Friday, August 30, 2013

Jessica Ceballos in Love

Melinda Palacio

Jessica Ceballos at the Bluebird Reading
photo by Michael Sedano

Poet Jessica Ceballos is in love with her hometown, Highland Park, and Downtown Los Angeles, and the East Side and L.A. overall. Born in Highland Park, CA. Ceballos has lived in places as far away as Alaska and Spain. In 2005, she returned to Southern California and discovered a love for her home. Part of her renewed interest is her role as participant, rather than spectator. "I fell in love, again," she said. 

At each turn, Jessica is curating poetry readings. Currently on her role call is the Bluebird Reading Series at Avenue 50 Studios, The Great Beyond at Beyond Baroque, and Poesia Para La Gente, also sponsored by Avenue 50 Studios in Highland Park.

Poesia Para La Gente, involves much more than lining up poets, collecting book information, bios, and photos. Last April, Ceballos was more than happy to take over the series, which began in 2011 and has had varied hosts, such as poets Luivette Resto and Abel Salas. This unique reading, while sponsored by Avenue 50, takes poetry readings to a place where walls and a single space for poetry no longer exist. Think laundry mats, taco shops, grocery stores, and train stations. "Why don't we tear the walls down to get people excited about poetry," Ceballos asked herself one day. And the series blossomed.

As of this interview, earlier last week, Los Angeles is the last stop for Ceballos. By day, she works in a realtor's office and all the rest of her time, she devotes to her literary community.

"I feel I have a responsibility to do more with these readings. I have big plans to expand the literary programming at Avenue 50 Studio into neighboring schools and into geographical areas that have never before experienced poetry. I'm also developing a collaborative poetry project involving several academic disciplines."

Recently, Ceballos has had her poems published in Hinchas de Poesia, Haight Ashbury Journal and RA. She also writes prose and has completed a novel manuscript. The novel is still looking for a home, but her first poetry collection will be out in 2014. And she has plans for a Bluebird Anthology.

When she's not working, writing poetry, or producing poetry events, Jessica photographs landscape and nature. She records and sings music, and adds beauty to the world with her words.

Find out more about Jessica Ceballos at 


September 6, First Friday's at the Rapp, 8pm
Features Ryan Nance and Jessica Ceballos, plus Khadija Anderson, tango, and an open mic.

Saturday, September 7, Poetry under/over ground
$5 for an all day metro pass
Los Angeles Union Station at noon
800 N Alameda Street, Los Angeles
Meet at the Gold Line, Upper Level

September 8
September 8, The Bluebird Reading Series at Avenue 50 Studio, 2pm
This reading features Audrey Kuo, Cara Van Le, Mariano Zaro, and Melinda Palacio
Avenue 50 Studio
131 North Avenue 50
Highland Park, CA 90042
323 258 1435

Upcoming Events for Melinda Palacio
September 8, The Bluebird Reading Series at Avenue 50 Studio, 2pm
over in Santa Barbara at Granada Books
September 14, Saturday from 4pm to 6pm
The Poetry Zone with Melinda Palacio and Georges Jacques
1224 State Street, Santa Barbara

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Chicanonautica: Pancho Villa Wants You to Drink Responsibly on a Different Frontier

by Ernest Hogan

I panicked for a moment. A story of mine was about to come out, soon, very soon, and I found a factual error. And it was too late to do anything about it.

I start my story Pancho Villa’s Flying Circus with Villa drinking tequila. The problem is, I had just found out that he didn’t drink.

It was only one line -- the first. I could easily change it in future editions . . . 

Meanwhile, We See a Different Frontier: A Postcolonial Speculative Fiction Anthology is available. Buy it, read it, live it.

Then I remembered that Pancho Villa’s Flying Circus is an alternate universe spaghetti with a surreal, postcolonial agenda. The real Pancho Villa -- whose real name was José Doroteo Arango Arámbula -- never met Nikola Tesla, and didn’t have a death ray, or an airship. I had a wonderful time putting history through a wood-chipper. ¡Viva la deconstruction!

Hopefully, the readers will take it that way . . .

Yeah, some of them probably won’t, but I’ll worry about later.

Besides, I found out about Villa’s teeototalismo in a battered copy of Clifford Irving’s Tom Mix and Pancho Villa that I picked up in a used bookstore in Santa Fe. Irving is best known for his hoax biography of Howard Hughes. I wasn’t sure how realistic his rambunctious, entertaining book was.

My online fact-checking took me to a site that listed it among “Things you didn’t know about the Mexican Revolution’s most famous leader.”  Why is this a little known fact? Why don’t we see public service spots with Pancho telling young people to just say no?

Or in his words: El alcohol mata a los pobres y la educación los salva.

I probably don’t have to wander far from my house to find a bar where saying that Villa didn’t drink would cause a riot.

And this hasn’t stopped people from naming brands of tequila and bars after him.

He also didn’t discourage his soldiers from drinking, or smoking marijuana -- he’s credited with coining the word -- and the song La Cucaracha is said to be about a cannabis-indulging Villista. 

The myth figure conflicts with history. Like a superhero, there were things Doroteo did in private that Pancho didn’t do in public. So, maybe I’ll be forgiven for making him into postcolonial Obie-Wan Kenobi inspiring an airship to cross the border and head for Hollywood.

It’s all mythoteching on a different frontier.

Ernest Hogan’s story Pancho Villa’s Flying Circus is in new anthology of postcolonial science fiction, We See a Different Frontier. His recombocultural novel High Aztech is available for Kindle and other devices from Smashwords.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

2nd Annual: Flor y Canto para Nuestros Niños y Niñas

Talleres de Poesía is so happy to announce the 2nd Annual Flor y Canto para Nuestros Niños y Niñas! 

This time it's a Street Festival right on 24th & Bartlett! With poetry for all ages, music, dance, arts & crafts, food - all to celebrate our culture! Please join us for this wonderful event (full list of participants to come).

Proceeds will support the 4th Annual Children's Poetry Festival in El Salvador, Nov 2013.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

La Palabra Reading. Writer Glut. August Month-end Floricanto.

