Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Self-interview as Letras Latinas update (aka The Pivot)


LETRAS LATINAS has made a pivot.

What do you mean?

Notice, for example, that this year we did not announce a 2014/2015 season, as we have done in years past. Last year’s “season” bordered on insane for its sheer number of events: 17! 

Are you not doing anymore events?

Far from it. But we’re being far more restrained in our reach. Our focus will continue to be Washington, D.C., though perhaps with less frequency 
(A private literary salon for Laurie Ann Guerrero on May 1; 
Tim Z. Hernández at the Library of Congress on May 6, for example)
and events on campus.

So what’s the pivot?

Our students. That’s the lens we see things through now while asking the question: Will it enrich our students?

But yesterday (October 28, 2014), you seemed to hint coyly at some big splash a year from now, that would involve, let’s see: Rosa Alcalá, Carmen Giménez Smith, Roberto Tejada, and Rodrigo Toscano…..What was that all about?

Our students.

How so?

The graduate MFA poetry workshop will be adopting Angels of the Americlypse, and so we’re inviting Rosa, Carmen, Roberto, and Roberto to come to campus for two full days of activities—mostly to benefit our students. That will be Letras Latinas’ big ticket item that term.

And so what’s with the photograph up above of that dude smirking in front of what appears to be some colorful window display?

Oh, that’s Paul.

Paul? 

Well, the students in my Latino/a Poetry Now class so enjoyed Dan Vera’s visit on September 10 that I decided to ask Paul Martínez Pompa, who’s just in Chicago, if he’d be willing to come for a night in order to visit my class. I’ve been teaching his work (from The Wind Shifts and from his Andrés Montoya Poetry Prize-winning My Kill Adore Him) and I thought it’d be cool for them to meet and ask Paul questions about his work.

And?

It was great. He arrived last night. I put him up on campus for a night, and this morning he was our special guest. My students had each drafted some questions, and so we had a nice extended  Q & A punctuated with Paul reading a poem at regular intervals.

Then I took Paul to lunch, and we were joined by Letras Latinas Associate and MFA candidate  Ae He Lee, who confided in me afterwards how enriching it was to talk poetry with Paul over a meal.

Anything else?

Not really, except: if you look at that window display Paul’s standing in front of, you’ll notice, just to the left of him, and underneath the Speaking Wiri Wiri poster for Dan Vera’s reading, two gems from our small press publishing past?

Small Press Publishing Past?

Momotombo Press. Two titles: Paul’s Pepper Spray (Introduction by the new Poet Laureate of Los Angeles Luis J. Rodriguez), and beside it Brenda Cárdenas’ From the Tongues of Brick and Stone (Introduction by Maurice Kilwein Guevara). 

Paul got all nostalgic on me when he saw his Momotombo chapbook…

Anything else?

Just our students. That’s the pivot.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Monday, October 20, 2014

Sacramento, CA: October 10-12: Photo Gallery

What follows is a generous photo gallery, with commentary and testimonios, on the recently concluded third installment of the PINTURA : PALABRA workshops, held in Sacramento, CA. Letras Latinas would like to take this moment to thank, on behalf of all the workshop participants, Francisco X. Alarcón, for adapting the workshops materials from DC and Miami, and then facilitating his adapted workshop--in Sacramento at the Crocker Art Museum. Special thanks, as well, to workshop participant Nancy Aidé González, who helped organize the Friday night reception, and faciliting initial contact with the Crocker Art Museum. And thanks, as well, to Maceo Montoya and Joseph Rios, for organizing the projection of the artworks, at the reading at the Sacramento Poetry Center.
Entrance to the exhibit
at the Crocker Art Museum
Sacramento, CA
Nancy Aide González and Harold Terezon
at Tequilia Museo Mayahuel
on Friday, October 9
Odilia Galvan Rodríguez at the bar;
Francisco X. Alarcón visits with Adela Najarro
Oscar Bermeo, Nancy Aidé Rodríguez, Lucha Corpi, Paul Aponte
Paco Marquez, Graciela B. Ramírez, Gerardo Pacheco Matus
Maceo Montoya, Oscar Bermeo, Javier O. Huerta, Joseph Rios
Maya Chinchilla and Adela Najarro
Group photo at Friday's reception.
(Missing: Sandra Garcia Rivera,
who had not yet arrived)
Entrance to the workshop
Francisco X. Alarcón
Plenary session
***
What distinguished the Sacramento workshop from
the ones in Miami and Washington were the large
number (17) of participants in Sacramento. 
As a result, Francisco X. Alarcón, throughout
the weekend, employed small group work: 

