vocalization, imaginative content, and effective setting should combine to lift a reading from rote orality to eloquent magic. Landing somewhere near the middle of that standard would be good enough.

Settings complicate matters for audience, reader, and fotog. Floricanto organizers rely far too much on the lectern and microphone stand. The ritual element of the Chancellors Reading illustrates how limiting that choice becomes: every portrait a talking head. Ritual produces rote reading. Stuck behind the lectern, deprived of the technology of the body, the poets restrain themselves. They sound tired, as if they’ve been travelling all day to get here tonight.

Juan Felipe Herrera
The audience and Chancellors appreciated the variety when Anne Waldman sang her poem and when Naomi Shihab Nye’s reading elicited chirps from other Chancellors.

The panel discussions provided the most rewarding images. Poets take on a different ethos from reader to panelist. Relaxed and interactive, their faces grow animated, their bodies contort to the floor and the chair, their arms and hands animate their conversations.

Animated speakers are fun to photograph. The speaker establishes a characteristic rhythm that accords with pauses periods phrases and exclamations. The fotog anticipates the gesture, an eyebrow, a wide open mouth, and presses the button.

Victor Hernández Cruz
Juan Felipe Herrera, California’s Poet Laureate, engages his audience through performance. In contrast, Victor Hernandez Cruz reads his work with considered reserve, restrained gesture, restricted eye contact. But kicked back and relaxed, Victor and Juan Felipe have a great time bouncing writings tips off of Naomi Shihab Nye.

Toi Derricotte

Carl Phillips
Ritualizing rote readers keep eye contact on text or, if working from memory, look out toward the house only rarely, seemingly randomly, and then only briefly. Readers like Carl Phillips apply the same economy of expression in conversation. The posture makes panel speaker portraits a constant challenge to get an exceedingly rare dynamic pose. The fotog takes a deep breath, steadies the lens, and waits for what seems the moment before eye contact. Snap. Most of these exposures are failures.
Jane Hirshfield

Carl’s on stage with Toi Derricotte and Jane Hirshfield, both lively engaging readers and conversationalists. The Chancellors Discussions on Contemporary Poetry raise important questions that nag for answers, like the question of audience that bedevils one panel, then the next speaker in desultory transition remarks audience ruminations amount to a bunch of much adoo, we all write for ourselves anyhow.

See the full gallery at Read! Raza. If you miss links to the associated videos, this page has them.

Sharon Olds, Marilyn Hacker
"The Poetry and Legacy of Adrienne Rich"

La Bloga On-Line Floricanto Near DDLM
Francisco X. Alarcón, Pedro L. R. Ramirez, Garrett Murphy, Andrea Mauk, Manuel Murrieta Saldívar.

The Chancellors of the Academy of American Poets represent one pinnacle of aspiration for poets across the United States and throughout America. At Academy standards, two factors distinguish the members: income and recognition.

Poets on the ascendancy to those levels find audiences where they will, an open mic, an activist event, a quiet living room. All share in common the spirit and alma of the Facebook group Poets Responding to SB 1070 Poetry of Resistance.

The moderators of the group, led by Francisco X. Alarcón, nominate five poets for recognition in the final La Bloga On-Line Floricanto of October 2012.

"Poetas Migrantes / MIgrant Poets" by Francisco X. Alarcón
“Larry Hill, a true Chicano Warrior,” by Pedro L. R. Ramirez
“SAFE AND SOUND,” by Garrett Murphy
“For Scott”, Andrea Mauk
“FRONTERA POEM”, by por Manuel Murrieta Saldívar.

Poetas Migrantes / MIgrant Poets
Francisco X. Alarcón

Larry Hill, a true Chicano Warrior
Pedro L. R. Ramirez

"Let may say at the risk of seeming ridiculous, that the true revolutionary is guided by the true feelings of love." Ernesto Che Guevara

So it begins with a story told as
A young boy in Alamagordo, New Mexico
con Sus papas Oscar y Mama Chole Soledad
Baptist baseball players
Con Margaret, Robert, Gene, Josephine, Sammy, Raquel, Oso,
Fina, y el pequeño hunting rabbits
Like Pancho Villa in the Mexican hills of Chihuahua,
Y two boys in the brush with Sammy and his red rider bb gun
With the boys squelching hay ta un conejo Sammy.
Boyhood dreams of the big catch .
God guiding in
Baptist congresos and association camps with
A stern familia who
weren't mainstream or
a white washed dream,
Who were Mexican...Chicanos, Nuevo Mejicanos, manitos
Y Larry decía
"no me gustaba como nos decían
Alamogordo founders
Spic, wetbacks, beaners, y greasers.
Yo me Los jodia,
I'd kick their asses!
“Cargábamos armas
Y defendíamos Raza."

