Tuesday, April 12, 2016

AWP Part II: Huge Spaces, Good Stuff When You Look For It. On-line Floricanto

Michael Sedano

AWP2016 launched in a storm of controversy. Writers from the disability caucus protested their exclusion from the program. Writers from raza caucuses felt the sting of rejected panels and raised their voices in unison. Then a Los Angeles publisher, poet Kate Gale, wrote a DickCheney-like screed telling the protestors to get over it. A chastened Gale subsequently deleted the post.

That not only failed to bring the dissident writers to heel, Gale’s “I’ve got mine” attitude fanned the flames. One writer, Xochitl-Julisa Bermejo found publisher Gale’s screed offensive beyond tolerance  such that Bermejo withdrew her book--her first publication--from Gale’s Red Hen Press. The courageous Bermejo has a new publisher, release in the Fall. La Bloga's Michael Sedano has offered to host the launch in a backyard floricanto for the principled poet.

Rigoberto Gonzalez spoke to the issue, noting that AWP provides notable benefits to balance out the organization’s ethnic and cultural myopia. Still, in the hundreds of panels spread across multiple sites, the absence of diversity was striking.

Hector Tobar on the big screen and at the lectern

Finding MOS panels at AWP was a cinch. Throw a rock in any direction and find a roomful of them, often with a gender balance. That’s not entirely accurate. The gender balance, yes. The full room, no. The Los Angeles Convention Center was a vast space in search of an audience. Star-studded panels, like one featuring Héctor Tobar reading from his engrossing nonfiction account of trapped Chilean miners, Deep Down Dark, felt like the empty central chamber Tobar describes.

It wasn’t all that difficult finding non-dominant cultura panels, however. At least one such event, featuring Elizabeth Alexander, spoke in a mid-size auditorium three-quarters full. A diverse audience attended, preponderantly people of color. Another diversely attended panel Creating Literary Community in a City of Freeways featured host Terry Wolverton,  joined by Jessica Ceballos,  Traci Kato-Kiriyama ,  Michael Kearns,  Conney Williams.

Michael Kearns,  Conney Williams,  Jessica Ceballos exchange ideas

Publishing coach Marcela Landres has a solution to the diversity conundrum in publishing that applies equally to AWP. Landres says “get a job in the industry.” That’s the solution, too, for making AWP more inclusively diverse. Verónica Reyes has taken the lead in this already. At least two panels noted their debt to Reyes. See last week’s La Bloga-Tuesday for fotos of these.

Firme Tejana-Califas Reading featured Xochitl-Julisa Bermejo, Guadalupe García Montaño (emcee), Emmy Pérez, Anel Flores, Laurie Ann Guerrero, and acknowledges Veronica Reyes' role in bringing the panel to fruition. Likewise Puentes=Bridges: A Queer-Straight Mujeres Reading that included Olga García Echeverría, liz gonzález, Melinda Palacio, Estella González, Karleen Pendleton Jimenez, credit Reyes with the diligent follow-up required to guide the panels through AWP’s screening processes.

There was no shortage of diversity in Off-Site Events, reported by several La Bloga writers in recent days. This is akin to Landres' strategy. La Pachanga, a traditional gathering of AWP raza melded this year with the launch celebration for the book Poetry of Resistance, at Avenue 50 Studio.

Here is Part II of my foto essays of the writers reading their own stuff at the Coiled Serpent book reading at downtown LA’s Ace Hotel, and the Macondista alumni reading at LA Plaza de Cultura y Artes, one of the city’s newest museums and an important showcase of Chicana Chicano el Lay.

Looking for Diversity In AWP Right Places

Sonia "La Mujer Araña" Gutíerrez is in the book.
Edward Vidaurre at Poets Responding AWP Panel
Odilia Galván Rodriguéz co-edited with Francisco X. Alarcón qepd

Off-Site Events

The Coiled Serpent: Poets Arising from the Cultural Quakes and Shifts of Los Angeles
Beyond Baroque hosted the event. Richard Modiano Director, greets the crowd. Published by
Tía Chucha Press, publisher-poet laureate Luis J. Rodriguez welcomes the audience.
Editors of The Coiled Serpent include from right Daniel J. Olivas, Ruben J. Rodríguez,  Neelanjana Banerjee

Elena Minor is the originator of Palabra, a literary journal and among the
earliest Los Angeles raza literary reading series. Chicana Chicano Literature owes a deep debt to
Elena's work. It is an honor for La Bloga to share her portrait here.

One of those touching moments that occur only in poetry. Luis J. Rodriguez listens as his
son Ramiro Rodriguez, reads his poem recounting abandonment, loss, and recovery.
ACE Hotel literary host packed with readers who found AWP's diversity off-site in DTLA
Clockwise from top left: Jessica W. Cardenas, Sonia Rivera, traci kato-kiriyama, Xochitl-Julisa Bermejo
Left, Jessica Ceballos, Tina Yang

Macondistas Please at LA Plaza

Clockwise from top left: Norma Elia Cantú, José B. González, Sarah A. Chavez, Deborah A. Miranda

La Bloga's Amelia ML Montes
Vincent Toro
Alicia Gaspar de Alba

Anel Flores, Carla Trujillo, Reyna Grande

Next week in our concluding celebration of AWP, fotos and video from Avenue 50 Studio hosting Con Tinta's La Pachanga and the book release of Poetry of Resistance.