small group work
small group work
small group work
small group work
small group work
small group work
lunch
lunch
down time visiting:
Nancy and Gerardo
down time visiting
down town visiting
***

Small group work (day 2):
Small group work (day 2):
Small group work (day 2):
Small group work (day 2):
***
One of the nice things about the Sacramento workshop
was how intergenerational our co-hort was.
We held, if you will, an in-house reading on Sunday
at the Crocker Art Museum
before we headed to the Sacramento Poetry Center.
The following two pictures are meant 
to represent this intergenerational dialogue:

Joseph Rios
Graciela B. Ramírez
Group photo at the conclusion of the workshop on Sunday.
Workshop participant Sandra Garcia Rivera
had a comittment back in San Francisco 
and had to depart before before this picture was taken
Podium with projection screen:
Sacramento Poetry Center (SPC)
Maceo Montoya and Joseph Rios
put together a powerpoint presentation
of the artworks that corresponded to the poems
read at the public event at the SPC.
On view here is an image
from Kevin Gonzales-Day's 
"Searching for California Hang Trees"

el público (1)
el público (2)
Bob Stanley of the Sacramento Poetry Center
welcomes the public
Francisco Aragón of Letras Latinas
delivers brief opening remarks
about the PINTURA : PALABRA initiative
Francisco X. Alarcón,
workshop instructor facilitator,
opens the poetry portion of the program
JoAnn Anglin
JoAnn Anglin's 
testimonio:
"The artworks drew a surprising range of responses from different poets, reinforcing the natural dialogue that I see happen between art maker and art audience. In ‘my’ selection -- the painting Radiante, -- one poet saw bullet holes and one visualized Transformers movie characters. Me? I saw a vivid spiritual energy that laid a path through my new poem. I think the often-challenging artwork deepens the way we challenge ourselves in our poems. Then in our discussions, the faceted perspectives add awareness of how our poems might be even stronger, our insights more textured."  

view of "Radiante" by Olga Albizu (1967)
projected onto a screen

Paul Aponte
Testimonio:
"Tanka for "Pintura: Palabra"

A magical feast
motivating soul and mind
spreading sharing love
creating spirit teachers
a cleansed atmosphere for Earth

I have never been exposed to art in one weekend as I have during this workshop…
The workshop itself was filled with creative artists and poets and just being in the same room with them was elevating, but sharing great moments and knowledge with each other is what made this special.  Sandra Garcia Rivera sharing a small part of her vocalizations (song) for her Sunday event, the epiphany in the beauty of a small change of the structure of my poem by Maya Chinchilla that was a gift from heaven, the gift of extraneous talents by Joseph Rios and Maceo Montoya in creating the slide show to match the poets readings… However, the main gift was Francisco X. Alarcon with his talent of subtle yet effective motivation towards an eco-centric mindset: Motivating towards a  "reindigenization" of the people of the Americas and bringing eco-poetics into full view [...]"

Oscar Bermeo
Maya Chinchilla
Lucha Corpi
testimonio:

"My desire to participate in this inter-generational workshop was sparked the moment I read the list of participating younger and older poets. I was privileged to know many of them and admired their work. I looked forward to meeting those I didn't yet know personally. Although I was familiar with many of the impressive works of art on exhibit, I hadn't attempted writing ekphrastic poetry, let alone in the form of haiku! Faced with some challenges of my own, I was trying to let a new poetic voice emerge and develop in a different direction. Exchanging valuable suggestions with other fellow poets in a more intimate setting was just what I needed. So I was immediately on board. And I wasn't disappointed.

