Monday, September 29, 2008

Year 1 of the tour concludes

Since putting together the proposal for The Wind Shifts: New Latino Poetry back in the summer of 2004, I had spoken on the phone with anthology contributor Deborah Parédez maybe twice; had exchanged five or six e-mails with her, no more. In other words, my point of contact had been, primarily, her poems. One, "The Fire," has been a particular favorite--so much so that I'd gotten into the habit of reading it in public whenever an appropriate occasion presented itself, whether at previous anthology readings, or an open mic, including one at Busboys & Poets in D.C. after a Cave Canem anthology reading.

It was a particular pleasure, therefore, to finally meet Deborah. I had lunch with her last Thursday, and then we all got to hear her read on Thursday evening at Hugo House, including her rendering of "The Fire." Richard Blanco and Steven Cordova, for their part, in addition to pieces from the anthology, each read a new poem: Richard's piece took inspiration from the sound of his very name, and Steven's was a moving one in which his brother is protagonist. María Meléndez induced a certain amount of audience participation right before she gave a striking delivery of her anthology piece, "Remedio." What I should also mention, since I don't think I have in previous accounts of these readings, is that one of the nicer elements we've been trying to introduce is having the readers perform a poem by someone in the anthology who is not physically present. On this particular occasion Richard read a poem by David Dominguez; Steven read a poem by Paul Martínez Pompa; Maria read a poem by Gina Franco; Deborah read a poem by David Hernandez; and I got into the act and read a poem by Lidia Torres. In short, a memorable and fun reading.

And really: what this tour has tried to be about--in addition, of course, to taking the anthology to different audiences around the country--is connecting poets. The Seattle stop was no exception: María Meléndez and Richard Blanco had never met. Neither Steven Cordova, nor Richard, nor María had met Deborah who, in turn, had not met any of us.

And this: poet and Latino Poetry Review contributor Emily Pérez, who lives in Seattle, hadn't met Deborah Parédez nor María Meléndez either. It was gratifying to see and hear Parédez and Pérez share stories about their native Texas and, in the end (sitting next to each other), exchange contact information at our post-reading dinner. It also turned into a sort of Macondo mini reunion: in addition to Macondistas Blanco and Cordova, we were joined at dinner by Macondista Wendy Call, fine nonfiction writer and former writer-in-residence of Hugo House. Wendy is who suggested Tamarind Tree, the Vietamese restaurant where our dinner took place.

Also present at the reading was noted poet and translator (from the Spanish), Carolyne Wright. Sitting with Wright was Chilean-born, Seattle-based poet Eugenia Toledo-Keyser. And speaking of tours, both Carolyne and Eugenia will be teaming up for a month-long poetry reading tour through Chile in the latter half of October. Announcement: Wright has agreed to periodically contribute to Letras Latinas Blog while on her Chilean journey.

"The Wind Shifts: New Latino Poetry ON TOUR" will next be heading to California for a reading on February 26, 2009 at Poetry Center San José. If you are in the Bay Area, please mark your calendars and come out and see and hear:

Venessa Maria Fuentes

Adela Najarro
Paul Martínez Pompa
Lidia Torres

Stay tuned for a few Seattle pictures. And thanks to those bloggers who've been keeping tabs on this effort to spread new work by Latino and Latina poets. And lastly, a special thanks to Ellen Wadey, the Executive Director of the Guild Complex, without whose logistical support this tour would not be possible.


This event is supported in part by the Ford Foundation, JP Morgan Chase, the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts and Southwest Airlines through a grant from the NALAC Fund for the Arts.

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