And God with a swirl of an eyelash
created a familia with Betty y Becky where Chris,
Jennifer, Little Larry, Marcos, Elena, Alexandria y
Todos Los grandkids who he loved more than life itself.
Poetry flowed through Larry's veins across our nation
through the barrios and ghettoes of America with
López Tijerina, Dolores Huerta, and Cesar Chávez
His Joaquín Murrieta Spirit
across continents with Yasser Arafat
Defending the colonized, destitute, poor, defenseless, and displaced
and with lexicons of writs
Striking with snake fists of verbs
Against ignorance and the blind,
landing a right lead declarative blow of
"The truth will set you free!

The warrior spirit revels in the truth of our World.
It began on a false premise
By Euros who took
the rivers, ponds, matched mountains, great lakes,
Canyons, seacoasts, deserts, swamps,
Lagoons, volcanoes, buffalo and
All four legged creatures, crawlers, swimmers
And spewed the landscape con
crimson unmarked family filled trenches
Of 125 million!
And Larry's Law cursed those
who stole the vineyard of another.
"The worst case of genocide in the History of the world!
Nos vamos a chingarlos ese!"

The words spilling from Larry's
contoured fingerprints
thru bent knees,
from mouthed truths.
A debarred lawyer,
Who accused councils of
"Practicing Law with a license!"

In a whimsical military state
Billy Larry Hill
Attracted an army general
To witness the first Chicano Hill-billy!
He'd call you a YUPI,
You denied it,
dubbed by the truth,
And frame you a ChUPI
But no, without a job you're a CHUMP.
Larry Hill was unbridled
in an office where Raza said,
Larry, "no hables español, te van a correr,"
Y decía so all could hear on the first floor in a five story building,
"Yo me Los Jodo a Los Gavachos
who don't want me to speak Spanish,
Anyone got a problem with that? I didn't think so! Vamos a lonchear."

In court where a judge
deported you and
ruled Larry incorrigible,
for refusing his verdict
of sending you away from your familia,
Larry Declared, "You're out of order judge!
Your whole white race is out of order.
You have yet to show us your green cards! "

And in a flicker of darkness
When memories of a head-on collision crushed his
Temporal skull into a shard,
Larry went to the depths where
his soul mirrored in tears
a frown and wailing sadness
only Ometeotl could soothe,
His spirit like a brilliant plume
uplifted by the infinite.

The depths of his tragedies were
heights of his love for you.
His jovial heart always emanating
Like a rose crossed heart aflame
As he greeted you on the front steps
Of his or your home
Un abrazo de Amor
With the smile of a man
whose cup overflowed.
Who was gifted the illuminating, Alaskan-Aurora Borealis
Cascading on his tattooed face
With sunlight prisms melting reds, blues, and
Crystal white swirls of
Stars wafting like melted tears.
He longed for and beckoned the celestial red sky
Where God with his pocked palm
lifted him
Hand held drifting into the
Red sky.

©Pedro L. Ramirez

Garrett Murphy

Here you sit in your suburban adobe,
Well beyond the security gate,
On the quiet side of the soundwall along the throughfare,
At home watching the news on TV.
Reveling at the story about the newly-erected border fence,
And the resurection of old crows.

But it's not enough.
It never is enough.
And THEY keep on coming.

Soon there'll be nowhere left to run,
nowhere left to hide.

Walled in,
cut off.
Suffocation is imminent.


It's enough to cause one to commit the capital offense...

...of building a bridge.

(from the chapbook 8 BOOK [2010])

For Scott
Andrea Mauk

You were perfect, Scott.
At least you looked that way to me,
your blonde hair flying back
as you ran the track
at Tempe High,
your chiseled cheeks
and sparkling eyes.
I will always remember you,
the kind of boy
who would never look
at a halfbreed girl like me.
Or so I thought, but I
will never know
because you won't be at
our high school reunion.
You won't be,
because you weren't actually
perfect, no...
and you got caught tweakin'
but that doesn't give the jailer
monsters, monkeys of Sheriff Joe
the right to freakin'
drag you by one leg,
(obviously, you weren't resisting)
sit you in a chair,
wrap a towel around your neck
(obviously, you couldn't stay alert)
and push
you were no longer a Norse prince,
a Viking, a gorgeous white boy,
because you turned blue
and then purple
and when informed of
your transformation,
the guard said,
"I don't give a f@#&."

