Tuesday, February 28, 2023

After Alzheimer's: A Beginning

Back Among 'Em 
Michael Sedano 

There's this euphemism I'm going through right now, After Dementia. I am a combination Rip Van Winkle and Miranda, awakening to a brave new world after 55 years living a dream, the final five years puro nightmare. Our progressive decline got saddled with GOPlague-induced isolation. It was the worst of times in the worst of all possible worlds. 

Now comes after dementia. Unlike the disease, there's no gradual transition, no pause nor time-out. The caregiver career is done, whatever's next, you're in the middle of it now. Unskilled or anachronistic.

I have to fight off future shock from all this change coming all at once. It's going to happen to all of us living with Alzheimer's, that brave new imposition.

Getting that diagnosis, "Dementia of the Alzheimer's type" signals the start of a new career, a caregiver's life of incessant tasks and mostly doing it alone, twenty-four hours seven days. Then absolutely it's over. What to do? Where to go? No place to be. Nothing to go home to.

So go. 

Five years of grieving take a toll, and human resilience says ya basta. Mira nomás, Miranda sees it, "O brave new world to have such creatures in it!" Has the world changed much since 1968, just before I met Barbara, and I was socially competent? I was also 23 and a total mocoso.

Poets, in my case, are the such creatures in it, and their world today is the community room of Altadena Library. Except for the night Barbara entered Memory Care in 2019, I had missed every poetry reading in the world for five years.

Saturday, February 25, 2023, I stepped into the poetry reading site in Altadena, not far from my home. I took a breath; I was back. And for sure, mira nomás! There sat Peter Harris chatting with my friend Jean, who'd invited me into the world. 

Peter Harris serves as Altadena Co-Poet Laureate, with Carla Sameth, who sponsored the day's reading. The night Barbara entered Memory Care--one of the lowest points in my life--I attended a poetry reading (link) featuring Peter Harris and that pulled me up. Today I am stepping  back into the world, things are looking up. Thanks for being there, Peter. Balance has meaning.

Back in the day--pre-Alzheimer's--I had this goal to capture the perfect public speaker foto. A poet, for example, making eye contact, mouth saying something, eyes, face, hands and body in an act of eloquence and expression. In my view, Oracy is equivalent to Literacy and Numeracy as fundamental social competencies, and I want to take its picture. I used to want to do that for a living--be a speech teacher.

Every poetry reading, I get close to what I need. I need, not want, that foto. Y sabes que? I want and need to take fotos of poets. When I walked into the Altadena library it was as if five years ago was last week. But I have a camera with new capabilities. 

I was warmly greeted by Xochitl and Carla to begin the day joyfully, a big hug across the row of folding chairs, tú sabes, a joyful howyadoing. They know me. Barbara loved poetry; she hosted Xochitl-Julisa Bermejo’s publication party for Posada Offerings of Witness and Refuge (link) at CasaSedano.

Poets are good people and they welcomed me back. It is good being back, camera in hand, goals in mind: capture a reader's expressiveness, see the world as you find it.

Happily, La Bloga-Tuesday is pleased to share three of the works gente attending Altadena's Saturday reading heard, along with portraits of the poets presenting their work.

Carla Rachel Sameth

Carla Rachel Sameth
We Used to Argue Over Hearts

I called my older sister over and over again whenever I ran away. The first time, six, crossing the street to the little park—but then I couldn’t come back because I’d remember I wasn’t allowed to cross the street by myself. I sat on a pile of leaves sniffling, imagining my sister rescuing me. 

When I was a teenager, she went away to college. I’d telephone her, my complaints a steady pitter-patter or a torrent, depending on the temperature at home. 

My brother taught me how to avoid recurrent nightmares by focusing on the scariest moments before going to sleep. I was terrorized for a period of dreams about “Bunny Goo,” who was either a tall bald white man who wanted to take over the world or a sticky tar that got on the bathtub faucet and caused it to overflow. 