La Palabra Poetry Reading Features Thelma Reyna

Michael Sedano

Karineh Mahdessian, who hosted, welcomes Thelma T. Reyna to La Palabra

La Bloga friend and Latinopia book reviewer Thelma T. Reyna put on a reading that became a reading your stuff aloud clinic during Reyna’s Sunday reading at La Palabra, one of two poetry series sponsored by Avenue 50 Studio.

It was an all-around effective presentation. Holding the text and walking held the packed gallery’s nearly full attention and encouraged the poet’s use of eye contact and interaction with seated guests. Reyna’s oral interpretation shines as a model for readers in three basics of oral expression: making pace fit the words, developing a meaning-based rhythm, vocalics and projection so audiences can hear and understand.

Thelma Reyna keeps gestures up high.
Reyna the conversationalist speaks with a hushed, calmed mien. One has a difficult time imagining her shout boisterously. She didn’t need to shout. Thelma projected her voice effectively, I discerned a slight tension under her breaths that suggests controlled force. One audience member complimented Reyna’s voicing of words and phrases but called that "acting." Not acting, reading, as one should honor one's work, Reyna read fit to the time, the people, and the poet.

Poets struggle against the written rhythms of their words as laid down in short lines on paper. Anapests and dactyls. One line is pretty much the same as the next, short phrases, one or two ideas, pocas palabras. Poets read such lines infected with that grammatical pattern of repetitive five- and seven-word clauses, the beat on the same measure almost every single time for thirty lines. A drumbeat of monotony is poor motivation for a listener to seek out more.

Poet Thelma T. Reyna respects her words, she lets ideas and images speak for themselves. Her reading escapes the tight syllabic emphasis of soft-soft-accent-soft-soft-accent, breathe, repeat to the end of the line.

Thelma Reyna

Regardless of what word ends a line of poetry or metrical scan, Reyna reads the words within the thought or image, emphasis falling subtly on key words. Pairs of things and things that come in three abound in Reyna’s poems. She reads the dysjunction into one’s ears.

The packed house, presence of familia and colleagues, a photographer in the front row, all contribute to add stress to the situation. In such events, many readers rush through their work, swallowing words, becoming inaudible if not inarticulate. And it doesn’t take much rushing to make unrecognizable sounds. Reyna did not allow the moment to speed up her pace.

Pronunciation and enunciation happen at instantaneous speed. The lips move, the mouth opens the lungs push out air, the tongue forms the sound and you hear what you hear. Reyna speaks at a word-respecting rate, allows each word its aural space, loud enough even when street noise competed. She pronounces each syllable fully until the word emerges into the flow of concatenating syllables. And the audience doesn’t sit there asking “what did she just say?”

Reyna’s time on stage followed La Palabra’s Open Mic feature. Readers exhibited a wide range of comfort and skill in front of an audience. Poets shared touching heartfelt pieces for a parent, one played harmonica and sang his words. Three poets, Joe Kennedy, Jeffrey Alan Rochlin, and Vachine

Top: Flor, Maria Ruiz. Bottom: Aaron Higaweda, Abram Gomez

provided remarkable readings. Vachine and Rochlin shared thoughtful, powerful works that their presentation enhanced, while Kennedy’s intense reading of his edgy stream-of-consciousness noir poetry would be enhanced with eye contact. Kennedy's rapid-fire pace works, for him. Rochlin committed a cardinal sin of an open mic. Given two poems, he declared he would do a third. And it was not a knockout. If you’re going to do that, knock it out of the park, at least change the pace, do a funny one, mejor, do an hommage to a miglior fabbro, mentiendes?

Joe Kennedy, Jeffrey Alan Rochlin, Vachine

Following an assortment of community poets raises the spirit of the featured poet to be reading with her gente after an hour's open mic. Reyna would have won a larger piece of our hearts had she made the painful decision to cut a few titles, move the unpublished pieces earlier in the program, then end the reading on a life affirming poem, like the “she still has it” piece, or the being pregnant poem. That one is a knockout.

Thelma Reyna takes questions 
Here’s a small but important issue.Nearing the end of a reading, audiences hear “four more” and begin counting; their attention split between the poem and the count. “Last one” is the magic phrase and the only time to advise audiences of the countdown.

After the lively Q&A session, Thelma called me out as a speech coach who’d listened to her read and offered an observation. Today’s column reflects the goals Thelma set for her La Palabra audience: Pace, say each word as itself, slow down. Rhythm, read the ideas and structure, not the meter. Projection, sustained breathing control produces the volume and pitch you want.

Thelma Reyna, Painting by Margaret Garcia
Have a plan, work the plan, succeed on purpose. Plan: sustain existing comfort level and focus on 3 specific behaviors others will see or hear. Reyna worked her plan and it worked for her. La Palabra’s audience enjoyed their afternoon time and Thelma Reyna showed how poets win on purpose.

El Horno

Real Estate Ad:  Home for Sale. Charming hilltop with maximum view and solitude. Adobe dome horno and xeriscape just two of limitless small delights on this one-owner 60s bargain.

Real Estate Agent: You can knock that thing down and put in a spa.

I am away at Santa Barbara when my dad tells me he is building an horno to replace the pit barbeque. And he does. With help from an older friend, dad digs and sifts the red land of his yard, uses local rye grass augmented with Live Oak Canyon cow pies and makes adobe block. He plasters the outside with finely sifted mud.

A few days in advance of a barbacoa, my dad starts pulling leña for the horno. He prefers orange wood for its smoke and long-burning hardness, and because he'd been an orange-picker. Chamizo and stone fruit wood go in, too. No eucalyptus nor elm. Starting with the biggest limbs on the bottom, he stacks the firewood so the nearest at hand will be the first-to-burn twigs that kindle the fire.

Hours before sunrise dad starts a few twigs with newspaper to get a fire crackling. He feeds larger and longer lengths of wood until the growing flames fill the horno and it pulses with fire. Twenty minutes later, the flames ebbing to hot glowing orange, dad builds a new fire. When a fiery foot-deep heap of radiating coals fills the horno's floor, we set out for the kitchen. Smoke escaping myriad cracks in el horno glows in the day's first light.

The previous day, my mother rubs the huge beef roast with dried chile powders, then sets it to marinate in citrus juices and her own mixture of garlic, spices, salt, and herbs. While the boys are outside starting the fire, Mom works the kitchen, wrapping the carne in banana leaves and aluminum foil. With the roast on a rack in the bottom of a tina, she drapes wet burlap bags across the tina, lays down several layers of tinfoil which she crimps to the rim.

