Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Indigenous SciFi. Best Gift Shopping in LA. Second toughest job in Poetry.

Review: Walking the Clouds. Tucson : University of Arizona Press, c2012.
ISBN: 9780816529827 0816529825

Michael Sedano

A few columns in the past, Rudy Garcia and Ernest Hogan exchanged thoughtful columns about speculative fiction and raza writers and characters. Both Hogan and Garcia are accomplished writers of genre imaginative fiction that some might call science fiction or speculative literature.

Something Hogan said turned me on to this useful anthology. It's part college textbook and part top-drawer introduction to speclit written by  indigenous-other-than-Mexican gente. In addition to US Indians and Canadian North American Indian writers, a Jamaican, New Zealander, and a couple Australian indigenous writers are included.

What Hogan and Garcia are specializing in is a most challenging literature to craft. Charged not simply with describing quotidian settings but with added responsibility of posing arresting drama against plausible futures or fantasy origins, to people scenes with actors and languages fit to the time and place. Do it well and you have Hogan’s Smoking Mirror Blues,  and Garcia’s Closet of Discarded Dreams. There’s also Lunar Braceros on the Moon.

Mostly, though, they do it in obscurity. Vampires, werewolves, or wizards pretty much define the limits of most readers’ familiarity with speculative literature. But there’s a wide variety of stories within the umbrella term “scifi” or "speclit". That’s why the sweep of this anthology is so useful. If the limits of one’s language are the limits of one’s world, so too one’s literature. Hence, this collection of indigenous literature written in English can widen one’s perspectives on colonialism, conquest, and liberation.

The textbook element grows out of editor Dillon’s organization, dividing the selections to encompass a division of species within the science fiction realm. These include Native Slipstream, Contact, Indigenous Science and Sustainability, Native Apocalypse, and “Returning to Ourselves.”

In addition to sharing the indigenous perspective, the anthology offers a worthwhile introduction to the field of science fiction writing. The science species of writing is Dillon’s specialty. She notes, “One aim of this book is to distinguish science fiction from other speculative writing typically associated with Native thinking, such as the time-traveling alternative worlds in Native slipstream and contact narratives.”

Coming away from such a rich collection of disparate elements, I’m left with a sense that many of these indigenous writers share a pessimistic outlook on native prospects. The premise of dystopias is they arise out of defeat and cataclysm. Dystopia is a shared trope of scifi, such pessimism is not new from indian brothers and sisters. It would be new to have these writers contribute something unique to the conversation implicit in scifi.

Chicana and Chicano writers can take a lesson from the way many abjure simultaneous translation of non-English phrases. The words stand on their own; if you don’t understand they aren’t meant for you. One lesson I hope writers don’t pick up on is dialect writing. Fighting a writer’s aural scribbles makes reading a story an exercise in impatience.

In many cases, the snippets herein will lead curious readers to the whole works and onward into the writer’s oeuvre, so the anthology achieves its end. Walking the Clouds makes one of those cool stocking stuffers to thrill the hard-to-please readers in the familia.

The Best Gift Shopping in L.A.

Chimaya's sale was last week.
Tempus fugit worries the last-minute holiday shopper. The months of November and December teem with fabulous craft and art sales. Beginning with Dia de los Muertos events and continuing through the Christmas season, every weekend brings the best gifts that week.

The weekend of the fifteenth is truly the final leisurely shopping day of the season, and it brings the always heroic--for quality and quantity--Avenue 50 Studio Holiday Sale.

This is the eighth time up for Avenue 50, which this year combines the artful awesomeness of Two Tracks Studio, and She Rides the Lion.

The party and sale take over two days in northeast Los Angeles, Saturday, December 15th from 7:00pm to 11:00pm, and Sunday, December 16th from 12:00 noon to 4:00pm

The out-of-the-way location inevitably means museum quality work at neighborhood gallery prices. In this instance, the Avenues neighborhood: 131 N Ave 50, Los Angeles CA 90042.

The direct-from-the-artist sale includes a who's who of accomplished and up-and-coming artists. It's a sale not only of what's on the walls but entrée to the artist's portfolio and commissioned work.
Alfonso Aceves
Anna Alvarado
Gloria Alvarez
Rafael Cardenas
Mita Cuaron
Jack Fenn
Sergio and Diana Flores
Emilia Garcia
Rosie Getz
Cidne Hart
Kevin Hass
Yolanda Gonzalez
George Labrada
Ronald Llanos
Pola Lopez
Jose Lozano
Heriberto Luna
Oscar Magallanes
Leticia Martinez
Lynne McDaniel
Lara Medina
Stephanie Mercado
Robert Palacios
Beth Peterson
Jose Ramirez
Tina Rodas
Nancy Romero
Sonia Romero
Jaime Sabatte
Stormie's Art
Marianne Sadowski
Hector Silva
Cola Smith
Roderick Smith
Raquel Soto-Escobar

On-Line Floricanto From the Moderators
Francisco X. Alarcón, Odilia Galván Rodríguez, Andrea Hernandez Holm, Hedy Garcia, Treviño, Elena Díaz Bjorkquist, Carmen Calatayud

I watched the interpreter signing Sharon Olds' poem and thought to myself, "Self, that has to be the toughest job in poetry."

