Tuesday, December 03, 2013

Calliope's Replacement Muse. Gluten-free Chicano's Membrillo. On-line Floricanto.

Poesia Para La Gente Fundraiser: One Dollar, One Poem
Michael Sedano

Calliope, the muse of poetry and rhetoric, wandered through the parking lot near the stadium in Los Angeles' Elysian Park, looking for someone to inspire. She was on the verge of giving up hope when Calliope recognized a kindred soul whose love and need for poetry matched her own. With that, Calliope semi-retired, appointing Jessica Ceballos the muse of Los Angeles’ street corners, subways, and public parks.

There’s no other possible explanation, other than divine inspiration, for the energy and passion that drives Jessica Ceballos’ enchanting forays into poetry in Los Angeles’ public spaces: monthly Bluebird Reading Series at Avenue 50 Studio; regular Poesia Para La Gente events taking poetry to subways, street corners, and other exceptional sites. LA is Poesia City owing to Calliope Ceballos.

Last weekend, Ceballos and Calliope were seen hanging around Los Angeles’ Pershing Square, Ceballos pushing a grocery basket filled with give-away books, being interviewed by a crew from an NBC O&O, and organizing poets to stop passersby, and in exchange for a dollar, compose a poem on-the-spot.

Jessica Ceballos and Peggy Dobreer help kids choose a free book.

Urban Voodoo works from memory. He writes the words as aide-memoire.

Brandon Brown and Karineh Mahdessian canvass the ice skating crowd to come buy a poem for a dollar.

I chatted up the NBC crew and pointed out Iris de Anda as one of the city's finest poets and a
top-notch reader. They filmed her first, then caught footage of several others.
The interviewer bought herself a Brandon Brown disco poem.
Yago Cura reads for teevee while Urban Voodoo works on his memory.
F. Albert Salinas, sponsor of Ventura's Laureatepalooza, writes.
Elena Secota reads for teevee.
Urban Voodoo reads for teevee.
Brandon Brown writes on repurposed vinyl; que groovy.

Iris de Anda's incandescent blue ink and feather quill with poem-in-process.

Delight, puro delight, that’s how gente responded when they accepted the invitation to spend a dollar for their own poem. One woman, a German tourist, burst into tears when she received her poem. A pair of girls noticed the sign announcing the event as a fundraiser for Para Los Niños and yelled excitedly, "that's our school!"

For me, the highlight of the event was a local family entertaining a guest from the eastern edge of California. Drawn to Pershing Square Park by its seasonal ice skating rink, I approached the familia as they waited for a child to come off the ice. Stop, have a poet write you a poem, I invited. And they did.

The family circulated among the poets scattered about the cement, chatted with poets, received their verse and read with quiet delight. Perhaps they stopped out of courtesy, but they became involved in the experience and the friendliness of the poets and lingered, taking at least three poems home with them.

Abram Gomez reads the poem he's written for Daisy de Leon from El Centro Califas.
Daisy posed for a portrait with Abram and his skateboard. That's Calliope on Abram's shoulder.

I asked the girl if she'd read Daisy's poem aloud. She elected not to, but
reads to herself as her mom shares the delightful novelty of custom-made poetry.

Calliope eavesdrops as Karineh Mahdessian chats with Daisy's tia. What a fabulous day, come for the skating, meet a poet.

Daisy's prima and Iris de Anda chat preliminary to Iris' composition on a
picture postcard.

 Parents read Iris' poem for and about their daughter. What a
well-spent dollar. This familia took home three poems.

Her own Iris de Anda poem delighted the girl. Her parents eagerly supported
the girl's delight and got so involved in the experience
they forgot they'd already paid their dollar and offered a second.

Brandon Brown's innovative approach to writing media delights another family. Calliope appears in a flash of light between them.

June Kim reads her just-composed poem while bubbles float about.

Sean Hill reads his just-completed poem.
This is what Poesia Para la Gente looks like.

For Jessica Ceballos, the event marks yet another in a series of triumphs. Such nearly complete satisfaction to see an idea blossom and bear a cosecha of poetry, relationships, and a few dollars for a worthy school.

