Tuesday, June 18, 2024

Twisted Tales from Texas

Review: Daniel Chacón. The Last Philosopher in Texas: Fictions and Superstitions. Houston: Arte Publico Press, 2024. ISBN: 978-1-55885-993-7

Michael Sedano

Daniel Chacón's The Last Philosopher in Texas (link) gives every writer permission to write whatever the heck springs to mind out of one's imagination, organize their writerly scribbles into a mass, and make a book out of them. There's one proviso: stuff has to be good reading. It helps if you have a febrile imagination and the ability to find a portal where ideas turn themselves into words on a page.  


Good reading takes good writing, which Chacón lavishes upon his readers in a sweet set of sentiments subtitled "Fictions and Superstitions". The Last Philosopher in Texas offers readers Fictions, an amalgam of one-pagers of crystallized events and moments, mixed with longer form writing of perplexities, and the short paragraphs called Superstitions. 

 

Readers will call the collection fun, and while that's enough, the collection's ethos grows out of a world of strained social relationships, people falling in and out of love and lust, couples breaking up, last chances, and broken memories. 

 

Individual personae might be male or female, straight or gay. They're raza middle-class tipos, college graduates, they come from and are of familia, and they're fitting into the world of work and love and marriage.

 

There's not a happy person in the book. Chacon's characters are caught in circumstances, some of their own doing.  

 

There's magic, too, that directs the trajectories of characters' actions, a magic that's like a portal into a different dimension, or where  broken or false memories leave a character dumbfounded with what should have happened but doesn't. Or does.

 

There's no single good reason to pick up Last Philosopher, other than having fun. Take a typical Chacon story, "Wonder Bread". It's a True story, says the introduction, pulling your leg. A fastidious fellow cuts a bologna sandwich with a sharp knife. A divagation briefly explains why he's using a sharp knife. Fellow adjusts cheap eyeglasses. A divagation and we learn why cheap eyeglasses. Holding the knife, our hero reaches for the slipping eyeglasses and blinds one eye with the pointed knife. Since the story's in the Fresno sticks there's a delay getting medical help. Jump in time now the hero's ashamed of the scar and eyepatch. Jump back in time to when he returns from the hospital. The sandwich has disappeared.

 

That's the story and it's true.

 

My favorite fiction is the ingenious "Authentic Mexican Food." It's not about cooking but shifting perspectives and simultaneous identities. A professional woman chooses a touristy place to eat, notices the women dressed in folklorico blouses making tortillas in the window. The woman goes into a dream of scholarly achievement while imagining herself a tortillera dressed in folklorico traje. The story ends with the point of view of a tortilla-maker as we realize the academic has switched identities and takes her place in a window making tortillas.

 

Another character imagines a girlfriend from más antes. He runs into her on a deserted block during the pandemic. He wants to catch up on all those years and the woman goes "huh?" It's not that she shares no memory with the fellow, it's that his memories are, to her, totally false and he either imagined what the woman denies, or he's gone through a portal into a different dimension where those thoughts are irrelevant.

 

The title fiction is the book's final story, and the most "finished" fiction in the collection. The story also highlights a singular flaw that mucks up the lives of many characters, alcohol. A fellow with a BA in Philosophy takes a job flipping burgers in a woebegone Texas waystation between here and there. 

 

He's a local celebrity, "the philosopher," people call him. The Philosopher walks into a bar... is how many a joke starts. In this story the philosopher walks into the bar to the loud greetings of "here's the philosopher!" and he talks philosphy with these rural Texans, earning him free drinks. So he drinks them. And he drinks some more. He fries his brain. The story wraps with the philosopher confessing his love for a beautiful homeless vato and the two of them go off into the sunset to live happily ever quien sabe.

 

No one is going to accuse Daniel Chacon of writing happily perverse stuff, not until they've read all the happily perverse stuff that makes up The Last Philosopher in Texas. Readers should be concerned for these people--they are not well off nor happy--but the writer sloughs off the care and woe behind humor, trickery, and the reader's enthusiastic curiosity to see what's going to happen in the next fiction or superstition.