The second toughest job in poetry is moderating a public poetry site and selecting up to five for submission to join an upcoming weekly La Bloga On-Line Floricanto.

All that reading and selecting, and have opportunity to write their own poetry.

Moderators of the Facebook group, Poets Responding to SB1070 Poetry of Resistance, read the dozens-to-hundreds of unrefereed postings. Poets must engage the Notes feature of Facebook software to share a poem to appear on the Facebook page.

Moderators read every posting then each rank orders personal picks. Poems that stand out garner near-unanimous votes from the panelists. When votes are close--chacun a son goût, sabes--senior moderator and group organizer Francisco X. Alarcón conducts a second vote or applies alternative filters to break ties and ultimately limit the submission to five poets.

This second-in-December La Bloga On-Line Floricanto is exceptional not only in bringing six poets to the limelight, but because the six include the founder and the five moderators of Poets Responding to SB 1070: Francisco X. Alarcón, Odilia Galván Rodríguez, Andrea Hernandez Holm, Hedy Garcia, Treviño, Elena Díaz Bjorkquist, Carmen Calatayud.

"Nochebuena | Christmas Eve" by Francisco X. Alarcón
"Her Mother’s Travels" by Odilia Galván Rodríguez
"In December" by Andrea Hernandez Holm
"She Rides the Sky" by Hedy Garcia Treviño
"Growing Roots" by Elena Díaz Bjorkquist ©2012
"Moving to the Land of the Dead" by Carmen Calatayud

Nochebuena | Christmas Eve
by Francisco X. Alarcón

This poem by Francisco X. Alarcón, with illustrations by Maya Christina Gonzalez, is from their bilingual book, Iguanas in the Snow and Other Winter Poems / Iguana en la nieve y otros poemas de invierno, now availabe though Lee & Low Books. It is included here as as a celebration of the upcoming holidays. Feel free to share
--Francisco X. Alarcón

Poem by Francisco X. Alarcon; illustrations by Maya Christina Gonzalez, from iguanas in the Snow and Other Winter Poems (Lee & Low Books)

Her Mother’s Travels
Odilia Galván Rodríguez

her mother never traveled
except in books
she never visited exotic places
no Eiffel tower or Egyptian pyramids
her mother never got to fulfill dreams
of playing tennis professionally
or of spending long summer nights
in the company of a lover
in that place where two rivers meet

her days were filled
with the push and pull
of assembly lines
of dealing with tired people
who didn’t want to do their jobs
hers to motivate them
to produce for management
by threatening or cajoling
this meant she was always
the witch, or worse

her mother never had real friends
yes, some long ago acquaintances
whose names are remembered
while fingering yellowed photographs
stuck on pages of mildew stained
photo albums
names of women long moved on
or gone to the next world
women who didn’t care for her much
because she was so hard to love

her mother never had
kind words to say about anyone
her compassion was limited
to faraway orphans
she would send five dollars a week
to keep in clothes and shoes
give them a cup of milk
the ability to stay in school
she had their pictures
taped to the refrigerator


that place where two rivers meet
is a special place
is not from a book she read
but rather from a real place
a special one she still holds dear
she saw it once from a car window
on her journeys as a child
from state to state
her family following
the migrant stream

a place of many willows
of grass tall, a whisper of green-yellow
that reached up on toes to kiss the trees
grass so soft, not hard to navigate
lush enough to be pushed down upon
open enough to lie in
belly to belly
touching the bones of earth
red like the blood of ancestors
soaking up Iná MaKá’s power

most days she is lost
stuck in her oldest memories
mostly the unpleasant ones
but there are times
she travels to that place
a motion picture camera
playing inside her skull
when she sleeps
awake or in the state
brought on by purple pills

there she is held
as she lies in that tall grass
embraced by her lover
there she can remember
all the life she longed to live
all the love she wanted
to give and to receive
but never could
there she is healed

In December
Andrea Hernandez Holm

The sounds of a conjunto
Bring me comfort.
I gasp with delight
When I hear el acordeón exhale
Songs from my childhood.
In December
I find solace in the memory
Of family love
And energy.