I shovel clear a spot in the middle of the horno, tossing the coals and ash to the back. We slide the tina into the middle of the horno. Dad fits the wet hatch cover to the opening and we mud over the entire surface with gloved hands. At 600 p.m. with a whoosh of aromatic steam, we crack open the hatch and it is time to eat.

After dinner, the familia huddles near the open hatch to stay warm. People play guitars and sing. They take requests. They sing together, sound gritos. Primos and sisters reminisce about lumbres in other days, stories overheard in other campos, heard from voices no one here has ever heard. Kids peek in from the dark periphery where chavalitas chavalitos lurk, taking in their story, inhaling the legends and names of their family, catching warm gusts of alma from around the horno.

Real Estate Agent: Oh, I'm sure the former owner will share recipes with you.

Email bag
Exploiting an Opportunity, or an Opportunistic Exploitation?

I felt the poet’s once-in-a-lifetime effervescent jubilation when I read his news: the California poet landed a college booking across country.

Then an email. “I can’t afford the trip. Any amount will help.” The organization will reimburse expenses, the poet tells me, but he doesn’t have money to get there.

I advise him to go to the organization and ask them to go through channels and secure an advance. Failing that, and absent some rich, generous friends, this poet will have to pass on the job because he cannot afford to get there. How disappointing that something that sounded like a fabulous opportunity turns out to be only a definite maybe.

Something is fishy in the state of Florida--the practice is probably endemic across higher ed.--that this is how its universities train students to run organizations in today's economy. Policies in play reflect outmoded practices for modern arts marketing, particularly for hiring emerging artists whose natural audience is college and university students.

Movers and shakers in student organizations need to understand economics peculiar to emerging artists and clear institutional hurdles. Such organizations may even be the sole route open to poets of their own generation finding audiences. Unless they can not pay in advance.

Student leaders need to take meetings, do press releases, convince administrators and bean counters of the appropriateness of cash advances. No one needs cash advances more than an emerging artist, yet the university rules insist on treating emerging artists like a poet travelling on the academic dime, spend then reimburse.

I’ll wager the university President’s office has funds to correct this student organization’s mis-step; or the English Department, or the MFA program can partner and co-sponsor the reading. I’ll wager also that a determined student committee can wend a request through the bureaucracy of their institution, and learn important lessons about organizational communication, blazing trails, and accountability.

I would be overjoyed if a southern California organization steps forward and fronts this poet the thousand dollars a trip like this should cost. He should have comfortable accommodations; not be sleeping on the floor of a student apartment, sneaking into the dining commons for meals, making baloney sandwiches in the car.

I don’t have the poet’s approval to share his plight. Click here if you're an angel. I’ll forward your email.

Email bag • Internet radio
Glut of Raza Writers Not Flowing Past Gatekeepers

"We have more than enough Latina Latino writers." Wait for the punchline. "What we need are raza book acquisitions editors."

That is the premise of a useful internet radio talk between La Bloga friend Marcela Landres and Jeff Rivera. Landres, hersel a former acquisitions editor, co-founded Las Comadres and Los Compadres Writers Conference, coming to the New York area in the Fall.

The radio talk, Why We Need More Latino Acquisition Editors is not for people looking to become writers. The talk focuses on the completed novel's most crucial obstacle--getting book-ready work into the business of publishing.

Marcela Landres drives home her point in a seminar at the National Latino Writers Conference in 2012.

What that looks like is landing a meeting with an individual paid to be "a perpetual graduate student, always reading always learning," in Landres' words. The gatekeeper who brings some writers inside, and keeps out everyone else.

Be that acquisitions editor, Landres suggests. It's the publishing equivalent of being a starving artist, except the pay is better. A helpful lifeskill, Landres emphasizes, is knowing how to be poor. Learning to enjoy working in big publishing offers pluses and minuses for Latina Latino workers. Landres has broadcast time only to outline some consequences of employment in book companies. For a fictive insight, Elizabeth Nunez' novel, Boundaries, sets a passionate publishing professional's plan to open the doors, against the demands of competitive book publishing values.

The central premise of  Why We Need More Latino Acquisition Editors is a view only raza editors will open the doors for more published Latina Latino writing. Not even a raza editor will give a break to a book just because the writer and editor are both Chicanas. Landres hammers home the point that talent alone does not get a book into print. The book and the writer have to be ready to go to print.

Listen at the link to gather details on readiness from Marcela Landres in Why We Need More Latino Acquisition Editors. Let this link load into memory and be patient with this large file, here.

Marcela Landres' most exigent argument points to gente's reading habits: people love to read raza literature but they don't buy what they read. What does it tell a publisher that Fulana de Tal has a million readers but sells only 100,000 copies?

Email bag
Crawling to Los Angeles to be Born

La Bloga friend and spoken word OG Sally Shore has entered final planning for the debut in Los Angeles of Lit Crawl. Here's hope raza poetry and literary communities heeded Sally's call to register for performance space at what's sure to be a memorable showcase for new and emerging writers. Sally's heads-up:

Lit Crawl L.A.: NoHo hits the streets of the NoHo Arts District, Wednesday, October 23, 2013 from 6:00 p.m. to 11:00 p.m.

Lit Crawl L.A.: No Ho is an evening of thrilling readings with the best of L.A.’s writers in a sampling of some of the greatest ongoing readings series and multiple literary genres spanning fiction to poetry from throughout Los Angeles County. Multiple literary genres will be represented spanning fiction to poetry, including presentations by Los Angeles Review of Books, Black Clock magazine, Beyond Baroque, The World Stage, Red Hen Press, GetLit Ignite, The New Short Fiction Series, Tongue and Groove, and more.

Participating venues include The Federal Bar, Bow and Truss, Skinny’s Lounge, Pitfire Pizza, Republic of Pie, Bob’s Espresso Bar and other hip NoHo venues, with a closing fundraiser party at The Hesby. Audiences will wine and dine their way through the NoHo Arts District walking route, with two rounds of readings held in each participating venue between from 6:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. The evening’s final celebration fundraiser will take place at The Hesby, NoHo Arts District’s newest lifestyle residential complex, from 9:00 p.m. to 11:00 p.m.