 

Monday, June 17, 2024

PRESENTACIÓN DE LOS LIBROS _CORAZÓN DE AGUA_ Y _TEJERÁS EL DESTINO_ por Magdalena Flores Márquez

PRESENTACIÓN DE LOS LIBROS _CORAZÓN DE AGUA_ Y _TEJERÁS EL DESTINO_ por Magdalena Flores Márquez

 


La centenaria Benemérita Escuela Normal Veracruzana “Enrique Conrado Rébsamen” se fundó en la ciudad de Xalapa, Veracruz, México, en 1886, con el fin de formar profesores desde una enseñanza integral y ciudadana. A través de diferentes reformas educativas, en el presente, herederos de esa historia de innovación pedagógica, la Oficina Programa de Lectura, donde laboro, se empeña en enriquecer una cultura lectora dentro y fuera de nuestro espacio, a partir de la lectura, la escucha atenta, el diálogo y la interacción como personas, grupos y comunidad.



En la medida en que la lectura sea un acto voluntario de pensar y actuar, que genere diálogo a partir de lo que se lee, la vida entra a las aulas conformando identidades personales y culturales, en contextos diversos, promoviendo diferencia de opiniones sobre el mismo texto, la contrastación de lecturas, así como la posibilidad de argumentar y de llegar a acuerdos, incentivando además el gozo de la sensibilidad y la apreciación artística. 



Por ello, entre nuestras acciones se encuentra el acercamiento a novedades editoriales, a la poesía en este caso, al presentar la última producción de Xánath Caraza, quien ha recibido a lo largo de su fecunda trayectoria, diversos reconocimientos y logrado un reconocido lugar en las letras.



El pasado día 10 de junio, en colaboración con la Universidad de Missouri en la Ciudad de Kansas, se presentó ante un nutrido grupo de estudiantes, docentes y público en general, en primer lugar, el poemario Corazón de Agua, del que se ha dicho que brinda al lector observaciones sensoriales personales, como referencias a procesos sociales como el confinamiento, vinculada a ciclos naturales, ecológicos.





El segundo poemario, Tejerás el destino, sigue el continuo interés de Caraza por volver a sus raíces mexicanas, en este caso prehispánicas, al centrarse en la figura de Macuilxochitzin, poeta azteca que tejía con sus palabras el destino de una cultura, de las hazañas de sus hombres, pero sobre todo plasma sus sentires de mujer, hija, cronista, esposa y madre, legando una visión del mundo del siglo XV mesoamericano.




 

Friday, June 14, 2024

Growing Intentionally via Systemic Thinking (GIST)




Today's guest contributor is Frank Dávila, educator, writer, and co-founder of the Colorado Alliance of Latino Mentors and Authors (CALMA.) His essay explores "personal engagement in a conscious manner."

_________________________


Growing Intentionally via Systemic Thinking (GIST)

A Conscious Awareness Approach

Frank S. Dávila, PhD

Introduction

Have you ever wondered where you would be at this very moment if you had chosen a different profession or career? You are not here by accident. You made a choice to pursue a career or your passion or simply to follow a new and exciting experience. And if you didn’t take any initiatives to find your best pathway, that too was a choice!

Once you landed on the selected path, you sought ways to prepare yourself with the skill sets and possibly seek certification to be accepted and recognized in your chosen field.

At this point, after years of work and experience, the realization to consciously review your current state has surfaced as a priority. The opportunity to respond to your inner thoughts and self-reflection or to ignore them, becomes a pivotal point that will serve to further clarify whom you have become. It has to be a conscious decision that gives you permission to manifest who you are and what you can freely and consciously contribute as you continue to grow.

I remember attending an arts opening and chatting with a fellow board member when her MD husband came over to say hello. I told him I had undergone a sonogram and I needed to have my gall bladder extracted. He looked at me and raised his glass of Merlot and said: “Frank, I can do that, and I am damn good!”