She Rides the Sky
by Hedy Garcia Treviño

Dressed in amber shades of moonlight
She called upon the morning star
Forget not yet my name
Forget not yet my name
For I will come again in springtime
And ride upon the wings of hummingbird dressed in turquoise, red and purple robes
She rides the sky
She rides the sky
She left her dreams
In spirit boxes buried on the left side of the mountain
And scattered stardust in the wind
She rode the sky
She rode the sky

And promised to return in spring
Disguised as Little hummingbird
In turquoise red and purple robes
She rode the sky

Growing Roots
by Elena Díaz Bjorkquist ©2012

Red sky, red earth,
A sunset after monsoon
Blessed the land

“Spread your roots here
I will nourish you,”
The land called

I knew then
This was the place
I was meant to be

I walked the land
The desert claimed me
Welcomed me home

Here I will grow old
Watch the ravens
Fly overhead

Be visited by hawks,
Deer, javalina, quail,
Roadrunners, snakes

Listen to coyotes
Singing in the wash,
Mourning doves cooing

Be sheltered by saguaro,
Mesquite, palo verde,
Smell the creosote

Here I am growing roots
Finding peace
Feeling at home.

Moving to the Land of the Dead
by Carmen Calatayud

Where the dead loiter and eat blue tulips
is the land I’m attracted to.
Where green grass is purple
and the sky a convoluted rainbow,
where rest is redundant and the sun
is all that’s needed to lift our lungs
for another breath.

Where the dead play for hours
and drink lemonade is the place
I’m drawn to. Where orange lips hang
from trees and bottles of singing potions
are left open till morning comes.
Where hibiscus is chewed like
bubble gum and the raucous pink petals
stain our hearts for the rest of heaven’s time.

Where the dead still use ashtrays as
décor is the home I want to live in.
Where doves as white as a blizzard
fly in and out of windows to laugh
arguments away. Where sugar sprays
like gunshot stars so children
awaken to sweetness. Where peace
resides in the bark of trees
and the leaves never drop.

Where the dead weave silk for pajamas
they wear all day is the town I’m moving to.
Where sheep sleep all day and drink rioja all night.
Where poems by Bukowski pour out of angels’
mouths and torch the campfire that melts
every disease of the soul.

Originally published in In the Company of Spirits (Press 53)

"Nochebuena | Christmas Eve" by Francisco X. Alarcón
"Her Mother’s Travels" by Odilia Galván Rodríguez
"In December" by Andrea Hernandez Holm
"She Rides the Sky" by Hedy Garcia Treviño
"Growing Roots" by Elena Díaz Bjorkquist ©2012
"Moving to the Land of the Dead" by Carmen Calatayud

Francisco X. Alarcón, Chicano poet and educator, is the author of thirteen volumes of poetry, including, Snake Poems: An Aztec Invocation (Chronicle Books 1992), recipient of the 1993 Pen Oakland Josephine Miles Award, From the Other Side of Night: Selected and New Poems (University of Arizona Press 2002). His latest book is Ce•Uno•One: 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 created the Facebook page, POETS RESPONDING TO SB 1070: http://www.facebook.com/PoetryOfResistance

Odilia Galván Rodríguez, poet/activist, writer and editor, has been
involved in social justice organizing and helping people find their
creative and spiritual voice for over two decades. Odilia is one of
the original members and a moderator, of Poets Responding to SB 1070 on
Facebook. She teaches creative writing workshops nationally,
currently at Casa Latina, and also co-hosts, "Poetry Express" a weekly
open mike with featured poets, in Berkeley, CA. For more information
about workshops see her blog http://xhiuayotl.blogspot.com/ or contact
her through Red Earth Productions & Cultural Work 510-343-3693.

Andrea Hernandez Holm is a graduate student in the Mexican American Studies Department at the University of Arizona, and holds an M.A. in American Indian Studies as well. Andrea's primary research interests include indigeneity, identity, and the intersection of identity with creative writing. She is an Instructional Specialist, Sr., in the University's Writing Skills Improvement Program where she provides tutoring services to undergraduate and graduate students and teaches writing workshops for high school students, graduate students, and the general Tucson community. She has also taught Mexican American Studies, American Indian Oral Traditions, American Indian Literature, and American Indian Religions at the university.