Under the guidance of Francisco X. Alarcón, the workshop provided the supportive atmosphere and forum that made exploring other poetic forms possible. Working in smaller groups allowed for open discussion of our individual works in progress. Mutual critique was candidly given, with great respect to personal voice and choices. I took every suggestion offered me. I felt reinvigorated. 

For the gift of their feedback, their friendship and their work, I thank all the poets, and in particular those I was honored to work with in the smaller sessions." 
Nancy Aidé González
Testimonio:
"[…] Each poet in the group made the “Our America: The Latino Presence in America Art” exhibit come to life with words…The poetry we wrote is a social record that marks our time period weaving together cultural issues, conflicts, resistance, and celebrations.  The feedback I received on my poem “Maria’s Great Expedition” based on Christina Fernandez’s photography was thoughtful and valuable.  Paco Marquez suggested I use caesura on certain lines of my poem.  JoAnn Anglin advised I revise a line for clarity.  Maceo Montoya gave me feedback regarding themes within my poem.   I had insightful conversations with the group members about the revision process, line length, word emphasis, humor, and use of space while eating pan dulce.  The PINTURA :PALABRA reading at the Sacramento Poetry Center was a culmination of our work….I treasure each moment I spent with the members in the workshop. I can’t wait to see all the poetry published in the Los Angeles Review and Packinghouse Review.  It was an honor to help organize and take part in PINTURA:PALABRA."
Xico González
Javier O. Huerta
testimonio:


"Dialogue—my one word to describe my experience at the Pintura/Palabra workshop. We were sent articles on ekphrasis poetry, art haiku, and “the latino presence in American art” ahead of time, which meant the dialogue began before I even arrived in Sacramento. I found the article “What is Latino about American Art” by E. Carmen Ramos to be rewarding and compelling. I also appreciated Francisco X. Alarcon’s interest in and knowledge of haiku/haiga. As someone who has admired Alarcon’s magical short poems, I took advantage of the special opportunity offered by this workshop to write some art haiku.  The workshop experience itself was productive because the small group format allowed us to engage in stimulating conversation about the diverse ways in which our poems were in dialogue with their respective artworks. For me, it was exciting to see how my peers engaged the ekphrastic form: for example, Nancy engaged the photo series by Christina Fernandez by exploring shifts in perspective and point of view, and Graciela engaged the woodcut La Playa Negra by Antonio Martorell by dramatizing—giving voice to—the seamstress in the artwork. Of course, nothing beats facing the artworks in person and writing a poetic response in situ. I believe we all felt the privilege of being able to spend time with the Our America exhibition at the Croker Art Museum. The reading at the Sacramento Poetry Center was a great way to end the workshop because we continued our dialogue with the public. I’m grateful for this experience because it has inspired a new poetic project in which I am in dialogue with Ken Gonzales-Day’s artwork and research in his Erased Lynchings and Searching for California’s Hang Trees series."  
Paco Márquez
Testimonio:
"The PINTURA : PALABRA workshop was an extraordinary experience. I am a native of Sacramento and familiar with the Crocker Art Museum, but it was weird being inside the conference room with the workshop participants. Rarely, if ever, is my Latino/a identity not the minority…I came out of the workshop more confident as a person and as an artist. The reading materials, workshop discussions, and interaction with participants were challenging and invigorating. The exhibit, of course, is great and varied—from the abstract to the political. Seeing it live and interacting with it after the readings and discussions yielded a riveting experience. Reading from our drafts at the Sacramento Poetry Center with a slide show of the art only added to the marvel of the weekend.

The sense of comradeship created through the workshop has also been deeply important. Having lunch with Gerardo Pacheco Matus, I finally realized what “mal de ojo” means (to be jinxed). We shared our immigrant experiences, and he told me about not being able to attend his father’s funeral due to his immigrant status. I connected with established painter and writer Maceo Montoya, and we spoke about our experiences at MFAs in NYC. Joseph Rios, Javier Huerta, and I crowded into the cab of Joseph’s truck and told stories as they gave me a ride back to the airport.[...]" 

