Monday, December 29, 2014

When in Seattle Do as Los Norteños Writers Do

By Xánath Caraza


Los Norteños Writers, El Centro de la Raza, Seattle University (Department of Women and Gender Studies and Department of Modern Languages and Cultures), Hugo House, la Sala, José Carrillo, Gabriella Gutiérrez y Muhs, Catalina Cantú, Robert Francis Flor, Denise Perez Lally, Alex Bautista, Jim Cantú y todos, mil gracias for planning and sponsoring such a meaningful visit to incredible Seattle from December 10 to December 14, 2014.


Oh, yes, we had two wonderful poetry presentations, three poetry workshops, one writers workshop and one teacher training workshop.  Seattle kept me happy busy, just as I love my visits.


Today, I have several guest writers.  First is Kristen Millares from Seattle, who was kind enough to moderate our reading at Hugo House on December 12, and then I also have several poems from some adultos y some niños y niñas who were part of my workshops in Seattle.


Here is a piece from Kristen Millares, a few photos of the marvelous different events and poetry, la poesía written by all these norteños y norteñas y con esto me despido.  Happy 2015 y viva la poesía!


                Few poets claim the stage like Xánath Caraza.  Forget the modulated singsong of poetry voice.  Caraza resounds.  She sings.  She breathes new life into her work with every performance.  In short, she delivers.

            I was honored to introduce Caraza’s reading at Seattle’s Richard Hugo House on December 12th along with Los Norteños poets Jose Carrillo and Catalina Cantú, who organized a series of readings and workshops to celebrate Caraza’s new book, Sílabas de Viento/Syllables of Wind, just released by Mammoth Publications, which also published her collection Conjuro in 2012.


                But what does it mean to deliver a poem?  Consider her poem “Yanga,” reproduced in part here with permission of the author. 

Yanga, Yanga, Yanga,
Yanga, Yanga, Yanga,
Hoy, tu espíritu invoco
Aquí, en este lugar.

Este, este es mi poema para Yanga,
Mandinga, malanga, bamba.
Rumba, mambo, samba,
Palabras llegadas de África.

            In a linguistic tradition practiced by poets like Nicolás Guillén, Caraza summons the contributions of African culture to her motherland with onomatopoetic repetitions that recall percussive chants.  Sounds academic, right?  It wasn’t.  

            While Caraza is a professor at the University of Missouri at Kansas City, her stage presence is bold and anchored the deep reverberations of her voice and created an atmosphere in which anything might happen – in which the fugitive slave leader Yanga might appear, if only in the imaginations of the audience. 

            The recordings from that powerful night are not yet online, but you can sample Caraza’s style by listening to her read “Ante el río,” selected by the Smithsonian to promote Day of the Dead in 2013.  Published in Conjuro, I’ve reproduced “Ante el río” below with permission from Caraza.  Learn more about her at

Ante el río

Como llorona estoy ante el río

Lamentándome por ti

Niño perdido

¡Ay de mí! ¡Ay de mí! ¡Llorona!


Como lagarto estoy sobre las piedras


En el río


Ave negra que nace del agua

Que abre sus alas

Y deja su historia salpicada

En el cauce del río


Dejando surcos en su vuelo bajo

Con su vientre pegado al río

Trinar sobre mis oídos

Rumor del agua


Bugambilias anaranjadas, fucsias, rosadas y blancas

Que están en mis sueños y

Me llenan la garganta

¡Ay de mí! ¡Ay de mí! ¡Llorona!


Eres tú el brujo y hechicero

Que se mete en mis sueños

Con el agua te lavo

Y te canto ante al río

¡Ay de mí! ¡Ay de mí! Niño perdido


Como Llorona estoy

Ante el río

Llévate mi tristeza niño hermoso

Lava mis penas en el río

Before the River

As Llorona I am before the river

Moaning for you

Niño perdido

¡Ay de mí! ¡Ay de mí! ¡Llorona!


As an alligator I am on the river stones

Waiting for you

In the river


Black bird born of the water

Opens its wings

And leaves its history sprinkled

By the flow of the river

Leaves tracks in its low flight

With its underside close to the river

Singing above my ears

Murmuring of water


Orange, fuchsia, pink and white buganvilias

Are in my dreams and

Fill my throat

¡Ay de mí! ¡Ay de mí! ¡Llorona!


You are the wizard and sorcerer

Who enters into my dreams

With water I wash you

And I sing to you before the river

¡Ay de mí! ¡Ay de mí! Niño perdido


As Llorona I am

Before the river

Take my sadness with you beautiful niño

Wash my sorrows in the river


Kristen Millares Young is a writer and journalist whose work has been featured by the Guardian, the New York Times, KUOW 94.9-FM, City Arts MagazinePacifica Literary Review, the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, the Miami Herald and TIME Magazine.  Kristen was the researcher for the NYT 2013 Pulitzer Prize-winning story “Snow Fall: The Avalanche at Tunnel Creek,” which also won a Peabody.  Hailed by The Stranger as one of the “fresh new faces in Seattle fiction,” she was a 2014 Jack Straw Writing Fellow. She has been researching and writing her first novel for seven years.  Kristen graduated magna cum laude from Harvard University and from the Master of Fine Arts program at the University of Washington, where she studied and taught creative writing.  She is a co-founder and board member of InvestigateWest, a nonprofit journalism center in the northwest.       