My younger sister gave me imaginary sleeping pills, told me just breathe and think about ocean waves and Mt. Rainer, ferry boats and sunsets over Puget Sound. She teaches meditation now. We were so young then, turning to the closet for refuge.

My dad was a high school teacher who used to say with liberty and justice for some when forced to recite the Pledge of Allegiance. He was my favorite dance partner, and I felt graceful on the floor with him at weddings and Bar Mitzvahs. My mom went out for Shirley Chisholm. She worked, went to school, and took care of the four of us plus my dad. Later, with almost all speech robbed by dementia, she found the words, God that man is repulsive when pre-2016 Trump was on television. 

I miss my mom and dad, even the fights and the television blaring news, my dad’s temper. Our stuffed animals, large, wise and plush, sat sentry, while we ran amok. Eat a thigh instead, dark meat is juicier. We used to argue over the hearts and gizzards; now no one wants those parts. 

Carla Rachel Sameth, MFA
Co-Poet Laureate for Altadena, CA 2022-2024

Noriko Nakada

Noriko Nakada

Hey Dad,

I will not be sending you this letter
because I fear that the end of this project
and the end of your life
might intersect
that the end of the pandemic
won’t come before our next visit.

I can’t remember
what we talked about the last time
I saw you in person.

I have never been away from home this long
if home is Oregon:
land of pandemic protests
fire and sacred ash
friends and family
religion and hate.

All of the reasons I stayed/left in the first place.

You know this.

You moved there despite it all
shifting our family’s proximity to whiteness
leaving me to ask myself:
Who are my people?
Where is home?
Questions embedded in my blood.

It might not have mattered
where I was born and raised.
The questions we ask might still be the same:
How is the weather?
When will I see you again?

Romaine Washington

Romaine Washington




we too

            be jazz


            sassafrassan rhythm

improvisin’ life

            and blowin’

we too

            be rubato blue






and syn/




heavy down

            beat 6/8 time


            tempo up

                        breathin’ breezy easy


            we be


            we be


            we be 


Xochitl-Julisa Bermejo

Xochitl-Julisa Bermejo

What Was Meant To Be


            After Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind


A murder of bullies menace Joel 

into hammering a dead bird. 

Deep in a boyhood memory, he’s cloaked

in a red cape. Clementine meets him there 

crowned in a pink cowboy hat. 

She reaches for his hand and says let’s go. 

Joel wants to stand up to the boys, but Clem 

says it’s not worth it. “They’re not. Worth it.” 


Still, they were always meant to break up.


You and I were never meant for more than 

a waxing moon. But the fullness of your kiss 

still glows brilliant.


You shared your Coca-Cola with me.

Took me dancing. Spun me at a concert 

in the park on a cool summer night. 

Said you couldn’t believe no one else 

had ever spun me before. True and not true. 

There was always my mother. But this. 

This was different. Wasn’t it.


Afterward, we fought mouths spitting hot in the street. Still.


If we stop right now, grab our belongings, 

and exit the vehicle, that can’t erase the laugh-scream 

that bellowed from my body as we chased a track 

spinning fast around a mountain. The path

was always set. The ride was always meant to be 



When I was little I wore tight braids 

and was told to not be a bother. I imagine 

your wild curls growing big with every harsh word

that said you weren’t enough. But for a moment. 

We reached for the other’s hand. Worth it.

Author of Posada: Offerings of Witness and Refuge (Sundress Publications 2016)
Co-founding member of Women Who Submit

Technical Notes

I use a Canon EOS Rebel SL3 body with a Canon Macro 100mm EF lens. 

All fotos exposed at f/2.8 1/250s ISO25600

New camera bodies like this SL3 have that sensitive ISO capacity that serves well in the deep dark of the library basement space. At 1/250 of a second, gestures and facial expressions hold focus without blurring, provided the hand-held guy doesn't move.

This camera also takes up to five exposures a second, offering the best chance to capture an expression-in-the-making, as well as lots of closed eyes and "just missed it" frames.

Todays readers exhibit wel-honed skills that honor their work. Poets owe themselves and their arte effective oral interpretation. 

None of today's artists do "the voice" but read with natural cadence elevated to the quality of art they make. Eye contact perpetually bedevils some readers. They actually read off the page more than they share their stuff.

I encourage poets to look at the manuscript, memorize the final words of the stanza and the first words of the next, look up and say what you've just committed to memory. Giving your audience that eye contact and personal directness not only informs your ethos for the listener, it gives the hapless photographer an extended opportunity for several frames, and maybe that magic moment of perfection!

Poets should become camera aware and speak to the lens several times. One of these days, some photographer will get the right portrait and you'll have the back cover of your next book.

For the photographer it's puro enjoyment, listening to a writer's cadences, the syntax in an expression, observing how the poet moves into and out of the page to the audience, predicting the moment in the unique expression of an unheard poem, then pressing the button.

Monday, February 27, 2023

El Día Internacional de la Mujer por Xánath Caraza

El Día Internacional de la Mujer por Xánath Caraza

El Mes de la Historia de la Mujer se celebra cada año en marzo. Cada 8 de marzo se destaca esta fecha como el Día Internacional de la Mujer para reconocer contribuciones intelectuales, políticas, familiares y de activismo social en las respectivas comunidades donde muchas mujeres viven.  La historia ha pasado por alto, olvidado, reprimido, mal informado, no reconocido los logros de muchas mujeres a lo largo de los años, de los siglos, no solo en este país sino en todo el mundo.

Gracias a la perseverancia de tantas mujeres activistas, estas voces, junto con sus aportaciones a la sociedad, han salido a la superficie y han ido ganando terreno para ser reconocidas públicamente y alcanzar igualdad. 

No en todos los países somos afortunadas de poder honrar estos logros y de reconocer a tantas mujeres que han abierto brecha para cada una de nosotras.  Muchas se han quedado en el camino, otras han experimentado desapariciones forzadas, otras, experimentan violencia doméstica, social o pobreza. Para mí es un honor poder celebrar cada año este día, 8 de marzo, el Día Internacional de la Mujer, que nunca doy por sentado.

Este 2023, para el Día Internacional de la Mujer, El Dialogue Institute, la Asociación Estudiantil de Diálogo Intercultural de la Universidad de Missouri y El Centro de la Mujer y Estudios de Género y de la Mujer de UMKC celebrarán una lectura de poesía en Zoom el miércoles 8 de marzo de 7 a 8:15 p.m. CST.

Las poetas que formarán parte de este evento son Annette Billings, Mercy Tullis-Bukhari y yo.  Annette Billings es una poeta que radica en el estado de Kansas y Mercy Tullis-Bukhari es una poeta, ensayista y narradora, además de educadora del Bronx.  Para los que no me conocen, soy poeta, narradora y traductora. 

Espero, queridos lectores de la Bloga, que disfruten de este evento para el Día Internacional de la Mujer el próximo 8 de marzo de 2023 de 7 a 8:15 p.m. CST. Habrá que registrarse por adelantado.

¡Que la poesía nos salve!

Friday, February 24, 2023


The story below eventually became Chapter 2 of my 1994 novel The Ballad of Gato Guerrero.  By then, the story had undergone significant revision.  But here's the original, or at least as much of the original that I could find after a mind-bending search of dog-eared manilla file folders, bent and dusty flash drives, and old, almost frozen computers.  I should be more organized about my writing.  Too late now?

The graphic is Mike's Pool Hall by renowned artist Emigdio Vasquez.  I bought this art many years ago from Rueben Martínez of Librería Martínez Books and Art Gallery in Santa Ana, California.  



© Manuel Ramos

Denver, Colorado, 1985

Thick smoke floated above the heads of the pool players. The sharp crack of ricocheting balls echoed in the numbing din of jukebox music, the shouts and hollers of drunken men celebrating their talent on the shabby green surfaces, and the barely audible sighs of wasted time.

