Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Fathers Day Floricanto

Review: Reyes Cárdenas. Chicano Poet 1970-2010. San Antonio TX: Aztlan Libre Press, 2013.
ISBN-10: 0984441557 ISBN-13: 978-0984441556.

Michael Sedano

I love it when an expectation gets trashed in light of actuality. It’s especially thrilling when it comes in form of a richly diverse collection of poems assembled under the term “Chicano poet” in publisher Aztlán Libre’s 2013 Reyes Cárdenas. Chicano Poet 1970-2010.

Among the foundation characteristics readers expect in Chicana Chicano poetry include identity and liberation themes like the urban landscape as lost and ruined homeland; Aztlán as Chicana Chicano Eden and separate genesis; carnalismo, Chicanidad; poetry peopled by Chicana and Chicano icons like pachucos, farmworkers, tireless mothers; the anglo as devil. Expressive modes such as code-switching and Spanish language content adding dimensions of potency absent from other United States poetry, marks the literature’s enduring gems.

Poetry that emerges from the movimiento of the sixties and seventies makes up a diamond mine of gems that deserve a reading in 2013. For instance, the urban landscapes of rrsalinas, Alurista’s amerindian works, Jose Montóya’s farmworkers and El Louie, Ricardo Sanchez’ master of the blue-eyed hatred, the warm carnalismo of Tino Villanueva’s Aquellos Vatos, the subdued rage of Abelardo’s “Stupid America.”

Reyes Cárdenas doesn’t appear in that list, culled from a collection of anthologies published since 1968. But he should. Cárdenas is doing Chicano poetry like you’ve rarely seen in print. With Aztlán Libre’s help, readers everywhere now have access to work Cárdenas has written since 1970.

Readers will be encouraged to consume the entire volume in a single sitting, the work is striking and so diverse that each set of readings presents yet another new way to understand “chicano poetry”. Readers coming to the anthology expecting the canon will find it, but much more.

Cárdenas likes to perplex readers with language tricks and entire book titles, like “The Collected Poems of Artemio Sanchez.” He writes about a guy named robinson, who’s the poet’s alter ego. The Chicano Poet’s hommage to e.e. cummings, like the Villanueva allusions, makes a masterful presentation of art written by a Chicano but not what you expect, ¿sabes?

Cárdenas’ unique approach to movimiento attitudes shines in “Manifesto.” This selection from the 1970 collection, Chicano Territory, mixes conventional images with unconventional technique like calling attention to the poem as a line of words, to have some fun with the politics of identity.


Sure, now it doesn’t matter.
Outside there’s a Chicano
flying upside down.
Across the street
someone calls this a barrio,
and then goes into the next line.
Try to catch a gringa by the tail
you can’t.
Her pink buttocks on Padre Island.
Gringos adore square poetry.
They’re in Mexico chasing Villa,
leave them there.
Here in the Juan Seguín Manifesto
a pachuco scurries.
Stop that punk he’s crazy.
The democrats love the Buddha.
An Italian painting falls off the wall,
That’s what I was going to tell you.

Here is Cárdenas tribute to Aquellos Vatos, Starting Over. Cárdenas adopts the same reminiscing voice and updates characters with wry “whatever happened to?” allusions. For example, Villanueva’s rata was growing a mustache at ten, El Caballo de Littlefield was one of the guys who was just around. I see he still is.

Starting Over

Artemio Sánchez returns to his hometown
Thirty years after having moved to Minnesota.
Hell, his frozen neighbor is the Hispanic
Poet Ray González.

Lupita left La Rata and moved to Houston,
Meme married a divorcess from Nuquis,
El Caballo still works at the chicken plant.

They say El Beatle moved somewhere up north
and became a writer
but no one knows for sure.

Speedy never made it back from Viet Nam,
La Reina del Diez y Seis at Hidalgo Hall
died of cancer last year—

so many putos had the hots for her back then.
But when you visit the old hometown now
only strange Mexicans stare at you from Seguin.

It’s no longer nomás Yogi Berra’s déjà vu.
You’ve become a stranger
in your own land once again!

Chicano Poetry offers the insights of Chicanismo to readers, but it doesn’t have to. Chicano poetry can go anywhere it wants. That might be the subtitle of Cárdenas’ tribute to one of the greatest poets of United States literature. Chicano Poetry belongs with the rest of “American Literature.”

The Sweaty Gary Cooper Couplets

I’ve heard the rumors that e.e. cummings
is on the way back.

You’ve probably heard those rumors, too.
I’m not worried about myself,

but I’m concerned about you.
You’ve been stealing his stuff for years.

I know you once ran off
with Olaf glad and big.

I know you stole the bells
from his pretty how town.

I know you carried his heart
in your heart, and gave it to your girl.

You had the gall to tell her
it was your very own.

Oh, he’s on the way back, alright,
and soon it’s going to be high noon.

When I pick up a major opus anthology of a writer’s career, I read the first piece then read the final pages. Then, after this view of the alpha omega of the writer’s art, I thumb through the volume stopping in random spots to peruse a sequence out of the literary life. Now, equipped with this overall impression of the anthologized work, I look at the table of contents, note, but rarely read the prefatory pages, saving these for after I’ve drawn my own response to the work.