you were perfect
as a guy can get,
I will always remember you that way,
Tempe High School Senior
most likely to...

be murdered by a cronie
of Sheriff Joe Arpaio.

por Manuel Murrieta Saldívar

Vámonos hacia la luna transgresora
ahora que libres estamos de los muros
y de las noches rutinarias

ahora que los estacionamientos
se saturan

que las colas del shopping
no te engañan
y comienza ya el arrullar de mariposas

vámonos hacia el horizonte del oeste
donde el sol se entierra
al fin de la muralla que muere sobre el mar

a la punta del desierto
al origen del golfo
ahí donde asesinaron a los ríos

a donde podamos estar
en acurrucos y abrazos sin viento artificial

a donde no existan papers
que te impidan el paso
ni documentos inservibles al instante

porque quiero escuchar tu voz
cómo te suelta y te libera

vámonos hacia donde viven los poetas,
esos que buscan despertar curiosidad
y potencial sin nada a cambio

vámonos a donde aún hay oídos,
pocos, lo sé
pero que escuchan sueños, dan abrazos y saben de futuros

porque sé que adentro de tus cielos
no existen aparatos
ni alambres que paralicen tus imaginaciones

porque si alguna vez pensaste tú
en acompañarme tendría que ser hoy…

es este el momento
el aquí y ahora terrorífico y hermoso
cuando por un instante
podemos todos juntos
right now
evadir todos los borders
y sacudirnos toditas las fronteras…

San Luis RC/San Luis, AZ, octubre 2012

"Poetas Migrantes / MIgrant Poets," by Francisco X. Alarcón
“Larry Hill, a true Chicano Warrior,” by Pedro L. R. Ramirez
“SAFE AND SOUND,” by Garrett Murphy
“For Scott,” by Andrea Mauk
“FRONTERA POEM,” por Manuel Murrieta Saldívar.

Francisco X. Alarcón, award-winning Chicano poet and educator, is the author of twelve volumes of poetry, including, From the Other Side of Night: Selected and New Poems (University of Arizona Press 2002). His latest book is Ce•Uno•One: Poemas para el Nuevo Sol/Poems for the New Sun (Swan Scythe Press 2010). His most recent book of bilingual poetry for children is Animal Poems of the Iguazú (Children’s Book Press 2008). He teaches at the University of California, Davis. He is the creator of the Facebook page, POETS RESPONDING TO SB 1070.

Pedro L. Ramirez is a Nopalero. Awarded,with his fellow Noplaleros, the 2008 Rigoberta Menchu World Peace Award. He attended Fresno State University as an EOPS student and holds both a B. A. and M. A. in English/Creative Writing from San Francisco State University. Since 1991, Pedro has been teaching at San Joaquin Delta College in Stockton, CA. where he has taught in the Migrant Transition Program working with Migrant farm- workers and urban youth but now teaches English or basic composition, critical thinking, Chicano Literature, and Creative Writing. He also taught in the Puente Project. He is the founder of Chicanos Writers Artists Association (CWAA) at Fresno State. He is a founding member of Cultural Awareness Programs (CAP) at Delta College where he has noted speakers and poets such as 1992 Nobel Peace Prize winner Rigoberta Menchu, National Book Award winner Victor Martinez, American Book Award winning poets Francisco Alarcon, Gary Soto, Jimmy Santiago Baca, CA Poet Laureate Juan Felipe Herrera, and Margarita Luna Robles to note a few. Pedro is a community activist and founded Raza Advocacy for Education. Pedro is dedicated to promoting poetry, diversity and cultural competency on the Delta Campus. Pedro has published his poetry in La Bloga, Poets Espresso- Stockton, Iowa Review, Blue Unicorn, La Opinion of Los Angeles, Sentimientos del Valle, Artifact, El Tecolote SF, La Voz de Atzlan, and and many other journals. He has read nationally. 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 read for the College Board AP Lit., GRE, SAT, SAT II, and CBEST. He has worked as a farm worker, janitor, and a gas station attendant. He loves working with students, as does his Wife of 31 years math teacher Betty N. Ramirez of East L.A. You can contact Pedro at