Bennie watched men saunter around the pool table to the beat of Fifties rhythm and blues. He snickered and groaned each time they shot, whether the shot was made or missed, and Bennie knew he hated where he was but this was the only place he could be and he had to be good. That was what eightball was all about. If you played, make it good or don't play at all.

The Rainbow Inn's Fifth Annual Eightball Pool Classic had progressed through a dirty, dreary winter and wet, early spring to final play between Joe's Capri Lounge and the New Moon, Bennie's team of North Side oldtimers. They had outlasted a dozen teams, who now sat enviously in the bar, groggy from beer and hastily made side bets that instantly turned bad, and Bennie and his pals struggled to show why they were the best.

From the beginning of the match Bennie could feel that his team was in trouble. He split his first two games. 

Squirrel, the crazy biker who brought two guys with big biceps and filthy t-shirts for protection from the rowdies he expected to confront him in these Chicano bars, was off his game. He was stoned, that normally didn't make any difference in his shooting, but his balls were just a little slow, his stick too much on the inside of the cue ball and so his shots fell short or missed by a hair. He lost his first two games. 

The hawk-nosed carpenter, Chief, was clobbered in his first game by Ace, Chuckie Garcia, the finest shot on the West Side. He evened up in the second game, but Chief was only going through the motions. Ace had showed him how to shoot and now there was no doubt in anybody's mind who was best, yet Chief had to keep playing. He drank more beer than he should, slouched in his booth, and darkly waited for his next game. 

Fat, dependable Ray and Tony the playboy plumber won their games and at the end of the first two sets the New Moon team had the advantage. But there was trouble in the game, there was a bad feeling in the night, and they were in the Westsider's turf. Bennie toyed with the tip of his cue and absent-mindedly rubbed chalk dust in his hair when he stood to take his turn.

Bennie worried. "These fucking Westsiders always hassle you if you beat them. Their goddamn women and the punks that hang around, they're the ones. Without them we could probably make it out of here without a fight." He didn't know what would be worse, winning or losing. The crowd cheered only for the Capri players.

Bennie misplayed his roll and had no position for the eight. His young opponent, a slick, greasy guy in a shiny, blue mylar jacket with JOE'S CAPRI LOUNGE written across the back in orange script, eased the cue ball across the table, tapped the black eight ever so softly and, as it fell, whistled just loud enough for Bennie to hear. It dropped safely in the corner pocket that had eluded Bennie for most of the game. Bennie thought he heard trumpets and a hundred charging horses, but there was no cavalry for him, and he had to stretch his hand across to the winner's waiting, flat palm. He passed the twenty-dollar bill that had made the game twenty dollars more interesting. The slick kid said, "Nice game, bro," but Bennie had given it to him. Bennie answered, more for the crowd than the kid, "Sure, man. Hell of a shot."

Chief never got into his last game. He had four shots and made only two balls. Bennie hoped he would quit the team.

Tony played the best pool of his strung out, uptight life and wiped out old 'Mando. Bennie knew 'Mando was over the hill, and that was sad because Bennie could remember when the old goat was smooth as ice on a hot night. He'd made five thousand in one game and then dropped it at the dog races, but what the hell, the old man said, "I'm just a crazy viejo from the Valle, and one of these days I'm going home."
Bennie told 'Mando, "You should have left last week, guy."

Then Ray blew it. He scratched on the eight on a simple, short, straight-in shot, the kind you hate to have to make to win because they never drop, they won't fall, and you can only say stupid things like "too much green," or "too straight, man." Ray stared wide-eyed at the cue ball as it bounced around the table then rolled into the side, his pudgy fingers tightening around the stick in a strangle hold. He stood and without a word walked out the bar, climbed in his pickup and drove home where he had the worst fight of his long marriage with Helen. Someone said that Ray Charles could have made that shot, but that was long after Fat Ray had bloodied Helen's eye and she had broken his pool stick by smashing it against his beer can collection.

