Thursday, May 21, 2015

one-bedroom solo: An interview with Sheila Maldonado

From the CD The City Within (2006), featuring poets from the City College of New York.

one-bedroom solo

an interview with Sheila Maldonado
by Ae Hee Lee

Sheila Maldonado’s one-bedroom solo is a collection of poems that tinkers and plays with form, language, and pathos. It looks to ask, What is New York? What is Sheila or Maldonado? What is family? What is (wo)man? What is Latin@? And it muses they might all be creatures that sing out, sometimes nude, at the rhythm of this world. It is thus that the mundane and the sacred, the large and the intimate, gleefully converge in the pages of this book.
Note: There is a peculiar energy in Maldonado’s poetry that had me hooked. The speaker in one-bedroom solo does not hesitate to laugh at or lament about the circumstances and instances of (simply) life. To translate words and voices. To structure and challenge structure. To have one mouth speak in one, two, three genders. Personally, I find nothing more enjoyable than reading a book that shows not only how much thought went into the writing, but also delight.


1. In one-bedroom solo you write deeply personal poems, many revolving around the theme of family. There are poems that present family members being detached from each other, poems about the speaker being connected to her family, and poems that sing of an identity apart from family that keeps developing in the city, the one-bedroom space (ex. “Homebody”:

I squeezed out of there before I got smothered.
Let them say what they like, their words roll off
my shell. It’s safe to be tender, naked
in here.)

Could you share with us your thoughts on family culture and its relationship to individual identity? How do you find these things appear or are explored in your poetry?

I think of the book as fragmented biography, like I am concealing and revealing but perhaps I am concealing a lot less than I think. I do want to make the bio strange in some way, which I think a lot of writers do, and particularly for Latino poets, I think there is plenty of family and personal history at play. I don’t think I would write personally though if the form didn’t work for the content, if it weren’t shaped in some way that I think works for the poem or for me. It is an odd angle or perspective I am aiming for, not just a revealing of personal information. It is only when I find that shape or those words that I feel comfortable revealing. My perspective is one version of a personal history, shaped yet incomplete. I am interested in making a version of that history that surprises me as well as a reader, not just the same old story I have in my head or a story that might be expected of me.

I do want to detach from family certainly in many ways, writing-wise and life-wise, individuate, yes, but they were the first world I learned to analyze, the first world I observed. I am still attached to them in many ways. I live in the same city and visit every week. I am from a small family, a small people overall, and we tended to isolate from neighbors and the outside world in general growing up, so my family filters my worldview. There is no writing around them; it is writing through them. We were some of the very few people from our part of the planet, Honduras, Central America, on that block in Coney Island, in that borough, Brooklyn, in this city, New York that was Puerto Rican if it was any Latino, that was then Dominican, and now Mexican, that was never us, although the Mexicans now do remind me of how I grew up, apart, withdrawn, never dealing with lo ajeno, only dealing with your own. I can do what one is told to do when they write, write from what you know, and I felt I knew best all the complex ways my family works and doesn’t.  You can’t be so isolated with each other and not feel a tremendous burden to be too many things to each other. It was hard enough being myself but then to be dutiful daughter and star student and virtuous virgin, it’s a lot to take on and that is the plight of many of us and writing takes well to plight. Since the plight can be common, I do again want to make it odder, funnier, flip it around and look at it another way. And my version is just mine right now, not necessarily the story, say, someone in my family would tell, or even a version I would tell in the future.

2. There are many instances of not only code-switching in your book but of translation. I enjoyed every one of them because of their ludic approach to sound and language, while at the same time they touched upon the subject of gain and loss in/through translation. In “Cabo de Gata” and its translation “Girl Cat Cape,” although the sounds repeated in the two poems are different from each other, the feel of the poem is reproduced to a certain extent in both Spanish and English through alliteration. However in the poem “Bubbles of Love,” the song by Juan Luis Guerra is translated by the “girl, deep in the recesses of Brooklyn,” who though gets most of the song’s meaning, does not understand what “en vela” is in the context of “pasar la noche.” I am curious to know more about your translation process. That is, when working on a translation, what elements of language and verse do you pay attention to? What do you think can translation do for a reader? What can it not do?