Andrea García Mauk grew up in Arizona, where both the immense beauty and harsh realities of living in the desert shaped her artistic soul. She calls Los Angeles home, but has also lived in Chicago, New York and Boston. She has worked in the music industry, and on various film and television productions. She writes short fiction,
poetry, original screenplays and adaptations, and is currently finishing two novels. Her writing and artwork has been published and viewed in a variety of places such as on The Late, Late Show with Tom Snyder; The Journal of School Psychologists and Victorian Homes Magazine. Both her poetry and artwork have won
awards. Several of her poems and a memoir are included in the 2011 anthology, Our Spirit, Our Reality, and her poetry is featured in the 2012 Mujeres de Maiz “‘Zine.” She is also a moderator of Diving Deeper, an online workshop for writers, and has written extensively about music, especially jazz, while working in the entertainment industry. Her production company, Dancing Horse Media Group, is currently in pre-production of her independent film, “Beautiful Dreamer,” based on her original screenplay and manuscript, and along with her partners, is producing a unique cookbook that blends healthful recipes with poetry and prose.

Manuel Murrieta-Saldívar (Ciudad Obregón, Sonora, México). His most recent book of poetry is Alejados del Instinto (Editorial Atreyo 2011) His poems are included in the anthology of Poesía sonorense contemporánea 1930-1985 by Alonso Vidal; Primer encuentro de poetas y narradores jóvenes de la frontera norte, by Roberto Vallarino (1986). First Exposición Estatal de Poesía Sonorense 1987; White Feather Anthology. La otra poesía sonorense, by Raúl Acevedo (1993). He is included in A sol pleno (1998), first video anthology of poets from the US-Mexico border (produced by poet Inés Martínez de Castro, El Colegio de Sonora, the México-USA Fund, and the Rockefeller Foundation). His poems are also published in Concierto de lo entrevisto. Antología de poesía sonorense (2008), the most up to day anthology of poets from Sonora (edited by poet Alba Brenda Méndez, Editorial Garabatos). His works also have been published in NW Mexico, and US-Mexico literary supplements and electronic portals such as Oasis, Hayaza (University of Sonora), El Observador, Prensa Hispana (Phoenix, Arizona), Solaluna, Refugio poético (Arizona State University), Bogavante, Perfiles, Dossier Político (Hermosillo, México). Murrieta holds a Ph.D. in Latin American Literature from Arizona State University, and a bachelor degree in Hispanic literature from the University of Sonora. He is the founder of Editorial Orbis Press ( and the electronic publication Culturadoor ( He has won awards as a journalist (“Journalism Award” in the state of Sonora), author (three-time winner of the Sonoran Book Award), and editor (Best publishing house delegation in the IX International Book Fair of Puerto Rico, 2006). Presently he lives in the Modesto area, Northern California, where he works as associate professor of Chicano, Mexican, and Latin American literature at California State University, Stanislaus. More about him:

Monday, October 29, 2012

Spotlight on Melinda Palacio and her new poetry collection “How Fire is a Story, Waiting” published by Tía Chucha Press

Melinda Palacio is an award-winning poet and author from South-Central Los Angeles.  She studied Comparative Literature at UC Berkeley and earned a graduate degree in the same field at UC Santa Cruz.  Palacio is a 2007 PEN USA Emerging Voices Rosenthal Fellow and participated in the Squaw Valley Community of Writers.  In 2009, she won Kulupi Press’s Sense of Place 2009 competition for her poetry chapbook, Folsom Lockdown.  Her poetry and fiction have been widely published and anthologized, including Latinos in Lotusland: An Anthology of Contemporary Southern California Literature (Bilingual Press), Southern Poetry Anthology IV: Louisiana (Texas Review Press), and the literary journal PALABRA, to name a few.

This year saw the publication of her first novel, Ocotillo Dreams (Bilingual Press), which has received critical acclaim and is the winner of several awards including the PEN Oakland Josephine Miles Award (which will be awarded this December in a ceremony), and the Mariposa Award for Best First Book.

Melinda Palacio

And this week will see the official release of Palacio’s first full-length poetry collection, How Fire is a Story, Waiting, published by Luis J. Rodriguez’s Tía Chucha Press.  

From the publisher: “Melinda Palacio’s newest poetry collection creates images that are at once heartbreaking and humorous.  She tackles elemental subjects of family and childhood with the same depth and grace as that of myth making and death.  As the only child of a mother who died too young, she infuses her words with longing and life, and celebrates the women who came before her.  Each poem offers up the truth in a fearless and unsentimental voice.  Palacio’s lyrical language punches an unexpected pause to subjects such as domestic violence and her childhood in South Central Los Angeles.  How Fire Is A Story, Waiting is divided into four sections: Fire, Air, Water, and Earth.  In each section Palacio tempers heartbreak, violence, and disappointment with the antidote of humor, beauty, and an appreciation for life.”

