Tuesday, January 19, 2016

In memoriam, Francisco X. Alarcón • Literary Prizes • No Más Bebés • Huizache

Francisco X. Alarcón?

Francisco X. Alarcón?

Michael Sedano

In December 2015, La Bloga shared the awful news that our friend, distinguished poet Francisco X. Alarcón's body was attacked by stomach cancer.  In that column, we called upon the Four Directions to bring joy and peace to Francisco. Click here to salute the Four Directions with Francisco.

Francisco X. Alarcón succumbed to the disease on January 15, 2016. Today, La Bloga celebrates the life of Francisco X. Alarcón with foto, interview, and poetry. Ave atque vale.

Francisco X. Alarcón presenting at the National Latino Writers Conference in 2011. This is my favorite portrait of Francisco, doing what he so enjoyed, presenting to an audience. The poet liked this image, too, and adopted it as his social media portrait. QEPD.

Fortunately for history, a multitude of recordings exist of Francisco X. Alarcón. In 2010, Jesus Treviño documented the reunion floricanto of the 1973 Festival de Flor y Canto. Both took place at the University of Southern California. You can download Francisco's reading, including his signature salute to los cuatro vientos, at USC's Digital Library (link). The video is too large for this channel.

In addition to videotaping the three days of readings, Treviño interviewed Alarcón for Latinopia, the nation's most comprehensive video archive of Chicana Chicano history, art, and literature. La Bloga is happy to share a pair of video tributes to Francisco from Latinopia.

Here, Francisco reads two poems to the interviewer

Lucha Corpi composed this poem for her friend of many years. La Bloga shares it with Lucha's permission as our eulogy for Francisco X. Alarcón.

Carta a Francisco

Escucha bien, Francisco,
Aquel día 
que encontraron muerto a aquel joven,
tú  y yo leíamos poemas 
bajo la luminosa intimidad de Diego Rivera.
A tu casa llegaban los policías
llenos de falsas acusaciones y prejuicios
con el reportero a los talones.
Cateaban tu casa.
Marchaban con sus botas sucias
sobre tus versos dolientes
esparcidos por el piso. 
Y dejaban al salir
el púrpura
de su fuerza
como una terrible bocanada 
que permanece  enrojecida
bajo los párpados cerrados.

A través
del cristal de la prisión;
yo te sentí dolido, Francisco, 
tambaleante la esperanza, 
hechos trizas tus noches y tus días,
llenos los ojos de cólera muda
esa ira de raza
que inunda de pronto la mirada
cuando el látigo del desprecio
deja su huella profana
en la espalda del alma.

Y cuando al fin aprehendieron 
al desvalido homicida
aquel que se cobró
con otras vidas 
tan desamparadas como la suya
el abuso que sufrió
de niño
yo te ví levantarte, Francisco,
y pedir misericordia por ese hombre 
por quien hubieras podido morir tú.

Su muerte en la cámara de gases, 
es una cuchillada a la dignidad humana.

Ese día te sanaron casi todas las heridas

Pero a veces, Francisco, 
Todavía veo 
esa íntima tristeza
navegarte la mirada
siempre habrá
unn hechicero azteca
en lo recóndito
de tu noche
quien seguirá
conjurando versos
para ganarse la libertad de vivir
un día más
aunque sea
bajo fianza de palabras.
Lucha Corpi
Oakland, California


Listen to me, Francisco.
The day
they found that dead youngster,
you and I were reading poems
under the luminous intimacy of a Diego Rivera.
The police burst into your house
Full of false charges and prejudice
With a reporter at their heels.
They searched your house.
In their dirty boots they trampled
your sorrowful poems as they lay
scattered on the floor.
And they left behind
the arrogant
of their power
like a terrible blast
that goes on burning red
under closed eyelids.

Through the glass
window in the prison,
I could tell you were suffering, Francisco,
your hope faltering,
your nights and days in shreds,
your eyes full of mute rage
that noble ethnic rage
that floods our eyes
when the lash of scorn
leaves its insolent welts
on the back of our soul.

