Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Review: Comezón. Castillo Anaya Lecturer. DDLM Call. News 'n Notes.

Review: Denise Chávez. The King and Queen of Comezón. Norman : University of Oklahoma Press, 2014.
ISBN 978-0-8061-4483-2

Michael Sedano

October to October, it’s been one of the most productive years in Chicana Literature. Last October, Alma Luz Villanueva's scintillating erotic opus Song of the Golden Scorpion, kicked off this golden year. Spring brings Ana Castillo's sensational erotic novel Give It To Me. Denise Chávez rounds out this spectacular year with a family-safe portrait of a small town where people live up to its name, Comezón.

The King and Queen of Comezón marks a crowning achievement in the writer's career, a long-awaited next novel after 2001’s Loving Pedro Infante. The novel chronicles six months in the lives of this small New Mexico town. The author challenges herself to keep multiple stories careening against each other in complicated sets of connections between richly drawn characters.

Covering the months between the pueblo’s Cinco de Mayo festival and el Diez y Seis de Septiembre, Chávez captures the reader’s interest not only in the number and complexity of interpersonal connections but in her way of keeping interest high through her storyteller's voice, hyperbole, and intersecting views of the same events.

The novel’s structure is a metaphor for a yearning, an itch, a comezón. The author lays out landscapes, facts, and characters. Events in a chapter approach a key nexus only to have the chapter end, the expectation unsatisfied, satisfaction delayed as Chávez switches gears, starts something else then reintroduces an ongoing situation in a different light, stringing the reader along wanting more. The entire book is a delightful self-inducing comezón.

In fact, the delayed gratification of finding out what happened is so delighting, I stopped reading two thirds through, just for a day. The storytelling grows so delicious I want to savor the anticipation of seeing how the author resolves all these matters, some bizarre, others lethal. Although related with a comedic voice, there are dark notes, leading one to wonder will consequences become what the characters or readers deserve?

Complexity abounds in the tiny community, revolving around three key characters, Arnulfo Olivares and his family, a corrupted priest, and a bar owner. A rich cast of supporting characters populate the periphery of the central interactions.

Arnulfo treats his family like crap and his wife takes it. The transplanted Spaniard priest lusts after la coja Juliana. Juliana lusts after el padrecito, but her disabled body makes her housebound and unschooled. Isá lives a slave in the household with love hate relations with the two daughters, doña Emilia, and Arnulfo. Rey, a decent man, doesn’t know the hatred Don Clo harbors against decency.

Chávez describes Rey up as the one likeable man in the world. A redeemed alcoholic and retired migra officer, Rey keeps notebooks of the people he helped deport. One woman particularly moves him. As Comezón spins out of control, Rey stands as the sole source of stability. Rey’s comezón can get him killed, but first Don Clo will enjoy tormenting a suffering Rey.

It's a key storyline. Chávez draws it out, like the other threads, presenting some in direct narrative, other in passing detail woven into one of the other stories. For instance, the reader sees Doña Emilia fall ill and has a stroke as her chapter concludes. Later, we learn almost in passing that the stroke hospitalized her.

Chavez holds anxiety to a low pitch but frequently reminds readers that Arnulfo has cancer, that Doña Emilia appears to accept her husband's absent heart, that el Padre sinks deeper deeper deeper. And, with the devil, Don Clo, heading to Rey's bar, the anxiety from knowing danger lurks around the next page but doesn't come yet is the author’s gift of a comezón to the reader. Turn the page to scratch that itch of wanting to know what happens.

Ultimately, The King and Queen of Comezón is a novel not of longing but of redemption. Sadly, rather than allowing the plots to speak for themselves, Chávez goes out of her way to spell it out in the novel’s final paragraphs. I wonder if the author lost confidence in her own clarity after three hundred pages?

There is, for me, a serious lacking in the novel. The author displays a lack of confidence in her reader through heavy-handed translation. Irritatingly often, when the text says something in Spanish, the writer supplies an apposition translating into English. Chávez does it well, here and there. But mostly the code-switch translation distracts from the prose, sounds unnatural in many instances, and avoidance should be an element of style for writers of Chicana Chicano Literature. The weakness is not Chávez’ alone, this lack of confidence in the readership is endemic to U.S. literature.

Chávez illustrates how unnecessary translation has become--especially in the age of search engine machine translation and given her likely readership--in the novel’s final pages with a burst of untranslated language wondering how the hanged man in the church had been killed. Hopefully he’d been shot first and then hanged and burned. If not, hijole, se chingó. It was true that Luisito had been a chingadaquedito, but really and truly alguien lo chingó un chingo a la puta chingada madre, and there you had it.¡Chingao!