 I can be very literal when I translate, especially myself. It’s crude but I might be crude. I am glad to be an adult and mock the torture I suffered as a U.S.-born, quickly English-speaking grindia (gringa-india, term coined by my father, he was always so proud of it) growing up with family who were all born in another fully Spanish land. They were relentless about how terrible my Spanish was and I am much better at it now but also understand that I can mock their English in retaliation. Of course, that is where their mockery came from, their insecurity about not speaking English as well as I did. I lived with my Spanish insecurity. It was dueling language insecurities. I was reading in English very early and just swam in it, really loved it and had a good time with it and they were not having such a good time. I had Michael Jackson and Dolly Parton to teach me and my father was happy to see me take it up with such ease but my mom perhaps not so much. She was and still is, dark and hilarious in Spanish, just cutting, and I am looking to get that sense into some of the poems too, like the culo poem where she is just giving it to me, making fun of me and the words. Being in between all these experiences of language makes translation a really complex thing for me and I want a reader to go through the kind of awkward joy and turmoil that was and is my life between languages. I am into immersion that way, I want a reader to feel how I feel about language, which is pretty much every way, not just some type of way, as the children say, but all the ways, tragicomic, comitragic.

“Girl Cat Cape” is play on the name of a place in Spain where I went for a writing residency a few years ago. I know I was little more than a brute in that language homeland so kept my talk simple. “Maldonado” also plays on that old pronunciation training, “the rain in Spain falls mainly on the plain,” messing with all the language hoops I have had to jump through. I usually sing “Bubbles of Love” and with the Spanish I stick to the original song as close as possible, try to keep it delicate and romantic. The English is deformed and absurd when I sing it. I want to convey living between those tones, what that experience is, kind of excruciating, but also a hilarity, a relief.

3. In “The Negative Representation of Sheilas in the Media” you seem to address the tremendous power the usage of language has and how it can influence identity and expectation of an identity. In this poem’s case, “the/ popular portrayal of my name and/ all its hookerish connotations.” Similarly, in the poem “Maldonado,” the name’s denotative meaning (“my name in spain/ means mainly that I’m lame ”) affects the identity of the speaker. In what other ways would you say language and words, English and Spanish, have shaped your identity as Sheila Maldonado and a Latina writer?

I’m glad you ask me about my identity as me as well as my identity as a Latina. The title for “Negative Representation” is a play on the idea of Latinas as negatively represented in media, of course, the classic representation of Latina as a pretty sexualized being, the J.Los and all (who I must say I adore and can do no wrong for me as long as she shakes it, she can shake away horrible moments in her career like Bordertown and working with Iggy Azalea; I like to say I am professor of J.Lo studies). I used to work in media representation of Latinas at a commercial publication and I am interested in that discussion as serious and ridiculous as it can be. What I most learned from that is when I’m writing I speak for me more than I do Latinas but our issues overlap in serious and ridiculous ways. I know I will always be asked to speak for Latinas in some way because that is what happens to writers of color, women writers etc., but I want to take some moment to say I live my particular experience in my name, in my skin and that is what makes me want to write, that particularity. And I happen to have a first name that is somewhat odd for a Latina, it’s somehow both Irish and Black at the same time, it’s also basically the word for chick or girl in Australia. I’ve met women with this name who have felt the same sexual connotation I’ve felt from it over the years and I think it’s fun to overlap that with the idea of a Latina as temptress. It’s a good angle with which to work. It’s etymology and definition, the most basic idea of you and I like working on that small level. Working on the level of “Latina,” of that large amorphous mash-up American identity, has not always been as satisfying or trustworthy. I feel grounded working from me and who I’ve been. I know I have a Latina experience but I also have a Sheila Maldonado one, hija de Mando y Vilma, Coney Island and Honduras, Pisces and late ’70s/early ’80s tomboy.

“Maldonado” was drawn directly from a dictionary of Spanish names I looked up in Spain and it was like I found a little key to my family’s sense of themselves, especially my father’s sense of himself, a cursed sense. It is a name as a curse. Poorly endowed, poor in many ways. It creeped me out to learn that ancient idea of failure and poverty might lurk in our name. Being from Honduras feels that way at times as well, from the time of the Maya on, this idea of being from a continually failing place gets under my skin and again I am interested in that overlap between this larger cultural sense of identity and a personal one, how an individual lives with it. A friend of mine suggested I write a reverse of the curse and that is why the title “biendonada” for the last poem, this sense of being blessed which I can feel at the very least with language, with the ability I feel I have to enjoy it even if it hurts or gets challenging.

