Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Martín Espada on Frederick Douglass. Luzma Umpierre [withdrawn]. Reading Your Stuff Aloud. On-line Floricanto

Special Guest Columnist: Martín Espada

Arriving just in time for this week's La Bloga-Inaugural Flavored Tuesday, La Bloga friend Martín Espada emails a reading of Espada's Frederick Douglass poem--and an interview--on Moyers and Company, which aired on PBS recently. Martín encourages La Bloga readers to enjoy the work and interview, and pass it around.

La Bloga heartily endorses the notion, infact everything about the poem; indeed, gente, pass it around! Click on one or all of the sharing icons at the top of today's column to email, Twitter, Facebook, or Google this.

Guest Columnist LuzMaria Umpierre (Luzma)

Weekend With the Word
Michael Sedano

My first wife and I couldn't pass on the opportunity to hear the LA Philharmonic perform Beethoven's Fifth Symphony. It was a superb bonus that Emanuel Ax would play Mozart's K503 with its inescapable prefiguration of La Marseillaise. I thought the only drawback would be the absence of Dudamel, and the blaring Dutilleux, but I was wrong, that's for sure.

We didn't have our normal Sunday matinée subscription seats overlooking the piano side, and got plunked down among Thursday night tipos who'd had a few bottles of wine with dinner. So they talked and talked loudly. The brassy Shadows of Time opening number masked their chatter, but as conductor Ludovic Morlot launched Mozart, the woman in her cups started chattering. In response, two seats in from my aisle seat, a woman turned and loudly "Shhh'd" the oblivious couple behind me. A few bars into Ax' opening, the shusher launched into delighted chatter of her own. No one shushed her and I kept my eyes on the keyboard, wishing my fingers could read notes as easily as my eyes read text.

But those were the only bad words of the weekend.

Saturday, I joined the Stanford Chicana Chicano Alumni Book Club to discuss Reyna Grande's Critics Circle-nominated memoir, The Distance Between Us, with the author. The group peppered Grande with questions and compliments in an engaging give-and-take that consumed as much time as Reyna could offer. Not only was the author coming down with the current flu bug--on the eve of departing for seven readings in the next three days--she had miles to go and promises to keep.

Reyna had to dash off, reminding me she was headed to Pasadena's sole surviving independent bookstore, Vroman's, for Luis Alberto Urrea's reading of Queen of America. That was news to me, but ni modo. I prevailed on my carpool, Concepción Valadez and Manuel Urrutia, to detour to Vroman's rather than slow down in front of my house to let me open the door and roll to the right as they sped off back to the valley.

We arrived late, with Urrea in the midst of performing to a packed house. Unlike the crowd at Disney Hall, the listeners at Vroman's sat spellbound in the powerful one-man symphony of arte, humor, conversation, interpretative reading. Urrea's was a virtuoso of the spoken word performance.

Some authors avoid reading dialog, claiming "I'm not an actor, I don't do voices." More's the pity such writers fail to honor their words and their labor of creativity by opting for narrative sections that don't challenge them to add vitality to their precious few minutes in front of their audience.

Luis Urrea gets into it, engaging his story, his writing, his audience. When a person in the front row raised her cameraphone to take a foto, the device spoke, "Say Cheese." Urrea stopped in mid-sentence amused and astonished, to ask her, "Did your phone just say 'Say Cheese'?"

Now that is adapting to the audience and the setting. It's what audiences deserve, and what they get from a Urrea presentation. If anyone hasn't yet decided to buy the book, this quality of interactivity is certain to move a few more wallets into the Buy column.

Sunday brought the monthly La Palabra reading. Obviously I'm not paying attention to my surroundings. It wasn't until I read Liz Gonzalez' Facebook post that she would be at Avenue 50 Studio in an hour that it hit me I was about to miss another must-see reading and photography opportunity.

Speech, oral performance, is most photogenic when a poet or prose writer, makes the experience  dynamic communication. Two of La Palabra readers practiced that by getting away from the lectern and committing themselves whole body to their audience.

Christine Jordan

It's frustrating to an audience, and limiting to the writer, to get stuck behind the lectern. Unless the writer "acts", the reading exacts a toll on attention, creating what McLuhan called a "hot" medium that communicates solely through the ears.