Persistently unnecessary translating aside, Denise Chávez’ masterwork The King and Queen of Comezón has ample opportunities for joy in the fabric of the novel. For instance, there’s a wonderful roll call of old-timer Spanish names signaling the generations and presence of raza on the land for countless generations.

The first time I spotted Chávez’ use of triplets for emphasis I noted it as clever emphasis in the instance. Then the triplet repetition began cropping up every few chapters and I smiled at them considering the technique stylistic grace notes the author whips out to add ornament to needful passages, to reassert the narrator’s presence over the story.

Chávez then rewards the attentive reader with the queen of all triplets. This time instead of tagging the repetition to the end of a phrase, she leads with the technique. “No good, no good, no good things could come of this” the narrator relates. Later, in case you were paying attention, Chávez pastes in a naturally-occurring cognate of the technique in quoting song lyrics to the expatriate Mexican national anthem, “Volver, volver, volver.”

Indeed, The King and Queen of Comezón is Chávez’ crowning achievement. Future term paper writers will find it a rich lode to mine for essays on literary voice, views on religion, women’s roles, male worthlessness, storytelling, local color, love, code-switching, and comezónes. Coincidentally, there's a beautiful symmetry to this most productive year, in that Ana Castillo is this year's Anaya lecturer. Denise Chávez delivered the 2011 Anaya lecture.

You can order The King and Queen of Comezón from your local independent bookseller. You can order the paperback from the university press direct.

Denise Chavez greets Librotraficante Jesus Treviño  ©msedano

Rudolfo and Patricia Anaya Lecture Honor Awarded to Ana Castillo

La Bloga friend Teresa Marquez sends news the Rudolfo and Patricia Anaya lecturer for 2014 is legendary Chicana writer Ana Castillo. Castillo is enjoying an Anaya year. She was the featured guest speaker at this year's CSULA Anaya Conference, where her talk included a reading from her sensational novel, Give It To Me. Below read the press release Teresa forwards.

Ana Castillo is this year's guest speaker at the 5th Rudolfo and Patricia Anaya Southwest Literature Lecture Series.

UNM Department of English hosts Ana Castillo for fifth annual Rudolfo and Patricia Anaya Lecture on the Literature of the Southwest

On Thursday, October 23, the UNM Department of English will host the distinguished writer Ana Castillo as the featured speaker for the fifth annual Rudolfo and Patricia Anaya Lecture on the Literature of the Southwest. Castillo will speak at 7:00 p.m. in Room 101 of George Pearl Hall (the School of Architecture and Planning), with a reception to follow. The lecture is free and open to the public.

Ana Castillo is one of the leading figures in Chicana and contemporary literature. A celebrated poet, novelist, short story writer, essayist, editor, playwright, translator and independent scholar, Castillo is the author of the novels So Far From God and Sapogonia, both New York Times Notable Books of the Year, as well as The Guardians, Peel My Love like an Onion, and many other books of fiction, poetry, and essays. Her most recent novel is Give it to Me, and the 20th-anniversary, updated edition of her groundbreaking book The Massacre of the Dreamers: Essays on Xicanisma will be published this October by the University of New Mexico Press.

Dividing her time between Chicago and Southern New Mexico, Ana Castillo is a celebrated writer deeply committed to higher education as well as contemporary literary culture. Castillo holds an M.A from the University of Chicago and a Ph.D. in American Studies from the University of Bremen in Germany. She is also the recipient of an honorary doctorate from Colby College. Along with her own work as an author, she edits La Tolteca, an arts and literary zine dedicated to the advancement of a world without borders and censorship, and she serves on the advisory board of the American Writers Museum in Washington, D.C. Among other teaching positions, Castillo was the first Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz Endowed Chair at DePaul University, the Martin Luther King, Jr Distinguished Visiting Scholar at M.I.T., the Poet-in-Residence at Westminster College in Utah, and, most recently, the Lund-Gil Endowed Chair at Dominican University in Illinois. She has received an American Book Award from the Before Columbus Foundation for her first novel, The Mixquiahuala Letters, and her other awards include a Carl Sandburg Award, a Mountains and Plains Booksellers Award, fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts in fiction and poetry, and the Sor Juana Achievement Award from the Mexican Fine Arts Center Museum in Chicago. In 2013, Castillo was awarded the Gloria Anzaldúa Prize by the American Studies Association.

