Friday, May 18, 2007

POETAS Y PINTORES: Night of Connections

[While I still learn how to properly link—ie, I haven’t yet—clicking above will take you to]

Last night’s opening reception (and dinner afterwards) was one of the most satisfying, where this exhibit is concerned. It may have to do with the fact that from here on out, it’s all gravy given that this is the exhibit’s sixth stop. I almost didn’t come to New Mexico for this one because of my demanding travel schedule this month. But I’m glad I did. My thanks to María Meléndez and Carlos Vasquez at NHCC for making this happen. María did a wonderful job at the reception last night explaining how the dialogue between artists and poetic texts unfolded. Pat Mora read “Mangos y limones”, and Maria Elena Macias then commented on her interaction with that poem.

It was a delight to finally meet and interact with Pat, who has been such a generous supporter and cordial e-mail correspondent over the years. She was here for the 5th Annual Latino Writers Conference. Joining Maria Elena, who created “Rompiendo Esquemas”—inspired by “Mangos y limones”—, was Peter Dabrowski, a music conductor and Assistant Dean at UT Pan American. Maria Elena teaches art at UT Pan American, and is also a curator at an art space (I’m forgetting the name) in nearby McAllen. Our first flurry of conversation was about UT Pan American’s new MFA Program in Creative Writing, where Emmy Pérez teaches. It was clear, from talking to them, that Emmy has been a wonderful addition to UT Pan American’s community. By evening’s end we all agreed Poetas y Pintores needed to travel to south Texas. And given that Emmy is in the exhibit, along with Maria Elena, all agreed this a no-brainer. It was evident that we have a very strong ally and advocate in Peter and his Assistant Dean-ship so I’m optimistic this will happen, at some point. There was also talk of a reading for The Wind Shifts, which Emmy and I had already been scheming. It seems more possible than ever, now.

Also present at the opening (and dinner afterwards) was the Director of University of Arizona Press, Christine Szuter, who was filling in for Patti Hartmann at the Latino Writers Conference. I sat across from her at dinner, and beside Pat Mora and we had a very engaging conversation about literature and publishing. It looks likes Poetas y Pintores may travel to the University of Arizona, at some point, as well. Maria Meléndez has a theory: once people experience the exhibit in person, as Peter and Christine did last night, it’s an easier sell as far persuading someone to want to take it on. Before making this trip down to New Mexico, my mind set was that Poetas y Pintores was winding down. Now I’m not so sure. It’s going to be on display in Albuquerque till August 17 so it may very well get a second wind.

Kathleen de Azevedo, one of the invited writers for the conference, and who is author of the novel Samba Dreamers (University of Arizona Press), was at dinner, too. She lives in San Francisco and teaches at Skyline College. One of the interesting sidebars of last night (at our end of the table) was the role of Brazil and the Brazilian in “latinidad.” It gave me occasion to mention my experience of publishing Lisa Gonzales’ Arroyo with Momotombo Press. Pat had an interesting perspective on this “debate” and came out expressing, in the end, her inclination for more and not less inclusivity.

Michelle Otero, author of Malinche’s Daughter (Momotombo Press) was at the reception and dinner afterwards, as well. [Newsflash: Malinche’s Daughter has pretty much SOLD OUT. That is: Michelle has worked so hard at promoting and selling and doing readings that the 1000 print run has been exhausted in about one year—a record for Momotombo Press.] MFA candidate from New Mexico State University, Melanie [not remembering her last name], who writes fiction, was also present. She reported that Chicana poet Carolina Monsivais graduated from NMSU’s MFA program last weekend. Congratulations, Caro!


Finally, on the Poetry Foundation website, under “live readings”:

May 18-19, 2007 : Ojai, CA

Gary Snyder, Sherman Alexie, Maria Melendez, and Sandra Alcosser. Ojai Poetry Festival Snyder (Back on the Fire), Alexie (Dangerous Astronomy), Melendez (How Long She’ll Last in This World), and Alcosser (Except by Nature) offer readings and discussions in Ojai, home to Tim Burton and Ted Danson.

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