Andrea has worked as a research/publications specialist, a freelance writer, editor and writing consultant. Her most recent projects have included working as an editor for Veronica E. Velarde Tiller's book, Culture and Customs of the Apache Indians (Greenwood Publishing Group, 2010) and serving as the Project Researcher/Writer of the award-winning Tiller’s Guide to Indian Country: Economic Profiles of American Indian Reservations published by BowArrow Publishing (2005). Her essay "Prayers and other Ofrendas" appeared in Wisdom of Our Mothers (Familia Books, 2010). Andrea is also a published poet with works appearing in The Blue Guitar, La Sagrada, Tribal Fires, Collegiate Latino Underground, Red Ink, and the Cuentos del Barrio II art exhibition of the Tucson/Pima Arts Council. Two of her poems were selected for the 2010 commemorative issue of El Coraje, a Chicano Studies student publication produced for the Conference Combating Hate, Censorship and Forbidden Curriculum held in Tucson.

Andrea is currently a member of the moderating panel for the Facebook page "Poets Responding to SB 1070". She is also a member of the women's writing group, Sowing the Seeds de Tucson. Her poetry, fiction, and non-fiction essays appear in the group’s anthology, Our Spirits, Our Realities (2011).

Read interviews with Andrea:
"The battle over Mexican American Studies" by Chrissie Long, University World Newshttp://www.universityworldnews.com/article.php?story=20120824101851900
"Does Tucson need Three Poet Laureates to bring it back from the brink of censorship?" by Jeff Biggers, The Huffington Posthttp://www.huffingtonpost.com/jeff-biggers/tucson-poet-laureate_b_1396176.html

Hedy M. Treviño’s poetry has been published in numerous journals and other publications. She has performed her poetry at numerous cultural events. She continues to write poetry, and inspires others to use the written word as a form of self discovery and personal healing. She is one of the Moderators for the Facebook page, Poets Responding to SB 1070

Elena Díaz Björkquist. “After living in California for 36 years, my husband and I decided to leave our beloved redwood forest and move to Arizona, the state of my birth, the state where my parents lived, the state where one of our sons lived with his daughters. It was with trepidation that we arrived in Tucson after a monsoon rain and were greeted by a gorgeous sunset. The move from redwoods to saguaros was blessed by that sunset and we made an easy adjustment to living in the desert.”

A writer, historian, and artist from Tucson, Elena writes about Morenci, Arizona where she was born. She is the author of two books, Suffer Smoke and Water from the Moon. Elena is co-editor of Sowing the Seeds, una cosecha de recuerdos and Our Spirit, Our Reality; our life experiences in stories and poems, anthologies written by her writers collective Sowing the Seeds.

As an Arizona Humanities Council (AHC) Scholar, Elena has performed as Teresa Urrea in a Chautauqua living history presentation and done presentations about Morenci, Arizona for twelve years. She recently received the 2012 Arizona Commission on the Arts Bill Desmond Writing Award for excelling nonfiction writing and the 2012 Arizona Humanities Council Dan Schilling Public Humanities Scholar Award in recognition of her work to enhance public awareness and understanding of the role that the humanities play in transforming lives and strengthening communities.

Elena is one of the poet moderators for the Facebook page “Poets Responding to SB1070” and has written many poems published not only on that page, but also on La Bloga. She was recently nominated for Poet Laureate of Tucson. Her website is at http://elenadiazbjorkquist.com/.

Carmen Calatayud's first poetry collection In the Company of Spirits was published in October 2012 as part of the Silver Concho Series by Press 53. In the Company of Spirits was a runner-up for the 2010 Walt Whitman Award from the Academy of American Poets. Her poetry has appeared in journals such as Beltway Poetry Quarterly, Borderlands: Texas Poetry Review, Cutthroat: A Journal of the Arts, Gargoyle, La Bloga, PALABRA: A Magazine of Chicano and Latino Literary Art, Red River Review and the anthology DC Poets Against the War. Calatayud is a Larry Neal Poetry Award winner and recipient of a Virginia Center for the Creative Arts fellowship. She is a poet moderator for Poets Responding to SB 1070, a Facebook group that features poetry and news about Arizona’s controversial immigration law that legalizes racial profiling. Born to a Spanish father and Irish mother in the U.S., Calatayud works and writes in Washington, DC.



And don't forget another excellent example of indigenous sci-fi: Blake M. Hausman's RIDING THE TRAIL OF TEARS. http://labloga.blogspot.com/2012/02/chicanonautica-trail-of-tears-through.html

msedano said...

imagine it's still possible to have read every piece of indigenous sci-fi in the world. someone could make a list or a giant norton anthology.

tom miller nominates don quijote's descent into Cueva de Montesinos for the first latino sci-fi writing. i submit aeneas.


Anonymous said...

Don Quijote for first latino?
Don Quijote for latino?
Un español = un latino?
This obfuscation no vale.

Don Quijote first SF espñol?
No problemo.