Lit Crawl LA: NoHo, a project of the EMERGE fiscal sponsorship program of The Pasadena Arts Council and the Litquake Foundation, is presented in cooperation with the NoHo Business Improvement District.

Lit Crawl is a literary pub crawl founded by Litquake, San Francisco’s Literary Festival. Often referred to as “literary mayhem at its very finest,” the concept encourages a broad and often sophisticated gamut of literary expression and has been successfully franchised to Manhattan, Brooklyn, Los Angeles, Seattle, Austin and Iowa City, with London, England also coming on in 2013. Each location organizes its own version of the Crawl, one that reflects the unique literary makeup and talents of their city.

On-line Floricanto At the End of August 2013
Josh Healey, Sherry Peralta Trujillo Carbajal, Tara Evonne Trudell, Francisco X. Alarcón, Jeff Cannon/Alfonso Maciel Sr. trans.

"A Dream Detained (after Langston Hughes)" By Josh Healey
"Brown" by Sherry Peralta Trujillo Carbajal
"Woman of Experience" by Tara Evonne Trudell
"Tanka To The Bloody Hands Indifferent To Human Plight / Tanka A Las Manos Sangrientas Indiferentes Al Dolor Humano" by Francisco X. Alarcón
"Liberating Jeweled Tears / Lágrimas enjoyadas liberadoras" by Jeff Cannon; Spanish translation by Alfonso Maciel, Sr.

A Dream Detained (after Langston Hughes)
Josh Healey

For the Dream Defenders, occupying the Florida state capitol, for Trayvon Martin and racial justice.And the #Dream9 immigrant activists, who were detained at theborder and won their freedom

what happens to a dream detained?
does it wilt like a rose
in the Arizona sun?

does it sink into the ocean
as water fills its lungs?
or does it fight to come home,
cross borders and spread hope
until it has won?

this is not a weak dream
a beach margarita dream
a suburban house and two car garage dream

this is an American dream
call it Aztlán
call it the hood
call it the walled-off ghetto
of Beverly Hills

we call it home

so bring them home
bring our youth back to us safe and breathing
with a bag of Skittles and a smile

I have a dream
that one day Martin Luther King
will not be misquoted
by Bill O’Reilly on national TV
fake colorblind fallacies
affirming misplaced actions
tel lme, what is so conservative
about killing a young black boy
walking home to watch
the all-star game with his dad?

where are the family values
in deporting the only mother
a teenage girl has ever known?
her name is Mia, she loves to skate
and write and come to my workshops
but there is only one poem she wants to write
these days and it is gone, shipped to Tijuana
like unwanted merchandise

America, when did you stop dreaming?
where are your open arms
that reached for the stars and imagined?

you sing Lennon’s lyrics
then shoot him in Central Park
blame it on a black man in a hoodie
and go on with your day

America, whose ground are you standing on?

this dream is black
and black is beautiful
so this dream is fucking gorgeous
and young and brown
and white, too, if you’re down
to get dirty and and listen first
and never bring tofu
to the meeting ever again

like ever. for real.

because this is a feast
for the Dreamers and the Defenders
enchiladas and shrimp gumbo
soul food with pico de gallo
this is the new America
same as the old America

can you taste it, Arizona?
you can’t eat fake ass Taco Bell forever
if no one is there to serve your chalupa

how will your picket fences stay so white
if no one is there to paint them?

and Sheriff Arpaio, mi amigo,
who is going to take care of you
in your nursing home next year?
better learn some Spanglish
if you want something more
than jello for desayuno

that’s why we are here
true education at its best
starts with the students
bold youth with old souls
who know their history
enough to repeat it, remix it
into something fresh and free

what happens to a nightmare ignored?

does it hide
and shrink from the sun?

does it race
to pick up the gun?

does it sit back
and watch the throne?

or does it sit in
and make itself known?

take over the palace
shout loud and strong
and beautiful, a butterfly
shedding its cocoon

how does a nightmare become a dream?

lay your head down, America
get nice and comfortable
close your eyes
and tell us what you see

Josh Healey is an award-winning writer, performer, and creative activist.

Fusing his distinct storytelling style with a subversive humor and fiery love for justice, Healey has been featured in the New York Times, San Francisco Chronicle, and is a regular performer on NPR’s Snap Judgment.

He has performed and led workshops at UC-Berkeley, Harvard, and over 200 colleges, high schools, & conferences across the country. Find out more at

Sherry Carbajal

Of the earth. The dirt that when mixed with straw and water and when added to walls made of logs, formed the foundation of the adobe home of my mother. The dirt of land worked on by my ancestors who were sheepherders, farmers, loggers, and copper miners.

Of the wood. The wood that formed the rulers used by school teachers and principals to smack the hands of my father who forgot that he could not speak in his native language while at school. The wood that was chopped for warmth even by my grandmother in her 80’s, wearing a dress and an old, thinning coat. The wood of the outhouse that was used because indoor plumbing was too expensive for the widow, my grandmother, left to raise her young children alone.

Of the food. The food that was not always abundant but that fed a large family. A poor man’s diet of pinto beans, potatoes, and tortillas made of corn and wheat.

Of the hands. The hands darkened by many long hours working in the sun, the hands that provided, that comforted, that helped, that held the new babies and the hands of the children, that taught, and that disciplined when the children were out of line.

Of the eyes. The eyes that showed fear for the children living in a world that did not always understand, pride in children who succeeded when many doubted, and love, always love.

Of the graves. The final resting place of my grandmother and ancestors who believed in hard work and in God, and who did their best to ensure a place of love, safety, comfort, and pride for their families.

Sherry Trujillo Carbajal was born in Reserve, New Mexico, and raised in Morenci, Arizona, where she teaches culinary arts at the local high school and where she resides with her husband of 25 years, Arnold, her daughter, Ashley, and her younger son, James.

Her older son, Christopher, is a 4th generation copper miner who also resides in Morenci with his fiancée and children.

Family has always been important to Sherry because her maternal grandmother, Pablita R. Peralta, lived with her family growing up, and taught her the values passed on by many generations, especially the importance of family, God, and hard work.