I find the diversity of style, content, language, personae, art, point of view, encouraging and challenging at the same time. There is so much here to challenge poetry readers that I’ll allow Reyes Cárdenas the last word, the final poem in the collection, from the publication From Aztlan on the Moons of Mars:

Brave new chante

The crippled ship
arrived at Mars

todo catiado,
the worst for wear,

as if Michael Jackson
had Beat It.

The twelve volunteers
beamed down

in groups of two.
The transporter

estaba fregado, broken.
The ticker tape tardeada

took place in the lab,
no towering skyscrapers,

just hopes
and dreams for the future.

Over the next
year or two,

news trickled in slowly
as the last

of the Google Robotic Reporters
either were destroyed

by the Martian
or succumbed

to mechanical problems.
The Mexicans

were again
Strangers in a strange land,

alone in the universe…
For now.

You can order your copies--one for a friend--of Reyes Cárdenas. Chicano Poet 1970-2010 through local booksellers and the publisher. Request your local library add the title to the shelves.

Facebook friends
Words of the Poets Are Sung in Subway Stations

La Bloga friend Jessica Ceballos shares news of the upcoming Poesia Para la Gente event, in Los Angeles, Sunday June 30.

Ceballos and colleagues invite all to join la gente riding the rails with poesía, at high noon, on the Red Line platform. Be sure to buy your TAP card. Deputies capriciously check, so a couple bucks saves a hassle and a fine.

Get details on poetry underground's underground and surface rail plans, and updates. via Facebook.https://www.facebook.com/events/154857521368576/

Dear Dad: On-line Floricanto For Your Day
Gaby Sweningsen, Elena Díaz Bjorkquist, "Driving Silently With My Dad" by Andrea Hernandez Holm, Jenny Fiero, John Martinez

"I love you Dad" by Gaby Sweningsen
"Cuídate" by Elena Díaz Bjorkquist
"Driving Silently With My Dad" by Andrea Hernandez Holm
"Home Hospice: Still Life" by Jenny Fiero
"Eulogy for Uncle Mike Garcia" by John Martinez

I love you Dad
Gaby Sweningsen

I remember being afraid of you,
I remember being angry at you
I remember your words, your smell
and I hated you.
I remember them saying to me "you are just like your father"
"you are just like your father"
I didn't look like Abuelita, or Mommy
I was like you they said,
and I hated you.
Then one day I tought, if i am like you and they hate you, do they hate me too?
and I hated you, a hate that I hated, but it was there.
As time passed, I saw you getting weaker, getting humbler,
you needed me,
you were sick,
and I hated you for that too.
Then I learned about you, not of that man that was always drinking and screaming,
but of the little boy, the little boy that didn't have parents to guide him,
a mother to love him,
a mother to kiss him,
a father to teach him
and I understood
how could you give me something you didn't know how to give?
And that Love that never went away, started showing for you
and I love you Daddy,
I love you for being my father,
I love you for not giving up on my love
I love you for loving your grandkids
I love your for having the strenght to be sober, and even if you relapse
I will still love you
my heart is clean.
And now when they say, "you are like your father"
I say, "yes, he is my father after all."
I know they love me, even when I look like you,
and even when I love you,
and hate won't taint my heart again.

My name is Gabriela Cortez-Sweningsen.

Born in Mexico, I am a mother of five beautiful angels, and the wife of a wonderful man.

I am a daughter, a sister, an auntie, a friend, but most of all, I am a woman, who strives everyday to live a happy life, free of hatred and bad feelings towards others, and try my best to cheer others up in the process.

by Elena Díaz Bjorkquist ©2012

Cuídate, my dad says to me
As I kiss him goodbye.
Take care of yourself
Go see a doctor.

How does he know?
I haven’t told him
About the cancer,
Surgery and radiation.

Cuídate, he repeats
The cautionary word
He always uses now
Instead of goodbye.

But this time it’s
More emphatic
As if he knows
What I’m not telling.

Cuídate, he says again.
I am, Daddy, I say.
Is that fear I see
In his eyes?

Is he afraid
He might lose me,
His only advocate
In maneuvering the system?

Or is he afraid
For me, for my health?
Does he know
Something I don’t?

I kiss his cheek again,
Feel the stubble on my lips,
Think about when I
Was a young girl

When he was strong
And healthy
Not lying in a bed
After four heart attacks

I am taking care
Of myself, I say aloud
And of you, I whisper.

I dedicate this poem to my father, Valentine S. Herrera, who passed away on December 2nd, 2009. Happy Father’s Day, Daddy!

I’m a writer, historian, and artist from Tucson, Arizona. I write about Morenci where I was born. I’m the author of two books, Suffer Smoke and Water from the Moon and 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 my writers collective Sowing the Seeds.

As an Arizona Humanities Council (AHC) Scholar, I’ve performed as Teresa Urrea in a Chautauqua living history presentation and done presentations about Morenci for twelve years. In 2012 I received the Arizona Commission on the Arts Bill Desmond Writing Award for excelling nonfiction writing and the Arizona Humanities Council Dan Schilling Public Humanities Scholar Award in recognition of my work to enhance public awareness and understanding of the role that the humanities play in transforming lives and strengthening communities. I was nominated for Tucson Poet Laureate in 2012 and am one of the moderators of the Facebook page Poets Responding to SB 1070.

My website is at http://elenadiazbjorkquist.com/

Driving Silently With My Dad
by Andrea Hernandez Holm

We are returning
to a place of peace and pride
to a place of belonging
to the earth
to the world
to ourselves.
We are coming home.

Andrea Hernandez Holm was born and raised in the desert of Central Arizona, where her families arrived after a journey that began with her ancestors in the highlands of Chihuahua, Mexico.

Andrea is a poet, a student, and a teacher. Her writings and research focus on issues of identity, memory, and writing. Her works have appeared in The Journal of MALCS; Our Spirits, Our Realities; Red Ink; Tribal Fires; La Sagrada; the Blue Guitar; and on La Bloga.

Andrea is a member of the moderating panel of Poets Responding to SB 1070 and the writing collective, Sowing the Seeds of Tucson.

Home Hospice: Still Life
by Jenny Fiero

paper-thin man wearing
blue striped pajamas
bony-handed fingers hold
on to my elbow
No words necessary
only presence
comforter on bed
white lace border
so fragile
A circle
of daughters
a moment of connection
A squirming
grandson wants to
play with the cat
Mr. Milly,
golden tail waving
exits the room
Dad’s breathing,
raspy air

Jenny Fiero is a poet and watercolor artist. She works in the schools as an Occupational Therapist using expressive art therapy with children. She also teaches Tai Chi.

Jenny has been married to her friend Brad for 26 years. She has two grown children who are in college.

Jenny’s grandfather immigrated from Austria with his family in 1902 when he was two years old.

Eulogy for Uncle Mike Garcia
by John Martinez

(Read at my Uncle Mike's Wake in 2001)

The sun beats, almost infinitely
In a cloudless
Light blue sky,
Over an acre or so
Of cornfield it seems
The gold fish in the trough
Full of green mossy water
Behind the barn,
Is watching it all;
Me and Cecil sharing a bow
And two arrows,
The brown chickens picking
At everything small
And my uncle Mike,
Moving like a balanced Yogi
With a bucket of slop,
Towards the pig pen at the far
End of his four acre spread
Today, Mike Jr., will teach us something
About his father, but I can only imitate,
Like a towel tied around my neck,
I would be Superman
Before I could be like him.
At first, I thought it was the smooth
Blue veins swelling from
His hands and forearms,
That one day I might earn
And then have his power.
Then, I thought, it was God indenting
His forehead when he prayed,
As he often did.
If I tighten my eyes,
I might see what he sees.
Then, calendars were made of paper
And hung crooked
On kitchen walls
And even though our bones
Were as soft as the milk
That made them,
Our minds, in cartoon narritives,
The index finger of our parents,
Certain things were known
To us all;
Uncle Mike had land
And there wasn’t a body
Stronger than his on that land
And when he stood,
Erect and proud in that door jam,
Facing Dudley Street,
Even the single horse,
Bow backed and chewing,
Was weaker that him.
Family came from Mexico to stay,
So he built a house
On the east side of his land,
Sheet rock, two by four, rebar and cement,
Nothing was too difficult
And so, on a warm Sunday
One of the girls, Tommy or Anita,
Would throw water
On the hard-pan earth,
The floor of their living space,
And sweep slow puffs of dust,
Making the floor
Hard and shiny,
And you’d find him right there
With my Aunt Lydia, in a wrestlers clench,
On a couch covered with blankets
In life, there are certain men
Who are examples of what it is to be a man
And while scholars scurry to define what
Is most significant
In the lives of these men,
The man whose life is an example
Simply lives
This was the case of Uncle Mike
Great men attach themselves to God
So Uncle Mike knocked a wall down
And built a Church, combed his hair
To a slick shine and moved people
To a somber union with God,
Great men take seed and earth
And then feed, so that others can live
And honor him, as this is his right.
Uncle Mike did this.
Great men raise livestock, no matter how many
And with a swift and loving stroke,
Provide the nutrients to yet more life,
Uncle Mike did this.
Great men love and so they are loved.
So when I pull down the sky
And the bunched up clouds that
Circled his ranch, like an umbrella,
A painting of my youth,
When I think of him outside
In front of a smoking pot
Of chicharron
And at a distance,
The offering,
Hanging upside down
In the barn
And my own father,
Lightly tapping his shoulder
In deep gratitude, while the children
Spread about the land like small streams,
When I think of seed pouring from his hand
And back into a sack before a harvest,
I realize how he lives in me,
In all of us, and how he changed me,
Even early in life.
And one day I will drive out,
Like I always wanted to do
And just sit down with him
On an upside down bucket
You know, just to talk to him,
Because he’s there, he will always
Be there, knowing for sure that
All of this was worth it.

1 comment:

Anisa said...

Michael, thank you for this review of Reyes Cárdenas book! Much appreciated, and so glad you enjoyed it.

--Anisa Onofre
Aztlan Libre Press