April On-line Floricanto
Sister Lou Ella Hickman, George Wallace, Octaviano Merecias-Cuevas, Red Slider, Odilia Galvan Rodriguez

"For Fukushima: During the Fifth Year of Memory" By Sister Lou Ella Hickman
"Paso A Paso” By George Wallace
“Poesia Mixta” By Octaviano Merecias-Cuevas
“Three Poems” By Red Slider
"La Lloronas Sacred Waters" by Odilia Galvan Rodriguez

For Fukushima: During the Fifth Year of Memory
By Sister Lou Ella Hickman

the shore a worthy opponent
faces lost as they inhaled the water
under the fired edged sword
faces countless as sand
and the salt plume crashing
faces such faces swirling
with its stench breathing out of bodies and faces
yet this too a rice field
we will plant with the green stalks of memory

Sister Lou Ella Hickman, I.W.B.S. is a member of the Sisters of the Incarnate Word and Blessed Sacrament. She has been a teacher on all levels and she has worked in two libraries. Presently she is a freelance writer as well as a spiritual director. Her poems and articles have been published in numerous magazines as well as a poem in After Shocks: Poetry of Recovery for Life-Shattering Events edited by Tom Lombardo and a poem to be published in Down to the Dark River edited by Philp Kolin. Her first book of poetry, she: robed and wordless, published by Press 53, was released in the fall.

By George Wallace

step by step, by seed or by soil, by wind or by wing, by raft or by rail, by steerage, by sail, this passing through, this worst nightmare, this

great trespass, this due north, the next passageway to the next century,

i hear america crossing, crossing itself in new directions, singing with new blood and new directions, new languages beating in its veins, new

vision and new expectations, workboots and poetry yet to be sung, new utilizations,

hush! a footfall in the clearing where the deer are grazing, hush! the big transgression, the violation of ages, we are your fathers and your mothers,

your daughters and your sons, we will get ourselves from here to here, one world, one people,
and you are coming with us, you come from everywhere! to be here, as all who get here, over barbed wire, over walls, past jeeps, quadbikes, rifles,

dogs, past big american guns because guns are of no use against this solemn incursion,
this perpetual sweetness of mixing in, mile by inevitable mile, household by household, blood converging, and voices and tongue, because all roads

are the same road and curves towards itself, because every single mile is the same mile,
equal, equal equal this land which is your land and which is not your land, it is every man's land, plain, valley, boulevard, hill, paso a paso, step by

step, aspen cactus ironwood madrone, desert ocean raft river, truck by truck, foot by foot

by wind and by wing

by seed and by soil

George Wallace is writer in residence at the Walt Whitman Birthplace, first poet laureate of the National Beat Poetry Festival, and author of 29 chapbooks of poetry. A writer of celebration and witness, he has contributed his voice to human rights issues since the 1960s, when he was an outspoken generational critic of the Vietnam war. Since that time he has been active in a range of social justice issues, and interfaced with such figures as Cindy Sheehan, Germaine Greer, Aaron Kramer, Jesus-Papoleto Melendez and Naomi Shihab Nye. In 2016 George's poem May Day Is Not The Day was included in the SB 1070 anthology Poetry of Resistance.

“Poesia Mixta”
By Octaviano Merecias-Cuevas

Words of healing for el maestro Francisco X. Alarcón

Cha’a ja skua tutu,
Ma ntukuia ini’ni
Sa’aa ntee’ ini'ni
There’s a teacher encircled by melodies and hands
Beneath el árbol del tule; they implore and inscribe;
Collected they transcribe the memory of history;
Letters levitate above the codex of one thousand songs;
Only healing and inner-peace can be found in that classroom.

Hay un maestro bajo las sombras del árbol antiguó;
rodeado de sentidos que escriben, ensalzando rezos
Un calmécac que transciende el alma;
una voz que retoma vuelo entre fronteras
un fuego que no se apaga con el paso de las lunas.
Hay cuatro direcciones y en el centro un corazón
Un día antes de nuestra tonantzin; hay una poesía.
Del rezo brotan mariposas en formas de poesía
Como soles y espíritus de canciones llegan a ti;
abrazan tu espíritu y dicen; Sa’aa ntee’ ini'ni,
Cha’a ja skua tutu, Tata Chiku Alarcon nani de.