I share that because we are amazing leaders and professionals who do not need to take a backseat to anyone. Yet, some of us shy away from openly sharing our skills and background perhaps thinking we are not as prepared, intelligent or as polished as others around us.

We should take pride in our accomplishments, obviously in a manner that is not ostentatious. Being consciously aware of our presence and gifts can be beneficial if we develop an approach that is amiable and inviting.

To better illustrate being consciously aware, think of when you hear or see a baby cry in pain or when you are in a car accident. At that very moment, nothing else matters! You are fully conscious of the present situation. You devote your attention to finding a solution.

And then think of instances where you are chatting with a friend or colleague while simultaneously responding to a text message. Or perhaps you are having lunch with friends and you didn’t notice that they just asked you a question.

The contrast is quite vivid. Have you zoned out at your work place or with your career or in your daily life? Do you sense that at times you are walking through the day, checking off the tasks completed but not stepping back and reflecting on the impact of your work? Are you consciously and intentionally involved in you and your productivity?

Some of the traits that demonstrate your personal engagement in a conscious manner include a higher degree of confidence, advocacy, forward thinking, problem solving, and being goal oriented.

When you are conscious of your surroundings and the multiple seamless layers that are interlaced in your day, you begin to understand the complexity of what tools you need, to improve your personal skills, increase your overall productivity, and to find the satisfaction and inner pride that lifts your spirit. That knowledge base increases your confidence since you are no longer frequently surprised by unforeseen circumstances.

Advocating for oneself is paramount. You are and will always be your best advocate.

Growing Intentionally via Systemic Thinking (GIST)

This acronym, GIST, is one way in which we can check our current and personal readiness as we meet our daily challenges. There are numerous pathways we encounter as we search for the optimum approach that best describes and resonates with who we are and desire to become. Do you get the “gist” of what I am saying?

Growth Factor

Some striking examples to best understand growth is to look at ways that prevent us from growing or moving forward. At times we simply trudge along, laboriously, with depleted energy, exhausted and frustrated. Our goal is to survive the day or a specific event. Other times, we are distracted or disinterested and choose to stay on the sidelines, not wanting to fully engage in a project or in an activity. In the military, there is a command that is called “mark time,” where the troops simply move the left and then the right foot up and down, striking the ground, but not moving. They are waiting for the command to march or to halt. Can you think of instances when you are just “marking time?”

On the positive side, we are growing when we sense the passion and vigor of the fruits of our labor. We feel our mind and soul being stimulated and with renewed energy to pursue even greater heights. When we describe what we are doing, our smile and demeanor exudes that inner pleasure and contentment as we share what we have accomplished.

Our growth reflects our personal quest to seek new adventures and opportunities with clarity, focus and relevancy. We set goals and look forward to new pathways. It is imperative to build a mindset to accept trials and tribulations as growth pieces that strengthen our personal armor. Although it can be challenging and unsettling, it will be an uplifting experience once we reach our goal.

Intentionality

Being intentional describes a manner in which we undertake a role or project with purpose and an outcome in mind. You can sense a heighten desire or “ganas” behind the inclinations, ideas, and projects you are wanting to conquer. It is a deliberate step that aligns with your feelings and emotions. I have friends and family members who have committed to the grueling task of a Marathon, Triathlon, or Ironman. The initial gains come relatively easy and then the next phases test one’s determination and grit. That inner drive to purposefully and intentionally stay the course becomes a consuming force.

When there is no genuine intent present in our efforts, complacency and stagnation will set in and our viewers will realize our heart is not fully committed to the task at hand. The initial momentum we created will tend to fizzle out if we do not intentionally pursue our dreams or projects with a sustainable approach that is dynamic and energized.

Systemic

Taking a systematic approach involves identifying and appraising all contributing factors that become our guiding steps supporting our vision and mission. We set benchmarks with timely and relevant adjustment steps to measure how much we have grown. It is further essential to set concrete steps to reach our projected goals. This piece of the GIST process is by design an incremental process that tests your current strengths and capacity to explore and identify new and productive avenues.