The UNM English Department established the annual lecture series on the literature of the Southwest in 2010 through a gift from the renowned fiction writer Rudolfo Anaya and his late wife Patricia Anaya. "The English Department cherishes the fact that Emeritus Professor Rudy Anaya was on our faculty for so many years. A founder of our distinguished Creative Writing Program, he still inspires us with his joyous approach to life, sense of humor, and eloquent articulation of Hispanic culture and the beauties of the Southwest. He has long been an internationally known man of letters, but we take pride in the fact that he began his career in our department," says Professor Gail Houston. "We feel privileged to have received his generous donation, and there is no better venue for celebrating Southwest literature than the University of New Mexico English Department. We look forward to sharing this free event with everyone at UNM and in the community."

The annual Rudolfo and Patricia Anaya Lecture on the Literature of the Southwest features foundational figures such as Acoma Pueblo poet Simon Ortiz (2010), Las Cruces writer and playwright Denise Chávez (2011), Taos writer John Nichols (2012), and Kiowa writer N. Scott Momaday (2013). For further information, visit the Anaya Lecture Series website at http://english.unm.edu/anaya-lecture-series/, contact the Anaya Lecture Committee at anayalecture@unm.edu, or contact the UNM English

News 'n Notes
San Antonio • Oct 1-5 • Veteran, Writer, Playwright Barrios Joins Troupe

Visit the theatre's webpage for details on this performance piece giving Veterans the stage to tell audiences about military experience, from enlisting to basic training, overseas movement there and back again.

Veterans hope to help non-veterans understand living in uniform and what happens after they resume civilian life. The monologists read their own words, for a number of them, like Barrios, decades afterwards.

Telling: San Antonio begins its run this week through Sunday in San Antonio's Tobin Center for Performing Arts at the Carlos Alvarez Studio Theater.

Tickets and details at the studio's webpage here.

Oct 6 • Calavera Poem Submissions, La Voz

La Voz de Esperanza is a monthly news journal out of San Antonio, featuring stories, news, poetry and artwork submitted by the community. The editors issue the following:

Squeeze a song of love or mockery out of your heart, get it to dance in traditional 4-line stanzas of (about) 8 beats per line, or 3 lines of 5/7/5 syllables (17 syllables total) haiku formation, y viola!

Send it to lavoz@esperanzacenter.org by 10/6/2014

No pay, puro glory

Oct 27 • Call for Submissions • La Bloga Day of the Dead On-line Floricanto

from the Facebook group Poets Responding to SB 1070: Poetry of Resistance


Dear Poets, You all are invited to submit poems with the theme of “El Día de los Muertos / The Day of the Dead” that will be posted on POETS RESPONDING TO SB 1070 for the following weeks.

The poems could be “Calaveras” (poems making fun of public figures), poetic remembrances of those who have passed, and memories of past events.

The Moderators will select the best poems for a special edition of La Bloga On-line Floricanto for Tuesday November 4, 2014.

The deadline to send poems to be considered for this special issue is Monday, October 27, 2014. We will continue publishing poems on other themes, as well.

See the Poets Responding page (click here) on Facebook for submission technology.

Monday, September 29, 2014

Let Them Teach You

Photo credit: Getty Images

By guest poet Marisol León

Let my students teach you about violent inequality, warfare, and repression.

About armed struggles fought against U.S.-backed militaries in their native countries, and the murders of their brothers and sisters in L.A. neighborhoods-turned-war-zones.

About death. Displaced families. Fear. Sleepless nights. The sound of el tiro de gracia.

Let them teach you about the war of terror waged against their ancestors.

About countless narratives of resistance, including those found in the obituaries of their great grandmothers, uncles, and classroom “legends.”

About the African Diaspora—un pedacito de la historia negra,/de la historia nuestra to the sound of Afro-Colombian rhythms and beats.

Let them teach you about unfair and unjust immigration laws.

About their parents’ forced migration, the vast majority dragged by that/monstrous, technical/industrial giant called/Progress/and Anglo success

About their parents’ sacrifices and unfulfilled dreams… how painful it is to accept that for them life […] ain't been no crystal stair.

Let them teach you about the cuts to their education, and no, they’re not just referring to the current “budget crisis.”

About the inefficiency of tracking and test scores, and how a classmate never identified as “gifted and talented” fought his way into a Stanford program for gifted youth.

About endurance and strength of mind, let them remind you that you’re pretty young, so keep living your dream and don’t let no little pink slip stop you from what you want.

