Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Twelve. Bermejo Launches Posada

La Bloga Turns Twelve
Michael Sedano

Twelve years is a long time. Or it’s a trick of time that so many days have passed between yesterday to a Sunday in 2004 when La Bloga’s first column hit the internets of Aztlán with RudyG’s declaration that it had begun. It seems almost yesterday but it’s been twelve years, writing, inviting guests, increasing our number to eleven writers. We write about books, health, food, cultura, y más. Pero sabes que?  La Bloga has always been about the books, the literature.

It would be cool to review the emails Rudy, Manuel Ramos, and I exchanged in the days leading Rudy to get it started with that first post. Of the exchanges, all I remember is not knowing what a blog is, and finding seamless ways to fit a weekly deadline into what I was doing for a living. Then there was the “who are these guys?” factor.

I live in LA, Rudy and Manuel live in Denver. In person we’d not yet met. I knew Manuel and Rudy via CHICLE, the pioneering listserv Teresa Marquez managed from her office at University of New Mexico Zimmerman Library. When Marquez had to close down CHICLE, we were out in the cold.

CHICLE, which stood for Chicana/Chicano Literature Exchange, was the first chicano literature-centric email-based communication channel on the internet. Miguel Juárez has an interesting history about CHICLE here. CHICLE’s passing hurts. For one thing, it means Rudy, Manuel, and I would no longer have a place to kick around ideas, to find out literary and publishing news, to catch up with chisme.

In these years, Blogs were emerging onto the social media landscape. Rudy discovered Google’s blogspot service, signed us up, and La Bloga was ready to see light.

While La Bloga has always been about the books, literature, reading, writing, right now it’s about time. Twelve years going on thirteen, La Bloga’s built a library of material that has use. Our author website sidebar, interviews, reviews, photographs, news and notes bits and pieces about literature, cultura, y más are on file, no advertising or hassles. There’s some good stuff in here. We should archive it, some tell us.

I was talking to Latinopia’s Jesus Treviño recently about archiving our respective material. Treviño’s challenged to find a visionary library or university agency to take on bringing Latinopia as a public resource and ongoing active channel. It’s a massive undertaking with Treviño’s encyclopedic visual record of chicanismo and the technical requirements of digitizing video art. Archiving La Bloga would not be nearly as tricky. We are open to suggestions.

Holiday Hero: This Sale

My wife's jewelry invariably catches people's eye. Whether at the University Women's luncheon with her contemporaries, or at some reception or other gathering, people ask where she got that bracelet or those earrings. "Michael bought it for me" invariably wins her admiration for having a husband with impeccable taste.

Here's my secret, and here's your opportunity to make your partner incredibly happy:

Yolanda Gonzalez' studio, Ma Art Space, is easy to reach from any place in SoCal. Located at 800 S Palm Ave # 1, Alhambra, CA 91803, Phone: (626) 975-4799, the sale features silver and gold wearable sculpture of Zergio Florez. Also wonderful ceramics, paintings, sculpture by worthwhile artists.

Xochitl-Julisa Bermejo Celebrates Publishing Her First Book: Posada 

I suffer from anomia so having guests to the house creates repeated chances to forget someone’s name within three seconds of meeting them. Still, recently I welcomed the prospect as the only less than felicitous aspect of hosting poet Xochitl-Julisa Bermejo’s publication party for Posada. Offerings of Witness and Refuge.

Bermejo is one of those poets who make it worthwhile to attend poetry readings. Her poetic voice is powered by a ferocious spirit that fuels thoughtful oral presentations of the poet’s words.

Listening to Bermejo read her own stuff shows an artist who respects her work. Well thought-out phrasing, clear enunciation, and forceful projection extracts all the meaning these words contain and guides the way readers approach the poet’s work.

Back in 2015 I made a promise to myself, that I would host Bermejo’s book party out of respect for an act of incredible character.