Ray's choke meant Squirrel had to play Ace, the man who laid it on the line in these tournaments, the man who gave no quarter to rag tag, pick up players such as Squirrel. The whole damn tournament, the months of playing every loudmouthed pool player who could afford the twenty-five bucks entry fee, the cheap beer and the Tuesday morning hangovers, the whole damn mess came down to the spaced-out Hell's Angel reject who didn't know what the score was, much less that winning the trophy was dumped right on his scrawny, pink-meated, bony shoulders.

Bennie ordered a shot and a beer and decided it was time for serious drinking. The match was over. Only the formality of losing the game remained.

Tony sat down with Bennie. "Squirrel's nowhere around. Where the hell can he be?"

Bennie said, "Out back, tokin' up. Where else? You better drag his ass in here, before we forfeit. The Capri guys are gettin' anxious, assholes." Tony walked through the back door into the alley.

Bennie could feel the sweet tension in the bar. The Westsiders knew they had the game; it was wrapped up. They wanted it to end quickly, end the suffering, start the party. Get it on, man! They gave Bennie five minutes to have his next man up at the table or that was it, brother. The end. Premature climax, no long, drawn out final act. The bartender tapped another keg and dropped five dollars in the music box. Westside, forever!
Tony slunk in and Squirrel followed, grinning from ear to ear. Tony whispered to Bennie, "That shitface didn't even know it was his turn. Too much, huh! I'll kill him if he fucks up."

Squirrel's abrupt appearance was an insult to the crowd. They had started the celebration, and now it had to be delayed because the missing player had decided to show up, finally, and they were going to have to sit through one more game, one more detour on the long road to the Rainbow Inn's trophy, one more of life's little frustrations that made a person want to cut some-thing, or at least break a few chairs. The mood was ugly.

Bennie saw his old friend Artie Reynoso walking through the haze. Artie had said he might drop by to watch the game. Bennie regretted he hadn't told him to bring a baseball bat.
"Yo, Bennie. You guys winning? I'll take a Bud." The waitress rushed by and nodded that she had heard his order.

"We're about to lose this thing," Bennie said. "Squirrel can't hold up his stick, but he has to win for the team to win. You're just in time to help me get drunk."

"We better go somewhere else, then. I don't see too many faces I know, and even fewer friendly ones. Jesus, you guys are really outnumbered." Otis and Carla, singing "Tramp," blasted from the jukebox. "These Westsiders, all they know is oldies. Christ, I wonder if they ever listen to anything that was recorded after 1965?"

Bennie knew. "That song came out in 1967, but who's counting?" Artie laughed and drank from his beer bottle. Squirrel broke the rack and the game started.

Both players were stiff, Squirrel from the cold alley and Ace from the wait. Bennie prayed that Squirrel would loosen up, at least give Garcia a run for his money. Slowly, the biker warmed up.

It was one of those games. Shots were made that wouldn't be duplicated again in five, ten years. The people who saw that game always talked about it later in shorthand, code of the streets, in language you knew if you grew up playing pool or hung around with guys from the streets. They talked about it in the joint, at the all night keg parties in the projects, and in the early morning hours when young men were coming down from the night's high, the last story before home. It was the Rainbow Inn Final, the night Ace and Squirrel squared off, that game on the Westside.

Ace was smooth, cool. He shot fast, and hard, and he knew his groove was good. But Squirrel stuck with Ace and when he got his chance he took it.

Squirrel made a bank shot off one of the side cushions and Garcia clicked his teeth. Squirrel's next shot required precise placement of the cue ball for the sharp angle needed to make the ten spin and drop in the far corner. He made it.

The crowd squirmed at each of Squirrel's shots. He had been reborn. He was slapping the hands of fate and the crowd could feel the change.

Squirrel bopped around the table, singing, "Otis, you a tramp," smirking like a goddamned clown, making shots as if he was Paul Newman. He scratched the back of his neck and shook his long, scraggly pony tail out from under his cracked, leather cap. He deliberately, slowly chalked his stick. He licked his lips at Connie, a dark-haired, tattooed member of the Chuckie Garcia fan club who only wanted to go down on Chuckie once, if she could ever get him away from Gloria Valdez.