Thinking Process

As we think how these four areas interface with each other, we become more attuned and observant of our work and approach. We may realize we need to shed some personal habits that diminish our effectiveness. Thinking about our work and efforts will help us search for building blocks that will lead to a transformative mindset and process. Pausing to reflect and renew our personal growth will help us understand the core essence of what we want to accomplish.

Consider the GIST in your personal life!
_____________________

Dr. Frank Davila, published author and co- founder of CALMA, is a retired public-school educator having served as a teacher, administrator at various levels, a university instructor, and state director of second language programs. He has a passion for writing essays on a variety of topics.

Thursday, June 13, 2024

Chicanonautica: Cherchezing the Whither Goest Thou American Weirdness

by Ernest Hogan

 


The spring flowers died. Hello, triple digits. Memorial Day. Summer . . .


Emily and I hadn’t had any days off together for a while. But now, two in a row, we were thinking the same thing: Road trips! Pretend we’re playing hooky.


Besides, I was feeling cooped up. Needed to go out, see what the hell was going on. Cherchez the whither goest thou America weirdness . . .



Election signs finally began to pop up in Phoenix. A guy named Tony Rivero claims to be PROVEN CONSERVATIVE, REPUBLICAN, and TRUMP ENDORSED. Trent Franks self-proclaims being PRO-TRUMP PRO-TRUMP PRO-TRUMP promising to DEPORT ILLEGALS NOW! NOW! NOW! Abe Hamadeh’s signs have TRUMP APPROVED across the top, and often near them are other signs with pictures of him in a white toga and crediting him with saying “AMERICA WAS FOUNDED ON ISLAMIC PRINCIPLES.” 


According to news stories, the picture was taken in Mecca and the signs were paid for by Trent Franks.


These triggered futuristic flashes of Muslims for Trump rallies and brown folks wearing MAGA gear so they don’t get nabbed by deportation squads . . .



At a gas station, a white homeless guy didn’t talk, just stood and stared.


At a bus stop, a young black woman in an African/Mideast-style dress had headphones over her colorful scarf. I wonder what kind of music she was listening to?


All these dueling alternate universes. A good theme song would be Dueling Banjos played on thermamins.


Then, one candidate declaring himself to be a Democrat . . .


Off the 202, heading east, a billboard: LEGALIZE FREEDOM/GOD & COUNTRY.


Further on, a brown guy with a bullhorn blasted unintelligibly about something or other.



Eventually, the urban sprawl melted into desert with flower-crowned saguaros, and fire scars healing.


Another sign: WE THE PEOPLE ARE PISSED OFF.


Further along: SECURE THE BORDER.


Finally, we came to Cypress Stewart Road, near Payson. A wonderful place to hike. Nature, with parts of the town leaking in, melting through the trees and hills. Big, fat lizards everywhere. Look out for the slippery gravel.


After tacos at La Sierra, we went to an antique store where Em bought some stuff. I took pictures of an invisible Mexican, a typewriter, and other artifacts of fading 20th century civilization.



Along Fossil Creek Road we saw a giant skeleton and a wooden eagle. Down the 260 a motorcycle whizzed past us. The passenger held a flapping American flag. The landscapes looked Martian along the 17.


The next day, we took off bright and early to have breakfast at the Coffee Pot in Sedona. I’m getting addicted to their huevos rancheros.


The election signs there had pictures of smiling women.


We hiked near Schnebly Hill Road, until it seemed too hot and colors got psychedelic.


Was the sign for a CONSTITUTIONAL CONSERVATIVE named Zipperman running for the Arizona Senate real?



There was another Zipperman sign as we entered Prescott. And a Trump flag on a tractor.


We checked out some of the surviving antique stores. Did the pandemic kill them off? Or did they just move? Can’t shake that postapocalyptic vibe.


Then, in the Peregrine Book Co., while we were signing a petition to pull Arizona’s abortion laws out of the dark ages, we found out that Trump was found guilty on all 34 counts in the hush money trail.



We checked the news. It was real. And there were no riots, or dancing in the streets.


Businesses in the conservative-leaning town were playing Bob Dylan songs.