Daisy Chain

By José Carrillo


I had a dream

the sky was filled with blue stems

showers of them on the ground

they turned to daisies.

My hair, as if ready to welcome them,

stretched all the way down

to greet them

I loved the rising flowers on me

I looked at them, smelled them

for a long time

soon they began to grow out of my body

until I became one with them.

To my surprise

I heard someone in the distance

shout my name: Margarita!


Also by José Carrillo, with Arturo Rodriguez en el tambor, here is his interpretation of my poem “Yanga”.


El Juego

By Denise Pérez Lally


Red Rover, Red Rover

The Queen asks, “Please come over.”

This diamond crown, so loved, so cherished, and worn with honor

…should not deceive you.

I ask myself, would you recognize me, sweating from waiting tables,

Or crawling on my hands

And knees cleaning their floors,

Or caring desperately for their children.

How did I get here? And to think those

Closest to me were left behind…

Red Rover, Red Rover.


My Primavera

By Denise Pérez Lally


Dolor, esperanza y sol

My country tis’ of thee,

Sweet land of liberty,

My primavera,

Where is she?


Dear Mirella

By Xilen Ramírez

Too often,

mujeres Latinas,

mujeres de color,

are painted into de background. 

I’m here to tell you that

we don’t have to stay there.

 We can come out,

 and we can paint

our own vision

 of the world.




by Catalina M. Cantú


Day two of First Grade, I was shoved and called a nigger.

It was the first time; I heard the “n word”.

I felt their venom in my pores.

Teachers were mute.


Northwest postage stamp town of chalk people.

Where ever my family walked, they stopped us.

What are you?

Where are you from?


Papa, his wavy, ebony hair slicked back,

elegant in his suit, tie, and shinned shoes.

Met his ill dressed inquisitors with a stony gaze,

We are Americans, born in the U.S. of A.


Chalk people chortled and shook their pointed heads.

Their rancid racism reeked.

We escaped that time

And the next.


As a boy, Papa saw men lynched in Texas.

His pluck moved us further north

Not to a global city melting pot.

But, Surburbia with Barbie, Ken and their schools.


The Civil Rights movement tugged at my heart.

Where did I fit in the world?

Who were my people?

MECHA meeting brewed the tempest in my soul.


Doe-eyed whisper

Ravenous desire

Flor y canto.


Pungent rage

fueled by injustice howls

Justicia y libertad.


Sirens crush

Pavement kissed

Pinche vida.


Venceremos roar

Pomegranate gritos

Viva La Raza!



¿Qué eres?

By Fernando B.


Yo hombre

Hombre soldado

Hombre fuerte

Hombre bueno

Hombre grande

Hombre de luz

Hombre de paz

Yo soy hombre

¿Qué eres tú?



Expresiones de Amor

By Jorge B.


Yo soy como el río

Fluye, fluye, fluye

Amar como el océano

Ama a las criaturas vivientes

Soy salvaje con pasión de amor

Amo a todos que me aman

Y tendrán lugar en mi corazón.



By Alex R.


Soy libre como una paloma

Soy libre como un árbol

Que está parado

Y que hay paz alrededor

Soy libre

Como el viento

Que sopla

Soy libre

Soy libre

Y libre estaré para siempre

No pierdes la fe

Siempre busca la libertad



By Jasmine M.


El viento es suave

Miro los rayos de sol y de luna

Tengo fuerza de mujer que

Mira las flores blancas que

En el rayo de sol y luna brilla

Como una estrella y con la fuerza

De la mujer me siento libre

De mirar al cielo y decir, “Dios

Gracias por la naturaleza”



Hermosa Xihuatl

By Jennifer T.


Eres una hermosa xihuatl

Has tenido muchas serpientes en la vida

Eres madre y esposa

Eres una xihuatl valiente

Luchadora y poderosa



Bizia, zeurea

By Leire S.


Ez gaude ezer esaten

Ezta entzun beharrekoan

Persona horren bizia

Aurrean edo alboan

Izango duzu betiko

Beti beti zure ondoan

Ez zaitez inoiz beldurtu

Zu zeu ikusterakoan


*Nota de la poeta: No me gusta la poesía, pero sí la BERTXOLARITZA, que puede ser descrita como poesía vasca.


Traducción a español:


Vida, tuya

By Leire S.


No estamos diciendo nada

Ni tampoco tenemos que escuchar

La vida de esa persona

Al frente o al lado

La tendrás para siempre

Siempre, siempre a tu lado

No te asustes jamás

Al verte a ti mismo.




Giora said...

Thanks, Xanath, for the poems and the pictures. The blog talks about your modulated singsong of poetry voice ... and , Caraza sings.
I wonder if anyone composed a melody to one of your poems and made it into a song.

Unknown said...

Great reviews and thanks for sharing..

Xánath Caraza said...

Dear Author Giora, not yet, but great idea, a song, I would really enjoy that. Saludos!