4. I’m interested in your usage of form in your poetry. Sometimes you employ forms already existing, such as haikus. Other times you seem to set your own rules for structuring a poem, like in “Five Words a Line, Six Lines a Stanza, Seven Years of My Life.” Sometimes they appear as a prose poem in a block form, other times in a more organic and flowing and twisting form. What influences your choice in form and how do you feel it is connected to the content? For example, you used the Haiku form, a Japanese form that is centuries old, to speak of contemporary and foreign subjects (ex. McDonald’s, refrigerators, TV channels with Spanish and English…). What prompted you to do so? Is it related to celebrating the commonplace, the anything and the everywhere? With making a sacred ritual song out of the mundane (I’m thinking of “All Hail the Parking God” here)?

Form is where I get to play the most. I’m always interested in playing. Playing is serious work to borrow an idea from a kindred poet spirit, Matthew Burgess, who loves to play too. I do hope my forms do follow content somehow. I might be successful and sometimes not. What I’ve always loved about poetry are all the shapes it takes, all the ways you can go on a page, the visual that adds another element to the reading. “All Hail the Parking God” is made of these odd projective verse stanzas and at one point there is a calligram-like map of the streets I’m driving. It is as epic a poem as I write, about a minor thing that is pretty major in a city like New York, trying to find a parking space, that journey. It really can test your spirit and toughen you here, anyone who has faced that will tell you as much. I live for the small detail made large, I live for the everyday magic. I’m originally from Coney Island, a neighborhood as well as an amusement park, a ghetto with an ocean view. I grew up with manmade towers transformed by a sea breeze, an unobstructed sunset, enchantment in a land of concrete. New York is my hometown and sometimes my purgatory and I do just about anything to elevate the routine of living here, surviving here. With form, perhaps I do anything to elevate the routine of a stanza.

I love haiku because it is an form taught early to me and many in the NYC public schools, economical and memorable. It is pretty damn near perfect a shape to me, my fallback. The imagists were all about it. Seventeen syllables, a breath or so beyond pentameter. The focus on the picture, the mood, the suggestion. I appreciate the European forms, but the non-European ones just get me, I get them. I crave a non-European tradition, always wonder what would have been if the poetry in my family’s part of the world had survived, what would have been a Maya tradition that lasted well into modern time. That might be another reason I play with forms. I’m looking for the ones my people lost. I latch onto traditions that have lived, and so attach myself to the Japanese that is so strong. I believe when the haikus are funny, more mundane and not nature-based, focused on humans and their ridiculousness they’re actually called senryu. That’s probably what I do. Some of the haikus in the book address modern objects as natural beings because I am a city person and I don’t know nature that well, so talk to the toaster oven rather than the flowers. I think that’s allowed. I like to allow myself many ways to go.

Also I must say I teach for Teachers & Writers Collaborative, the oldest organization to send writers into the public schools to teach, I believe, and they were started by some seriously playful poets. Their books really taught me how to teach creative writing. They are so much fun and comprehensive in this unpretentious way. Luna, Luna, edited by Julio Marzán, and Sing the Sun Up, edited by Lorenzo Thomas, are some of my favorites, as well as Handbook of Poetic Forms edited by Ron Padgett. I met some playmates across time in those books, William Carlos Williams, Nicanor Parra, Langston Hughes, Jean Toomer, writers who made the simple extraordinary, who got their ideas from things, the concrete, the musical, all the truth that takes those shapes.  I’m mostly doing what I learned there, teaching myself as I teach kids, the play and shape-shifting permeating my writing.

5. Finally, gender is something that seems to hover and pop up in one-bedroom solo throughout. Female and male, man and woman—the duality is usually explored in a single poetic context or, almost surreally, in a single body in terms of behavior (“one-bedroom solo”) or speech (“Caller Identity”: “enunciates female”… “she/spits male”). This makes me wonder how you conceive your poetry and your poetry-writing in terms of gender. Would you say it is female, male, both, none? Maybe you do not even think of it in these terms?  