And when at last they arrested
the wretched murderer who
was trying to avenge
the abuse he’d suffered
as a child
by taking other lives
as defenseless as his own
I saw you
stand up, Francisco,
and ask for mercy for that man
for whose crime you might have died.

His death in the gas chamber,
you said,
would slash at human dignity like a knife.

On that day nearly all your wounds were healed.

But sometimes, Francisco,
I still see
in your eyes
that intimate sorrow
there will always be
in the hidden depths
of your night
an Aztec sorcerer
who will continue
summoning poems
for the freedom to live
one more day
if only under the bond of his words.

Translation by Catherine Rodríguez-Nieto
of the poem “Carta a Francisco” by Lucha Corpi
Oakland, California

Francisco X. Alarcón?

Breaking News
Raza Writers Named for National Book Critics Circle Honors

Few, and far between, are the major literary prizes awarded to raza writers. Our gente routinely get over looked instead of looked over by the panels tasked with nominating for major prizes.

This year marks the beginning of change as a handful of raza writers are named winners or finalists, including the most recent member of La Bloga's regular writing team, Sam Quinones. Sam is finalist in the Non-fiction category for his book, Dreamland.

In fiction, Valeria Luiselli's The Story of My Teeth is a finalist. La Bloga's Olga García Echeverría reviewed the work just last week.

Poetry finalists include Ada Limón, Bright Dead Things.

Winners of the National Book Critics Circle awards will be announced on Thursday, March 17, 2016 in New York city, where finalists will read at a free event. The Awards will be broadcast live on C-SPAN and on the net at the NBCC website.

Already named a winner is Carlos Lozada. Lozada is 2015's winner of the NBCC Balakian Citation for Literary Excellence. The award comes with a $1000 prize endowed by NBCC board member, and La Bloga friend, Gregg Barrios. La Bloga thanks Gregg Barrios for this important act of giving back to the community.

Also already named a winner is First Novel Prize awardee  Kirstin Valdez Quade for Night of the Fiesta.

La Bloga offers our heartfelt congratulations to all the finalists and winners. For details on the NBCC awards, click here.

Pushcart Award Nominations From Chicana-owned Independent Publisher

Thelma T. Reyna—author, Poet Laureate, editor, and owner/founder of the Southern California indie literary publisher, Golden Foothills Press—recently announced six Los Angeles-area poets whose work she has nominated for the prestigious national award, Pushcart Prize, considered America’s most honored literary recognition program.

The six poets were all published in the book edited by Reyna and issued last spring: Altadena Poetry Review: Anthology 2015, a compilation of 60 Southern California poets. The nominated poets include several who have received other distinguished awards in their careers, but this is the first Pushcart Prize nomination for them.

The Pushcart Prize was established in New York in 1976 to recognize quality work issued by small, independent, non-commercial indie presses and literary magazines. Since then, the Prize has recognized thousands of writers and hundreds of indie publishers, who each nominate no more than 6 poets they’ve published in the year of the award . Each annual edition of the Pushcart anthology features the top 60 or so of all nominated authors. Announcement of these top winners will be made by Pushcart Press in May 2016.

Top-Quality Poets: Local Treasures
The poets honored by Golden Foothills Press, all from the Los Angeles area, and their nominated poems, are as follows:

LUIVETTE RESTO—Poem: “Like Mother, Like Daughter”
Luivette Resto was born in Aguas Buenas, Puerto Rico but raised in the Bronx. Her first book of poetry, Unfinished Portrait (2008, Tia Chucha Press), was a Finalist, 2009 Paterson Poetry Prize. Her book Ascension (2013, Tia Chucha Press) won the 2014 Paterson Award for Literary Excellence for previous finalists of the Prize. She has served as a contributing poetry editor for Kweli Journal, a CantoMundo fellow, and a member of the advisory board of Con Tinta. Some of her latest work can be read on Luna Luna Magazine, Toe Good Poetry, and the Altadena Poetry Review: Anthology 2015. 