When the Association of Writers & Writing Programs announced its program for the organization’s 2016 Los Angeles AWP conference, a host of members protested the selections as exclusionary, the selection process as opaque. Poisonous words roiled relations between members and the executive director.

One member of the conference planning group, publisher Kate Gale of Los Angeles’ Red Hen Press, wrote and later retracted a diatribe. AWP disowned Gale’s position. Gale was called privileged, elitist, and out-of-touch. For Los Angeles’ writing community, Red Hen Press had sunk from exalted to pariah.

Xochitl-Julisa Bermejo would be a casualty of the pedo. Her first book had been accepted for publication by Red Hen Press. Bermejo quickly made a decision. She wrote:

Publishing with Red Hen isn’t something I can do at this point even if it is a press I’ve admired for years with writers I love and respect like Eloise Klein Healy, Doug Kearny, Veronica Reyes, and Terry Wolverton. Publishing with Red Hen isn’t something I can do at this point, if I am to have any credibility in my own community.

I must have met Bermejo at a reading shortly after she published her decision. Maybe I Facebooked my feelings. When that book finds its publisher, I told Bermejo, I will host a publication party for you. She agreed. Neither of us was being desultory. Not in the promise. Not in the acceptance. We schedule it for the weekend after Thanksgiving Day.

Saturday afternoon arrives and the gente start showing up. Latinopia’s Jesus Treviño is first on scene, to set up the lighting and camera position. Then Xochitl, to see if she could do anything? Nope, my wife loves entertaining and Barbara has everything laid out.

Rain is always welcome but not a good weather for people to drive the freeways to get to Pasadena, so a handful miss this sparkling engagement. I’d planned to do this outdoors, but Barbara knew better and she was, of course, right.

We have set up the food and beverages for buffet self-service and the layout works well. There is enough food prepared but I have supplies at the ready to whip up a few more tacos de chicharron de carne, or tostadas de ceviche. There’s nopalitos—Bermejo will read a nopales poem in their honor—pan dulce (elicits another poem), cookies and macarons, and strong hot coffee.

A montón of people arrive. I shake hands or embrace, say people’s name in welcome, and true to form, forget the names. The people from New York City. Jessica and her friend, poet Rocio whom I haven’t yet read nor heard. We shared a table at Jessica’s wedding. An aspiring novelist finds a good listener in Jesus Treviño, who recently won a National Book Award. Mario Guerrero tells me about the near-completion of his 3-D printing studio.

I smile in conversation with the scientist from Colombia and her daughter the scholar. The woman with the injured leg and the cane drove them. Later Liz Gonzales and Jorge Martin step inside. Jorge’s a sound artist whose work fascinates me and I corner him with lots of questions. Iris de Anda and her little girl arrive for a brief visit. I hope they ate. Some people stand and talk and laugh like old friends. Others pull furniture into corners and discuss Spanish phonology, cultural variance between la chicanada and other hispanoparlantes. It’s a great time whose tenor, warmth and camaraderie come from those rare few minutes of this poet reading her work.

Bermejo gave up a lot by going to Sundress Publications, out of principle and strength of character. She has to promote extra hard to get the word out. This houseparty is the poet’s ninth such reading in the past few weeks. Latinopia will have video of the reading; visit regularly to catch up.

Not that the other publisher wouldn’t have expected the same labor. Abjuring Red Hen foregoes the push that house exerts in the regional market. Red Hen’s maillist would open doors with contact names and phone numbers that are the currency of marketing. Maybe instead of nine, Bermejo would have completed twenty readings by now, and introduced hundreds more readers to her powerful, deeply moving work.

No shoulda woulda coulda. Get a copy, tell your friends. Word of mouth is the best kind of marketing.

Order directly from the publisher or via your local independent bookseller. Buy a personal copy and copies for familia and friends. Orders at the publisher through Wednesday do double duty. The money buys your copies of Posada. Offerings of Witness and Refuge, but also Sundress Publications is donating the funds to the water protectors at Standing Rock. Click here for Sundress' offer.

No comments: