Tuesday, August 08, 2017

Always Volunteer. Véa Wins American Book Award. Poetry Retreat. August On-line Floricanto

Back To School Time is Volunteer Time
Michael Sedano

Here comes another school year. Education policy failures will roll downhill in coming months in the form of shrinking money, eliminated programs, walking papers to beloved members of school communities, classroom crowding, disillusioned professionals. The schools are up against it, but they’re not in it alone. Not if you are retired or between jales. You can volunteer.

Money helps, of course,  as do reams of paper and Post-it notes. The most valuable commodity anyone has is their time. Write a check drawn on your free time, no penalty for overdrawing. Maybe you’re a former Boy Scout and you owe a decade’s worth of daily good turns. Maybe you simply want to help a kid become a capable reader. Maybe math and science are your métier. Maybe you could move chairs around and clean off bulletin boards.

Young people keep old people alive. Used to be, I walked past the joyous noises of the nearby school playground. Kid screams and games easily dumped me into reverie of my own playground days. But that’s as far as I got, reverie. Then I learned on social media that Reading Partners offered an organized approach to volunteering at that school and in a short while I was signed up and scheduled.

I got to be a Reading Partner twice a week last school year. I drew a fourth grade boy who lagged behind his classmates., but he has a good mind. He wants to read better, that is clear. The Reading Partners structured curriculum moved him along from making sounds to making sense of stories, summarizing orally and in writing. The boy grew confident in his skill and by the end of the year he was walking in and out of the classroom with his head held high and a sense of accomplishment.

And I didn't have to pay for that reward. Neither would you. It’s free. And there's that immediate gratification that comes of seeing a kid learn. Reading fluency begins with time, people sitting with a kid for extended time, listening to the kid practice, or reading a story while the kid follows along. In no time at all the kid becomes an achiever.

While my local school had Reading Partners, an Americorps program, your school might have its own volunteer program. Finding your local equivalent for Reading Partners is a simple matter of phoning a local public school and asking how to volunteer to help kids learn to read.

Reading Partners sustains a nationwide presence, perhaps in your locale? There’s a Facebook page  and an organizational website (link) where you can find details.

"Never volunteer for anything," goes a bit of conventional wisdom. That's wrong. Somewhere out there is a kid who, despite all the crud happening in school boards and federal agencies, needs only a small boost to become a reader. If you had an opportunity to be the person who provided that boost, would you? Only if you want to make a difference. Be a volunteer.

The Mexican Flyboy Earns American Book Award

Alfredo Véa has given readers an unbroken string of novels that belong in their respective year’s “Top ten” or “Best of the decade” lists of United States literary fiction, not to mention Chicana Chicano Literature. Now, an independent group of writers has singled out Véa’s most recent novel, The Mexican Flyboy, as an American Book Award winner.

In a press release, the Before Columbus Foundation explains the qualifications and process for these Thirty-Eighth Annual American Book Awards:

The American Book Awards were created to provide recognition for outstanding literary achievement from the entire spectrum of America’s diverse literary community. The purpose of the awards is to recognize literary excellence without limitations or restrictions. There are no categories, no nominees, and therefore no losers. The award winners range from well-known and established writers to under-recognized authors and first works. There are no quotas for diversity, the winners list simply reflects it as a natural process. The Before Columbus Foundation views American culture as inclusive and has always considered the term “multicultural” to be not a description of various categories, groups, or “special interests,” but rather as the definition of all of American literature. The Awards are not bestowed by an industry organization, but rather are a writers’ award given by other writers.

La Bloga is happy to congratulate The University of Oklahoma Press and author Alfredo Véa on this recognition of outstanding contribution to U.S. letters. The public awards gala will be held in October at the San Francisco Jazz Center.

The 2017 American Book Award Winners are:

Rabia Chaudry. Adnan's Story: The Search for Truth and Justice After Serial
(St. Martin's Press)

Flores A. Forbes. Invisible Men: A Contemporary Slave Narrative in the Era of Mass Incarceration (Skyhorse Publishing)

Yaa Gyasi. Homecoming (Knopf)

Holly Hughes. Passings (Expedition Press)

Randa Jarrar. Him, Me, Muhammad Ali (Sarabande Books)

Bernice L. McFadden. The Book of Harlan (Akashic Books)

Brian D. McInnes. Sounding Thunder: The Stories of Francis Pegahmagabow (Michigan State University Press)