LALO KIKIRIKI—Poem: “Solstice”
Lalo Kikiriki grew up in Texas and, after 10 years on Pacifica Radio Houston, moved to Los Angeles. Author of Old Movies/Other Visions (with Pamela Lynn Palmer, 1979) and New Stuff (1981, revised 1993), Her poetry has appeared in publications  such as San Gabriel Valley Poetry Quarterly, Poetry and Cookies, Of the People, ZZyZx, Sunrunner, Peralta Press, Lummox, Poetic Diversity, and the Revolutionary Poets Brigade Anthology.

TIM CALLAHAN—Poem: “A Late Monarch”
Tim Callahan is an artist who worked for many years in the animation industry. He regularly contributes articles to Skeptic Magazine. While he had written some poetry since he was in his thirties, he didn’t begin to write it in earnest until he was in his middle sixties.

SHAHE MANKERIAN—Poem: “Dear Teacher”
Shahé Mankerian’s manuscript, History of Forgetfulness, has been a finalist at four prestigious competitions: the 2013 Crab Orchard Series in Poetry Open Competition, the 2013 Bibby First Book Competition, the Quercus Review Press, Fall Poetry Book Award (2013), and the 2014 White Pine Press Poetry Prize. He is Principal of St. Gregory Hovsepian School in Pasadena and co-directs the Los Angeles Writing Project. He has been honored with the Los Angeles Music Center’s BRAVO Award, which recognizes teachers for innovation and excellence in arts education.

NANCY LIND—Poem: “Ojus, Florida: 1945—That Day”
Lind is a retired teacher of English literature, mother of three, grandmother of one little boy; recent transplant to California from New York with her husband, Russ LaValla; Creative Writing student; and aspiring poet.

MARK A. FISHER—Poem: “Papyrus”
Mark A. Fisher is a writer, poet, and playwright living in Tehachapi, CA. His column “Lost in the Stars” has appeared in Tehachapi's The Loop newspaper for several years. His plays have appeared on stages in Pine Mountain Club, Tehachapi, and Hayward.  His poetry has appeared in A Sharp Piece of Awesome, Dragon Poet Review, Gutters and Alleyways, and other national and regional literary journals. 

Public Celebration Forthcoming: February 8
These six distinguished poets will be publicly honored by Thelma Reyna and Golden Foothills Press at the Altadena Public Library Community Room on Monday, February 8, from 6:30-8:30 p.m. As the Altadena Library District’s Poet Laureate, Reyna will present special certificates and host an evening of readings by these poets. The event is free to the public. 

As one of the few literary indie book publishers in the United States owned by a Latina, Golden Foothills Press seeks to bring visibility to traditionally-underrepresented authors, aiming to bring their unique, high-quality literary voices to the public sphere. The press focuses on diversity of ideas and expression from varied authors. It will issue a pioneering novel this winter, to be followed by at least two poetry anthologies. Visit their website at www.GoldenFoothillsPress.com

La Bloga plans to feature the Pushcart Prize nominees' poems in an upcoming La Bloga On-line Floricanto.

Thelma T. Reyna is the national award-winning author of 4 books: a short story collection (The Heavens Weep for Us and Other Stories), 2 poetry chapbooks (Breath & Bone; and Hearts in Common); and the national award-winning full-length collection of her poems, Rising, Falling, All of Us. Thelma’s work has been published in literary journals, anthologies, textbooks, blogs, regional print media, and other sources. She is also the owner and founder of the writing consultancy, The Writing Pros.

No Más Bebés Coming to NPR

Check your local listings for the February 1, 2016 NPR debut showing of Director  Renee Tajima-Peña's arrestingly engaging film, No Más Bebés. Click here for details.

The film is a masterful documentary of the forced sterilization of women at Los Angeles County's Women's Hospital in the 1970s, and the court battle they pursued to force LAC to give up its eugenics program that victimized indigent mostly Mexican and Black women.

The film offers a powerful indictment of an obstetrics service that told C-section prospects they could not have their babies unless the drugged and laboring women signed a consent form allowing tubal ligation. The forms, in English, explained the procedure, but the often-monolingual in Spanish women did not understand either the surgery or the consequences.