Woman of Experience
Tara Evonne Trudell

wild times
feeling true
for being
a woman
of experience
having others
based on societal
on how to act
like a lady
to be dainty
in my expression
low voice delivery
to contain
my enthusiasm
making them
with my kundalini
wild resisting
since day one
never really there
for them
from the start
young girl
growing up
knowing wild
woman at heart
spilling out
what’s going on
too many years
to mislead
not wanting me
to connect
with nature
energy experience
falling tears
acting out
a free
woman spirit
not trying
to hide
ache living
in root
soul journey
life line
life time
in memory
of ancestors
finding time
to create
from scratch
pan dulce
y cafe
de Chiapas
tres leche cake
y chili colorado
cultivating brown
growing green
on my path
enlightening shadow
explaining light
my needs and wants
to accept
spirit rising
to the surface
the wild
of being
a woman
of experience
to get back
to the

Tara Evonne Trudell, a mother of four, is full-time student at NMHU working on her BFA in Media Arts with an emphasis in film, audio, and photography.

It is through this expression of art, combined with her passion for poetry that she is able to express fearlessness of spirit for her family, people, community, social awareness, and most importantly her love of earth.


o blind, deaf, mute
heartless bloody hands—
cause of so many
deaths of crossers
by the Southern border

© Francisco X. Alarcón
July 2, 2013


oh manos ciegas
sordas, mudas, sangrientas
sin corazón—
causa de tantas muertes
en la frontera al Sur

© Francisco X. Alarcón
2 de julio de 2013

Francisco X. Alarcón, award winning Chicano poet and educator, is author of twelve volumes of poetry, including, From the Other Side of Night: Selected and New Poems (University of Arizona Press 2002), and Snake Poems: An Aztec Invocation (Chronicle Books 1992)  His latest book is Ce•Uno•One: Poems for the New Sun (Swan Scythe Press 2010). His book of bilingual poetry for children, Animal Poems of the Iguazú (Children’s Book Press 2008), was selected as a Notable Book for a Global Society by the International Reading Association. His previous bilingual book titled Poems to Dream Together (Lee & Low Books 2005) was awarded the 2006 Jane Addams Honor Book Award. He has been a finalist nominated for Poet Laureate of California in two occasions.  He teaches at the University of California, Davis.
He created the Facebook page, POETS RESPONDING TO SB 1070

Jeff Cannon

may your words fall jeweled tears
wash those around your feet with wisdom for bold standing
courage to march with every breathe against ancient tyrannies

those fiery stars ascending to destroy beauty with their demon eyes
then descend with full bellies faint embers hidden in the dark
the ones chained to sickness orbiting round and round
slyly waiting to burst over each new generation chained to the place
learning forgets experience
cast a greater shadow
more ferocious than the one before

may your words from humble throne stream down to form firm hands
strong as mained rivers splashing free to lift creation's sore blood
to speak where it left off
let heart wisdom gently flow over faces, chests
let its moisture sink deep
awaken bones to release from sleep the history they carry
the stories they bear
for compassion to walk the earth protected

keep alive the original task
the only labor for heart drenched eyes and hands
ears and lips, entire holy bodies
to give with earth touch kind
affection liberated from fear
care released from prisoned silence
so the shaman's dream does not die
the elder's cry finds salvation
aware the gorgeous seed sprouts up secure
dances love's authority
dances unconditioned care wide-eyed, ever mindful
to confront what small perversions
still creep in jungle shadows
behind slender warm armed light

por Jeff Cannon, traducción al español por Alfonso Maciel Sr.

que las lágrimas enjoyadas de tus palabras caigan
lavando aquellas alrededor de tus pies con sabiduría para mantenerse firmes
valor para marchar con cada aliento contra antiguas tiranías

esas fulgurantes estrellas que ascienden destruyendo la belleza con sus ojos demoniacos
luego descienden con oscuros rescoldos ocultos en su vientre ahíto
los encadenados al mal girando y girando en sus órbitas,
esperando taimadamente estallar sobre cada nueva generación
encadenados al lugar donde el aprendizaje olvida la experiencia
proyectan una sombra mayor
más feroz que la de más antes

que tus palabras desde el humilde trono fluyan a formar manos firmes
fuertes como ríos con crestas como crines salpicando libres
para elevar el decir de la sangre llagada de la creación
para que hable ahí donde se quedó
que la sabiduría del corazón suavemente fluya sobre los rostros
pechos, que su humedad penetre profundamente
despierte huesos para liberarlos del sueño de la historia que acarrean
las historias que cargan por compasión
caminar la tierra protegidos
mantener viva la misión original
la única tarea para los ojos empapados de corazón, orejas y labios,
santos cuerpos enteros
a dar con el amable toque de tierra
afecto libre de temor
cariño liberado del aprisionante silencio
para que no muera el sueño del chamán
el clamor de los viejos encuentra salvación
sabiendo que la maravillosa semilla germina segura
danza la autoridad del amor
danza incondicional y pasmada
siempre escrupulosa
a confrontar aquellas pequeñas perversiones
que aún reptan en selváticas sombras
tras esbelta y cálida luz armada

Jeff Cannon is the author of three books of poetry: Finding the Father at Table and Eros: Faces of Love (2010, published by Xlibris Corporation), Intimate Witness: The Carol Poems by Goose River Press, 2008, a testament to his wife’s courageous journey with cancer.

He first appeared in the anthology celebrating parenthood, My Hearts First Steps in 2004. He has been a featured poet at Manchester Community College, CT and at local Worcester poetry venues as well as in New Hampshire. From 2007-2008, he was the spoken word component with singer song writers John Small and Lydia Fortune as part of Small, Fortune and Cannon. He was published in Goose River Anthology: 2009 and started at that time to write monthly essays and poetry for the “Sturbridge Times” of Sturbridge MA. He is the father of two daughters, retired and “can’t stop writing” although he does not read out as much as he would prefer.

