Tuesday, October 08, 2013

Review: Enrique VIII. Poetry Now Goes Dark in South Bend. Calaveritas. Carmen Calatayud On-line Floricanto

Review: Enrique VIII Launches Broad Stage Season

Michael Sedano

"Broad" is not pronounced geometrically, “a broad brush,” but with a long "O", as in the rhyme, "hit the road to The Broad." Pronunciation’s important because when you recommend the place to friends, they’ll want you to get the name right.

The Broad Stage has been at its Santa Monica College Performing Arts Center location since 2008. My long overdue first visit comes with the 2013 season opener, Shakespeare’s Henry VIII.

Teatro gente will understand driving across town for Shakespeare--a great Lear, or an enchanting Tempest, for sure--but Henry VIII? To the delight of a full house, this performance featured a golden-age tribute company, Rakatá, performing the play in Spanish, Enrique VIII, with English supertitles. The experience brings total delight, even to anglophone-only playgoers.

“I just love Shakespeare,” one says. Another expresses puro curiosity to see how the titles would help her enjoy the performance, adding “I don’t understand a word of español.” They laugh in the right places, but that’s probably because a plurality of the house enjoys an insider’s experience doubly delicious being in a cultural setting where normally the hispanoparlante would be the minority.

Placido Domingo delivers his welcome in cristiano with a bit of Inglés, to be inclusive. His words are as heartfelt as the spirit emanating from the gente so highly engaged in the unfolding performance.

In tribute to their Fundación Siglo de Oro sensibilities, Rakatá works in impressionistic period costume and staging. Two chairs and two pedestals make up the set. The characters speed around stage whirling garments and rebozos, keeping the stage alive with constant motion. They perform with the intensity of a traveling circus moving from settlement to settlement in 16th century iberia, raising a crowd, selling a few indulgences, taking over the zócalo to perform for tips and maybe a freshly killed chicken. Such a troupe of necessity travels light and works a la brava, at the highest levels of enthusiasm sure to please the groundlings. Rakatá didn’t scrimp on the pleasing parts.

Rakatá’s actors infused an improvisational flair to their energetic business, capturing the sense of that long-gone age, while in every way matching the finest performances seen at the downtown Mark Taper main stage. In fact, with the cast entirely of madrileños, the bio notes read just like a Taper program: everyone’s from out of town. But in this performance, that was the point. The evening was equivalent to seeing an Irish company perform Beckett.

Programming a venue like The Broad Stage demands an experimental attitude with a solid grounding in popular culture. The Shakespeare series comprises one of numerous artistic directions programmed into the Broad. Jazz, world music, theatre, vocal music, opera, classical programming fill the weekends. A rich array of touring artists pulling one-night stands give the Broad Stage audience a potpourri of inspired choices.

One series, a wonderful fusion of pop and difficult music, is the “Beethoven, Bagels and Banter” Sunday morning chamber concerts accompanied by gnoshes and conversation with the musicians, but not at the same time. This series, made possible by a generous gift from Barbara Herman, sounds like tons of fun and likely an effective introduction to chamber ensembles for many a ticket-holder.

The building brings delight to a visitor. Ample and free parking is a wonder. More wonderful is the U-shaped Italianate auditorium designed as an intimately-sized opera house that keeps the audience close to the action and musicians.

There is one drawback to the Santa Monica location. Its Santa Monica location. Rakatá deserved the delights of that opera house and so did that audience. But sabes que? I can see Rakatá doing their period schtick on Mariachi Plaza, a cultural triangulation between los Brits, Spain, and nosotros de este lado.

What Next, for Latina Latino Poetry and Notre Dame?

This week’s unexpected announcement that “Latino/a Poetry Now” ceases operation with the October 30 reading at South Bend comes as a blow to contemporary chicana chicano literature. There’s beauty when someone with a bully pulpit uses it to promote meritorious emerging work.

There’s tragedy when someone gives up the bully pulpit. So giving “Now” a terminal date naturally raises concerns about Notre Dame’s ongoing support for emerging letters. The University’s announcement doesn’t really explain the why or what’s next from the dynamic Institute for Latino Studies and Letras Latinas.