Yet, there’s a frustration. Ceballos is a poet--a good one--but so often finds herself locked up in meta-poetry, administering and organizing events about poetry but not doing her own poetry.

La Bloga intends to alter that course next week, when our La Bloga Online Floricanto will feature the poetry of Jessica Ceballos.

The Gluten-free Chicano Cooks
Cajeta de Membrillo

Many a Unitedstatesian has little use for Quince fruit. It's misshapen, fuzzy, hard, dry, bitter, grainy, and not often found in grocery stores. Yet, when prepared as cajeta de membrillo, Quince is one of nature's most delicious preserved fruit.

Membrillo is right up at the top of The Gluten-free Chicano's autumn shopping list when his back-yard membrillo tree doesn't produce bumper crops of that misshapen, fuzzy, hard, dry wondrously flavored fruit.

A quince fruit starts as a delicate lavender-pink simple blossom in Spring.

Bees carry pollen from flower to flower and in a few weeks the petals dry and waft away in a breeze, leaving behind the tiny beginnings of the cosecha. Thriving in the Summer heat, the fruit grows under leafy cover. It's a hardy tree that doesn't require a lot of water, and unlike apples, grows at all elevations.

Wash the fruit well to scrub off the fuzz. Use a potato peeler to scrape the skin away. I squeeze lemon juice on the fruit to retard discoloration, just like apples.

I steam the fruit in a small amount of water until a fork easily passes through to the core. Cut the fruit away from the small seed pocket, trim off any shiny cellulose sheathing, and the woody parts from the stem and blossom end.

Return the chunks of fruit to the water and set to boil. Add a cup of sugar. You can always sweeten it with more, so go easy on the "cup to a cup" dictum of jam and jelly makers. Really sweet membrillo spoils the flavor of the fruit.

After a few minutes you can use a potato masher to pulp the fruit into a rough paste. You don't have to stir constantly, but make sure you stir frequently.

As the membrillo cooks it begins to take on a rich caramel color. When the potato masher no longer does any good, use a hand blender (or a stand-alone processor) to turn the fruit into an applesauce consistency.

Now begins the constant stirring as the fruit boils. Membrillo forms big lazy bubbles as the thick paste cooks and develops some body. Taste it now. Put a dollop in ice water because this stuff is incredibly hot! If it's not sweet to your taste, add a little more sugar, stir, taste.

I suppose a candy thermometer would be useful. I learned to make membrillo from my grandmother and Uncle Pete. My Uncle Pete was a cook and baker extraordinaire who cooked entirely by look and feel. Pan dulce, piña sauce, leche quemada, you name it, Uncle Pete could teach you how to make it. Leche quemada, for example, is almost ready when it gets thick like baby spit.

Membrillo calls for constant stirring on medium heat until the membrillo se agarre, it begins to stick to itself and forms a sticky mass that doesn't flow back onto itself when stirred.

Use the candy maker technique of dropping a dollop into iced water. When the membrillo attains soft ball stage, cook it a few more minutes until it's good and stiff. The foto above is after half an hour's stirring at medium flame.

I cook my membrillo to a stiff paste, and stop. Keep cooking and stirring another five or ten minutes if you want to produce a loaf of sliceable candy.

Transfer the membrillo to a container. Let it cool.

Wheat-eaters spread membrillo on toast or waffles, and make empanadas. The Gluten-free Chicano loves a membrillo taco. He serves membrillo where applesauce goes well, like pork chops or roasted pollo.

Provecho, gente.

December's First of Five: On-line Floricanto
Frank de Jesus Acosta, Mario A. Escobar, John Martinez, Andrea García Mauk, Christopher Carmona

A five-week month is a commissioned sales professional's favorite type of month because last year's same month was a four-week month. That means an extra week to write orders and make goal.

It's a similar pleasure in On-line Floricantos. 2012's December brought four Tuesdays and four On-line Floricantos. 2013 brings us a bonus week and we'll have the opportunity to close the year with five fabulous floricantos.

Kicking off the month, the Moderators of the Facebook group Poets Responding to SB1070: Poetry of Resistance selected four poets and one prose writer who bring six pieces to the month's first On-line Floricanto.