Gerardo Pacheco Matus
Testimonio:
"El maestro Alarcón encouraged us to listen to the paintings and to write something about the visual art. This process gave me the opportunity to explore in depth the work of Ken Gonzales-Day, Searching for California Hang Trees. Ken works with photos from hundreds of lynched Mexicans in the United States. Ken erases them and creates new photos without the dead, mutilated bodies, leaving only the perpetrators as major characters in the photos.


Ken’s manipulation of history through photography sparked something in me, a question I have never asked me before, “What’s the role of the Mexican/ Latino artist in the United States?” Consequently, Ken’s Searching for California Hang Trees made me write a series of poems about hanged people. My poems deal with my own history; it is the recollection of young men hanging themselves in my hometown, Huhi." 
Maceo Montoya
testimonio:
"As a visual artist in a roomful of poets writing about visual art, I realized that I should’ve read the invitation more closely. But the poets were kind to me. I will make a bold, blanket statement: poets are much nicer than visual artists. They are more generous and constructive, they post photos of you on Facebook with captions like “my poet friend,” not caring that you’ve never written a poem. When you write paragraphs they call them “proems”; when you transcribe dialogue they call it a “performative gesture”; when you recount a story they call it “narrative poetry.” In short, they look for ways of including you in their world, and for that I’m grateful.

The PINTURA: PALABRA workshop gave me the opportunity to watch the fascinating process of poets at work, engaging the material and one another, playing with words, and shaping ideas. From rough musings to polished reading in just two short days, we made tremendous progress, but it was easy when surrounded by such creative minds, not to mention Francisco Alarcón’s infectious energy."

Adela Najarro
testimonio:
"Right now my life is incredibly busy with teaching at Cabrillo College and family obligations. I love it all, but “life” constraints are always tugging. The PINTURA:PALABRA workshop offered me the space and time to recharge and maintain my Latinidad and its creative power. It was a pleasure to interact with all the workshop participants, and it was a delightful opportunity to work with other Latino/a poets. We shared our work, our ideas, our passion, and vision. Then the opportunity to see the exhibition at the Crocker close up and have the time to write was also a major highlight of the weekend. I think I have between three to fifteen poems going. We’ll see how many turn out to completion and publication. 

One other point, besides moving me forward in my own creative work, I’m taking these ideas into the college classroom. My classes will also be visiting the Crocker, and they will write on the art—both in essay form and as poetry. I’m also making my materials available to future Pintura/Palabra workshops and to my colleagues in the Puente Project. Opportunities such as these reverberate long and wide. ίMil gracias!"

Graciela B. Ramírez
testimonio:
"PINTURA : PALABRA was a fabulous experience for me. At 82, I never imagined I was going to be a participant of this incredible event. Being surrounded by poets and art for so many hours elevated my spirit to the utmost galaxies.

Besides the fact that I was experiencing works from my own culture, I definitely learned how to deeply analyze paintings by observing very carefully each item in them to find their symbolic meanings, historical context, message, spirituality and, most importantly, how the artist used objects, brushes and colors to depict pain in people’s lives.

Then, to combine words with the selected painting was like seeing them dancing and caressing each other. The artwork came alive in our words and vice versa. Another great experience was to share our writing in the small groups, and giving and receiving positive criticism. In one of my groups the suggestion for my poem was to move one stanza to the end. This change made a complete and positive difference in the meaning and sound of the poem.

My only regret is that I have never entered this world before. Never saw artworks the way I’m seeing them now. It would have been great for my poetry. I’m very grateful to the sponsors and organizers of this event for this fantastic opportunity." 
Joseph Rios
testimonio:
"A lot of the workshop participants  knew each other before this weekend. Javier, Maceo, and I know each other good and well. Sandra, Oscar, Harold, and Lucha, too.  I commented during the welcome reception that though we knew each other on a varied basis, this was to be our first opportunity to sit in workshop with each another and talk about art and craft in a formal setting – in such a deliberate and dedicated way. I was the youngest one there, I think. And though it wasn't made into a big deal, there were moments when I looked about the room and counted myself fortunate to be there with poets who have been doing the work longer than I have been alive, poets I look up to and have studied in other classrooms, people who laid the foundation for what I am able to do on the page.