Connie thought Squirrel was trash. "That guy makes me sick, baby. Can't you do anything about him? Look, he keeps eyeing me, giving me that baboso smile. Yech, what a creep; I wish you would do something." Her date was part-time thief, full-time cocaine freak Orlie Garcia, no relation to Ace, and he had enough beer and schnapps in him to believe Connie, something he normally wouldn't do.

Squirrel lined up for the shot that would win the game. He peered across the table at the easy lay of the cue ball and the eight and knew that he was going to make it. He could see the ball score after he gave it his slow, smooth stroke. Bennie and Artie watched with uneasy fascination; they knew he could make the shot, but they weren't sure he should.

Connie whined to her date that the gabacho was a perverted pest. "God! He's trying to make a pass at me right in the middle of the game with Chuckie."

Orlie staggered to his feet and reached for Squirrel's stick. It was his obligation, his West Side duty, to tell the honky hippie that no one could beat Ace on his own table. No Westsider would allow it. And he had to tell the guy to leave Connie alone. Drunken Orlie thought, in his twisted, shadowy way of thinking, "You can't act that way around our women." But Orlie tripped over Connie's foot and fell into Squirrel just as Squirrel pushed his right arm forward, the stick a five-foot extension of his body. The cue sliced the tabletop and left a gash a yard long.

Squirrel's arm jerked to the right. His stick slammed the cue ball and sent it flying across the table and onto the floor. Squirrel pushed the drunk off him and, as the realization of what had happened set in, he stomped on Orlie's fingers as Orlie tried to get back on his feet. Orlie squealed like a cat caught in a screen door.

Connie screamed, jumped to her feet and knocked her longneck beer bottle to the floor. Beer and glass erupted in a small explosion; Bennie recognized the pop of another one wasted. Connie grabbed a ball from the table and threw it at Squirrel with a vicious toss from only six feet away. 

Squirrel's head bounced with the force of the impact; his eyes rolled back in his head. He slowly turned to the woman, whipped his stick at her face, and cracked it across her forehead.

All hell broke loose then.


Manuel Ramos writes crime fiction. Read his latest story, Northside Nocturne, in Denver Noir, edited by Cynthia Swanson, published by Akashic Books.

Thursday, February 23, 2023

Chicanonautica: Marvel Meets Maya

by Ernest Hogan

When I posted a picture of a South American merman-like creature from an anthropology book, Prehistoric Man in the New World on Facebook, Ed Hall told me I needed to see Black Panther: Wakana Forever. I was confused. 

Then I saw a photo of Tenoch Huerta who played Namor in Mayanoid regalia. Hmm . . . 

I waited until Disney+ streamed it. I enjoy the MCU movies but have mixed feelings about them. Back in the 20th century, Marvel was one of the underdogs of pop culture, and wasn’t as corporate, and closer to folk art. Now the entity is more environment than anti-environment, as Marshall McLuhan would put it. For me, it feels weird for these comics to have become the center of our emerging global civilization. 

Also, the tendency to make Atlantis Mayan by latter-day mystics bothers me. Nobody offers any solid evidence of an Atlantis/Maya connection. Though amusing–Augustus Le Plongeon’s Queen Moo and the Egyptian Sphinx is fun, but he provides no conclusive evidence. I file this stuff with hollow earth and ancient astronaut crapola.

There’s a meme going around with Plato saying, “Atlantis was a metaphor . . .”

Fortunately, the film’s conceptualization crew had the good taste not to even use the A-word. This Namor lives in Tlalocan— a lost colony of Maya mutated by a vibranium meteor for underwater living. It actually works—they did some research and the Mayan decor is gorgeous. 

There is, however, a problem.

Tlalocan is Nahuatl, meaning “the place of Tlaloc” the Aztec rain god. That’s Aztec, not Maya. A different culture and language. This is like mistaking French for German.  A Mayan equivalent would have been Chactenango, Chac being the Mayan name for the rain god, tenango meaning place.