Praise for How Fire is a Story, Waiting:

“Palacio’s work is expansive, physical, funeral-wet, elevated, funny, existential, woman-story, jazzy and Pachukona.  She is unafraid to dive head-on into questions of death, loss and self. Into the fiery entwined spikes of father-daughter estrangements, mother-daughter intimacies and most of all, she is ‘insomniac’ bold in this volume as an ongoing sequence on self.  Melinda's collection has Bop and ‘swagger,’ lingo, song, denuncia, compassion and wild, unexpected turns—all the key ingredients and hard-won practices of a poet (and shaman) in command of her powers.  I don't think there is anything like this book.  ¡Brillantissima!” —Juan Felipe Herrera

“’Continue to fix broken things,’ Melinda Palacio writes in ‘Ramona Street,’ and the poems in How Fire Is a Story, Waiting are consumed with naming the problems of the world and trying—however provisionally—to set them right.  Palacio's verse, dense with imagery, is by turns sorrowful and sardonic, and always the voice is her own.  There's a little universe in this book: enter and learn.” —David Starkey, Santa Barbara Poet Laureate Emeritus

To find out how you can plan a literary event with Melinda Palacio, please visit her events page.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

La Poesía de Xánath Caraza

Xánath Caraza 
by Amelia M.L. Montes (

Xánath Caraza weaves Mexica Indigena/Spanish, African, and North American Midwest roots throughout her poetry.  She is from Veracruz and from Kansas City, Missouri. Currently, she teaches at the University of Missouri-Kansas City (UMKC).  Xánath recognizes the important African influence within our Mexican/Chicana/Chicano cultura and she celebrates it with much passion in her work.  Xánath is also not new to La Bloga.  In December of 2009, she was a guest columnist for La Bloga, giving us information about her Kansas City Writer’s Collective.  The group had (altogether!) given a reading in Chicago and she recounted the trip.  CLICK HERE for the link. 

Three years later, La Bloga returns to Xánath in celebration of her two-book tour. 

Two weeks ago, she read her poetry at The University of Iowa for the “Latinos in the Midwest Obermann International Programs Humanities Symposium” and just last night she was in New York giving a reading as well.  I feel very fortunate to have met and heard Xánath in Iowa.  Her words match her voice in power and lyricism.  She fills a room with melodic phrasings and detailed images of the landscape. 

Xanáth has recently published a poetry chapbook and a poetry book just months apart and both are receiving much notice for the mix of languages (Spanish, Nahuatl, and English), and the seamless transitions from, for example, Chicontepec lands to Midwest Prairies. 

The two books are:

Chapbook:  Corazón Pintado
Published by TL Press, 2012.  Kansas City, Missouri

Full length poetry book:  Conjuro
Published by Mammoth Publications, 2012.  Lawrence, Kansas

One of my favorite poets, Maria Melendez (author of How Long She’ll Last in This World) writes:  “Caraza’s voice is the pulse of the powerful, mythic earth.  Landscape and dreamscape fuse in this rhythmic poetry, as the images Caraza paints and repaints for us—mountains, shells, twisters, deserts—go on ‘rocking the imagination’ through time, history, memory, and that wildest frontier:  the heart.”

And indeed, Xánath’s poetry moves in all the ways Melendez describes. 
In her poem, “Yanga,” Xánath sings the words which recount the slaves who arrived in Veracruz and escaped, forming a community that continues to thrive today. 

Excerpt from Conjuro:

En 1570
Llegaste al Puerto de Veracruz,
Encadenado como muchos,
Escapaste de la esclavitud.

Palenque, rumba, samba
Yanga, Yanga, Yanga
Espíritu indomable,
Noble hombre de África.
In 1570
You arrived at the Port of Veracruz
In chains as many
You escaped slavery

Palenque, rumba, samba
Yanga, Yanga, Yanga
Unconquerable spirit
Noble man from Africa

The following is from an interview with the Letras Latinas Blog this past July (2012). 
CLICK HERE for the link.  I chose this particular section because it best reveals Xánath’s beginnings in Veracruz, her Chicontepec raices (roots). 

Of “Conjuro” Rigoberto González says: "A decisively Amerindian song breathes through the pages of Xánath Caraza's Conjuro, a charitable book of invocation, incantation, lamentation and healing.” Your chapbook “Corazón Pintado” too, despite being a collection of ekphrastic poems, draws from what may be described as the oral/poetic traditions of indigenous roots. Can you speak to your particular affinity for the oral and indigenous traditions?