The Memorial Day flags, being kept up for the 4th of July, took on a new meaning.


In a few days a Jewish female scientist/engineer was elected president of Mexico. I guess all things are possible.  And this summer of weirdness hasn’t officially started yet . . .



Ernest Hogan will be teaching his Gonzo Science Fiction, Chicano Style class again. online for the Palabras del Pueblo Writing Workshop in the fall.

Wednesday, June 12, 2024

Magic: Once Upon a Faraway Land

Written and Illustrated by Mirelle Ortega



Publisher: Harry N. Abrams 
Language: English

Hardcover: 40 pages

ISBN-10: 195183657X

ISBN-13: 978-1951836573

 

In Magic: Once Upon a Faraway Land, her acclaimed debut as author and illustrator, Mirelle Ortega shares her own story of growing up near her family’s pineapple farm in Mexico, where she learned the true meaning of magic.

 

A 2023 Pura Belpré Youth Illustration Honor Book

 

Growing up on a pineapple farm in Mexico, a girl discovers the true meaning of the word magic in this truly magical picture book about change and transformation of all kinds—what we can’t control, such as natural disasters and loss, and what we can. Magic can transform dirt into pineapples, seeds into trees, wool into blankets, words into stories, blank pages into pictures and stories into book.



 

Magia: En una tierra muy lejana



Escrito e ilustrado por Mirelle Ortega

 


Publisher: Vintage Español 

Language: Spanish

Hardcover: 40 pages

ISBN-10: 1644737957

ISBN-13: 978-1644737958



Libro de Honor de los Premios Purá Belpré en ilustración

 

En su debut como autora e ilustradora, Mirelle Ortega comparte su historia, empezando por la finca de piñas de su familia en México, donde aprendió el verdadero significado de la magia.

 

Aprendí que la magia no es buena ni mala, simplemente es. A veces da, a veces quita. A veces la vida florece, a veces se marchita.

 

Una niña que crece en una finca de piñas en México nos descubre el verdadero significado de la palabra magia en este libro ilustrado, un volumen verdaderamente mágico sobre el cambio y la transformación —tanto sobre aquellas cosas que no podemos controlar, como los desastres naturales y las pérdidas, como las que sí están en nuestro poder. La magia puede transformar la tierra en piñas, las semillas en árboles, la lana en mantas, las palabras en historias, las páginas en blanco en imágenes.

 

 

Mirelle Ortega is a Mexican illustrator and writer for kidlit and Animation based in Los Angeles, CA. She's created covers for award winning middle grade series such as FROM THE DESK OF ZOE WASHINGTON, CECE RIOS and LOVE SUGAR MAGIC, artwork for acclaimed chapter books series such as THE MYTHICS, VOTE FOR EFFIE and MERMAIDS ROCK, and vibrant illustrations for picture books like SMALL ROOM, BIG DREAMS, PEPE AND THE PARADE and her author/illustrator debut MAGIC: ONCE UPON A FARAWAY LAND.



Tuesday, June 11, 2024

Shifter, What You Think It Means

 Review: Emma Pérez. Testimony of a Shifter. Houston: Arte Público Press, 2023.
ISBN: 978-1-55885-979-1

 

Michael Sedano

 

Speculative fiction writers expect a lot of imaginative cooperation from readers in exchange for a good story. Readers pick up a book like Emma Pérez' Testimony of a Shifter (link), expecting  at minimum, to be entertained and, in the best cases, provoked into discomfort by satirical elements inherent in "what-if" scenarios.

The story starts in 2058. Set in a place much like the United States, in a world where people are born male, female, or gender-shifters, into a racist classist society run amok in the hands of "the Impresario", a small-handed caricature of immense power and pedophilia.

 

Pérez does a good job restraining a satirist's impulse to pile on the parallels between the  dystopic leader of 2058, and a television impresario running for president of the u.s. in 2024. The parallels are telling and won't be missed even in a fast page scan.