Let them teach you about past and future revolutions, and their visions for other worlds and utopian societies.

About their wants and needs: Wouldn’t you like to have clean streets, no violence, a government that tells the truth, a community that values peace?

About the steps they are taking to make sure their voices are heard and their worlds are built.

Let them teach you the meaning of solidarity, environmental justice, and grassroots development.

About their Solidarity Garden… and how the organic seeds they once planted are now strawberries, squash, cilantro, and tall stalks of maize.

About setting aside differences and working collectively—guided by common values of respect, humility, and human dignity.

Let them teach you about fighting for their rights through community organizing, never forgetting that our word is our weapon.

About marching, protesting, and staging a sit-in and walkout—all despite the criminalization of student activism on campus.

About the protest chants and gritos that brought together students, teachers, and parents, as new words […] formed,/Bitter/With the past/ But sweet/With the dream.

Let my little brothers and sisters teach you…

All they have taught me.

[Author’s note: I used to teach with the Los Angeles Unified School District. In 2009, I was laid off due to the budget cuts and wrote the poem below for my students as a parting thank you gift. I shared it with them on the last day of school. Everything in italics either comes from a piece we read in our English class, or from my students' writing. “Let Them Teach You” first appeared in Diálogo, an interdisciplinary, blind refereed journal published since 1996 by the Center for Latino Research at DePaul University in Chicago.]

Marisol León

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: The daughter of immigrant parents, both born and raised in rural Jalisco, Mexico, Marisol León is a proud Chicana from Mid-City Los Angeles. Her older sister, Susana, helped raise Marisol and instilled in her a sense of responsibility to use her education as a vehicle for community empowerment. As a first generation college student at Yale, Marisol founded La Fuerza, Yale's Latin@ Student News Magazine; her work on the publication was later recognized by The National Association of Hispanic Journalists through its Rubén Salazar Memorial Scholarship. While studying Latin American campesino social movements in college, Marisol traveled, researched and lived with Brazil's Landless Rural Workers' Movement. After graduation, she spent a year in Chiapas, Mexico, organizing indigenous and campesino communities with Friends of the Earth-Mexico.

After a year of informal teacher training in popular education, Marisol returned to Mid-City Los Angeles to work as an educator at her former middle school. A passionate writer, she has published autobiographical pieces, editorials, and research articles in the Los Angeles Times; Windows into My World: Latino Youth Write Their Lives; Yale Journal of Latin American Studies; Harvard Journal on Racial & Ethnic Justice; Diálogo, a publication of the Center for Latino Policy Research at DePaul University; and an upcoming piece in the Inter-American and European Human Rights Journal. Marisol is a graduate of Berkeley Law School (Boalt Hall), Loyola Marymount University’s School of Education, and Yale College. She is happiest when surrounded by former students, family, and loved ones; while listening to oldies, norteñas (Cornelio Reyna, Cadetes, Las Jilguerillas, Ramon Ayala), and 90s hip-hop; and when she gets to make her beautiful 16-month-old godson laugh again and again. And again.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Sílabas de Viento/Syllables of Wind: An Interview with Poet Xánath Caraza

Argentine poet, Carlos J. Aldazábal describes Xánath Caraza's new collection of poetry as "a type of invocation, a kind of silent mantra."  He continues by writing:  "Syllables of Wind is also a travel book.  With her gaze wandering across the land, the poet projects her sensitivity so as to celebrate or lament, to depart or return, in a cultural pendulum that allows her to express what we all have in common as human beings, the great themes of poetry (death, love, life), from her American and indigenous particularity" (Introduction).  

Aldazábal's description captures the unique aspects to Caraza's work.  Caraza's poetry reveals Mexican, Indigenous, African roots while also claiming a North American Midwest identity.  Her work underlines our literary transnational roots:  Chicana, Mexicana, India, Africana, Norte-Americana (specifically Midwest).  And as for Caraza's work emanating from the Midwest, all too often, North American Latina/Latino writing is attributed to regions on the west or east coasts.  Not so here.  Latina/Latino and Chicana/Chicano writing from the Midwest is finally being recognized.  

We are happy today to talk about all of this with Xánath Caraza.  

Xánath Caraza:  First of all, gracias por la entrevista y por tu interés en mi trabajo. It is always a pleasure to share with La Bloga readers.

Amelia Montes:  You have published four books of poetry: Corazón Pintado, Conjuro, Lo que trae lamarea/What the Tide Brings, Noche de Colibríes, and now, Sílabasde Viento/Syllables of Wind. 
In the preface by Carlos J. Aldazábal, he described this collection as anthropological.  Do you agree? 

Xánath Caraza:  If we understand anthropology as the study of human kind as a whole, then my poetry is anthropological.  I do observe and take notes, either mentally or on paper of people, places, music, food I experience.  However, my poetry has also been named ecological poetry since Mother Nature is always with me through my poems.

Amelia Montes:  What does the title Sílabas de Viento mean to you? 

Xánath Caraza:  Sílabas de viento means music and poetry in the first place for me—this title is my interpretation of the pre-Hispanic concept of poetry from Nahuatl, in xochitl in cuicatl, flor y canto in Spanish, or flower and song in English.  For me, Sílabas de viento are the waves of sound emerging from our mouth/throat/corazón, from the center of our being.  

Poets Xánath Caraza and Dennis Etzel Jr., at the Big Tent Reading Series at The Raven Bookstore in Lawrence, Kansas.  http://www.ravenbookstore.com/events/reading-big-tent-8 (photo by Denise Low)
Amelia Montes:  The poems in this collection emphasize your many identities:  African, Spanish, Indigenous, North American (specifically Midwestern).  Tell me how these came together for this collection. 

Xánath Caraza:  In my travels, as well as in my daily life, I observe carefully, and when I travel I try to make the experience as meaningful as possible.  I do not consider myself a tourist. There is always an educational purpose for my trips.  At a personal level, many of my journeys have been motivated by the search of my roots, not just my family’s roots, but our orígenes as mestizos, as Americanos, as Chicanos.  And many of those observations are translated into poetry that reflects my African, Spanish, Indigenous, y North American background, as in my poem “Serpiente de Primavera/Serpent of Spring/Koatl Xochitlipoal”: “…Palabras encadenadas con sílabas de huehuetl.  Soy hija de los latidos de congas y teponaxtlis, hija de la luz con el canto del cenzontle atravesado en el pecho…”/ “…Words link to syllables of huehuetl. I am a daughter of the beating of congas and teponaxtlis, daughter of the light with the song of the cenzontle falling across my chest…”/ ….  Tlajtolsasali ika piltlatolmej tlen ueuetl.  Najaya ikonej iuitontli tlatejtsontli uan teponaxtli, taluili ikonej ika stsontlitototl ipan no yolixpa.  Asultikueyiatl nech tokilia mojmostla…” or for example, in the poem, “Amanecer in Tarifa/Daybreak in Tarifa,” I was very impressed by being literally in the midst of the Atlantic Ocean and the Mediterranean Sea, and two continents, Europe and Africa.  In addition, I was impressed by being in this in-between space of religions: Spain and Morocco, two world religions, Catholicism and Islam.  Both were brought to the Americas through colonization. (Xánath's poetry translations from to Spanish to English are by Sandra Kingery)

Amanecer en Tarifa

Luz dorada del amanecer
Ilumina dos tonos
De azul en el mar
Marruecos frente a mí
Espejo de Andalucía
Cual  eslabones que se
Vuelven a conectar
Sonidos semejantes
Sabores que se intensifican
En su propia realidad
Rumores de gente
Que viene y que va
Dos idiomas, dos religiones
Amanecer en Tarifa
Estrecho de Gibraltar

(Tarifa, Cádiz, España, verano de 2012)

Daybreak in Tarifa

Golden light at daybreak
Illuminates two shades
Of blue in the sea
Morocco in front of me
Mirror of Andalusia
Links in a chain that
Similar sounds
Flavors that intensify
In their own reality
The murmuring of people
Who come and go
Two languages, two religions
Daybreak in Tarifa
Strait of Gibraltar

(Tarifa, Cádiz, Spain, summer 2012; Translation from Spanish to English by Sandra Kingery)

Xánath Caraza and Angela Elam from "New Letters on the Air" (Literary Radio Show).  Xánath was featured on Park University's Ethnic Voices Poetry Series.  "New Letters" recorded the event.  Here is the link: http://www.park.edu/Mobile/ethnic-voices-poetry-series/2014-2015-series.html
Amelia Montes:  When you create your collections of poetry, do you plan the books first—with a theme or idea?  Or do you simply just write poems and then when you have a certain number, do you begin to see connections in order to create a cohesive book? 