Xánath:  It mainly comes from my mother’s side.  She’s from an indigenous community in the northern part of Veracruz y quieras o no, se aprenden cosas nada más de ver. My mother grew up bilingually up until she was eight years old, Nahuatl and Spanish.  My tía, my mother’s sister-in-law who is also from the same Huastec group, came to live with us in Xalapa, Veracruz from the time I was a baby.  This was after she lost her husband, my mother’s brother.  Between my mother, my tía and my cousins I learnt behaviors that were natural to me, but once I was outside my home I started noticing they were slightly different from other children. The way my tía speaks Spanish is very particular.  She almost sings the rhythm of the way she produces the Spanish language which is similar to the rhythm of the Nahuatl language she grew up with. We shared a house with my cousins and when they were at home they used to have the same kind of rhythm.  I noticed later that their rhythms were different when, in Spanish, they talked to people different from my immediate family.  Then, there are all the several times I visited my grandmother’s house in Ahuateno, Chicontepec, Veracruz. 

I remember I knew my grandmother spoke “funny” Spanish.  When we, my mother and I, went to visit Nila, my grandmother, many people came to say hello, mostly women. They arrived at my grandmother’s house and sat in the kitchen and talked, half Spanish mainly because of me, and mostly Nahuatl, but the sounds they produced when talking were so different from what I was used to.  They were green sounds, from the open spaces of my grandmother’s indigenous community.  I also remember that everything was lit with quinqués or lanterns. The picture I have in my mind is of their twinkling shadows on the walls, and people’s faces appearing distorted from the red flames of the quinqués and then disappearing while I was trying to follow their almost incomprehensible conversations.  I don’t remember what they were talking about, but the sounds, rhythms and the fact that they visited for hours really impressed me.
On the other hand, as I mentioned before, I was introduced to Netzahualcoyotl, Macuilxochitzin, and other Nahuatl poet’s early in life.  That was because of my father.  I think that he was trying to introduce me to my mother’s rich heritage, and he was successful.  Later at college I read them again, Miguel León Portilla, and many of his books about Nahuatl language and culture.

There was a moment in my life, when I was living in Vermont, when I was reading Netzahualcoyotl’s biography by José Luis Martinez and suddenly I started crying because I realized I did not speak Nahuatl; instead, I grew up speaking Spanish. To my good fortune, I have my mother and her side of the family. However, the realization of growing up without Nahuatl was truly shocking, especially since I’ve taught languages for many years.

What’s more, I love music and dancing. This comes both from my mother and father’s side.  My father loves dancing as well as music; my mother does too. It was natural for me to see people dancing and singing growing up.  I think this is reflected in my writing.  Singing is another way of sharing stories. (end of interview answer) 

In her chapbook, Corazón Pintado, Xánath’s last poem entitled “Storm” takes the reader north to the Midwest plains:

Tormenta de quimeras
Arrasadas por el indomable viento
Por el torbellino de humedad violenta
A la cima de la montaña roja llevas vida
Fecundar las semillas guardadas es tu destino,
Agua del cielo de quetzal
Storm of chimeras
Swept by the uncontrollable wind
By the twister of violent humidity
To the top of the red mountain you bring life
Germinating the kept seeds is your destiny
Water from the quetzal’s sky

Xánath's commitment to bilingual poetry books mirrors her connection to Veracruz (the African and Indigena influences) and the North American Great Plains (landscapes especially).  To bring these three entities together is so important because it reveals a much more complex Mexico and North America.  In another interview from last year (2011--CLICK HERE for full interview), Xánath talks about the “great American journey” by saying, “When I hear ‘great American journey’ the first thing that comes to my mind are a series of images of different places in the U.S.  However, I also think about the thousands of immigrants that come to this country, the hardships of their journey before arriving here.  I think about César Chavez, Dolores Huerta, Martin Luther King, Rosa Parks, Cornel West, Chief Seattle, Angela Davis, among other great Americans.  For me, the ‘great American journey’ is carved on my skin, on my name.” 

Gracias for your work Xánath Caraza!  I’m hoping those who read this La Bloga piece will be ordering your books, sharing them with others soon if they haven’t already. 