A listener expects to listen to the words, of course, but ambient conditions invariably cause distractions and depletes attention. For example, Avenue 50 Studio's storefront windows let in beautiful light, but on this partly cloudy day illumination levels shift as the sky changes in moments from sunny to overcast. Late arrivals open the door and heads turn. In those moments, listening weakens and the audience spends a few moments rewinding and likely misses the immediate phrases in catching up.

Left: Rolland "Vachine" Vasin, Jerry Garcia, Right: Wyatt Underwood, Kimberly Cobian, 
Manuscript-bound readers deprive themselves of eye contact. When hidden behind the lectern, enjoying the art becomes all the more problematic.

Brenda Petrakos, Mary Tornegrassa

The lectern is not a kiss of death, however. When Liz Gonzalez took her place, she corrected for the posture by doing dialog and using vocalics to keep her audience rapt in the intercultural dialog of her teenaged protagonists.

Liz Gonzalez
When Gloria Alvarez took the lectern her plan was to use guitar accompaniment to add atmosphere and enrich the rhythms of her work. Sadly, Alvarez adopted a chanting style that weighted every poem with identical rhythm and portentous gravity, producing a sameness to every piece that creates exhausted audiences who likely won't remember most of her words, they all fade into the sameness of limited vocal variety.

Gloria Enedina Alvarez and Chris
La Palabra's emcee, Luivette Resto, brought a special guest to the Open Mic, her son Antonio Ometotl, who read his poem on cupcakes. It was Antonio's second public reading and he did a fabulous job. He'll work on his eye contact, perhaps memorize the piece.

Luivette Resto

Antonio Ometotl
Public speaking--reading your stuff aloud--offers challenges and serious satisfaction to writers. As a career speech coach, I am eager to see writers strut their stuff in front of audiences, and frustrated that poets seem equivocal about planning a reading. 

After every performance a writer should engage two questions as goals: What three elements did I like about my performance? What one element, and only one, would I change? The answers are the plan for the next reading; keep the three things you enjoyed, rehearse and make that one change. This practice offers an effective way to develop one's oral repertoire and deliver skilled readings that honor your work.

For more information on reading your stuff aloud, see Read! Raza's Writers & Oracy pages, including manuscripts, delivery, memorization.

Last Tuesday in 2013's Only January - La Bloga On-line Floricanto

"Who Are These People?" by Rosalie Robles Crowe
"Will you Listen" by Suzanna Anzaldua
"Remember when we didn't espect to live forever" by Sharon Elliot
"Inauguration Poem (had I been asked) / Poema para Inauguración (si se me hubiera invitado)" by Rafael Jesús González
"More than 50 shades of Brown” by Raúl Sánchez

Who Are These People?
by Rosalie Robles Crowe

Who are these people
Who leave the known of their lands
To come to the unknown of this land?

Who are these people
Who come with little besides the shoes on their feet
And the shirts on their backs?

Who are these people
Who speak little or no English
And must be taught the ways of this land?

Who are these people
Who risk their lives in the desert
Leaving debris, trash and pitiful treasures in their wake?

This migration is not new.

Puritans, Catholics, Jews, Protestants,
Muslims, Hindus and Buddhists came
Seeking to worship their God in their own way
In peace and without fear.

The poor willing to indenture themselves
For a later chance to live better lives
Made the perilous trek across the ocean.

Germans, Italians, Sicilians, Polish and Chinese
Hungarians, Jews, Spaniards, Basques and Irish
Fled torture, violence, wars and famine.

Today they still come
As they came before
In the face of death searching for life

From Mali, Somalia, Bhutan and Nigeria
From El Salvador, Honduras, Guatemala and Colombia
But mostly they come from Mexico.

They come looking for
Whatever menial work
They can find.

Why don't they stay home?
Why do they sneak across the border
Like thieves in the night?

In the face of disgust and hatred,
Of SB-1070 ill will,
Why do they stay?

It's simple really.
They come looking for life.
They come to live
In "la tierra de oportunidad"

They want so little
Yet so much:

A future.

Thats why they come.
That's why they have always come.

© 2013 Rosalie Robles Crowe. All Rights Reserved.

Will you Listen
by Suzanna Anzaldua

Will you listen,
with your ears as heightened
as a man who is blind?
with your mouth quietly shut,
your hands at your side,
Will you take it all in,
every word, every thought
every point and every plea,
will you grasp it and take it seriously?
Allow it to dwell and thrive,
or will you let it flow
into one ear and out the other side,
like liquid cowardice
that reeks from within?
Like hopeless cravings made
from other plans that
don't involve the people?