Xánath Caraza:  For me, it may work both ways.  I am constantly writing; therefore, sometimes I go over the poems I’ve written and see if they fit into the book I want to put together.   However, Noche de colibríes was planned as an Ekphrastic book of poetry from its beginning.  On the other hand, Sílabas de viento/Syllables of Wind was originally a different "poemario." It actually had a different title, Piedra verde, because of the presence of the green color and Mother Nature in my poetry, but it evolved and suddenly it turned into Syllables of Wind.  When I was working on the final draft, I realized that many of the poems had a place and a date of birth. I had originally not planned on leaving this information in the actual book.  These notes were only for me, and deciding to leave the information about the location and date of each poem suddenly made sense. I think that it reinforces the idea of Syllables of Wind or poetry traveling in the wind.

Amelia Montes:  Because I am writing about Midwest writers, I want to know from you how the Midwest figures into this book. 

Xánath Caraza:  Many of the poems were written in Kansas City, as you can see at the bottom of the page of each of the poems.  They may refer to Morocco, Bosnia or Mexico, but were written in Kansas City.  Other poems are about the Midwest and they were also written somewhere else. I am a hardworking Midwestern Chicana author, J.

Xánath Caraza reading at The Writer's Place for Riverfront Reading Series.  Link:  http://www.writersplace.org/calendar/2014/9/12/riverfront-reading-xanath-caraza-and-special-guest
Amelia Montes:  What writers inspired you in the writing of this book?

Xánath Caraza:  I started Sílabas de viento/Syllables of Wind in the summer of 2012 in Granada, Andalusia, Spain.  I was there because of a writer’s residency to finish my short story collection Lo que trae la marea/What the Tide Brings.  I took a short break and visited Morocco for the first time and during my weekends I took short trips to ciudades literarias.  I started with Granada, la capital mundial de la poesía and the city where Federico García Lorca summered.  As well, I visited the small towns where Lorca was born and spent his childhood, Valderrubio and Fuente Vaqueros; therefore, Lorca is present in many of my poems. Other literary cities that I visited for those weekend excursions were Úbeda and Baeza.  Úbeda is where San Juan de la Cruz, one of the great Mystical poets, spent his final years.  What is more, Antonio Machado lived in Baeza, where he taught and wrote many of his poems.  Also, Oscar Wilde is in sílabas de viento/Syllables of Wind as well as Mark Twain among others.

Amelia Montes:  As you pointed out, many of the poems here are ekphrastic poems.  Tell me how this kind of poetry serves you in your writing. 

Xánath Caraza:  It is an honor for me to be able first to use images from other artists to create and write about their work in the form of a poem or a short story, and second I love promoting those artists, too.  Color comes to me or I go to color.  It makes me happy and I hope my poems bring happiness for others.  However, there are other poems in Sílabas de viento/Syllables of Wind, which were written first and then artist Adriana Manuela created a painting for my poem.  I feel blessed by the gift of Adriana Manuela, artist of the cover art for Sílabas de viento, too; she created a whole series of paintings for my poems and we had an art opening in Puente Genil, Andalusia, Spain, to showcase her work and my poetry. The Spanish versions of the poems and her art can be seen in a special issue that the literary journal El Coloquio de los perros published.  Here is the link:
Xánath Caraza at The Writer's Place
Amelia Montes:  Who is your audience for these poems? 

Xánath Caraza:  Anyone who enjoys poetry is my audience, any Chican@/Latin@ who wants to connect with la poesía.  Any bilingual reader who would like to see, through the eyes of poetry, un pedacito del mundo que he tocado is my audience.

Amelia Montes:  Is there something you’d like to add – to say to our La Bloga readers? 

Xánath Caraza:  Espero que Sílabas de Viento/Syllables of Wind los envuelva de poesía antes que nada.  I would also like to add that this book is one of three books that were partially written with the support of the award Beca Nebrija para Creadores 2014 from the Instituto Franklin in Alcalá de Henares, Madrid, Spain.  I hope that other Chican@s apply for and enjoy this grant in the future, y, muchas gracias Amelia, viva la poesía! (http://www.institutofranklin.net/es/hispausa/ayudas/ayuda-nebrija-de-creadores )

Amelia Montes:  Here's hoping, dear La  Bloga readers, that you will get your own copy of Sílabas de Viento/Syllables of Wind or any of Xánath Caraza's other books to read, enjoy, give as gifts.  Xánath Caraza, traveler, educator, poet and short story writer is the recipient of the Beca Nebrija para Creadores 2014 from the Instituto Franklin in Spain.  Her poem, "Ante el río/Before the River" was selected by the Smithsonian Latino Virtual Museum in 2013 to promote Day of the Dead.  Caraza was named number one of the 2013 Top Ten "New" Latino Authors to Watch (and Read) by LatinoStories.com

Check out Xánath Caraza's website for upcoming readings and news!  Click on this LINK!