Patrick Phillips. Blood at the Root: A Racial Cleansing in America (W. W. Norton & Company)

Vaughn Rasberry Race and the Totalitarian Century: Geopolitics in the Black Literary Imagination (Harvard University Press)

Marc Anthony Richardson. Year of the Rat (Fiction Collective Two)

Shawna Yang Ryan. Green Island (Knopf)

Ruth Sergel. See You in the Streets: Art, Action, and Remembering the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire (University of Iowa Press)

Solmaz Sharif. Look (Graywolf Press)

Adam Soldofsky. Memory Foam (Disorder Press)

Alfredo Véa. The Mexican Flyboy (University of Oklahoma Press)

Dean Wong. Seeing the Light: Four Decades in Chinatown (Chin Music Press)

Lifetime Achievement: Nancy Mercado

Editor/Publisher Award: Lost & Found: The CUNY Poetics Document Initiative, Ammiel Alcalay, General Editor

The 6th annual Mariposa Poetry Retreat provides poets and writers time and space to focus on their work in a serene setting away from the pressures and distractions of daily life.

The retreat promotes a safe and instructive environment that identifies and addresses creative challenges faced by writers of all genres.

The 2017 weekend retreat takes place at the Capital Retreat Center in Waynesboro, PA from Friday, October 6h to Sunday, October 8h and is open to writers 18 years of age and older.

Registration and lodging total $400. Meals are nut-free and kosher. Details via  Maritza Rivera, the organizer, at  mariposapoet611@gmail.com or call (520) 309-5115.

Early August On-line Floricanto
Lara Gularte, Mónica Alvarez, Paul Aponte, Irene Lipshin, Briana Muñoz

“The Old Woman's Last Days,” by Lara Gularte
“In response to the tweet that labeled my son as ‘somebody else’s baby’,” by Mónica Alvarez
“Cesar Chavez Drive,” by Paul Aponte
“Shadowlines,” by Irene Lipshin
“Barriers,” by Briana Muñoz

The Old Woman's Last Days
By Lara Gularte

The people stop on the rocky hilltop, look out at the world, watch it wane. The land drained of color, of life, the hills gray. Below them the rust-stained valley, the smell of spilled oil lingers in the air. The brown snaking river the only thing to follow. The old woman leads their way, walking days of weary distances towards mountains. They don't hear the footsteps behind them, or see human faces forming from the granite rock. Scattered by the fright of sudden movement, a flock of birds fly off.
The people make camp, build a fire. The old woman gathers fistfuls of twigs, throws her arms into the fossil moon. She stamps the ground makes small cracks appear. Her long white hair floats as she turns and spins, blurring the world around her. She needs to believe in a place beyond her mind, what her heart finds when she closes her eyes. Inside her skull, oceans and continents, forests and plains.
Men in camouflage hunt the people down. They say the old woman is a deer. They eat her.

First published in The Bitter Oleander. 

Lara Gularte was featured with an interview and 18 poems in the Autumn 2014 issue of The Bitter Oleander. Her poetic work depicting her Azorean heritage is included in a book of essays called "Imaginários Luso-Americanos e Açorianos" by Vamberto Freitas. Her work can be found in The Gávea-Brown Book of Portuguese-American Poetry. Her poems have appeared in such journals as The Bitter Oleander, California Quarterly, The Clackamas Review, Evansville Review, Permafrost, The Monserrat Review, The Water-Stone Review, The Fourth River, The Santa Clara Review, and she has been published by many national and regional anthologies. Her manuscript “Kissing the Bee,” will be published by The Bitter Oleander Press in 2017. She is an assistant editor for Narrative Magazine.

In response to the tweet that labeled my son as “somebody else’s baby”
By Mónica Alvarez

“We can’t restore our civilization with somebody else’s babies” -- Republican Iowa Congressman Steve King

Somebody else’s babies
Anchor babies
I’ve been hearing these terms
a lot lately. They take over
the news, disguised
in suits and
lively sports
segments: who won
the game today?
small dosages of intolerance
polluting our brains with
“political correctness”
Make America great again!
They take over the internet,
epidemic of hate
infecting my Facebook feed
with revelations of modern philosophers,
thoughts shared with bad grammar
and an even worse intent.
A tsunami of xenophobia
dragging us back to the
good old days
when fascism was celebrated with parades
but now
it even has its own holiday.
And I hear them say we’re aliens,
and it hurts, but I’m OK.
And I hear them say we’re illegals,
and it sucks, but I’m OK.
And I hear them say we’re criminals,
and it makes me want to scream
because I know this is not OK.
Because I see my son smiling,
telling me what he learned in social studies,
not knowing that the history book
he’s reading in class
repels the presence of brown bodies
at the core of its white,
shiny sheets.
Because I see my son excited,
telling me he wants to be a police officer
to protect the town and drive a cool car.
He wants to be an engineer
to build bridges and big buildings
enough for all the people in the city
to work, earn money to feed their families,
as he has seen his mother work daily,
as he hopes one day to contribute too…
Because he doesn’t know
he’s an anchor baby.
He was born on the land of the free
yet, he didn’t know he wasn’t free to be born here.
He didn’t know this land had been claimed,
Because the current system
force us
to prove
day by
that we have a right to be HERE,
that my son has a right to be BORN HERE.
Because he doesn’t know
he’s somebody else’s baby.
He’s an American citizen with a Mexican mom,
a hybrid heart that pumps
love and acceptance
through vibrant bicultural blood.
Because he doesn’t know he’s a threat
to the country and the flag
that he has learned to love and respect.
Because he has a tongue of fire
that can recite the pledge of allegiance
in a thick English or a playful Spanish.
Because he doesn’t know that
the pride he feels for his culture
and his mother tongue
became red flags that his teachers see
in his information chart
Because I still can’t comprehend
why my son has to fight
for the same right to the land
for the same right to education
for the same right to a future
when the white sons of republican congressmen
are naturally born with those rights and privileges.
Because I fear for the day
my son realizes
the world around him
only views him as:
an anchor baby
somebody else’s baby
a statistic
a threat
Because I want to know
how would
if your sons and daughters were labeled the same?

Mónica Alvarez is a Mexican writer whose work is committed to social justice, utilizing art as a vessel to share the stories of those who have been overlooked and silenced by the ones in power.

She holds a Master’s in Spanish Literature, and a Master’s in Interdisciplinary Studies in Mexican American Studies; and is currently working in obtaining her MFA in Creative Writing. She has participated in local literary and academic events, such as: Tercer Coloquio Estudiantil sobre lengua, literatura y creación literaria en la frontera, Los Santos Días de la Poesía, XI Congreso Binacional Letras en el Estuario, Espirales al Viento, Festiba, NACCS Tejas Foco, The International Poetry Festival, etc.

She is committed to activist work that advocates for the rights and values the cultures of her community.

Cesar Chavez Drive
By Paul Aponte

I write no poetry about this subject.
The poetry is already written.
Cesar Chavez' actions wrote it.
In his fight to unite people for a common struggle,
In his speaking for workers that couldn't speak for themselves,
In his passion to uplift those around him to continue fighting for worker rights.

.. that is how he continues to drive us,
.. that is how he lives in us

Cesar Chavez Lives!

Cesar sparks movements.
Chavez blooms poetic minds.
Lives in our own deeds.
........… our smiles.

Cesar Chavez lives
in the sorrows that continue in the lives of all people

Cesar Chavez lives
in the fight against poisoning of workers
in the struggle for safe working conditions
in the often treacherous climb to improve our lives economically
in our unity with our black brethren in preventing more
unnecessary killings
in our outraged unity when another one falls
when we take the action to write over and over again to political leaders
when we sustain the pressure about the 43 killed and the corruption that allows it
when we sustain the pressure against the government
of Arizona over their racist limited view of what
education should be

Cesar Chavez lives
He lives in the face of the child of color first arriving to the first grade class
He lives in the face of the mother that is already setting up her puestecito
He lives in the face of the father that is working the fields,
still amidst pesticides
He lives in the middle class parents that were the children of farmworkers
He lives in the grandchildren of farmworkers now getting a better education

Cesar Chavez lives
when we sustain pressure over equal pay for women
in our fight against the continued disparity and divergence in corporate vs. middle class income.

Cesar Chavez is alive
because Corky's "Yo Soy Joaquin" is alive
because Nancy Aidé González's "Virgen De Las Calles" is alive
because Francisco X Alarcón's "Mariposas Sin Fronteras" is alive
because Jose's "El Louie" is alive
because the art of the RCAF is alive
because the art and poetry of the NEW artists is alive.
.... because we are all alive. WE are here.

