Tuesday, August 21, 2007


"I first encountered Robert Vasquez's work in 2003 when I opened his debut book of poetry, At the Rainbow (University of New Mexico Press, 1995). In it he portrayed California's Central Valley as both haunting and haunted---a place where "children fell throughout the night and bore the sad face of Jesus" ("Brothers"), while the dead emerged into the hollow evenings "the way clouds of insects lift from long grass" ("Belief"). These images resonated with me, evoking my own conflicted relationship with an incarcerated brother. A native Californian myself, I had also grown up with the understanding that the California with which I most identified (the San Gabriel Valley) was not palm trees and beaches, but barrios where people lined up for cheese and butter while Monte Carlos blasted Earth Wind & Fire into unemployed afternoons. It was a collection of neighborhoods anchored by gang culture that seemed, at the time, antithetical to poetry.

But when I discovered At the Rainbow, I realized...[...]"

---Diana Marie Delgado

from her Introduction to
Braille for the Heart

One of the great pleasures of working on this Momotombo Press title was counting on the collaboration of Chicana poet Diana Marie Delgado. I think I met her at the AWP conference in Chicago a few years ago. I also remember learning that she admired Robert Vasquez's poetry. When Momotombo Press decided it was going to publish a chapbook of his work, Delgado came to mind as someone to introduce the volume, which---as we can see---she has generously done.

No less significant is Chicano poet Eduardo C. Corral's blurb on the back. I thought this would be an occasion where a more established voice would be introduced by a younger generation of poets, for a change. I mention both Corral and Delgado in my "Editor's Note." But I also say the following:

" [...] What distinguishes this title is that Robert Vasquez graciously consented for this limited edition volume to serve as a fundraiser for Letras Latinas---specifically: to raise money in order to start an endowment whose first beneficiary will be the Letras Latinas Young Writers Initiative. It is a partnership between the Young Writers Workshop directed by Allison Joseph at Southern Illinois University, Carbondale and Cristo Rey Jesuit High School in Chicago, a school that primarily serves the Mexican community in Pilsen. [...]"

Here is the situation:

a private donor who was especially interested in the Letras Latinas Young Writers Initiative has generously pledged to match the money raised in 2007 (up to $25,000) to start a modest endowment that will fund, first, scholarships for Cristo Rey students to attend a summer writing workshop. Among those who generously donated to this effort in the campaign's first phase were writers Helena María Viramontes and Alex Espinoza.

Braille for the Heart, of which there are only 300 numbered copies for sale, is a way for individuals to make a modest ($35) tax deductible donation to a worthy cause and receive, in the process, what will surely be a collector's item. And again: donations that are made in the next three months or so will be matched, dollar for dollar, by a private donor.

Of course, it is always possible that Braille for the Heart will sell out sooner, which is my hope.
By the end of this week, I will outline how the sale of this special Momotombo Press title will proceed. My apologies for the longer than normal period between this and the last post. The books arrived yesterday.


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