Octaviano Merecias-Cuevas is a faculty of extension in the School of Social and Behavioral Health Sciences at Oregon State University. As a spoken word artist, photographer, researcher, and tri-lingual writer, Mr. Merecias has presented and published his work in Canada, Mexico and the US. He writes in Mixteco, Spanish and English about contemporary issues affecting/shaping the Latino/Xicano/Hispanic/Indigenous experience in the US. Learn more about his work at emergentus.net

Three Poems
By Red Slider

Psalm 1996
The Great Father is not all Powerful
Not all knowing, not all seeing
The Great Wheel creaks and wobbles on its spindle
The Grand Design of creation is flawed
The handle of life turns, the oil of death lubricates
Shavings of sorrow and ash fall unnoticed.

The Great Mother is not all protecting
Not all nurturing, not all creating
Her milk is not always sweet or plenty
Some of her rivers spawn destruction,
While others poison themselves
No mystic purpose prevails where two galaxies collide
And a trillion aspirations blaze and die.

Seven grains of vaporized desire
Perfectly writ on the cold blue sky
Reborn as cattle on an ionized plain
Where one in ten thousand mutations make it
And the remains fuck like crazy to survive.

Grace, Sacrament, and Mystery sift through the cracks
Revived somewhere in a darkened pit
of copulating strangers.


Psalm 2011
Oh, Great Mother, hear us now,

We cannot speak of your grand design,
But cry out in pain from every wound upon your body,

We do not weep for your great losses,
But for the bitter taste of your great rivers poisoned.

And for the trees we cut and mountains laid low,
We carry off your precious gifts until there are no more.

And of the air we breathe and rain we catch,
It is only our want that prompts us to give thanks.

And in our loneliness, neither the songs of birds nor animals
Do we hear, but only the babble of our own species.

And blind be wandering over your sacred land,
Seeing nothing but our own ambition there.

For we are a selfish species, now come to plead with you,
To grant your screaming, crying, greedy, thirsty, eyeless children,

One more day upon your breast, one more sun be lifted,
One more thirst be quenched, one more tear be wiped away.
One more awakened child be delivered into your keeping;

To heal your wounds.
To clean your waters.
To plant your trees.
To clear your breath.

To sing in the chorus of all living things.

Oh, Great Mother, open our eyes to what we've given away,
And let a truer selfishness take hold in our hearts,

Please do not abandoned us, Oh Great Mother
Hear us one more time.


We are all tired, always tired,
sleepwalking around the edge
of catastrophe, aroused from our dreams
rising from the safety of our shock cocoons,
the smoke of sleep still in our eyes, our skins
paled under the fallen ash, we awake
to the dim light of ruin, the ghosts
of Vesuvius underfoot as we wonder
at one another, reach out towards
the lost dawn, guided only by the sounds
of children we will never meet.

[fr. "I Dream the Children," vol 2, 2014]

La Llorona’s Sacred Waters
By Odilia Galván Rodríguez
La Llorona's Sacred Waters, acrylic paint on stucco, 35' x 70', Juana Alicia ©2004.
Photo by Ben Blackwell, 2016.

She holds us in the wing of her arm and
all we hear at the edge of the world is
las ranas crying perdiendo se gana
perdiendo se gana perdiendo se…
for our survival she throws us into the
watery vortex
we are hurled
left to swirl
down to where we all
began and return again
in the ancestor’s
a desperate mother
must return herself
her children
to the blue void
where the waters
are not still
nor rushing but
a soothing place
to rock her
babies back
to the big sleep
their souls to keep
to plant them as seeds
once again
in a watery tomb
the universal womb
from where all life springs
a better place
without suffering
no longer sought in a cruel
world who cares not
for future
merely wants
to use them
as tools
to rule them
for their own
money or profit
We come in tiny little writhing drops
in a sea of blue darkness swimming up
a perilous canal a life journey not to be
stopped then a half of us must penetrate the
luminous calabash of life
to become whole a higher form of life
then swimming semi-conscious
in a briny stew in the curve of
our mother’s bright red womb
until we are done
then we emerge spurting and stopping
causing her much pain at the same time joy and
for that first communion nine months
earlier resulted in an us
a new flower blooming red
in a gush of sacred water flowing out
to greet the world once again

© Odilia Galván Rodríguez, 2004
Berkeley, Califas.

Odilia Galván Rodríguez, poet, writer, editor, and social justice activist, is the author of six volumes of poetry, her latest, The Nature of Things, along with photographer Richard Loya.  She is co-editor, along with the late Francisco X. Alarcón, of Poetry of Resistance: Voices for Social Justice, from The University of Arizona Press. Odilia has worked as an editor for various magazines, most recently as the English edition editor of Tricontinental Magazine in Havana, Cuba. Her activist work stems several decades with organizations such as the United Farm Workers of America AFL-CIO. Currently she facilitates creative writing workshops nationally, and is a moderator of Poets Responding to SB 1070 and Love and Prayers for Fukushima, both Facebook pages dedicated to bringing attention to social justice issues that affect the lives and well-being of many people. Her poetry and short fiction has been anthologized in many anthologies and literary journals in print and on-line media.

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