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. http://readraza.com/floricantony.html/     .  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 pramirez@deltacollege.edu.

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) http://www.orbispress.com/imagenes/sentimiento/alejados_del_instinto.htm. 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 (www.orbispress.com) and the electronic publication Culturadoor (www.culturadoor.com). 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: http://manuelmurrietasaldivar.blogspot.com/

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