We only want to be heard,
We only want to be seen,
these tired hands,
exhausted eyes
these swelling feet
these damaged knees
these broken backs
of those who came before us
also screaming;
they too had dreams.
We want you to hear the stories
from those who came before us.
We want you to hear,
truly acknowledge the meaning.
Hear our cries, our weary voices
our pains and agonies
our hopes and our beliefs.
We are the reality,
it is your choice to perceive.
Believe me, believe them,
the world was built on the backs
of so many women and men.

Will you climb down
into the trenches where we live
where we give
where you seem to be
so familiar with?
Will you feel the pain
for eight hours a day
in the heat or the cold.
Back bent over
shoulders screaming for relief,
or standing for twelve hours
with a thirty minute break
two tens in between.
With a paycheck that dwindles
before it is seen?

Will you stand in a classroom
while the youth of today
choose a gun instead of a book,
as the words of great leaders
they piss down the drain
all in the name of
ipods and video games.
All in the name of
a lack of intelligence
and a broken home.
Will you sit back while
the future can't handle their own?
Are you giving up on hope
on those teachers who fear
that danger is close
that failure is near
because no one wants
to get involved with family lives?
Change must start
if our country is to survive.

Will you sit in an ER
full of sick and suffering
with limited healthcare
and choices
watching nurses do more
while unheard are their voices?
Men and women who are under-appreciated
while they comfort the ailing
while they wipe up
the blood, the urine, the emaciated.
While lacking in sleep
lacking in pay
because healthcare
doesn't care about patient
and hospital staffing complaints.
Will you stand up for us
against pitiful healthcare
against shameful wages
against greedy businessman
and uncaring management?
It is because of us
this world runs.

Are you still listening?
Will you continue to listen
as your new term begins?
Will you listen to a people
who want more than this,
who still want to live
still want to dream,
still want to love and give
all they can give?
The world was built,
from people who envisioned
a different world
then the one we now live in.
The people need to speak
since you seem to offer "Change"
Or is it still just a sham
in the political scheme of things?
It's time to put up
or walk away quietly.

Will you stand with us
or against us
and start taking questions
from we the people who stand
and need to be heard.
This isn't a popularity contest,
it's a Presidency.
It's time to get your hands dirty,
and understand the cries
from the rest of the country
you so want to support.

© Siouxsie Renee Anza 2013. All rights reserved.

Remember when we didn't expect to live forever
(an aging hippie perspective on inauguration)
by Sharon Elliott

“never trust anybody over 30”*

so far from that age

we convinced ourselves

we’d never reach it

or if we did

it would be the end of everything

a wound in time

deep black hole

that all we knew would fall into

never resurface

take us with it

create a blankness

recovery an impossibility

now we are there

old bones reacting to the penetrating cold

seeking sun

looking back

hoping we have been building something

that will last beyond the who of us

trying to figure out if identification is important

carrying ourselves like a license to live

in the back pocket of our jeans

*quote by Jack Weinberger, free speech activist, San Francisco Chronicle, 1964

© 2013 Sharon Elliott. All rights reserved.

Inauguration Poem
(had I been asked)
by Rafael Jesús González

We celebrate the second term
of this U. S. of A.’s forty-fourth president
whom I most like for the color of his skin
and that he talks good — the less bad of two choices
to head the best government money can buy
by selling out the ninety-eight percent of us wholesale.
Taking account that perpetual war is made
by those with most to gain from it and fought
by those with least; that the immigrant
our foreign policy displaced is persecuted;
in jail or on parole one of every thirty-two of us;
that the corn is poisoned for profit
and we’re not told what it is we eat, the Earth violated,
and I am asked if I’m not proud to be
a citizen of this U. S. of A., I declare I am —
as proud as I am to be human — no more, no less
a chance of fate with reason just as much for shame.
So I pledge allegiance to our mythical democracy
for its promise which is the same as has been betrayed.
It is upon that hope I base my praise,
that dream to which we must awake and make real —
that sense of joy, of love, of justice
of the young — and those of us grown old
in the good struggle for life and freedom,
for justice without which there is no peace.
So after we have stood hand over the heart
and sung the old drinking song
to a piece of cloth of certain colors and a certain stripe,
the bleachers dismantled, the last confetti swept
from the ballroom floor, the last straggler returned
to work, and these spaces cleared,
I promise with all due respect, Mr. President,
that my fellow patriots and I of the ninety-eight percent
             will be back to occupy.

© 2013 Rafael Jesús González. All rights reserved.

Poema de Inauguración
(si se me hubiera invitado)

Celebramos el segundo mandato
de este cuarenta y cuarto presidente de estos EE. UU. de A.
que más me gusta por el color de su piel
y que habla bien — el menos mal de dos opciones
para encabezar el mejor gobierno que el dinero pueda comprar
vendiendo el noventa y ocho por ciento de nosotros al por mayor.
Tomando en cuenta que se hace guerra perpetua
por los que más tienen que ganar de ella y luchada
por los que menos tienen; que el inmigrante
que nuestra política exterior desplazó es perseguido
y en cárcel uno de cada treinta y dos de nosotros;
que el maíz es envenenado por lucro
y no se nos dice que es lo que comemos, violada la Tierra,
y se me pregunta si no soy orgulloso de ser
ciudadano de estos EE. UU. de A. declaro que sí lo soy —
tan orgulloso como lo soy de ser humano — ni más ni menos
suerte del destino con tanta razón para vergüenza.
Así que juro fidelidad a nuestra mítica democracia
por su promesa que es lo mismo que se ha traicionado.
Es sobre esta esperanza que baso mi alabanza,
este sueño al cual debemos despertar y realizar —
ese sentido de alegría, de amor, de justicia
de la juventud — y de nosotros hechos viejos
en la buena lucha por la vida y la libertad,
por la justicia sin la cual no hay paz.
Así que después de que de pie, manos sobre el corazón
hemos cantado la vieja canción de taberna
a un trozo de trapo de ciertos colores y cierta raya,
los graderíos desmontados, el último confeti barrido
del piso del salón de baile, el último rezagado vuelto
al trabajo, y estos espacios despejados,
le prometo con todo debido respeto, Sr. Presidente,
que mis compatriotas y yo de los noventa y ocho por ciento
                  volveremos a ocupar.

© Rafael Jesús González 2013

More Than 50 Shades of Brown
by Raúl Sánchez

Náhuatl, Maya, Zapoteco, Mixteco
Otomí, Tzeltal, Tzotzil, Totonaca
Mazateco, Chol, Mazahua, Huasteco
Chinanteco, Purépecha, Mixe, Mayo

Tlapaneco, Tarahumara, Zoque, Tojolabal
Chontal, Popoluca, Chatino, Amuzgo
Huichol, Tepehuán, Triqui, Popoloca
Cora, Canjobal, Yaqui, Cuicateco

Mame, Huave, Tepehua, Pame
Chontal, Choj, Chichimeca, Guarijío
Matlatzinca, Kekchí, Chocholteca
Pima, Jalalteco, Ocuilteco, Seri, Quiché

Ixcateco, Cakchiquel, Kikapú,
Motozintleco, Paipai, Kumiai, Ixil
Pápago, Cucapá, Cochimí, Lacandón
Kiliwa, Aguacateco, Teco

flanged by an ocean and a gulf called México
jungle to the south
to the north protected.

© 2013 Raúl Sánchez. All rights reserved.


"Who Are These People?" by Rosalie Robles Crowe
"Will you Listen" by Suzanna Anzaldua
"Remember when we didn't espect to live forever" by Sharon Elliot
"Inauguration Poem (had I been asked) / Poema para Inauguración (si se me hubiera invitado)" by Rafael Jesús González
"More than 50 shades of Brown” by Raúl Sánchez

Rosalie Robles Crowe, a third generation Arizonan, is a former newspaper reporter who has continued writing well after her retirement. She graduated in journalism from the University of Arizona and over her career has worked on Arizona’s major newspapers, including the Arizona Daily Star, Tucson Citizen, Arizona Republic and the Phoenix Gazette. In addition, she also has written numerous articles based on Arizona history, co-authored a monograph (“Arizona Women’s Hall of Fame”) with Diane Tod, and compiled and edited “Early Yuma: A Graphic History of Life on the American Nile.” Currently, she is a member of Sowing the Seeds, a collective of women writers in Tucson, and is experimenting with other writing styles, including poetry. As an STS member, she has written one of three monologues for Sowing the Seeds’ dramatic presentation “Celebrating Women’s Voices Past & Present,” developed originally in 2012 for Arizona’s Centennial Year. Its focus is on unsung women heroes in the state’s history. She and her late husband, Tommy Keith Crowe, have three children and five grandchildren.