I know quite a few women who are their own man, who might be the best man they know. They grew up heavily influenced by their fathers and brothers, witnessing their strength and hypocrisy. They are like a lot of Latin women in the U.S. growing up with old, traditional, at times, misogynist ways and new, liberating, at times, confusing ways, caught between a lot of roles. Mothers were certainly influential but they were from another time, another place. They seem to accept tradition and perhaps could. It held for them to some degree. We were in between those times and places. We took on what was dominant, could argue like a man for instance, but still show emotion, still believe in it.
I see how my poetry can reflect that. The poems you chose deal with my mockery of my split self and my loneliness, as well as another friend’s duality, someone who lived a similar reality, having to be hard in tough ass New York, having to face rough streets but still wanting to live out some idea of womanhood, one she saw in the movies. Both of us grew up in hard areas and there is something that happens to your idea of gender in these places for everyone involved. I would call us tomboys but I hear that is not so fashionable now. Perhaps we are our father’s daughters. I think we might be making up in some way for the missing men, the men who don’t really live up to what we imagine. For that reason, we are open I believe to the idea of our selves as multiple. We’ve had to play a lot of roles, we couldn’t afford not to. The friend that inspired “Caller Identity” for instance is a single mom who had to be a father to her kids too. She, like I, have close male relationships, sometimes getting along better with men than women because we can respect the concealment of emotion we associate with men and how they survive. “One-bedroom solo” deals with the idea that I am pretty much alone and entertain myself with some notion of manhood and what that would be or has been in my life. I think my poetry reflects all the in-betweenness I and the people I know live, between realities, languages, countries, peoples, forms, and genders.


Sheila Maldonado 
is the author of one-bedroom solo (Fly by Night Press, 2011), her debut poetry collection. She grew up in Coney Island across the street from the Atlantic. Her family hails from Honduras. Her poems have appeared in Rattapallax, Callaloo, Hyperallergic, Aster(ix) Journal, and Me No Habla with Acento: Contemporary Latino Poetry. She teaches creative writing for The City University of New York and Teachers & Writers Collaborative. She holds degrees in English from Brown University and poetry from The City College of New York. She lives in uptown Manhattan above the Hudson. Look her up in

Ae Hee Lee is a South Korean by birth and Peruvian by heart and memory. She is currently an MFA candidate in the creative writing program of The University of Notre Dame and works as a graduate assistant for the university’s Institute of Latino Studies. You can find (or will find) her poetry in Dialogue, Cha, Cobalt, Spark: A Creative Anthology, Ruminate, The Rain, Party, & Disaster Society, Day One, and Silver Birch Press.

Friday, May 15, 2015

An interview with Daisy Hernández

A Cup of Water Under My Bed: Daisy Hernández

“A wonderful, heartbreaking, necessary story… Hernández writes with honesty, intelligence, tenderness, and love. I bow deeply in admiration and gratitude.”
-Sandra Cisneros, author of The House on Mango Street


An interview with Daisy Hernández
conducted by Amanda Castañeda

A Cup of Water Under My Bed tracks the life of Daisy Hernández with the lessons she learned from her family, work, and discovering her sexuality. This coming-of-age memoir details the balancing act of translating from one culture to another, exploring her sexuality for the first time, and using lessons from her family to make sense of the world. She researches to understand her father’s candy dish and beliefs that can be traced back to Africa. Hernández talks about her experience as one of the few Latinas at the New York Times. It extends to her journey to San Francisco where she reflects on her life as she creates a home for herself in the community.

This memoir resonated with me because it is a journey of trying to discover oneself in the midst of different cultures, generations, and goals for the future. My parents are from Mexico, and I can see that there are generational as well as cultural gaps between us. In Hernández’s memoir, and the lives of many young adults stuck between two cultures, it is not a question of how “Latina” or “Americana” you are, it is just a constant state of being an inseparable blend of the two.  This interview explores the memoir in-depth to learn more about Hernández as a writer and individual. We also talk about some of my favorite passages and their background.
-Amanda Castañeda, University of Notre Dame (class of 2017)


[Amanda Castañeda]: What was your inspiration to write this memoir? What was the process like, reflecting on your life and choosing the most important lessons you learned growing up? Plus, is there any additional message you would like your readers to go home with after reading this memoir?