In a wider context constant battering from right wing xenophobes may influence a waning institutional support for mestizo literatures.

Or, maybe some believe the nation is entering a “post-racial” era. USC, for example, recently disbanded El Centro Chicano and reconstituted it under the same name in a mid-campus closet. USC is silent on the fate of the orphaned mural in the former Centro.

Two outdoor chicano murals were destroyed when USC razed the original Centro building to replace it with a grassy knoll.

Despite a recent higher education essay worried that raza Ph.D.’s burn their candles at both ends because there are so many causes, so few doctoradas doctorados, I want Notre Dame to take on more.

I’m sad seeing Latino/a Poetry Now go away and look to Francisco Aragón and his colegas to continue to do more to advance nascent literary voices. As the essay points out about the young Ph.D.s, Notre Dame accepted the responsibility to promote raza voices and cannot abruptly abandon the effort. Those voices need be heard. Hay otra voz que quiere hablar, as Tino Villanueva wrote.

The implicit question: Do RTP committees tenure faculty with heavy community responsibilities? 
Notre Dame and Francisco Aragón undoubtedly have plans afoot. In the meantime, the series exists in parallel form. The announcement points out:

The Poetry Society of America, in addition to its role as national co-presenter, has provided a home on its website for a series of online roundtable discussions involving each group of poets. “In many respects, this aspect of Latino/a Poetry Now is no less important than the actual readings themselves. We’ve been able to moderate and post on the Web engaging dialogues in which the poets converse and comment on each others’ latest books. Long after the readings are over, these published discussions will remain,” said Aragón.

The Latino/a Poetry Now light is going out in a big way, however. From the announcement:

The final installment is being touted as a “grand finale” because it will feature a slate of four poets who will spend two days on the Notre Dame campus visiting classes and taking part in oral history interviews, in addition to giving their public reading at 7:30 p.m. Oct. 30 (Wednesday) at the Eck Visitors Center auditorium.

The poets visiting Notre Dame are Blas Falconer, winner of the Maureen Egan Literary Award from Poets & Writers magazine, as well as a poetry fellowship from the National Endowment of the Arts (NEA); Raina J. León, whose second collection of poems will be published in 2013 from Salmon Poetry in Ireland; Maria Melendez, whose two books were finalists for a PEN Center USA Award and the Colorado Book Award, respectively; and John Murillo, whose first book was a finalist for the Kate Tufts Discovery Award and the PEN Open Book Award. Murillo has also been a recipient of poetry fellowship from the NEA.

Calaveritas Literarias Contest for DDLM

Día de los Muertos celebrations in the United States parallel those of Mexico in many dimensions. One missing element from US-based DDLM observations is the poetic tradition of light verse calaveritas literarias. Often quatrains--but no formal requirement--the calavera takes a satiric poke at the living in the context of eulogy, or simply expresses actitud about death, dying, and burial.

Mural, Boyle Heights, circa 1978.©msedano
To the House of Representatives
Posturing politicians be aware:
Someone will be patting you in the face
With a shovel.
But you won't know it.

So It Goes
Enjoy the parade, Congresscritter.
There's seven going out,
and six coming back.

For examples of the diverse forms of the calavera literaria, visit http://www.calaveras-literarias.com/ where you'll find short ones and longer pieces, risqué and not so much, like the ejemplares below, plus details of the contest in México that pays winners: Hay 100 dólares americanos en premios, así que anímate!

Los Enamorados
Ahí viene la calaca vestida de morado para todos los enamorados

Comiendo elote
Estaba Mari comiendo elote
vino la calavera y le echó un pedote.

El profe Raúl
Estaba el profe Raúl comiendo meloncito
llega la calaca y dice vámonos a lo oscurito.

Maestra Madi
Estaba la maestra Madi bailando reggaetón
Cuando llegó la Catrina y le bajó el pantalón.

Mi subdirector
Ha transcurrido ya un año,
Que el Sub me felicitó
Por aquella calavera,
Que a él tanto le gustó.

Hoy nuevamente le escribo
Pues la muerte me mandó,
No ha logrado su objetivo
Y su tiempo se acabó.

Mucha tristeza me da,
Que la muerte se lo lleve
Pero la mera verdad,
Con los profes no se puede.

Canas verdes le sacamos,
¡Nunca nos hizo cambiar!
Ahora mismo lo enterramos,
Sin su objetivo lograr.

De luto todos estamos,
El Sub jamás volverá
De corazón le deseamos,
Que ahora sí descanse en paz.

La Bloga's Contest: Send up to three calaveras in English, Spanish, or mezcla to win inclusion in the October 29, On-line Floricanto, and perhaps one of the prizes TBA.

Place your calaveras literarias in the body of an email (no files, please) and be sure to include your name and mail address in event your work wins one of the fabulous TBA prizes. Click here for the address, which is calaveras@readraza.com.

email bag • Poet Laureate News
Altadena California Poetry Reading

Three Latinas—performance poet, writer, and artist Vibiana Aparicio-Chamberlin; poet, author, curator, and columnist for Pasadena SGV Journal, Gerda Govine Ituarte; and author, poet, editor, and writing consultant, Thelma T. Reyna—will read their poetry (some in Spanish) at Altadena Library on Thursday, October 17 at 7:00 p.m. in the Library Community Room located at 600 E. Mariposa Street, Altadena. For more information: 626-798-0833 or http://www.altadenalibrary.org

This event is the second of the ALTA-L.A Poetry Series hosted by Linda Dove, the library’s Poet Laureate. This free series is sponsored by the Friends of the Altadena Library. Open mic readers may perform their poems in either Spanish or English. This event is supported by Poets & Writers, Inc. through a grant it has received from the James Irvine Foundation.

On-Line Floricanto - Carmen Calatayud

Washington DC Poet Carmen Calatayud honors La Bloga today with five selections from Calatayud's collection,  In the Company of Spirits.  (Winston-Salem NC: Press 53, 2012. ISBN 978-1-935708-69-8). Order copies publisher direct or through your independent bookseller.

Carmen Calatayud is the author of In the Company of Spirits (Press 53, 2012). The book was chosen as a runner-up for the Walt Whitman Award by the Academy of American Poets. Carmen is a Larry Neal Poetry Award winner and recipient of a Virginia Center for the Creative Arts fellowship. Her poetry has been published in journals such as Borderlands: Texas Poetry Review, Cutthroat, Gargoyle, Más Tequila Review, PALABRA: A Journal of Chicano and Latino Literary Art and Red River Review. Her nonfiction writing has appeared in publications for The Nature Conservancy and Amtrak. Born to a Spanish father and Irish mother in the U.S., she is a poet moderator for Poets Responding to SB 1070, a Facebook group that features poetry and news about the Arizona immigration law that legalizes racial profiling. Carmen works as a psychotherapist and addiction counselor in Washington, DC.

Commitment Otra Vez
For R.V.

Some generations ago,
you were a Zapatista
inside your great-grandmother’s
womb, black eye sockets of
revolution, carrying roses
with the pink blown out,
dando gritos in earshot
of the Americas.

But now your doubt
is strewn across the room
like petals from dead maravillas,
even in this space you rent
where spiritual warriors
pray for your country
and you can finally sleep
through the night.

Listen, amigo de los desamparados,
this is your time, again,
beyond gut-level fear
and black and white film:
The explosions just keep coming,
and you are chewing on history,
and never let it be said
that all you could do was cry.

The Letter I Wish I Could Send to Tía Rosa 

Querida Tía,
You lived under so many black moons.
All the tempers, Tía.
Your mother who roared herself to death.
Your husband who smoked himself
to death. Your toddler son
who kicked you and pissed
on the living room floor.
You took care of them just as
lovingly as you took care of me.