Undoubtedly, with an exhibition like this one, there are many discussions to be had in relation to the politics of representation, space, and identity. And it is precisely because of the previous generation's work that I am able to call myself a Chicano and create my own art as a Chicano Poet in the tradition. Graciela Ramirez, longtime professor, ended her introduction on the first day of workshop by saying, “I have earned the right to call myself a Chicana.” I will never forget her saying that. She confirmed, for me, in just one sentence, everything I knew about the term; she confirmed why the workshop and the exhibition were necessary, but by no means an end to the conversation." 
Odilia Galván Rodríguez
testimonio:
"Pintura : Palabra
palaver : platica
a talk between tribespeople
what artists : writers hear
with their eyes and
respond with their hearts


It was my great privilege to be one of the poets invited to the PINTURA : PALABRA writer’s workshop at the Crocker Art Museum in Sacramento, CA and to be able to respond along with my colleagues and fellow poets in our own words to this resplendent and historical collection of Latino Art of the Americas.  

Some of the collection brought back memories of being a very young woman, of growing up and becoming politically aware, and then an activist during this period of great social unrest and social justice struggles in the US.  The diversity of the artworks is amazing and lent itself to a broad response from us as writers. The two-day workshop led by Francisco X. Alarcon was a rich experience. The small group experience, one that I prefer while participating in and conducting creative writing workshops, was excellent.  All the writers came expertly prepared to work collaboratively and to refine their work. I especially loved the multi-generational feel of our teams; it was wonderful to work with each and every one – who were all very supportive and honest in their feedback about the work." 
Harold Terezón
Sandra Garcia Rivera
testimonio:
“The Smithsonian American Art Museum’s Our America exhibit needs to be experienced in person…Living in the Bay Area, the 2-3 hour travel time to Sacramento might have otherwise kept me from making the trip to the Crocker Art Museum to experience it. However, the opportunity to participate in this writers’ workshop -  as an artist in dialogue with the artwork and with other artists - inspired me to visit the museum and engage directly with the exhibit. As a result, the visual art of the exhibit now travels beyond Sacramento, extends beyond the walls of the gallery, through the poetry written by my colleagues and I.  The artwork needs to speak, far and wide beyond the borders of the institutions that protect and preserve it. As writers, we continue spreading the message of the work, giving voice to the themes, and subjects represented. As a teaching artist, I will continue to share the ekphrasis model, encouraging and leading students to visit galleries and museums, as resources for the writing process…I am honored to have participated in the PINTURA:PALABRA workshop, and to have created work in response to Rupert Garcia’s ever-relevant “Political Prisoner,” among other work I have written that is still coming to fruition. The time shared in conversation with workshop facilitator Francisco X. Alarcón, and the talented group of accomplished writers, is an experience that will live within and beyond, for many years to come.”
 ***

The following pictures are shared here courtesy
of Nancy Aidé González

Javier, Nancy, and Paco

Maya, Nancy, Odilia, and Lucha
Gerardo, Maceo, Javier, Oscar, Harold, Joseph, and Paco

Graciela and JoAnn

Javier, Oscar, Lucha, Harold, Nancy, and Maya

Exhibit catalogue cover, featuring
"El Tamalito del Hoyo" by Roberto Chavez (1959)

Click below to see the Our America exhibit:


***

And: click below to view the previous
two photo galleries that correspond
to the PINTURA:PALABRA
workshops in Miami,
and Washington, D.C. before that:

The Frost Museum of Art (Miami):


The Smithsonian American Art Museum (DC):


***

"PINTURA : PALABRA, 
a project in ekphrasis"

is made possible thanks to 

the Weissberg Foundation

and the generosity 

of individual donors.

If you'd like to help

please contact:

faragon@nd.edu