Suzanna Anzaldua has been writing short stories and poetry from the age of 11. She won her first writing contest in the Fifth grade for her short story "The Rose." Her poems and essays are featured on her blog Chicana Writer @ Wordpress. She recently finished her first novel about a troubled teen growing up without parental guidance based on unsent letters to her parents. Writing has continued being the voice of action as well as a positive form of therapy. She has been passionate about society's youth as well as the rights of all people; addressing the government and the President on important issues concerning both. She is inspired by Sandra Cisneros, Enriqueta Vasquez, Gloria Anzaldua, Luis Rodriguez and the men and women of the Beat Generation. Her interests include crocheting and sewing for her line Just Another Chicana, and experiencing new destinations. She is married to Val Anzaldua and currently resides in El Cajon, Ca.

Born and raised in Seattle, Sharon Elliott has written since childhood. Four years in the Peace Corps in Nicaragua and Ecuador laid the foundation for her activism. As an initiated Lukumi priest, she has learned about her ancestral Scottish history, reinforcing her belief that borders are created by men, enforcing them is simply wrong.

foto:Peter St.John
Rafael Jesús González, Prof. Emeritus of literature and creative writing, was born (10/10/35) and raised biculturally/bilingually in El Paso, Texas/Cd. Juárez, Chihuahua, and taught at University of Oregon, Western State Collage of Colorado, Central Washington State University, University of Texas El Paso (Visiting Professor of Philosophy), and Laney College, Oakland, California where he founded the Dept. of Mexican & Latin-American Studies,

Also visual artist, he has exhibited in the Oakland Museum of California, the Mexican Museum of San Francisco, Charles Ellis Museum of Art, Milwaukee and others. His collection of poems El Hacedor De Juegos/The Maker of Games, Casa Editorial, San Francisco (1977-78) had two printings; his collection La musa lunática/The Lunatic Muse was published in 2009 with a second printing in 2010.

Nominated thrice for a Pushcart price, he was honored by the National Council of Teachers of English and Annenberg CPB for his writing in 2003. In 2009 he was honored by the City of Berkeley for his writing, art, teaching, activism for social justice & peace. He received the 2012 Dragonfly Press Award for Outstanding Literary Achievement. His work may be read at http://rjgonzalez.blogspot.com/

Raúl Sánchez, conducts workshops on The Day of the Dead. His most recent work is the translation of John Burgess’ Punk Poems in his book Graffito. His inaugural collection "All Our Brown-Skinned Angels" is filled with poems of cultural identity, familial, a civil protest, personal celebration, completely impassioned and personal. http://beyondaztlan.com and http://moonpathpress.com


Odilia Galvan Rodriguez said...

Wonderful Tuesday La Bloga! Thanks Em!

Moira Finley said...

Let me begin by saying that although I have had some uncomfortable moments with Martin’s poetry, like his poem to the victims of the World Trade Center, I believe that this interview with Moyers is a high point for American Minority literature. There is nothing in the interview with Moyers that makes me feel anything but admiration. Martin’s field is English Literature and mine is Latin America and Caribbean therefore we have a very different World view at times on a purely literary tradition. Meritorious as it is and highly commendable, if Bill Moyers would have interviewed a Puerto Rican born or raised on the island from the Diaspora—anyone—that would have been a highpoint in Puerto Rican and Latina/Latino letters. Martin is a an American poet born in New York who has had a life of privilege. My fellow poets from the Diaspora born and raised in Puerto Rico from the Diaspora and the Sexilio are part of Puerto Rican Literature and Latin American and Caribbean letters. Many have no jobs in academia, some have even died in poverty without recursos, some have been “framed”and persecuted. There is a difference between the Espada poets and the Diasporican Poets born and raised on the island and Sexilados. I am willing to sit down in a public forum and debate Martin on his assertions in this interview. His definition of “utopia” is misguided in terms of female Latina poetry. Set the date and place and I will travel there.

Congratulations to him on his recent poetry award given to him as an American writer not a diasporican or a sexilado, which he is not the latter either.