Alfonso Maciel (translator). Born in September 7, 1944 in Tamazula de Gordiano, Jal., México.
Moved with my family to Guadalajara in 1950 and then to San Francisco, Calif. in 1964. First worked as a warehouseman in The City, where I helped organize the workplace as a Teamster Shop.
Member of Local 2 Foodservice/Hotel Employees Union.
As one of the founders of the Mission Cultural Center (now MCCLA), I organized and run the Graphics Dept., now Misión Gráfica. Later served as Director of the Center and organized the non-profit Friends of the MCC as its fundraising arm and governing body. Went to serve as Director of the SF Arts Commission's Neighborhood Arts Program where I oversaw the City's separation from programming matters at four Cultural Centers, while maintaining housekeeping responsibilities.
Served for many years in the Community Arts Distribution Committee of the Zellerbach Family Fund; As advisor to the W.A. Gerbode, Columbia, and San Francisco Foundations in matters of Community Arts. Several times as Panelist of various programs of the California Arts Council. Served in the Editorial Committees of Editorial Pocho-Che, El Pulgarcito and Gaceta Sandinista. Started A. Maciel Printing in 1984, even today the only printing shop certified by the SF Dept. of the Environment as a "Green" shop. It also is a Union Shop. Living in retirement in Cuautla, Morelos, México for approximately 2 years I am active in the local arts and culture communities. Self described as allergic to official disciplines, I also call myself a "Furiously committed Latino Anti-imperialist".

Monday, August 26, 2013

Spotlight on Sarah Cortez and her new book of poems, “Cold Blue Steel”

Sarah Cortez is the author of How to Undress a Cop (Arte Público Press, 2000). She has edited Windows into My World: Latino Youth Write Their Lives (Piñata Books, 2007); Hit List: The Best of Latino Mystery (Arte Público Press, 2009); Indian Country Noir (Akashic Books, 2010); and You Don't Have a Clue: Latino Mystery Stories for Teens (Piñata Books, 2011). Last year saw the publication of a memoir, Walking Home: Growing Up Hispanic in Houston (Texas Review Press, 2012). She is also co-editor with Sergio Tronosco of Our Lost Border: Essays on Life amid the Narco-Violence (Arte Público Press 2013).

Cortez’s newest book is Cold Blue Steel (Texas Review Press). As Booklist describes it:

“As a police officer, writer, and editor...Cortez provides a unique perspective on the front lines of law enforcement in Houston. In this, her second book of poetry, Cortez employs a frank language in sharp lyrics charged with weary passion...Cortez enlivens her lines with a deft blend of rhythm and police shorthand...[she] brandishes a mean humor….”

And in Cortez’s own words:

“My two greatest loves are poetry and policing. I came to poetry after being published in fiction. I came to policing after fourteen years in a corporate career. Becoming a street cop is the best decision I’ve ever made. You see it all as a patrolman, and then you go home and make sure it doesn’t eat you up. The intuitive decisions cops make and the conciseness of language required are a good substrate for a poet’s emergence.”

For more information about Sarah Cortez and her writing, visit her official website.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Kerouac, Hunter S. Thompson. Cultural appropriation.

Next week I'll be at one of the two biggest SciFi/Fantasy conventions, which this year is called LoneStarCon, in San Antonio. Because of the location, the Con organizers have included a "Spanish strand" to include more Mexican, South American and U.S. latino authors and topics. That's a good thing. You can go here for a list of what are called the "Spanish language" panels.

To prepare for ones I'll sit on, I've especially collected background for one called Latino Characters by Mainstream Authors: Diversity or Cultural Appropriation? Next week I'll post material I'll use that Friday, 7:00pm. I have too much material, so today I share some things I learned about mainstream author's Chicano characters and Chicano writers getting their work published.

Manuel Ramos started this in his post yesterday about Beatrice Kozera, the person who Jack Kerouac portrayed as "Terry" in his novel On the Road.

I contacted Tim Z. Hernandez, author of Mañana Means Heaven, and what I found seems to me a significant example of cultural misappropriation. Here's more details:

"For the six years prior to its publication, Kerouac received countless rejections of his famous novel, On the Road, and it might never have been published. But when the excerpt entitled The Mexican Girl was published as a short story in The Paris Review, it received rave reviews, and was included in the Best American Short Stories of 1956 anthology."

Because of the publicity, the novel was published by Viking Press. Tim informed me that people like Jerry Cimino, owner of The Beat Museum in San Francisco, Kerouac scholars Paul Maher Jr. and Rick Dale, and others concur that it was The Mexican Girl story that led to Kerouac's novel becoming an instant hit.   

So, what's the big deal? Why should I, we, get upset about Kerouac, a mainstream author, including a mexicana in his novel? What's so MISappropriate about that?

Kerouac became a literary icon, using a two-week affair with una pobre mujer as his first step to fame. As Ramos noted, the woman spent her early life picking grapes and cotton. Only those who've done the work know the physical and economic hardships she underwent. Every day. For decades. And never knowing, until later, about Kerouac's book. Or about her "contribution" and, assumedly, never financially benefitting from the book's success.

Jack Kerouac
I'm not suggesting anything specific that Kerouac should've done. I don't know what I would've done in his place. But it grinds me. Me molesta. Kerouac ate in restaurants where figuratively the salad he ate was made possible by esa mujer. He paid his rent and traveled with money that began flowing from The Mexican Girl, while the real one's family lived on at poverty level.

If I raise this example at the Con next week, I won't be surprised to hear someone claim that I'm engaging in "the whiny victim ideology that sadly permeates so much of ethnic literature." That's a phrase I ran across in my research. It's typical of certain Anglos paranoid about the benefits they receive from White Privilege. Ignorant where their good life came from.

Ilan Stavans' biography of Oscar Zeta Acosta, Bandido, provides an example of one Chicano who made the most of being culturally misappropriated. (Yes, Acosta was infamous for his own macho chauvinism, among other things.) Stavans (born in Mexico) writes about Hunter S. Thompson's use of Acosta in the novel Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas:

"Thompson wrote down every single detail about his and Zeta's excursion to Las Vegas. Every dialogue between him and Acosta was recorded on a portable tape recorder. He often plays it for visitors and over the phone. In Acosta's circles, the certitude remains that Thompson was only marginally the author of Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. When Acosta read the manuscript, he said, 'My God! He has stolen my soul. He has taken my best lines and has used me.' " (p. 99)

There's more about this worth reading in Stavans' book, but, to summarize it, after a feud, demanding half the proceeds and co-author credit, carving his name with a knife in the Rolling Stones magazine's office, threatening to sue for libel, Acosta signed a waiver in exchange for a two-book publishing contract. That's why we have Acosta's novels, Autobiography of a Brown Buffalo and The Revolt of the Cockroach People.

In my view, the legal agreement doesn't erase the cultural misappropriation. Theft, plagiarizing by someone considered a great American author of a great American novel. A novel a Chicano didn't get credit for. Me whining? Shit, I won't go further with this.

My collection of other people's research has uncovered much more that I'll share on this blog and at the Con next week. That post will concentrate more on SciFi/fantasy than mainstream lit. And it's not all just about "whiny victim ideology that sadly permeates so much of ethnic literature."

If you want to help me with next week's gauntlet, think about this quote from an Anglo panelist commenting on the title, Latino Characters by Mainstream Authors: Diversity or Cultural Appropriation?

He states: "Turn this around and ask this rhetorical question: Is it OK and not politically incorrect for a non-American [latino] writer to use American [Anglo] characters? ‘Nuff said!" Those are his words, really.

Es todo, hoy,

Friday, August 23, 2013

Guest Post: Honoring a "Town Elder" - Remembering "The Mexican Girl" - Classic Poetry Reissued

Today's guest post comes from Gloria Velásquez, author, educator, musician. She wrote the following essay in tribute to one of her father's compadres for the Johnstown Breeze in January, 2013. Johnstown is a typical small Midwestern town with a past rich with the contributions of Mexicans and other immigrants -- a past not always acknowledged or even known by the current residents. As Gloria told me, the essay is not only about Don Nacho, but also "about the dignity of our raza in all areas of Colorado, not just in Johnstown."

Tribute to Don Ignacio Rivera: The Last of the Town Elders
Gloria L. Velásquez

Don Ignacio "Nacho" Rivera

The Molinars, the Riveras, the Botellos, the Holguins, each of these families represent the Salt of the Earth of Johnstown. The roots of these families, which began in Mexico, are now firmly planted in the small northern Colorado town destiny chose for them. Fleeing poverty and the economic displacement that resulted from the Mexican Revolution of 1910, these families sought refuge in another Ellis Island. And like the twelve million German, Italian and Irish immigrants who fled to the United States between 1892-1954, they crossed borders, their hearts filled with hopes and dreams of a better life for themselves and their children: Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.

The life story of Don Ignacio Rivera reflects the journeys of these huddled masses seeking freedom and the pursuit of the American Dream. Don Ignacio Rivera or “Nacho,” was born in Chicago, Illinois in 1923 to Juan and Martina Rivera, who had crossed the border from Mexico into the United States seeking employment. Don Nacho spent the first four years of his life experiencing first-hand his parents’ search for socioeconomic betterment in the United States. He would later return with his parents to San Ignacio, a small pueblo in the state of Chihuahua, Mexico, where he would spend the first twenty years of his life. “It was a small, peaceful life, though sad. We lived in a small adobe house, very poor,” Don Nacho explained when I interviewed him. It was there in a small ranchito that this proud humble man would learn the value of hard work, helping his father plant corn and cotton. “My father was very hardworking. Era pobre como yo.”

It was also there in San Ignacio that Nacho fell in love with Maria Francisca Nevel or “Kica,” creating a love that would endure the test of time amidst economic difficulties. A love that would produce ten children—Leo, Jesse, Lupe, Socorro, Tony, Gloria, Johnny, Olivia, Irma, Sally and an adopted son, Adam. A love that would transcend time, transcend borders. In 2011, Nacho and his wife would celebrate their 70th wedding anniversary in Johnstown, Colorado, surrounded by thirty-five grandchildren, fifty-nine great-grandchildren and sixteen great-great grandchildren. “Era mi primer amor. She was fifteen and I was eighteen. I knew I wanted to join my life with hers. We fell in love. I asked her if she would go with me and she said yes. So we went the first night to stay with friends in San Ignacio, then we went to Juárez for a few days. Then we went back to the ranchito. Luego nos casaron. That was the custom back then. The girls would go with the man, then they would marry.”

Don Nacho and his young bride would spend their first seven years of marriage in San Ignacio. Nonetheless, the economic hardships of the post-revolutionary era in Mexico would force Nacho and his family to leave their beloved ranchito. “A lot of people left San Ignacio when they didn’t have any water to work the land. We didn’t have any work, so I came to the U.S. to work. We didn’t have anything, not even water.” Nacho first crossed the U.S. Mexican border into Fabens, Texas where he worked for a rancher picking cotton and alfalfa. His wife and children would join him several weeks later. They lived in Fabens for almost a year and a half, returning to San Ignacio one more time, then crossing the border again into Denver City, Texas. Nacho would stay in Denver City with his family for three years, working in the cotton fields.

It was then that destiny intervened in Don Nacho’s life, taking him to the small northern Colorado town of Johnstown where he would remain with his family until his death on January 20, 2013. Upon visiting with his parents who had moved from Mexico to Johnstown, Nacho made the decision to move his family there in order to be closer to his parents. “Kica didn’t like Johnstown, but I did. I still do. This is where we’re all buried. My parents, uncles, aunts, cousins, everyone is here now.”

Nonetheless, the pursuit of the American Dream during the 1940s and 50s proved to be difficult for Don Nacho and countless other Mexicans living in the small agricultural towns of Northern Colorado. Like my own parents and those of many other Mexican and Chicano families whose roots are embedded in Johnstown, Nacho joined the marginalized groups who became a source of cheap labor for the local farmers. They lived in run-down shacks, making only enough money to support their families. “We all worked in the sugar beets. We lived in different ranches. I remember the snow would come in through the holes. No electricity. Wood stoves. We went to the bathroom in tinas or outside. I would get up at 3:00 a.m. to start the stove. The first house was real bad. In the second house it was better. All the workers were mexicanos. We were paid $200 a month. That was enough to eat on. And with my Amá and Apá, we were around thirteen and we all ate. I don’t know how, but we did.”

Times were indeed hard back then if you were a Mexican. Not only did Don Nacho work seven days a week, barely earning enough to feed his family, but he endured the discriminatory attitudes of the time. “Tenían al trabajador como a nadie. Some discriminated. Some were good. They paid very little. They didn’t speak any Spanish. We had to go cut wood, we’d cut branches. We would sometimes go to the dump to get wood. It was very difficult. They didn’t even know if people needed wood. It was all about work. They would give us credit at the store. Every two weeks I would buy food. Sometimes I wouldn’t have any money left, but I would still pay them.”

Despite the intense anti-Mexican sentiment of that era, Don Nacho would remain in his beloved Johnstown until his death. He eventually left farm labor, working seasonally at the local Great Western Sugar Factory and later at the Johnstown Feed and Seed, where he was employed for ten years. “I learned to work hard from my parents. I didn’t have any education, any schooling here, a little in Mexico.” Yet, Nacho never forgot his life on the ranchito in San Ignacio. “I loved being out doors, the fresh air. In the sugar factory it was indoors all the time, noise from the factory, the smell. I still like the rancho. My daughter, Gloria, came out like me. She lives on a rancho.”

Like Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and César Chávez, the humble beginnings and life story of Don Ignacio Rivera have influenced the lives of many. Nacho’s legacy will remain in the historical archives of Johnstown. Virtually uneducated and speaking very little English, Nacho has contributed significantly to the history and local economy of Johnstown. During his many years in Johnstown, he purchased several homes as well as an apartment building. Nacho’s children would go on to model their father’s hard work ethic and entrepreneurial skills, developing their own local businesses--Leo’s Place, Kica’s and Nacho’s, Lozano Insurance and Ultimate Style--which have contributed to the local economy of Johnstown. There is no doubt that Don Nacho’s tenacity and his endless pursuit of the American Dream embody the spirit and greatness of a true American hero.

At the end of our interview, when I asked Don Ignacio what his greatest accomplishment was, he did not hesitate. “Tener una familia como ésta. My family is my greatest accomplishment. My children’s success. I never had money to give them, but I taught them to work, to be hardworking. I get sentimental. Muy unidos, día y noche. They have to work, but as soon as they get out, they come to the house. They all come to eat. They talk, they shout. I get so happy.”

Hasta pronto, Don Nacho. Until we meet again….

Gloria L. Velásquez is an internationally known writer and poet who graduated from Roosevelt High School (Johnstown) in 1967. She is also Honored Alumni from the University of Northern Colorado in Greeley where she became the first Chicana to be inducted into their Hall of Fame in 1989. In 1998, Stanford University honored Velásquez with the “Gloria Velásquez Papers,” archiving her life as a writer and humanitarian.

Jack Kerouac's "Terry, The Mexican Girl" Dies At Age 92

I received the following press release from the Beatrice Kozera estate through Tim Z. Hernandez, La Bloga friend who has a book coming out about "The Mexican Girl," Manana Means Heaven. Tim's book is getting a lot of buzz and sounds like a great read.  The heroine of the book lived long enough to see it become a reality through Tim's hard work.

Fresno, CA. (August 19, 2013) — Beatrice Kozera, a.k.a. Bea Franco, a.k.a. “Terry” of legendary American author Jack Kerouac’s magnum opus, On the Road, died of natural causes on the morning of Thursday August 15, 2013 in Lakewood, California.

In her own words, her life was “nothing special.” Which might be true, if you do not count that her role in the author's career was important enough to include her name in over twenty biographies on Kerouac, and that she had amassed a literary cult following for the past 56 years, all unbeknownst to her and her family. In late autumn of 1947 she met the young Kerouac in Selma, California where she was living in the farmworker labor camps with her family. The two struck up a relationship that lasted fifteen days, which he chronicled in his book On the Road— a novel that sparked the counterculture generation and was recently made into a movie featuring Brazilian actress Alice Braga in the role of “Terry.” What has been largely unknown is that after six years of rejections it was the story of “Terry, the Mexican Girl” that opened the doors for the publication of Kerouac’s novel.

The timing of her death was unfortunate, considering that later this month a book based on her life and written with her participation, Mañana Means Heaven by author Tim Z. Hernandez, is being released. “My mother hung on just long enough to see and hold the book in her hands,” her son Albert commented.

Beatrice Kozera was born Beatrice Renteria in Los Angeles, California in 1920, and spent most of the early part of her life following the seasons with her family, picking cotton, grapes and other crops. She eventually settled down in Fresno, California with her husband LeRoy Kozera, who in her own words, “Was a good man who gave me a good life.” She is survived by her son Albert Franco and her daughter Patricia Leonard, along with several grandchildren and great grandchildren.

Letters and condolences are being accepted at: The Beatrice Kozera Estate, 596 Palo Verde Drive, Bullhead City, Arizona 86442. For information or interview requests contact:

Thirtieth Anniversary Edition of Again For The First Time by Rosemary Catacalos

Again for the First Time
Rosemary Catacalos
Wings Press - October, 2013
[from La Bloga friend Bryce Milligan, the publisher]

Again for the First Time was originally published in 1984 by Tooth of Time Books in Santa Fe. It received the Texas Institute of Letters Poetry Prize. The book went on to achieve near-legendary status as one of the best books of poetry ever by a Texas poet. Wings Press is proud to publish this 30th anniversary edition. It was the first full-length collection of poetry by Rosemary Catacalos, who went on to become a Dobie-Paisano fellow, a Stegner fellow, a recipient of an NEA creative writing fellowship, and numerous other honors. The book is unique in that it pairs and often plays against each other the mythologies of Catacalos's mixed Greek and Mexican backgrounds. At the same time that it is populated with characters like Ariadne and Theseus, it is also very contemporary in its settings and the issues it addresses, including San Antonio street life, racism, mass killings, and foreign wars. It is a strongly feminist work as well. Rose Catacalos is the 2013-2014 Poet Laureate of Texas -- the first ever Latina Poet Laureate of Texas.

Rosemary Catacalos is the eldest grandchild of Greek and Mexican immigrants to San Antonio, Texas, where her extended family has made its home since about 1910. Her work is deeply rooted in place and in the classical myths, folklore, family stories, and history of both cultures. Her writing has been translated into Spanish, Italian, and Greek. A former literary arts administrator, Catacalos has been executive director of San Francisco's Poetry Center and American Poetry Archives, and the San Antonio literary center, Gemini Ink. She lives in San Antonio.


Later this year I'll be making presentations about writing and my books in Minnesota, Texas, California, and Colorado. Stay tuned for details.