Abrazos to you all y felicidades to Xánath Caraza!  
Xánath Caraza y Amelia M.L. Montes at The University of Iowa

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Chicano reviewers and reviews of otros

Among today's thriving literary developments are the many latino literati contributing to the discourse that advances American literature, which includes ours. La Bloga was in the forefront years ago, but waves of video, prose and critique now emanate from all corners of Aztlán and elsewhere. Some evidence of these manifestations--and forgive the obvious self-promotion--are included below.

from a Texas alternative publication

This week Roberto Ontiveros of San Anto's alternative newsweekly the Current chose the Chicano fantasy, The Closet of Discarded Dreams, for his Halloween selections of "three terrifying tomes to die for." The honorific is more important than his characterizing my novel as "terrifying," so I won't speak to that. He explains, "Halloween is perhaps best handled by just being haunted by a book. Here are three recent releases that embrace the dark, and are low on snark." A further honor was that my novel was included with Carlos Fuentes' Vlad vampiro novel. Click here to read Ontiveros' column.

The Latino literary online magazine

A brother publication to La Bloga, Armando Rendón's Somos en escrito, just published a review by Roberto Haro entitled Trapped in an altered Chicano dimension. The review was done by a SF Bay-area, prolific Chicano writer whose novels range across the spectrum of human experience and grand historical backgrounds, including his new book, Alejandro’s Story. Haro's review stands out from others because his background in speculative literature brings a deeper examination of The Closet of Discarded Dreams from a writerly fantastical perspective.

Among other things, Haro says, "Garcia is a clever writer, crafting a narrative that keeps the reader engaged, wondering what will happen next to the nameless protagonist. There are moments of self-analysis that may help a reader appreciate the challenges Latinos face with institutions and the behavior of destructive groups in the larger society."

Reading Haro's words gave The Closet's author chills, making him wonder: Is the novel that good? And then realizing that, indeed, the novel does contain all that Haro describes. Go here to read what author Garcia considers to be the most penetrating review of his Chicano fantasy novel, to-date.

La Bloga's Sedano rips up The Closet

The most difficult review the nine Blogueros of this website ever face is reviewing a colleague's work. Our gente's tendency is to avoid speaking ill of our brown kindred. On the other hand, contraposed to that is the struggle to maintain a standard of authentic, literary criticism. The task is doubly difficult when attempting a solid review of another La Bloga author.

When I return from the Texas book-tour, I'll respond better to Sedano's review. If you haven't read it yet, check his Tuesday post and add that to your own read of the work. I do thank him for his largely favorable review and tolerance of a fokkin' debut novelist.

Es todo, hoy,

Oct. 24-31, Bloguero Rudy Ch. Garcia will be reading in SAN ANTONIO at the SW Workers Union Underground Library, The Twig Book Shop and at Palo Alto College. Click here for details.
Garcia's author interview was featured on Tue. Oct 23, 7:30pm CST on Tony Diaz's Nuestra Palabra - Latino Writers Having Their Say, KPFT 90.1fm in Houston, and another can be seen this Sun. Oct. 28 on the Great Day SA daytime program, KENS5 TV in San Anto, beginning at 12:00 noon CST.

Friday, October 26, 2012

October Leaves

Melinda Palacio
You know your book is official when you spot it in a bookstore's window.

Next week is the official roll out of my new poetry book, How Fire Is a Story, Waiting. There have been several preambles, including a reading and a few sales at the Las Comadres Writers Conference in New York. The excitement of showing off my first full-length poetry book caused me to overnight 10 copies to myself. Of course, I didn't tell anyone about this prideful and foolish act, not to mention the shipping expense which I will not recoup even though I sold all ten copies. I knew my days and luck in New York were coming to a close, at least for 2012. Along with the three trips to New York, beginning with the Mariposa Award at the International Latino Book Awards in May, the Brooklyn Book Festival in September, and the Las Comadres y Los Compadres Writers Conference, this year has proven to be more than thrilling, thanks to all three of my NY hosts Sherman Chan, Toni Plummer, and Lizzie and Mark Cofrancesco.

At the Las Comadres y Los Compadres Writers Conference, NY

The next preamble was my visit to the Michigan City Public Library in Michigan City, Indiana, and Purdue North Central. The library's format consisted of an interview by Michigan City's Lucrecia Guerrero and then a reading. After the interview, Lucrecia left her chair on stage and took a seat in the audience. From the vantage of some photos, it looks as if I am pulling a Clint Eastwood and talking to an empty chair. 
That empty chair thing...

A minor adjustment to this awkward format is my only suggestion. The librarians, staff, and townsfolk who came out on a rainy day impressed me. I love the town because they featured me on the front page of their newspaper two days in a row. Also, reading at Purdue North Central and visiting Kenny Kincaid's class was a highlight. 
Savoring the rare moment of being on the front page of Michigan City's The News Dispatch.

While I was in Indiana, I received notice from Bilingual Press that Ocotillo Dreams is in reprint. More gratitude to everyone who has ordered a copy of the novel for themselves and their classes.