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Who raised these white kids? Knights on dinos. Call for submissions.

Who raised these white kids?

That's what some people in Colo. are asking. Or, if you've wondered whether U.S. Anglos will ever change, the viral news coming from Jefferson County, Colo. (Jeffco), might give you hope. There's been a week of protests, first by teachers, then by kids and parents, with high schoolers apparently taking the lead. What's been left out of the news is who and what these kids are.

Suburban, privileged, Anglo kids. 92% of the county is white, with only 9% of the population below the poverty level, according to the U.S. Census. That contrasts to inner-city Denver County's 20% poverty rate. Jeffco's median household income is $20,000 higher than Denver's. The suburbs of Jeffco arose from white flight, and have everything a prosperous WASP would want for shielding his kids from the "blight" of urban Denver. County residents even voted in a more conservative school board in the last election.

The new board then stupidly tried to "reform" the curriculum. Classroom materials would "promote citizenship, patriotism, essentials and benefits of the free enterprise system, respect for authority and respect for individual rights," as well as "positive aspects of the United States and its heritage." And, the materials would not "encourage or condone civil disorder, social strife or disregard of the law."

When AP History was chosen to be the first to receive this "reformed" curriculum, teachers called in sick, protested. Then out went the kids.

The board should have realized that AP History is for the "smartest" kids. Smart enough to understand and recognize what was going to be done to their education. It didn't matter that they were white, relatively well off and living in the suburbs. The kids walked out and may not be done yet, no matter what the press, school administration or even some of their parents do or say.

It's in opposing the second part of the proposed new curriculum that I find the most hope: no materials that "encourage or condone civil disorder, social strife or disregard of the law." In other words, these kids are essentially fighting for OUR history, as well. Minority history, the civil rights movements, Native American and Chicano history. If the walkouts had been done by minority teachers and students, Colorado's reaction would have been different.

The kids came up with a slogan: "It's our history, don't make it mystery." They're supported by parents and teachers and others. You can check them out and add your support at #‎standup4kids and #‎JeffCoSchoolBoardHistory, because they've used the Internet for more than the latest selfies. It includes kids from Columbine High School. Yes, that Columbine.

Knights on dinosaurs?

Spec writer Victor Milán, who's authored over 90 books, calls himself an "American writer," but I included him in the Latino Spec Lit Directory because he lived his first years in Puerto Rico, settled in N.M. and has an accent in his last name, even though his name on the cover of his forthcoming book lacks one.

Publisher Tor.com just announced that its 2014’s best cover and also the winner of the 2016 Hugo Award for Best Novel is The Dinosaur Lords by Milán. Here's the description:

"A world made by the Eight Creators on which to play out their games of passion and power, Paradise is a sprawling, diverse, often brutal place. Men and women live on Paradise as do dogs, cats, ferrets, goats, and horses. But dinosaurs predominate: wildlife, monsters, beasts of burden – and of war. Colossal plant-eaters like Brachiosaurus; terrifying meat-eaters like Allosaurus and the most feared of all, Tyrannosaurus rex. Giant lizards swim warm seas. Birds (some with teeth) share the sky with flying reptiles that range in size from bat-sized insectivores to majestic and deadly Dragons.

"Thus we are plunged into Victor Milán's splendidly weird world of The Dinosaur Lords, a place that for all purposes mirrors 14th century Europe with its dynastic rivalries, religious wars, and byzantine politics and the weapons of choice are dinosaurs. Where we have vast armies of dinosaur-mounted knights engaged in battle. And during the course of one of these epic battles, the enigmatic mercenary Dinosaur Lord Karyl Bogomirsky is defeated through betrayal and left for dead. He wakes, naked, wounded, partially amnesiac – and hunted. And embarks upon a journey that will shake his world. The Dinosaur Lords arrives July 2015."

Our stories matter - call for submissions

This is from Mona Alvarado Frazier, Independent Writing and Editing Professional:

The Cuento Cups: Because Our Stories Matter exhibit is in response to Chipotle Mexican Grill’s Cultivating Thought Author Series. In May of 2014, ten authors, thought-leaders, and comedians were chosen to pen original essays for Chipotle Mexican Grill’s take-out cups and bags. Not one Mexican, Mexican-American or Latina/o was asked by the national franchise (whose PR promotes “food with integrity”) to participate in the series.