José Montoya, Martin Luther King, Emiliano Zapata, Malcolm X, Robert Kennedy, Cesar Chavez:

The leaders of justified outrage are alive,
if we want them to be.
If YOU let them light the fire,
that sparks your words to be heard,
that inflames your art that moves leaders to action,
that generates movement across borders,
that have the same goal as Cesar Chavez

Paul Aponte is a Chicano Poet from Sacramento. He is a member of the writer's groups "Círculo" and "Escritores Del Nuevo Sol" (Writers Of The New Sun). He has been published in the El Tecolote Press Anthology "Poetry in flight", "Un Canto De Amor A Gabriel Garcia Márquez" a publication from the country of Chile, in the Anthology "Soñadores - We Came To Dream", in "La Bloga" - an L.A. online publication, and in the "Los Angeles Review Volume 20 - Fall 2016". He was also the editor's choice in the online journal "Convergence". Very soon to be published in: Escritores del Nuevo Sol / Writers of the New Sun: Anthology. This new book includes an Escritores historical perspective by JoAnn Anglin, a forward by Lucha Corpi, many great writers/poets, and several poems by and also honoring one of its founders Francisco X. Alarcón.

By Irene Lipshin

The border is a rusted hinge that does not bend. “The Border: A Double Sonnet” Alberto Ríos, 1952

Moving to a new house,
its old hinges stuck
from years of closing
out the world,
we loosen the locks,
release the shutters.

Sunlight filters
through wide slats,
I read between
light opens darkness,
heat vanquishes the chill
of gathering tempests,
banishing the dark
backward of time.

Irene Lipshin writes with Red Fox Underground Poets in the California Sierra Nevada Foothills. She weaves universal human experiences, family stories, socio-political and environmental issues into her narrative poetry. Her work has been published in print and online journals and anthologies, including Poets Responding; Poets Against the War; We Beg to Differ, An Anthology for Peace; Because People Matter: Women Poets Speak Out Against the War; Broken Circles, A gathering of poems for hunger; a broadside, Territorio Nuevo and a chapbook, Shadowlines.
Irene’s study for a Pacific Oaks College MA in Human Development focused on Diversity, Equality and Social Justice. This life-changing practice remains a constant influence in her teaching and activism and inspired her poetry writing as Art for Social Change.

A teacher of English Language Learners, Irene integrated poetry written in English and Spanish by Poet Francisco X. Alarcon and others into the bilingual lessons. She brought the Latino Family Literacy Project to her Spanish speaking students and families, with dual language books, encouraging parents to read and speak to their children in Spanish and supporting student proficiency in both English and Spanish. She coaches students for the National Poetry Out Loud program and has organized poetry readings for Season for Nonviolence.
Irene recently read poetry in Cuba, as a member of the Delegation of American Poets, lead by Odilia Galván Rodriguez, for the Festival Internacional de Poesia de la Habana.

By Briana Muñoz

The brown, elderly woman
Somewhere around four foot nine
Waited for the bus with an umbrella, as the rain came down
Brand new cars busily bumpered by
To arrive on time
To their nine to five office jobs
Freshly detailed rims picking up gutter rain water
Splashing unto the elderly woman’s toes

Her skin like the worn leather
That was made into her woven sandals
Through her face, you could almost see
The poverty and corruption in the village that she came from.

The small elderly woman mirrored my own grandmother
Who on Christmas, slaved around our kitchen
Making us a fanciful stew called posole
My grandmother, who raised all six of her younger brothers
The same woman who began working when she was only eleven

As I slowed at the stop light
I wondered where her family was
Why no one had yet offered her a ride
I pulled over, and sat
On a bench covered in street hieroglyphics
I noticed in her shaky hand, her wrinkled bus fare

“Can I offer you a ride?”
She looked at me, nodded her head with a slight smile
And slowly moved her head back looking the opposite way
She didn’t speak my language
And when I realized, that I, too, didn’t speak hers
I just sat there and involuntarily began to cry.

Briana Muñoz is a writer from Southern California. She has had a love for writing ever since she can remember.

Her poetry and short stories have been published in the Bravura literary journal. In the 2016 publication of the Bravura, her short story “Mockingbirds” was awarded the second place fiction prize.

She has also been published in LA BLOGA, Poets Responding and in the Oakland Arts Review. Briana’s poem “Raiz” was one of ten chosen for The Best of LA BLOGA from 2015. When she isn't typing away, she enjoys traveling, live music, cats, and thrift store treasures.

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