Frank de Jesus Acosta

Frank de Jesus Acosta is the principal of Acosta & Associates, a California-based consultant group that specializes in professional support to public and private social change ventures in the areas of children, youth, and family services, violence prevention, community development, and cultural fluency initiatives. In 2007, Frank authored, The History of Barrios Unidos, Cultura Es Cura, Healing Community Violence, published by Arte Publico Press, University of Houston. Acosta is a graduate of University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA). Acosta’s professional experience includes serving in executive leadership tenures with The California Wellness Foundation, the Coalition for Humane Immigration Rights of Los Angeles (CHIRLA), Downtown Immigrant Advocates (DIA), Center for Community Change, and the UCLA Community Programs Office. He is presently focused on completing the writing and publishing a two book series for Arte Publico Press focused on best practices to improve the well-being of Latino young men and boys. He most recently co-authored a published “Brown Paper” with Jerry Tello of the National Latino Fatherhood and Family Institute (NLFFI) entitled, “Lifting Latinos Up By Their Rootstraps: Moving Beyond Trauma Through A Healing-Informed Framework for Latino Boys and Men.” Acosta provides writing and strategic professional support in research, planning, and development to foundations and community focused institutions on select initiatives focuses advancing social justice, equity, and pluralism. Acosta is also finalizing writing and editing a book of inter-cultural poetry and spiritual reflections.

Salmon Spirit Song
by Frank de Jesus Acosta

I am the salmon spirit
child of the great rivers
Born to toil up stream
an ancient calling deep inside
Perennial motion as I swim
timeless currents to the sea
I become the grizzly and the eagle
in this balance dance of life & death
Nourishing those who take in temperance
a sacred covenant of being
The waters tell me of their suffering
poisoned dark and robbed of freedom
I grieve with scarred & ravaged lands
wounded from the carnage of greed
As I journey river valleys & mountain cascades
the ancient stones implore us to pray
Our mother suffers, wails, & shakes
a desperate plea to humankind
I am the salmon spirit of the great rivers
sibling to the seas, snow & rain
The circle we share grows septic & fractured
an ever fragile balance of life
Let us share the waters, earth, and sky
in a spirit dance and song of harmony

Mario A. Escobar

Mario A. Escobar (January 19, 1978-) is a US-Salvadoran writer and poet born in 1978. Although he considers himself first and foremost a poet, he is known as the founder and editor of Izote Press. Escobar has stated that his exposure to “poetic sounds” began during his childhood and that his foundation in poetry stemmed from what he witness during the Salvadoran Civil War. Escobar began his writing career by the age of 13 as a poet. He cites Roque Dalton, Tato Laviera and Jaime Sabines as some of his early poetic influences. Escobar’s work has been feature in UCLA’s publication Underground Undergrads which recognizes the poet as an activist for the undocumented Student Movement. In 2004, Escobar was placed under arrest and was scheduled to be deported. In 2006, Escobar won his case for political asylum making him one of the last Salvadorans to win a political case fourteen years after the Salvadoran Peace Accords were signed in 1992. Escobar currently lives in Alhambra. Escobar has been featured in documentaries like Mimoun en Mario, studenten met een missie and in The healing Club. Some of Escobar’s works include Al correr  de la horas (Editorial Patria Perdida, 1999) Gritos Interiores (Cuzcatlan Press, 2005), La Nueva Tendencia (Cuzcatlan Press, 2005), Paciente 1980 (Orbis Press, 2012

La voz del inmigrante / Immigrant Voices
by Mario Angel Escobar

La voz del Inmigrante
por Mario Angel Escobar

Yo soy la espina dorsal
El canto al final del día
El que acaricia
la voluptuosa tierra
Ella y yo somos uno
Las manos que arrancan
y recogen
el fruto
para satisfacer
tu hambre
Yo soy el tierno callo
el viento desnudo
la nueva lengua
la sangre buscando paz
Yo soy el labio silente
y la mirada que grita.

Immigrant Voices
by Mario Angel Escobar

I am the backbone
An equal to any
The chant at the end
of the day
I am the caresser
of voluptuous earth
Her and I become one
The hands that pluck and pick
to satisfy your hunger
I am the tender callus
The naked wind
The new tongue
Flesh seeking peace
I am the silent lip
The gaze that shouts

John Martinez

John Martinez. I began writing poetry again after the death of my brother. Every published poem, prior to this, is either forgotten, or written so long ago, I no longer feel that it is necessary to discuss. Only that, I studied poetry, at Fresno State, as a child and then abandoned it, entirely, to seek a career and family. My brother was a writer, a poet, a novelist. The best times of my life, was when we got together to talk poetry. In those days (late 70's-early 80's) we both read everything we can get our hands on; the Italians, the Spanish, the Swedish, Hungarian, everything that was relevant at the time. We argued about who was great, who was not, how they compared to the Americans, etc., etc.  We were poetry nerds. The feeling of being touched by words, being elevated into my subconscious, with the specialized surrealism of Vallejo, sent to darkness, with the grim existential landscapes of Ungaretti. I was already into the ghostly feeling of being a poet at an early age, thanx to my Brother, Victor. So, when he died, three years ago, he scolded me for being a "fool." "You are a fool and now you have years to catch up, now go write" he said. And I listened to him, like that young boy, who loved him so much, who listened, intently, to his teaching. 30 years later, I find myself writing, in this new cyber world...and I won't stop, until I catch up. Thank you, Vic.

Abuelita Raquel y La Llorona Maria
by John Martinez

Abuelita Raquel said
She felt like a dark tree
In the wind,
In her own
So she scrubbed
Her face with Clorox,
Got sick,
And hobbled
Like a monster
To the river
To wash it off

There she saw
La Llorona Maria,
Bunched in her infinite
Her hair
Of ragweed,
Like dried grape vines
Her eyes hollow,
Eaten by June bugs

There, La Llorona Maria
Told Abuelita Raquel,
Something she should have known

And as the stars burned
Light into the darkness,
The silver clay moon,
While the crickets
Sang and stopped,
Abuelita Raquel told
The succinct story of

Abuelita Raquel y La Llorona Maria

Like small brown
On the wooden porch,
We listened,
Watching her lips
As she described in detail;

“La Llorona Maria,
With her dead horse body,
Her nails curled,
Lifeless as drift wood,
Her nose, a snout,
Two key holes,
Her mouth, a hole
From a missing
Door knob,
She howled like
An animal at me”

“Usted, Raquel, eres la Más Bonita en todo el mundo,”
La Llorona Maria said with a sigh

And as La Llorona Maria
Dragged her true Ugliness away,
Down that
Disappearing river bank,
Abuelita Raquel
Made her own way
Back to her love,
Lit by gasoline lamp,
To her home
At the edge
Of the campo,
Back to her children,
To a blanket she stitched,
To her husband,
Strong as a man
Can ever be,
His hand
Cupped on the seam
Of a Bible,
And as she felt her
Face healing,
The kissing wind,
The magic of the stars
Turned her back,
Into the beautiful brown
Abuelita Raquel
Who we all knew
And loved

Andrea García Mauk

 Andrea García Mauk grew up in Arizona, where both the immense beauty and harsh realities of living in the desert shaped her artistic soul. She calls Los Angeles home, but has also lived in Chicago, New York and Boston. She has worked in the music industry, and on various film and television productions. She writes short fiction, poetry, original screenplays and adaptations, and is currently finishing two novels. Her writing and artwork has been published and viewed in a variety of places such as on The Late, Late Show with Tom Snyder; The Journal of School Psychologists and Victorian Homes Magazine. Both her poetry and artwork have won awards. Several of her poems and a memoir are included in the 2011 anthology, Our Spirit, Our Reality, and her poetry is featured in the 2012 Mujeres de Maiz “‘Zine.” She is a regular contributor to Poets responding to SB 1070. Her poems have been chosen for publication on La Bloga’s online Tuesday Floricanto numerous times. She has also been a moderator of Diving Deeper, an online workshop for writers, and has written extensively about music, especially jazz, while working in the entertainment industry. Her production company, Dancing Horse Media Group is producing a unique cookbook, Corazón en un Platillo: Recetas y Poesia de Amor,  that blends healthful recipes with poetry and prose from the community. She publishes a monthly online poetry journal that is associated with the cookbook’s website. You can visit the cookbook’s website at http://www.corazonenplatillo.com