My hosts in Indiana, Lucrecia Guerrero and Jerry Holt, sure made me feel like a rockstar with their warm welcome, not to mention they drove me everywhere, including gorgeous Lake Michigan, where I had a chance to see the Fall leaves in their golden splendor.
Fall Colors at Purdue North Central

The October portion of the Fire tour winds down with the Texas Book Festival this weekend. Reyna Grande will be on three panels and I will be in conversation with Jeff Biggers, Sunday October 28 at 1:45-2:45 pm in the Extension Room E2.030 of the Texas State Capitol. The moderator will be Erica Grieder.

When I return to California on Tuesday, I will be on David Starkey's the Creative Community Show. If the name sounds familiar, David Starkey is Santa Barbara's poet laureate emeritus and one of the hardest working poets and educators I know. He has this to say about my new poetry book:

“Continue to fix broken things,” Melinda Palacio writes in “Ramona Street,” and the poems in How Fire Is a Story, Waiting are consumed with naming the problems of the world and trying—however provisionally—to set them right.  Palacio’s verse, dense with imagery, is by turns sorrowful and sardonic, and always the voice is her own.  There’s a little universe in this book: enter and learn."

November begins with a presentation in Compton at El Camino College and then a talk at UCSB the next day on November 2.

If you are wondering, 'does she ever stop?'.

I am taking a vacation to Cuba and will be back in time to present How Fire Is a Story, Waiting at the National Hispanic Cultural Center in Albuquerque November 17 and then the next day at Luivette Resto's poetry series La Palabra at Avenue 50 studio in Highland Park at 2pm.

But first, let's get through the end of October and prepare to honor our ancestors and dress up as our favorite fictional character. Don't miss readings by your favorite blogeuros. Here's where Rudy will be this week:
Oct. 24-31, Bloguero Rudy Ch. Garcia will be in HOUSTON at the River Oaks Bookstore; and in SAN ANTONIO at the SW Workers Union Underground Library, The Twig Book Shop and at Palo Alto College. Click here for details.
Garcia's author interviews can be heard on Tue. Oct 23, 7:30pm CST on Tony Diaz's Nuestra Palabra - Latino Writers Having Their Say, KPFT 90.1fm in Houston, and seen on the Great Day SA daytime program, KENS5 TV in San Anto, Sun. Oct. 28, beginning at 12:00 noon CST.
Visit my website,, to find out where I'll be next. I am happy to send a handwritten postcard (good luck deciphering my writing) to anyone playing the 'Where in the World Is Melinda' game on Facebook and twitter. 

Melinda in Print:
DK Writings Interviews me.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Chicanonautica: Prelude to the Smoking Mirror Blues/Dead Daze Blast

So here we are. 2012, and the Mayan Calendar -- that may actually be the Olmec Calendar -- are coming to an end. October’s coming to an end too.  And you know what that means . . . Halloween . . . then los Días de los Muertos . . . put them together, and you’ve got Dead Daze!

And these are going to be extra special Dead Daze, because my novel, Smoking Mirror Blues, will be FREE from the Amazon Kindle store from October 31st to November 4th. That’s Halloween, both Days of the Dead, and an extra Saturday!

Sunday, it goes back up to $2.99. There are those who would say that continuing this to Sunday would be blasphemy. Then there are others who would relish the blasphemy of buying Smoking Mirror Blues on the Sunday after Dead Daze.

I’m also offering snippets from the novel and its reviews, as well as suggestions for music to read it by on Facebook, Twitter, and my blog. Come on down, and join the party!

Like I’ve said before, I think that Dead Daze is a good idea. Let's make it a real transborder event, taking it beyond the hipster holiday that it has become.

Can we remember our dead loved ones, celebrate our cultures, and let loose our imaginations all at the same time for three fantastic days? I think we can, and should.

Or as President Malcolm Jones says in Smoking Mirror Blues:

I think it's a very American phenomenon -- the creation of a new culture and new traditions out of those that are coming together in Southern California.

And we’re seeing interesting developments in Mexico with megaofrendas becoming larger than life walk-thru environments. What will happen when cyber and robotic technologies are plugged in? I can hardly wait!

Who knows? Maybe some recombocultural celebrating can help solve our border conflicts? 

Welcome to the Global Barrio! Next stop, the Galactic Barrio!

Ernest Hogan’s novels Smoking Mirror Blues and Cortez on Jupiter are back from limbo as ebooks. His recombocultural classic High Aztech will be ebookized soon. Tezcatlipoca whispers into his ear.