I also feel uneasy about DisneyMarvel’s attempts to appeal to the worldwide “Latin” (not just Chicano) audience. If you hadn’t noticed there’s been a whole lota corporate takeover of pop culture this century. I miss the days when our superheroes and mythologies weren’t corporate intellectual property.

For a long time, before the other streaming services, DisneyMarvel has been releasing its movies globally, in all kinds of languages. I guess they don’t have any preColumbian culture scholars working for them. Their reaching out to black and “Latin” audiences is a search for wider audiences and bigger profits, not the empowerment of “minorities.” 

I suppose they could do damage control by having Namor, who’s supposed to be centuries old, fighting the Aztecs as well as the Spanish, forming alliances, learning languages . . .

And also, Africa and Latin America both have folk/superhero traditions of their own . . . 

Other than that, it’s not a bad flick. The special effects are spectacular, as expected these days. It follows the epic/operatic formula of the genre, building up to a long, climactic battle where you can get up and go to the bathroom without missing any plot development, and after it all, reassurance that the sacred franchise will continue for your worshiping pleasure.

I’m already forgetting the parts that didn’t irritate me. 

Environment versus anti-environment, as Prof. McLuhan said. 

Someday soon, selected parts of our superhero mythos will be reedited into the holy book of the future, like the King James Bible.

Meanwhile, I recommend watching Santo Contra Blue Demon en Atlántida and Mistero en Las Bermudas for a little variation on this theme.

Ernest Hogan will be teaching a class, Papí Sci-Fi’s Ancient Chicano Sci-Fi Wisdom at the Palabras del Pueblo Writing Workshop, for all you Latinoid writers who dare to let loose your rasquache imaginations.

Wednesday, February 22, 2023

Jorge Tetl Argueta: Poet Laureate of San Mateo County Inaugural Celebration

Dear friends and family, 

I am honored to have been selected Poet Laureate of San Mateo County. Please join me for the inaugural celebration!

Queridos amigos y familiares estoy muy feliz de haber sido nombrado Poeta Laureado del Condado de San Mateo. Los invito a la lectura de inauguración.

Jorge Tetl Argueta


Jorge Tetl Argueta: Poet Laureate of San Mateo County Inaugural Celebration
Thursday, February 23, 2023
Daly City Public Library
John Daly Branch
134 Hillside Blvd, Daly City, CA 94014

Poetry for all!
¡Poesía para todos!

Please join us for the inaugural celebration event welcoming Jorge Tetl Argueta as San Mateo County’s 2023-24 Poet Laureate.

Jorge Argueta of Daly City is San Mateo County’s 2023-2024 Poet Laureate and their first poet laureate of Hispanic descent. He cites his ability to use poetry to create bridges among diverse communities. Argueta’s work reflects his heritage as a native of El Salvador with a number of bilingual books and poems. He teaches creative writing at elementary schools, high schools and colleges and works with young people in homeless shelters, hospitals and other challenging environments.

Argueta’s works include children’s books such as the bilingual “The Fiesta of the Tortillas/La Fiesta De Las Tortillas” and “A Movie in My Pillow/Una Pelicula en mi Almohada,” about a child with two homelands.

Argueta is the fourth poet laureate, following Aileen Cassinetto, Lisa Rosenberg and Caroline Goodwin.

Tuesday, February 21, 2023

Octavia's Insurgency on Hill Street

Michael Sedano
with Jesus Salvador Treviño interview quotations

Something genuinely exciting arrived to Pasadena's northcentral commercial desert-in-transition where a tired commercial corner with a donut shop has grown to house a couple of take-out pizza places, a Rite-Aid, an off-brand gas station. Energy sparks here with three places to eat a snack or a meal, a clothing place, and do yoga.

Now, there's a bookstore. 

Any bookseller is a literary treasure meriting a community's support. Octavia's Bookshelf is not "any bookseller," which the store's driving force, Nikki High, illustrates in these excerpts from a video documentary coming soon to Latinopia. The interviewer is Jesus Salvador Treviño, himself a driving force behind a cultural treasure, Latinopia, the documentary-of-record site for raza cultura.