While Chipotle reps stated that they "will take [the idea of including Mexican/Mexican American authors into consideration] for the next round,” Museum of Ventura County curator, Anna Bermudez, and author, Michele Serros believe that time is now.

So, artists, writers, and thinkers of ALL backgrounds: can you spin a story as original as a staff writer for The New Yorker? Be as funny as Sarah Silverman? As esthetically pleasing as…well, you get the idea. We invite you to utilize a simple paper cup or paper bag as a canvas to express your own compelling cuento/story. Perhaps you’d even like to construct your own take-out dispensable? The possibilities are endless. 

Cuento Cups chosen will displayed at the Tool Room Gallery during the entire month of October and will be featured periodically on the Museum of Ventura County’s website. We look forward to submissions because, yes, our stories DO matter.

Deadline for Submissions is October 2nd. Questions? (805) 653-0323, ext. 302.
Please send or get your submissions to:
Anna Ríos Bermudez, Curator of Collections
Museum of Ventura County
100 East Main Street
Ventura, CA 93001

Last week's NYC Climate March of 400,000 
was led by Native Americans. Denver's wasn't as huge. Maybe next time.
Es todo, hoy,

Friday, September 26, 2014

Shaking Up the Poetry Scene in Santa Barbara

Melinda Palacio

Emma Trelles, Mission Poetry Series Director

Emma Trelles is taking over the Mission Poetry Series in Santa Barbara. The Florida native is immersing herself in all things California, not just poetry. Last weekend, she volunteered with the Santa Barbara County coastal cleanup and helped collect 3,864 pounds of trash on the beach and 831 pounds of recyclable materials.

She sat down with La Bloga and discussed some of the exciting changes at the Mission Poetry Series. The series has always been a favorite of poetry enthusiasts in Santa Barbara and beyond. The poetry is always exceptional (disclaimer I am reading with Blas Falconer and Michelle Detorie this season; Emma herself read last year), and the series is generous with free refreshments and broadsides for the audience.

Emma Trelles is the 2011 winner of the Andrès Montoya Poetry Prize for her book, Tropicalia (University of Notre Dame Press) and the author of Little Spells.

Tropicalia by Emma Trelles 

La Bloga: 
How did you get involved with the Mission Poetry Series?

Emma Trelles:
I first read at the Mission Poetry Series in the fall of 2013 and hit it off with the series' co-founder and director at the time, Paul Fericano. He's a lovely and intelligent person, as well as a talented poet, who really cares about bringing quality poetry to the community. But he was moving full time to San Francisco and wasn't going to be able to continue directing the series from there, so he asked me to take over. 

Paul Fericano, co-founder and former director of the Mission Poetry Series

La Bloga:
Can you tell us a little bit about your poetry and how being in Santa Barbara has influenced your work?

Emma Trelles:
Moving to Santa Barbara was, in some ways, a huge change for me, particularly since I had lived in South Florida my entire life. Since "place" is a subject I've often addressed in my poems, I definitely see SB seeping into my lines now, mostly in subtle ways that have to do with its eco-systems and how they can be examined through the lens of myth and culture. While in Florida, for example, water was prominent in my poems and even my dreams. Here, its absence is now finding its way into my consciousness as well as my creative work. I never thought I'd say this, but I actually miss those muggy afternoon monsoons that would just pour down and wash the world clean. South Florida has some glorious rain...

Sister Susan Blomstad, Co-founder of the Mission Poetry Series

La Bloga:
The Mission Poetry Series began at the Mission, but has changed venues. Will you rename the series?

Emma Trelles:

I'd like to keep the series name intact to honor the place of its birth, the historic Old Mission in SB, and to recognize the hard work its founders Paul Fericano and Sister Susan Blomstad did in establishing it as a valued and respected reading. The Mission is one of SB's historic jewels and I love that the series reflects that in its own way.

Mission Santa Barbara

La Bloga:
Tell us about what you will maintain and the changes forthcoming in the Mission Poetry Series.

Emma Trelles:
I want the series to maintain the spirit of inclusiveness that Paul cultivated so well, as well as his attention to bringing poets of diverse backgrounds and ages in to read. I'd like to further develop that by including more Latino poets, especially because SB and its surrounding regions are so rich with Latino culture and talent. I'm also exploring how to add additional programming that would further serve greater Santa Barbara by connecting it with poetry through volunteer work, workshops, and more. It's all in the preliminary stages now, but stay tuned for more later this year, when MPS will likely announce on our Facebook page what we're up to!

Mission Poetry Series, Saturday September 27, 1pm