Sunday, February 24, 2008

Dispatch from Palm Beach ( 2 AM)

It's been quite a couple of weeks for Letras Latinas:

DC to South Bend to Chicago to South Bend to Palm Beach to DC.

My time in South Bend had been devoted to the Andrés Montoya Poetry Prize. For the first edition, back in 2004, I had the pleasure of phoning Sheryl Luna from my office to let her know that Robert Vasquez had chosen her manuscript, Pity the Drowned Horses, as the winner. Two years later, in 2006, Valerie Martínez and I were walking to an event at the Border Book Festival in Mesilla, NM: I took out my cell phone, dialed Gabriel Gomez's number, and handed her the phone: she did the honors of communicating to Gabe that she had chosen The Outer Bands as the winner of the second edition of the Prize. Moments later the official public announcement was made at a BBF event.

A few days ago I shipped 15 finalist manuscripts to Martín Espada for the third edition of the Montoya Prize. I'm glad the final decision does not rest with me.


There's something to be said about listening to, and watching, a poet perform his poems without the aid of his text in front him. In other words, performing his poems from memory and therefore freeing his body to allow facial and bodily gesture to compliment the poems being delivered. I had never seen Tim Z. Hernandez perform his poems before. It was one of the reasons we invited him to Palabra Pura this third season. And what a treat it was! It was delight to see new faces in the crowd, including friends of Tim's from his time at Naropa in Colorado who now live in Indianapolis and made the three hour drive to Chicago. Also present was Emily Warn, editor of the Poetry Foundation's website, and Irasema Gonzalez of Tianguis books, among many others.

This also marked our first Palabra Pura in Pilsen---specifically, at Decima Musa, a restaurant and performance space. Aside from bringing Palabra Pura to a neighborhood whose residents are primarily Mexican, what was particularly nice was that we held our pre-reading dinner there as well, making it easier to transition from our "salon" to the reading itself. In short, it was a memorable evening, one of our best---and the more I've thought about it these last few days the more special it feels to have held our event in this particular community space. There are more Palabra Puras slated to take place at Decima Musa this year.


As the title of this post suggests, it was begun in Florida on the eve of returning to DC after inaugurating "The Wind Shifts: New Latino Poetry ON TOUR."

I'm not sure where to begin.

I might start by saying that I was concerned that our three poets---any of them---were going to get stranded during their air travel because of the severe weather in various parts of the country a few days ago. My flight to Cinncinatti was cancelled and I was re-routed to Palm Beach through Atlanta. I was the first to arrive last Friday afternoon. Thankfully, everyone made it: first Kevin, then Sheryl and finally Eduardo. But that afternoon, before our poets walked into the lobby of The Chesterfield Hotel, I paid a visit to the Society of the Four Arts on foot (it was a short walk from The Chesterfield) to say hello to Molly Charland, the director of the King Library the Society, where our reading was slated to take place the following morning at the unlikely hour of 11 AM. I was given a driving tour of Palm Beach.

To be continued.

1 comment:

Robert Vasquez said...

Dear Francisco,

This sounds like a terrific venue for such wonderful poets such as Sheryl, Eduardo, Kevin, and yourself.

I envy the audience members--they're in for a real treat.

All the best,