 

The author's exaggerations don't stray far from actual events, like rounding up shifters, caging captives, separating children from adults. Read "immigrants" for "shifters" and there's nothing dystopic about the world of Testimony of a Shifter.

 

Viruses and an ongoing "woke war" have brown and black people, most of them shifters, on the losing end of health care and repressive law. One of the book's most horrid scenes depicts wholesale slaughter of ordinary people in the wrong place. This is a world where armed rebellion offers feeble opposition.

 

Pérez keeps the story compact. Coming in at under 200 pages, the novel threads plots about sexuality, power, armed intrigue, and magic. When one or another thread gets unruly, the author relies upon the testimony of the title to transition into new developments and twists.

 

Testimony of a Shifter comes from a prisoner, a captive of the assassination plot that unfolds with the Shifter, who begins the book as Ben but spends most of the plot as Alejandra, or Alex.

 

Poor Alex. She's not attractive--that's still a value in this dystopia--but Ben is handsome. Ni modo (he she is bilingual which is a crime), Alex has friends in the highest places of the revolution. Those friends don't explain much as they lead Alex into some deep caca, and she has no idea what's going to happen.

 

Readers find themselves as surprised as Alex as the rebellion unfolds before their eyes. It's part of the fun of letting the events take over, and, with this topic, allowing the author's license to envision what physical gender transmutation looks like:


The guards had a kid shifting on a slab of metal in the middle of the room, where they got on top of her and started doing things to her. Ugly sex things that she didn't want but, soon enough, she'd shift and become a boy with boy genitals. Then, they'd turn him over and someone else would get on the slab and do ugly sex things, and the boy genitals would shift back to girl genitals. The White Guards would repeat it again and again. The guards prodded and poked to see how many times they could get a shifter to transmute in an hour.

 

Readers coming to the novel for lurid sex things will find passages to titillate their imaginations, but not many. Testimony of a Shifter isn't for that reader. Readers looking for contemporary speculative fiction that entertains while engaging all manner of political and social responses find it in Testimony of a Shifter.

 

I'm not entirely satisfied with the book's revolution. Pérez' depiction of rebel leaders as cold manipulators has a feel of genuineness. I'm satisfied the Impresario gets a pocketful of justice. I'm not satisfied the repressive status quo simply replaces itself and the rebels achieve no substantive change. I'm dissatisfied the author opens a magical portal to a different dimension and that's the only way Shifters find peace, by disappearing.

 

Gente, we can't let it get this bad. You don't have to read Testimony of a Shifter to understand the necessity for decisive voting, but reading the novel doesn't hurt, either.

 


Friday, June 07, 2024

Connecting with Poets over Zoom

Melinda Palacio, Santa Barbara Poet Laureate


 


While the world has opened up since the pandemic, one of the lasting boons is the ability to zoom and interact with people worldwide. The experience cannot replace an in person gathering, but zoom works well for a lecture format, along with questions and answers. I must admit, it’s taken me a while to warm up to zoom poetry readings. Only a month ago, Amanda Gorman was offering the audience tips on how to show their appreciation for poetry. She gave the snapping of fingers as an example or the audible moan, similar to enjoying a yummy piece of cake as acceptable ways to respond to poetry at a reading. 

 

In a zoom room, the microphone is turned on only for the poet. The audience does more talking than during an in-person event. I find all the chatter distracting, especially if I am the one who is presenting. I want to continue with my set but I also want to know what everyone is saying in the chat. Usually, people are praising the reader or poet, writing down words or phrases that linger in the ear. I think I am old fashioned and want people’s undivided attention. Even as a listener, I want to hear the poet and not have my attention divided by reading the praises of friends in the audience. In my ideal zoom room, a moderator would limit or open comments on the chat for a specific time period when the poet is not presenting their work. Perhaps, a few minutes in between the poems or at the end, the chat can be available for everyone?

 

Over the Memorial Holiday Weekend, I attended the Mission Poetry Series via zoom and the poetry was amazing and featured Inaugural Poet Richard Blanco and the Alta California Chapbook prize co-winners Fred Arroyo and Amelia Rodriguez; their winning chapbooks are available through Gunpowder Press. While the poems were stellar, I have to say I was equally moved and impressed by the Q&A that followed the poetry reading. A strong discussion on reading your work aloud before and after it is printed ensued. Someone asked if the poets read their work aloud while composing and the answer was unanimous. 

 

Amelia Rodriguez said she always reads her finished poems aloud. “You have to read it for the music,” she said. “If you don’t read your poems aloud, they exist in this insular world where they never get better. For her, the sharing and reading to other people is an important part of the poem writing process. 

 

Richard Blanco talked about the importance of feeling the poem in your body when you read it out loud. For him, the act of reading a poem aloud speaks to poetry’s oral roots. When he was writing the inaugural poem for President Obama, he started paying attention to the sound of his poem. “It has to come through the ear,” he says. “Take anyone’s poem and read it out loud, you will understand something different about it. We always say show don’t tell to ground to ground your work in the details and five senses. 

 

Fred Arroyo fell in step with Amelia and Richard. He said he reads everything out loud, including reading of other poets. He does a lot of walking with his manuscript in hand and edits as he walks. “If I find anything that is not singing right, hitting the ear right, then after the reading, I go back and revise the manuscript.”

 

I find that the idea of making sure there is music in a poem is what can turn a good poem into a great. Poets will spend an extraordinary amount of time searching for the right word, the word that will convey a precise meaning while making you want to bob your head or tap your foot or melt into your seat because the words sound so good together. 

 

The Mission Poetry Series, in its 15th season now is a Santa Barbara treasure. Emma Trelles, Santa Barbara’s 9th Poet Laureate does a wonderful job with the series. I remember early days of the Mission Poetry Series, when it was run by Paul Ferricano and Sister Susan at the Mission. The Memorial Day holiday was well spent at the Mission with the I Madonnari Festival. This year was the first time poetry was included in the I Madonnari Festival. However, due to short notice I was the only poet available to read. On Sunday, I read for fifteen minutes in front of the stage as it was being cleared for the next high school band to perform. Reading in front of people sitting with their picknick or passing by with their churros and hot dogs as they carried on loud conversations was challenging, but there were several people listening and I was happy to keep going. On Monday, I read “Arroyo Burro” from my book, How Fire Is a Story, Waiting, at the festival’s ceremony which was dedicated to the late Margie Yahyavi who was on the City’s Arts Advisory Council and an important member of our community.  

 

For more discussion on the crafting and reading of poetry, come to the Santa Barbara Writers Conference next week. Poetry is in the spotlight this year with an all-laureate panel, featuring eight Santa Barbara poets laureate, poetry workshops all week and poetry presentations before the evening speakers, as well as workshops and lectures in all genres. The Santa Barbara Writers Conference honors Perie Longo, who has been running the poetry program for 40 years.  

 

This week’s poem is one I wrote about the Mission’s Bell for the Creative Community’s TV Santa Barbara episode, featuring poems about the Santa Barbara Mission. 


*this column was previously published in the Santa Barbara Independent

 

The Old Mission’s Bell

By Melinda Palacio

 

 

Me llamo Santa Barbara.

I am a discarded bell,

too old to ring the days away.

I carry my city’s name.

Me llamo Santa Barbara.

 

Santa Barbara, discarded bell.

Santa Barbara, dethroned saint, calendars say.

Santa Barbara, city of the Old Mission,

Santa Barbara, twin bell towers, red.

 

Red to mimic near mountains and sky,

setting in sun-shimmering gloria.

 

From my round capped home, see

the ocean, a holy shade of blue, beyond

San Nicolas, once home to another

lost woman, christened Juana Maria.

 

Saint Barbara, imprisoned in a single

tower with a trinity of windows,

discarded, discalced, but revered.

 

Your bare feet never walked

on smooth adobe floors. Your

robes never soaked in spouting

water from a bear totem, our

Chumash lavanderia.

 

No worries for red skies or red roses.

Your name remains.

This old Mission holds your head true,

namesake of sword and palm.

Me llamo Santa Barbara.