Friday, October 07, 2016

Mucha Muchacha: More Than a Woman: Book Review

Melinda Palacio
Poems by Leticia Hernández-Linares

I've been sitting on a goldmine. It's such a treasure to find a book you absolutely can't help but love. Leticia Hernandez-Linares wrote such a book, Mucha Muchacha: Too Much Girl: Poems, published by Tía Chucha Press last year. Earlier at AWP 2016 in Los Angeles, Leticia introduced herself and asked if I would review her book. I must admit I usually don't like to review books because I find it a challenge to be objective. Since I am also a Tia Chucha Press poet, I knew the book would be good. Publisher Luis Rodriguez runs a small press and publishes poetry books he feels strongly about. March was a long time ago. Leticia's book gathered dust in the growing stack of books I have to read. Finally, I opened the book and could not put it down. I could end here; I loved the book.
            Mucha Muchacha is more than a collection of poems. It is wisdom from an old soul spoken by a young woman in command of her craft. Her poems, skate, dance, sing, and exist. Confession number two, the title kept me from opening the book. I kept thinking of the daft song by Esquivel of the same title, not realizing that this poem, this book was Leticia's answer to the song. Her verses crack with heartbreak, hope, and defiance. "Waking old under the city's/respiratory system, she inhales a quiet/daybreak. No feet shuffling, no smell/of a man's clothes. Rubbing brass/Buddha's belly, she mutters prayers," excerpt from Mucha Muchacha.
            I'm not surprised that in her everyday life, the poet is a mother, singer, activist, teacher, artist, and more. She is rooted, even when taking on subjects such as the civil war in El Salvador, gentrification in San Francisco, and the hopes handed to her as a daughter, "daughter, tells me to carry handwritten recipes in my/throat-take care to not let them strangle," from Flowers for My Father.
            In the over 90 pages of poetry packed in Mucha Muchacha, the various moods leave you clamoring for mas, more from the poet who is mucha muchacha, who answers How To Be Spiritual in Stilettos with "Brother, walk with me." The blend of bold humor and fearless code switching makes you laugh and cry at the same time. Leticia's last book, Razor Edges of My Tongue, came out in 2002. Her latest book is made up of all polished edges and is well worth the wait.
            What's even more impressive is the musicality of her poems. I wasn't surprised to learn that Leticia is the daughter of a musician and that she is also a singer and songwriter. Her singing voice is reminiscent of Mercedes Sosa. You can hear samples of Leticia's singing and reading voice on Reverbnation. If you haven't made up your mind already, the recordings will ensure more sales of Mucha Muchacha. Stop reading this review, pick up the book and enjoy.  
Leticia Hernández-Linares. Photo copied from her website.
If you are in the Bay Area this month, you can hear Leticia Hernández-Linares. The following three readings are on her updated website: Join Leticia.

October 14, La Calle 24 Acción Latina's Juan R. Fuentes Gallery, 2958 24th St., San Francisco,
Closing Reception, Artist Talk and Poetry Reading in response to the exhibit by Jose Rojas

October 15, Lit Crawl SF Presents the Pan Dulce Poets: Leticia Hernandez, Aura Maru, Silvia Oviedo, and Cathy Arellano 3114 24th Street, San Francisco, CA 94110

Lyrics and Dirges: A Monthly Reading Series
Wednesday, October 19th, 2016 - 7:30pm
This Recurring Event is at Pegasus Books Downtown Berkeley
Lyrics and Dirges October lineup features:
Leticia Hernández-Linares
Angela Hume
Bonnie Wailee Kwong
Aqueila M. Lewis
Anne Raeff 
Hosted and curated by Sharon Coleman
Leticia Hernández-Linares is an award-winning writer and community worker.  She has performed her poemsongs throughout the country and in El Salvador.  Her work has appeared in Street Art San Francisco, U.S. Latino Literature Today, Teatro bajo mi piel, Huizache, and Pilgrimage among other publications. A member of the CantoMundo Organizing Committee, she lives, writes, and works in the Mission District of San Francisco. 
Angela Hume lives in Oakland. She is the author of the poetry chapbooks Melos (Projective Industries, 2015), The Middle (Omnidawn, 2013) and Second Story of your Body (Portable Press at Yo-Yo Labs, 2011). Her first full-length book of poetry is Middle Time (Omnidawn, 2016). You can learn more about Angela
Bonnie Wailee Kwong's first poetry collection is ravel, a finalist for the Many Voices Project by New Rivers Press, and the White Pine Press Poetry Prize.  Her work in poetry and fiction has garnered several Pushcart nominations.  She creates in many mediums and languages: English, Cantonese, Mandarin, Japanese, ruby, and javascript.  She is currently artist-in-residence at Stanford University.  Her website is:
Aqueila M. Lewis is an award-winning writer, Bay Area Native and resident of Oakland, CA.  As a multi-talented artist and poet, she is also well-versed in journalism (print and radio) composing, singing, poetry/spoken word, modeling as a plus-model. She also currently holds the titles as Ms. Oakland Plus America 2014 and SF Raw Performing Artist of the Year 2015. Aqueila’s articles have been published in numerous publication and on radio such as  94.1 FM KPFA Radio’s First Voice Media Apprenticeship Program and Full Circle Show, Sideshow Radio, After Hours Radio, All the Rest of US Radio on 89.3 FM KPFB, National Radio Project Making Contact Storytelling Fellowship, Sistah’s With Ink Voices Anthology,Reflections: A Collaboration Between Painting And LiteratureIn Her Soul Magazine, Til Death Do Us Part Lady Warrior Zine and Walking in the Feminine: Stepping in our Shoes Anthology. Aqueila is currently creating children’s books focused on issues in relation to social justice and community.
 Anne Raeff’s stories and essays have appeared in New England Review, ZYZZYVA, and Guernica among other places. Her first novel Clara Mondshien’s Melancholia was published in 2002 (MacAdam/Cage). Her short story collection, The Jungle Around Us won the 2016 Flannery O'Connor Award for Short Fiction. She is proud to be a high school teacher and works primarily with recent immigrants. She too is a child of immigrants and much of her writing draws on her family’s history as refugees from war and the Holocaust. She lives in San Francisco with her wife and two cats.
Pegasus Books presents Lyrics and Dirges: A Monthly Reading Series
Lyrics & Dirges is a monthly reading series featuring a mix of prominent, emerging and beginning writers. Its aim is to highlight various forms of writing in an effort to spotlight the diverse literary community of the Bay Area. 
Every third Wednesday of the month at Pegasus Books Downtown.
Event date: 
Wednesday, October 19, 2016 - 7:30pm
Event address: 
Pegasus Books Downtown
2349 Shattuck Avenue
BerkeleyCA 94704
Event Category: 

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