[Daisy Hernández]: When you’re young, you might not have the language to describe social injustice but you see it all around you. I remember being a kid at public health clinics and noticing that we were all women and girls and poor. The language and lass theories, come later, so the memoir gave me a chance to revisit what I had experienced as a child and to make meaning of it, to name it for what it was. I hope A Cup of Water Under My Bed gives readers insights into their own families and journeys.

[AC]: When your Tía Chuchi takes you to see the woman who is going to read your cards, you mention that your family talks about your future in the plural sense, including your whole family. Was it frustrating to have this pressure from your relatives? Do you think this pressure propelled you to achieve success in the different aspects of your life?

[DH]: I never found the “we” of my Latina home frustrating. It’s always been a blessing because even when it’s been hard I’ve always felt that my own life was part of a larger tapestry. That’s helped me to find a queer chosen family and also a family of writers. The pressure didn’t push me forward (I was writing as a child) but it told me to expect big things of the world.

[AC]: The memoir is split into three major sections. I was wondering why you decided to break it up in this way. Does it follow three different, important periods in your life? Or perhaps each section focuses on the different kinds of lessons you’ve learned?

[DH]: Yes, the book is arranged into three sections: family, sexuality and work. Of course, my family shows up in every section but in the first one the stories are about them are tightly focused on language, migration and religion. I didn’t arrange the book this way. I feel like the book chose its organization. When I sat down to inventory my writings, the essays organically fell into these sections.

[AC]: Speaking of lessons, your memoir is full of well thought out opinions on racism, hatred, Spanish language and Latino culture, and the conflict of living between two cultures. So, did you formalize these thoughts as you were growing older, or are they current interpretations of your major life events?

[DH]: In my early twenties, friends introduced me to the work of Audre Lorde, Gloria Anzaldúa, James Baldwin and Cherríe Moraga. Between what I began reading and meeting women and men who were politically engaged as writers and artists, I started reinterpreting my childhood and my family and community. So it’s definitely been a process over many years.

[AC]: When you confirmed your sexuality to your family, your mother and aunts, specifically Tia Dora, appeared to be particularly insulted because you told them. It was clear that there was a conflict between the culture they grew up in and your sexuality. Do you believe that in most cases there is a conflict between Latino culture and sexuality? How do these two forces interact and manifest in your daily life? What do you think the young Latino community can do, if anything, to bridge the gap between culture and sexuality?

[DH]: I think those of us who can be out – who have the support, the spiritual sustenance—we have an obligation to be out. I think we forget what courage it takes to be our true selves when our sexuality and gender expression don’t match up to the world’s expectations. There isn’t so much a conflict between Latina culture and sexuality as there is an evolving of the conversation. My auntie didn’t speak to me for 7 years but I also failed to speak to her. We are works in progress. 

[AC]: One of my favorite quotes from the book is when you are leaving for the airport to fly to San Francisco:

“My mother’s hair, her face, the wrinkles at her eyes, the cars and the shadows, all of it was dipped in silver, and I cried and stared at her for a long time and finally hugged her, because I was taking the three suitcases and leaving my mother.”

This section resonated the most with me because it shows all that we leave behind in search for a fresh start. So, what do you believe was the most difficult part of moving across the country? Also, can you talk a little bit more about finding some of your old home in San Francisco? Was it more difficult to initially move away, or is it more difficult to be away from home for so long?

[DH]: The most difficult part of the move was being far from my family. I didn’t grow up thinking that I ever would leave my family. They were all I knew and so was New York City. So in a way the actual jolt was finding out that my life was going to go in a direction for which I did not have a map. I had never planned to really leave Jersey. I had never planned to leave my mother. It was quite a surprise. That said, yes, in California I found santeros like my father. I found women who reminded me of my aunties. I found also that I just fit in better in the San Francisco area. There’s a tenderness to the land itself there – I’m thinking of the Redwoods – that I find to be more home than my actual home.

[AC]: When you were younger, you saw a clear path that was set out for you, one where English was the only language and your family should have been left behind. Coming from a Latino family, I understand how confusing it is to be immersed in one culture at school and another at home. I’d like to know how you define yourself as a Latina. What aspects of your Latino heritage do you admire? What aspects of yourself do you think would classify as “Americana”?

[DH]: I’m so happy that you resonated with that part of the story. When I was a little girl, my father used to say to me: Are you Cubana? Colombiana? O Americana? I knew the right answer was the last one but apparently I couldn’t manage the word and screamed: Mericana! That said, I generally resist the idea that “X” thing about me is Americana and “Y” thing is Latina or Cubana or Colombiana. The way I see it, I am standing in one room and the world and cultures and languages – they are waltzing through the door and crawling through the windows. I don’t think of myself as a woman with a foot in two worlds. I think of myself firmly planted with both feet in the places where those worlds meet.

[AC]: At one point you talk about how, through writing, you were able to truly understand and love your father while keeping him in your heart as you moved forward in life. How do you think writing has helped you when reflecting on your life? In general, how do you think art can be used to make sense of our own worlds? To explain our events in the past or to think about solutions for the future?

[DH]: I tell writers to think of memoir as two drafts. First, you have the emotional draft. You are writing toward insights, toward a deeper understanding of what happened and the many ways you could look at a single event. The second draft is about craft. In the emotional draft, you do not need to get a reader to love your papi. You know you do despite everything that’s happened. In the second draft though you need to take the reader into account. They don’t love your father. You need to make decisions there about how to win the reader, to show them the complexity of the situation. In the process of working on craft, you learn things about your father and yourself that you didn’t access even in the emotional draft. So yes, I think of art as this amazing door that is always available for us to open and walk through.


To learn more, visit:

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Announcing the PINTURA:PALABRA DC Residencies

Laurie Ann Guerrero

Letras Latinas, the literary initiative of the University of Notre Dame’s Institute for Latino Studies, is pleased to soon be welcoming to Washington, D.C. Laurie Ann Guerrero—the inaugural recipient of the PINTURA:PALABRA DC residencies. These one-week stints, for three Latina writers, will take place in 2015, 2016, and 2017.

Guerrero, the current Poet Laureate of San Antonio and former winner of the Andrés Montoya Poetry Prize, will be in-residence from April 28th to May 5th, when she will visit museums and galleries to write about, and respond to, art. Thanks to two individual benefactors (scroll down to the end), she will be provided with housing and a stipend. Guerrero is the author of: A Tongue in the Mouth of the Dying (University of Notre Dame Press, 2013) and the soon to be released, A Crown for Gumecindo (Aztlan Libre Press, 2015), which features paintings by Maceo Montoya.

“The pilot experiment for these residencies was Blas Falconer’s four-day, self-directed ekphrastic retreat in January of 2014 when he visited the Our America exhibit at the Smithsonian” said Francisco Aragón, director of Letras Latinas. “As was the case with Blas, Laurie Ann will be staying in the same Capitol Hill apartment, but for a full a week and with the option to visit any museum or gallery she wants. The idea is to create opportunities for new ekphrastic writing, regardless of the art that inspires it. Ultimately, we hope to identify a journal that will collaborate with Letras Latinas and Laurie Ann in order to eventually publish the work that results from her week in Washington.”

Guerrero agreed to answer a couple of questions, in anticipation of her visit:

What will it mean for you to spend a week in DC with the assignment to visit museums and fill your notebook?

“I can’t help but see the privilege and so the responsibility of an opportunity like this. To be invited to new places and new experiences in order to create, to speak, to share my ideas is centering, empowering in a way that requires my utmost dedication—to my work, to my truest self, and to the experience itself— as a woman, a mother, a Chicana from a small parcel of land in Texas.”

Can you give us a glimpse of how you intend to spend your time? Are there particular exhibits currently showing in DC that you want to visit?

“I have decided I must be most deliberate and efficient with my time in DC, and because it is the 7 days before the official book release of my new book, A Crown for Gumecindo (and another major event I can’t quite speak of yet that happens the day after the book release), I plan to relish in the solitude, to be mindful of the ancestors and their work as I—for the first time—walk about our nation’s capital. I definitely want to visit Unraveling Identity: Our Textiles, Our Stories exhibit at George Washington University Museum, National Museum of Women in the Arts, the Girl for Sale exhibit at the American Poetry Museum, National Museum of the American Indian, National Portrait Gallery, and United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. As a writer, I know that my own truths are made tangible by the truths of others.  I plan to be fully present, to document what happens in the space between these histories and my own.”  

Laurie Ann Guerrero will also be doing an audio recording for the Library of Congress’ new “Spotlight on U.S. Hispanic Writers,” a collaboration with Letras Latinas which continues the tradition of the LOC’s Archive of Hispanic Literature on Tape. Writers recorded in the Spotlight series thus far have been: Fred Arroyo, Richard Blanco, Eduardo C. Corral, Brenda Cárdenas, Carmen Giménez Smith, Rigoberto González, Valerie Martínez, and Maria Melendez Kelson.

And finally, Guerrero will be the guest of honor at a literary salon moderated by poet Dan Vera and hosted in the home of poet and editor of Beltway Poetry Quarterly, Kim Roberts.

The PINTURA:PALABRA DC Residencies are part of the larger, collaborative, multi-year initiative by the same name, which is fomenting the creation of art-inspired writing through workshops held in tandem with the Smithsonian American Art Museum’s traveling exhibit, “Our America: the Latino Presence in American Art” and the partnering journals that are publishing each workshop’s portfolio, as well as a partnership with POETRY Magazine, who will be publishing a special portfolio of “Our America”-inspired work in early 2016, with accompanying reproductions of the art.

Letras Latinas, the literary initiative at the Institute for Latino Studies, strives to enhance the visibility, appreciation, and study of Latino literature both on and off the campus of the University of Notre Dame, with an emphasis on programs that support newer voices, and foster a sense of community among writers.


Letras Latinas
would like to thank

Molly Singer
with Dexterity Management
Martha Aragon
with Stanford Medical Center

whose generosity makes
DC Residencies

Monday, April 13, 2015

The 2015 John K. Walsh Residency Fellowship.....

 Joseph Rios

How the John K. Walsh Residency Fellowship (formerly the Letras Latinas Residency Fellowship) is determined varies. There is no formal application process, but rather an organic process of discernment which may, at times, tap colleagues in the field for a recommendation. It must be someone who has been working at their art for some time, usually well into a “post MFA phase” (though a degree in creative writing is not a requirement) with some publications under his/her belt. It also must be someone who has not yet published a first full-length book, whether poetry or prose. But there is something more I look for, which isn’t necessarily easy to determine. And that is: someone who views their art-making as part of larger gesture that goes beyond wanting to build a self-interested “career.” Rather: someone who, on some level, views him/herself as invested in a community, whatever that community may be.

This past October, when I had the opportunity to hang out with a great co-hort of poets from Northern California at the third PINTURA:PALABRA workshop in Sacramento, it became clear who this year’s recipient would be be.

Recipients of the
John K. Walsh Residency Fellowship
(formerly the Letras Latinas Residency Fellowship)
have been:








Joseph Rios

Joseph Rios was born and raised in Fresno County. His chapbook, Shadowboxing: Poems and Impersonations is forthcoming from Achiote Press (Berkeley) with an introduction by Willie Perdomo. In 2013, his full length manuscript of poems was a finalist for a Willow Books Literature award. His poems have appeared in Codex, Huizache, Cobalt, Bozalta, Poets Responding to SB1070, and Hector Tobar's blog for Los Angeles Times Books. He studied literature at UC Berkeley and Fresno City College. He works as a handyman and mover. He lives in Oakland.
 And so, Joseph will be spending the month of July at the Anderson Center in Red Wing, MN, working on his that first book. In his own words:

“I look at the book as a complete fight between the speaker in the poems and the poet writing them. Shadowbox: to fight one's self in the mirror or an opponent of one's imagination – this practice is at the heart of the work and operates literally and symbolically throughout. The poems develop and are placed according to the framework of one continuous bout between these two. I will spend the bulk of my time at the Anderson Center completing the [final] section.”

The late John K. Walsh was a graduate of the University of Notre Dame, and went on to have a distinguished career at UC Berkeley as a hispanista, and mentored scholars, writers and translators throughout his time on the Berkeley campus. In his memory, Letras Latinas has also initiated the John K. Walsh Mentorship Essays, a collaboration with ORIGINS magazine.

CLICK BELOW to read the first three:

“Etched in Glass: Remembering Jack Walsh”

“Second Country”

“Where the Story Begins and Ends: Practically a Fairy Tale”

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