While the history is a horror story, the film engages the audience by interviewing warm, funny, loving women, and men, whose tragedy highlights one of the most pernicious tactics in the war on women. Denying women their reproductive rights as a routine element of public health care was seen as providing "good medicine" by the male doctors and the female lawyer who defended the medicos in a Federal Civil Rights lawsuit. Also featured is the male doctor who blew the whistle on the egregious practice.

Virginia Espino produced the film
Recently, Producer Virginia Espino joined a panel of women in Los Angeles to show the film to a rapt audience and engage a public discussion of what "choice" and reproductive rights entail.

The most unnerving scene in the documentary shows the actual sterilization. "Tubal ligation" implies that fallopian tubes are tied off, but that they can be untied. Instead, as the film illustrates, the surgeon ties each tube, lifts the isolated organ, and cuts away the flesh.

Director Renee Tajima-Peña does a masterful job of keeping the film visually interesting with historic footage of movimiento activism while the soundtrack plays audiocassette interviews recorded in the 1970s. The showing at the California Endowment auditorium before a packed house was an especially moving evening owing to the interaction of audience members who gasped, laughed, cried, grew irate in all the right places. Don't view the film alone, on February 1. Invite a houseful of friends and have a viewing party to recreate the ambience of that evening.

Huizache Pachanga In Los Angeles Features Floricanto, Tacos, Musical Headliner

The magazine of Latino Literature. 

Let that sink in a moment.

That there is a magazine of Chicana Chicano and related literature is a wonder in itself. That it--Huizache--arrives in its fifth iteration is even more a marvel.

Even more marvelously wonderful, the latest edition features thirty-eight writers, four full-color plates, and cover art by Diane Gamboa. Among the writers are both well-known as well as debut artists, Latinas, Latinos, and literary compañeras compañeros from other communities, making Huizache the nation's single most important proponent of writing that challenges ethnic, gender, or social stereotypes.

In fact, distinguished filmmaker and Director Jesus Salvador Treviño thinks so highly of Huizache and its Founding Editor Dagoberto Gilb, that Treviño presented Gilb a beautiful nicho recognizing the editor as San Dagoberto, the Patron Saint of Writers.

Gilb brought the current edition to Los Angeles recently, where Hector Tobar and Virginia Espino hosted a pachanga celebrating the publication. Tobar is author of two novels, The Tattooed Soldier and The Barbarian Nurseries. Tobar's non-fiction account of trapped Chilean miners, Deep Down Dark is the source of the popular movie, The 33.

Hector Tobar
Virginia Espino
Dra. Espino produced the upcoming PBS film, No Más Bebés, which is based upon her Ph.D. dissertation.

Abel Salas emceed the event, including reading a memorial tribute to Francisco X. Alarcón, whose transition the day before added a somber note to the celebration. Alarcón mentored Salas in Abel's early career.

Vanessa Diaz celebrated her first publication as a poet with her debut public reading. Her presentation  of two poems not in Huizache enchanted her audience. Hers was a breakout performance that no one would have guessed was her first time in front of an audience.

Vanessa Diaz

The living room floricanto included stirring work by Vickie Vértiz, Caribbean Fragoza, whose work appeared in the Fall 2014 edition, and Yago Cura. Vertiz and Cura appear in the current edition, dated Fall 2015.

Vickie Vértiz

Caribbean Fragoza

Yago Cura

An added highlight of la pachanga Huizachera was Lysa Flores, who advised gente to hold on tight because she was going to rock the place. She kept that promise, and then some. 

Order Huizache via Centro Victoria's website here. Back issues are for sale on the website, so it's still possible to own the entire series of the magazine.

There's an urgency to owning every issue of Huizache, as anyone who remembers Con Safos, El Grito, or Revista Chicano-Riqueña will attest. The Magazine of Latino Literature is not like National Geographic or Life magazines that litter thousands of attics and garages. This is a small run publication. When they're gone, they're gone.

The historical value and the cultural significance of individual copies are multiplied by having the entire set in your personal library, or insisting that your educational institution have the entire series in the collection. Public libraries, too, need to shelve Huizache. You should own your own copies, gente. Click here to make that happen.

No comments: