Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Chloe's Cabaret wrap up

The pictures posted above were provided by journalist Talia Reed, of The Preface---the newspaper at Indiana University South Bend (IUSB). They are in reverse order---that is: a shot of Gabriel Gomez and Valerie Martinez at the Q & A after the reading, followed by a shot of Gabe, who read second, and then Valerie, who read first.

Here is the piece that appeared last week in print.

“Chloe’s Cabaret”: Poetry Reading
by Valerie Martinez and Gabriel Gomez
DeBartolo Performing Arts Center, Notre Dame

by Talia Reed

In a very hip night club in South Bend last Tuesday evening, with lights dimmed ambience style, a wet bar in back and a microphone in front, poetry was read. Except it wasn’t a night club; it was a poetry reading at Notre Dame’s De Bartolo Center for the Performing Arts, put on by the Institute for Latino Studies and Notre Dame’s Creative Writing Program. The event, coined “Chloe’s Cabaret,” is done for various poetry readings throughout the year, this one, to celebrate the publication of Gabriel Gomez’s book The Outer Bands, which was published through the Institute for Latino Studies’ Andrés Montoya Poetry Prize for a first book by a Latino/a poet. Last year’s contest was judged by poet, scholar, playwright, and Professor of English in Santa Fe, New Mexico, Valerie Martinez, who also read. Andrés Montoya was a poet from California, whose book The Ice Worker Sings was chosen for publication in 1999, shortly before he died of leukemia, never having seen the publication of his book. The Notre Dame contest honors Montoya’s memory.

The Cabaret, alive with salsa music, began with an introduction from Francisco Aragón, a poet himself and Director of Letras Latinas, which is the literary program for the Institute of Latino Studies at Notre Dame. The cabaret was then divided into segments of music, poetry, music, poetry with the interludes of music chosen beforehand by the guest poets themselves, adding not only to the tone of the evening, but another layer of articulation from the artists, particularly so with former New Orleans resident and music journalist Gomez, whose first choice of John Lee Hooker solidified the night club atmosphere—everything was there except the smoke wafting up into the lights.

Valerie Martinez, author of Absence, Luminescent, which received a Larry Levis prize in 1999, and World to World, was the first poet up and she read from her newest manuscript Each and Her, which is a book-length poem documenting a “grappling with” the horrendous phenomenon of the raping and murdering of women near Cuidad Juarez, Mexico. Martinez describes the poem as a collage, in which she includes statistics, linguistic fragments, song lyrics, and expert quotes on the incidents.

"patriarchal lock and grid…the bridal district, handmade gowns 50% off…feminine curves of wrought iron…a rose bush pruned back too far will regress to its wild state…tells how he slit the throats of his three young daughters…after the late shift on the factory bus we stitch ourselves one to another…raped, strangled, beaten, shot, burned, right breast severed, nipples bitten off…"

In one particular section of the poem, Martinez lists names of victims, using the four traditional names of Latino culture, with a refraining “María.”

Gabriel Gomez read four poems from The Outer Bounds. The title poem of the book refers to his experience, specifically the thirty days he spent after Hurricane Katrina, in Texas, with so much swirling around him. He too uses a collage-like approach to documenting the experience with New York Times headlines, pieces of speeches, and conversations, images of an Amish family visiting the Sears Tower in Chicago, names of funds and governmental acts established to address the disaster, which Gomez culminates into a rapid reaction to a beauracracy that has suddenly erupted before him.

The reading was followed by questions from the audience which led the poets into an interesting discussion of the many issues that can be chiseled from the umbrella topic of Latino studies and Latino literature, as well as mention of revision practices, and influences.

More Chloe’s Cabaret events are expected this year at the Notre Dame campus, among other Creative Writing Events, a schedule of which may be viewed online at http://www.nd.edu/~alcwp/activities.html


Stay tuned for a post about Eduardo C. Corral's appearance later this evening in New York City to mark the launching of the Letras Latinas Broadside Series, featuring Corral's poem, "Pear"

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