"Octavia's Bookshelf is a local Black woman-owned bookstore that prioritizes Black, Indigenous, and people of color authors."

"you're going to find genres from children's books to young adult science fiction, cookbooks, womanist novels, non-fiction, romance. You'll find it all here. We have our classics like Toni Morrison, Toni Cade, Bambara, of course, Octavia Butler herself has many books here, Audre Lorde. These are all women that have inspired me throughout my life, but we'll also have new authors and local Pasadena authors." 

An "available" space next to Octavia's Bookshelf welcomed a cornucopia of gluten-filled snacks, along with a genial emcee looking for an excuse to give stuff away and add fun to an already exhilarating event. 

Ay de mi, a new bookstore! And it's right here in the neighborhood. As it should be, local authors flocked to owner Nikki High to offer copies of their books and relate the possibilities of holding readings. CasaSedano's LivingRoom Floricantos, now enhanced with Octavia's Bookshelf readings, certainly adds a literary cachet to this section of town, que no?
"Octavia Butler was a local to Pasadena science fiction writer. She started writing science fiction in the '70s, maybe before, but Kindred was published in 1979(link), although she had been working on it for quite some time. Octavia Butler wrote books that challenged you to look at what we're doing to the climate globally, what could potentially happen politically. She talked a lot about race subjects that were really uncomfortable to talk about in some spaces during that time. She was brave enough to write very strong characters that were Black women. She was really just a pioneer in that space. She often said that she wasn't really a science fiction writer. People just didn't know what to do with her, so they put her books in sci-fi, but she calls herself a histo futurist "

Pasadena nurtures diversity in mostly hidden ways. The city's "black section" lines the eastern rim of the Arroyo Seco. There's a hazy border between the Mexican / Centroamericano neighborhoods that extend from the Arroyo to Lake Avenue's commercial strip, gerrymandering along the freeway to Chihuahita on the Southeast side, ironically bordering tony San Marino.

Any number of raza, black, asian, persian, armenian familias live within walking distance of Octavia's Bookshelf, but this being Califas, most will drive to the  corner here, stop at Rite-Aid and buy a donut while there. Now Domino's Pizza customers can call in a pick-up order and stop by Octavia's Bookshelf for something to read while dining. 

Octavia's Bookshelf fills a storefront two doors north of the incredibly popular--it's the only sit-down eatery within miles--Millie's breakfast all day Café. Foot traffic should provide nice cash flow, if not from literature then the paper ephemera and other stuff booksellers offer nowadays.

"you can support my bookstore by coming to visit and purchase books often. You can support me and the bookstore and the work that we're doing here by talking to your friends about the bookstore and encouraging them to come and take a visit. You can support me by sharing information about the store on your social media accounts, and I truly do have books for everybody"

People want to see themselves in their books and when there's a dearth of that, people watch teevee and complain about lack of representation there. Those people need what Octavia's Bookshelf stocks, verdad?
The neighbors, mostly unmasked these days, lined up shoulder-to-shoulder, standing for an hour inching forward toward the door.

Octavia's Bookshelf •   (626) 392-4068

1361 N Hill Ave, Pasadena, CA 91104

I am going to have author signings. I'm going to have book signings. I'm going to have Meet the Author events. I'm doing some private events for organizations and churches and other local groups to come in and have private shopping events. I'm also connected with the Octavia E. Butler Magnet School.  

"Resist!" still is the watchword of the day across the nation. 

A bookstore like Octavia's Bookshelf is resistance. Nikki High isn't raising any barriers nor barricades, she's opening doors and welcoming book buyers who'll find in one place books that most booksellers tell you are "hard to sell" or "hard to find." 

Resist that caca and head out to my neighborhood to Octavia's Bookshelf. Órale, look both ways before you J-walk to Octavia's Bookshelf. People around here are diverse and generally nice y todo, but they drive like crap around bicyclists and pedestrians.