You rocked me as a baby
and I know I howled.
Born the day after you,
another Pisces who cried an ocean
during our transatlantic calls.
You came in the winter,
brave to navigate this English-white world.
Your golden-green ojos merged with mine,
and I was taken by your tears.
You returned to your land
and left me without your olive arms.
I cried myself purple.
You must have seen that
life in America is cold.
You were smarter than us.
I begged you to take me
but you thought I didn’t know
what your country meant.
I wanted to dance flamenco.
I wanted to drink horchata.
I wanted to be warm.
I knew the beauty
of Mediterranean roots.

After you left, I prayed
to Nuestra Señora de los Desamparados,
abandoned to this American life,
an ocean away from you.
I would forget you for periods of time,
but not your voice.

You didn’t call my father when Abuela died.
He called you to say we were on our way
to my high school graduation,
and you told him his mother was dead.
Ella se murió. His hyena screams, and me
paralyzed in my cap and gown.
You sent a telegram that came three weeks
too late. I spoke to you telepathically but
you were grieving too hard to hear.

I’ll never forget when you saw me at 21.
You sobbed so hard at the airport
I was afraid you would fall to the ground.
But you were anchored in your seaside city.
You were the watershed that kept on giving,
vale la pena, you said. You brushed my hair
and pointed out the silver stars,
apologized for the heavy heat
and showed me avenues of palms.
The humid blue sky alchemized
into yellow kites on the coast.
Blood-red orange juice blessed
my throat and the blinding sweetness
made me cry. My heart exploded
because I loved the heat and loved you.
You were the saint who would never
get canonized, this is what my father said.

I am cold here in the United States.
I am fighting off a cold.
I am fighting off the memory of a father
who can’t forgive himself for leaving you behind.
As soon as I get some money,
I’ll come visit. Te prometo.

I Fell Asleep Facing the Sea
For Claribel Alegría

Ninety-nine miles a sheet
I wait for the rain to end,
pray for the army to be covered in fog.
I step over brains in the sand.
Starfish are stiff with grief,
and the Holy Spirit sighs.

Bullets smack I hide nowhere fast,
hands search for an ocean god.
My soul smells like a fish
swims to the other side,
pretends to be underwater just to muffle the blast.

Being human isn’t intelligent at all.
It’s seeing your fingers
in the appendage pile,
dreaming of Aztecs in a stack of hearts,
curling the tongue to close the throat.

El yo de la guerra es amor
They say this on the radio.
Fishermen take cover
from bullet spray
and watch the coast collapse in two.
The dead hide under the bed,
cry black-eyed salty storms,
beg for machetes to finish them off.

Contaminated angels,
now we stand as guardians of graves.
I used to make sopa de pescado
for my family of nine,
when the cooking of our country
filled Jesus’ mouth.
Fish filled our frying pans
and dough would rise like the waves.

To My Father Juan, Who Thought There Was a War to End All Wars
Valencia, Spain

The soldiers took your Tío Rafa:
dragged out of bed and shot in the street

the Franco way

the Generalissimo in my dreams 
sucked away your soul 
when they killed Rafael.

You and your friends played soccer 
around the bodies,

death was a daily smell
and the sound of mothers who screamed 
like hyenas 

hung in the air.

All of this, this wasn’t ordained by the Holy Ghost,
but an angel grabbed you by the cojones

and told you to go on. 

Now you are gone and 
I am sleepless inside this cave.

I can’t see heaven
but somehow feel its contents squirm.

It is wise to ask, 
who is my guide during these 
wicked times? 

Archangel Michael sticks his finger down my throat
and now I have to tell your story.


Your country absorbed the chaos, 
you passed it on through your chromosomes, and  

I have this DNA of atrocities.

You didn’t mean to thrash out your life
but there was the hurricane of war
and nothing to barter for food,

boxes of blood-red oranges 
crushed in the street,

your face purple with rage.

I know you are wondering
how is it that Franco and George Wallace 
are still alive
and still find ways to run this world?

At every turn you thought America
would make sense,

and hoarding canned food in the basement
would save us all. 
I don’t blame you.

Now all that’s left
is to take what you told me,
transmute it for others 

and yes, they have to eat it because
this memory is all I can serve.

Originally published in "Cutthroat, A Journal of the Arts"

Moving to the Land of the Dead

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

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

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

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

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