The Complexity of the Human Condition
by Andrea Mauk

We have a need to press our hands together,
light candles, sing and praise,
hold incense to our foreheads,
turn to the four directions,
raise palms to the sky,
give offerings, build altars,
speak to the ancestors,
read the book as gospel,
believe in
in reindeer and Santa Claus,
in good,
see heaven illuminating edges of clouds.
We have the need to bow,
stand low, kneel, hunker down,
before the ultimate force,
immense, almighty.
We have a need to subordinate.

We have a desire to have faith
in thy lover whom shalt not wander
(though science has proven that monogamy
is not natural for the male
of the species),
in thy neighbor, who we must
turn to in time of need,
to help those in far worse conditions
than our own
(and who decides?)
We know that our problems are real
and put upon us,
mostly unfairly,
that our illusion is what
we believe it to be.

We have a need to be right,
(even when we speak of controlling the ego)
to be acknowledged,
be recognized,
be better than,
to instruct,
pass knowledge down
like a well-worn garment,
to stand on a soap box,
to preach and convert,
to prove beyond a reasonable doubt,
to enlighten,
to be wiser, smarter, cooler,
better dressed,
to be omnipotent.

We have a desire to love, to be tender,
an instinct to hug and hold,
cuddle and touch,
smile and flirt and attract,
and procreate.
We have the ability to find perfection
in fleeting moments
and want to hold on
to answer the question
of life after death.

We have a tendency to
seethe just below fault lines,
grit teeth,
blow steam,
percolate, explode, rage,
attack boldly,
or on tiptoes,
wearing masks,
or openly, with a smile,
by invitation
or without notice. We have a tendency to
wage war.

We have a need to organize and label,
categorize things that are alike,
like milk,
lord over,
compare and contrast,
let in, keep out,
find comfort in familiarity
and fear in difference,
as if different was unknown.

We have a penchant for crying,
sniveling, groveling,
drowning sorrows,
looking back
(though we rarely ever turn to salt
in modern times)
making amends,
mending ways
like knees of jeans,
restoring the old,
fixing what's beyond repair,
mourning the end before it comes,
loving the good old days
over an icy glass of lemonade.

We are f'ing complex.

Christopher Carmona

Christopher Carmona is a Chican@ Beat poet from the Rio Grande Valley of Deep South Texas.  He was a nominee for the Alfredo Cisneros de Miral Foundation Award for Writers in 2011 and a Pushcart Prize nominee in 2013. He has two books of poetry, beat and I Have Always Been Here. Currently editing The Beatest State In The Union: An Anthology of Beat Texas Writings with Chuck Taylor and Rob Johnson and is the Artistic Director of The Coalition of New Chican@ Artists (CONCA).

My Language/Mi Lengua
by Christopher Carmona

When I was seven years old, I remember sitting outside of my elementary school’s principal’s office. My parents inside discussing my behavior. You see, I only spoke Spanish when I was a kid. When they came out they didn’t look angry at me, they simply looked perturbed. After this moment I remember they only spoke to me in English. The principal had explained to them that the only way to succeed in this country is if you speak English and my parents took that to heart. It was from this point on that my ability to speak Spanish began to die and almost forgotten.

Language is the most recognizable transmission of culture.

I never really lost touch with my Spanish language. It was my grandparents’ (both my mother’s and my father’s) first and most frequently used language. They spoke it to me and my brothers and sisters constantly. I grew up along the Rio Grande river in deep South Texas where there were three dominant languages: Spanish, English, and Tex-Mex. Tex-Mex dominated most of what was spoken in the area. Words like “yonque” and “parquer” were and still are commonly used. So as much as the public school system tried to erase Spanish from my brain and tongue, my environment lived and breathed Spanish. But as I grew up I became more and more pochofied. I only listened to English language music, watched only English language TV television and movies and dreamed of having the “American” dream of being “white” middle class. But I always knew I wouldn’t be. I just hoped I would be accepted in the“white” middle class world. But my dark skin and Spanish last name wouldn’t allow it.

When I was in high school I swore to my mother that I would become a doctor, not a medical doctor but a PhD and here I am holding a PhD in English. Not in literature or grammar but in Rhetoric and Poetics, in essence: writing. What does that mean? It means I study the art of persuasion. I study the importance and power of words. What they do. How they are used. And how they can shape the way we see the world. I have always had a fascination with words, I suppose that is why I am a poet and a writer.

Words are the basic building blocks of a language.

In high school I wanted to get as far away from Spanish as possible. My brother and sister had taken it and my father had always corrected their pronunciation. They were just as pochofied as I was. I didn’t want that, I wanted to do something different, to escape the fact that I couldn’t speak Spanish, so I took French. That was a sophisticated language. The language of the great thinkers and artists of our time. That is what I told myself but in reality I was hiding from the fact that I couldn’t speak it anymore, the muscles in my mouth wouldn’t form the words anymore. They were atrophied. I was terrified that the other kids in the class who were just taking it because it was an easy A for them because they spoke Spanish fluently would laugh at me, so I escaped. I hid in another language. I even started to reject everything Mexican, except for the food of course. I didn’t want to be Mexican not because being Mexican was shameful but because I couldn’t even speak the language. I was an outcast. I wasn’t quite Mexican and I wasn’t quite American, I was somewhere lost in translation.

Once you learn a language it is always a part of you, it shapes the way you speak about bread because now it has a new name.

The first job I ever had was a security guard in a hospital and in that job I had to deal with lots of patients and families that did not speak a word of English and so I had to relearn Spanish or so I thought. When I began to listen to them I realized I understood them. As much as I only chose to speak in English, I still heard Spanish all around. So I practiced in private canned responses to their questions about where things were in the hospital. vaya derecha. izquierda. este pastillo. Hand gestures always help too. I regained a bit of control over some of my lost Spanish. But when I left the Rio Grande Valley and moved away to Austin and then to Texas A&M University in College Station my Spanish atrophied again. Not enough Spanish around to keep it going. I never really spoke it well anyway. That always terrified me and still does. It was at A&M that something extraordinary happened. I was introduced to Cherokee. There was a professor there, Qwo-li Driskill that offered an informal class in learning the Cherokee language and for a year I was exposed to the language, learning enough to know greetings, colors, numbers, food, and simple exchanges. Osiyo? (Are you well?) became a common greeting amongst the five of us who took the class. We were all given tsalagi names (Cherokee). I was given Soquil (horse) and I used it several times throughout our sessions.

Learning a new language not only gives you access to new words and sounds but also to a different way of thinking and seeing the world.

The more I learned about the Cherokee language, the more I appreciated the fact that many Cherokee peoples don’t even know their own language. Native peoples have been decimated in more ways than just genocide and exile for their own lands. No, native peoples have had their language washed from their memories, replaced by Spanish and English. This changed my view on language forever.

Language allows someone to touch another culture, sometimes our own forgotten cultures, and allows us to reconnect to others like me. I have always struggled with my native language of Spanish—replaced by English—but then I realized Spanish replaced the native languages of the Americas. They are both colonizing languages. This is a hard truth that many of us have to face. That does not deter or minimize my journey to regain my Spanish tongue but it set me on a path to relearn native languages as well. Spanish is the language of my grandparents and my parents and the people around me, but the languages that have been mostly erased, those languages are my people’s languages too.

Whenever we speak a language that was once cut out of ancestor’s tongues, we give life to that long lost culture and reconnect who we were with who we are now.

La Bloga welcomes your comments and observations. Poets deeply appreciate feedback on their efforts. Click the Comments link below to join the conversation. Be sure to check the box to be notified when others join the conversation.

1 comment:

Unknown said...

I love the whole issue, great photos of LA poets, the membrillo recipe and, of course, the On-Line Floricantoi. Gracias, Em--Francisco