Tuesday, September 18, 2007


Part of me feels guilty for not writing more here. But then I have to remind myself of the reason I'm in Minnesota in the first place, and the guilt vanishes.
I interrupted my time here at the Anderson Center for a trip out west for a couple of readings. Rigoberto Gonzalez wrote about Francisco X. Alarcon recently over at the Poetry Foundation, which is indeed welcome. If there is a Chicano/Latino poet who is the most under-appreciated by what I'll call the American Poetry Mainstream, Alarcon may be it. He's every bit, in my view, the poet as the Latino/a poets of his generation that are better known by non-Latino poetry readers. Part of it may be because his trajectory has been completely outside of English Departments, or that he writes mostly in Spanish. One might argue that most non-Latino poetry readers know him more, in recent years, as a children's book author. I've known and have collaborated with him as his sometime translator since 1985. Like Rigoberto, I had the privilege of spending much time with him at UC Davis, but in 1998-2000. Anyway, I bring him up here because we read together last Friday night at this relatively new poetry series in the North Bay called WordTemple, which is held at a bookstore in Santa Rosa called Copperfield's Books. The running anectdote, which once again was shared that night, is that during the ten years I lived in Spain and Alarcon read my translations of his work in public, people began to suspect that "Francisco Aragon" was an invention by "Francisco Alarcon." It wasn't until I returned and we gave a series of readings together that he was able to dispel this bit of urban legend once and for all. We have developed this routine now that whenever we read together, we take turns at the podium, reading mini "sets" of poems around certain themes so that our pieces sort of complement and converse with each other. The feedback has always been encouraging. We had a nice audience and sold a few books. The next day, we both had slots on the poetry stage of the Sonoma County Book Festival, and read there, too.

I'll close this by making a related announcement:

Francisco X. Alarcon, as his donation to the current Letras Latinas Endowment campaign, graciously arranged to have shipped back to my office in DC signed copies of his two sonnet collections: De Amor Oscuro/Of Dark Love (Moving Parts Press) and Sonetos a la locura y otras penas/Sonnets to Madness and Other Misfortunes (Moving Parts Press), both of which I translated from Spanish into English. These were two of the most satisfying and pleasurable translation projects I've been involved with. When I get back to DC, I imagine that the books will be waiting for me. I'll have 25 copies of each title. I will be signing them, as well. I'm going to make these available as a twin set for this campaign. I haven't decided what donation I'll be asking for each set, but keep in mind that there will only be 25 of them. Both collections include wonderful line drawings. Again, if they are sold and paid for in 2007, there will be a dollar for dollar match from my private donor.

Another highlight of Friday evening was that afterwards, Francisco, Javier (FA's partner) and I went out to dinner with Barbara Jane Reyes, Oscar Bermeo, and Craig Perez. It was a delight to finally meet Oscar and Craig. Barbara I had the pleasure of meeting, and interviewing, at Notre Dame last year. My thanks to them for the generous gift of their presence---for making that drive up 101 at rush hour!

Finally: thanks to those of you who have e-mailed in more pre-orders for Braille for the Heart since my last post. Those of you who haven't e-mailed them in yet, please remember to include your snail mail address.

And before I forget: the Momotombo Press homepage now has a "Bulletin" for this special campaign that will remain in place till the end of the year.

Thanks again to Robert Vasquez for making this particular part of the campaign possible.

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