Thursday, February 5, 2009

Latinos and Latinas at AWP (part 2)

"After Magical Realism: New Adventures in U.S. Latino Literature"

elena minor writes:

"The idea for the panel presentation titled “After Magical Realism: New Adventures in U. S. Latino Literature” came to me during last year’s AWP conference in New York. After attending several panel presentations by Chicano & Latino writers, I felt the time was right to open a discussion about the new directions in which U. S. Latino literature is moving.

One of the reasons I founded PALABRA A Magazine of Chicano & Latino Literary Art was to create a venue for writing by Latinos that didn’t fit the mold—imposed either internally or externally. I was beginning to see a glimmer of new “stuff”— different and cool—and thought to make a friendly place for work that veered, to varying degrees and in a variety of forms, from literary conventions.

What was beginning to appear now and then was writing [by Latinos] that didn’t conform to established expectations. It wasn’t realistic; it wasn’t magical realism; it wasn’t necessarily about belonging-otherness, coming of age or any variation on the immigration theme. And if it was, it waxed on in fresh and singular ways. Regardless, it was exciting, risky, wild. It blurred the lines yet still felt organic and crafted. It pushed at the edge and crossed into new and untried territory. Mostly it was [and is] the fresh breeze[s] that must flow through if the literature is going to thrive. Therein lies its importance.

The new stuff is alternately classified as avant-garde or hybrid or experimental or innovative or post postmodern. I simply call it all “unconventional” work, primarily because it’s as diverse in form, structure and treatment as there are writers who are working it: John-Michael Rivera, Gina Franco, Fred Arroyo, Salvador Plascencia, Gabe Gomez, to name a few. They’re writing in ways that bend genres with a distinct Latino ethos.

How well it/they will endure is yet to be determined in this day of texting and pix. Perhaps it’s simply transitional—a bridge to truly new and not yet created forms. I may be dead by then and won’t care. But I’m not now, so I do. And the discussion about this work is as important as the work itself. If you’re going to be at AWP, please join John-Michael Rivera, Gina Franco, Fred Arroyo, Paul Martinez Pompa and Aaron Michael Morales for their respective takes on all this stuff."


"Diverging Lines: Understanding the Evolution of Contemporary Latino Poetry"

Blas Falconer writes:

"Last year, I chaired a somewhat similar panel at the AWP Conference in New York. The panel considered the influences and experiences of Latina/o poets reared outside of Latino communities. Patti Hartman, the acquisitions editor at University of Arizona Press, attended and seemed open to the possibility of publishing an anthology inspired by the papers that we presented. To my delight, three outside reviewers expressed interest in the book proposal; however, all three recommended that I broaden the subject in some way. Two reviewers suggested that I change the scope of the project to include any poet—regardless of where he or she was reared—who seemed to reflect the dynamic body of Latino poetry today.*

Inspired by the recommendation of the reviewers, I put together this panel, hoping to generate a larger discussion on the subject. I chose the panelists because their work piques my interest, because they write in a very different style from my own, and because I am curious to learn about their influences within and outside of Latina/o poetry. The panelists will consider how their own work might challenge or complicate, build upon or diverge from, the aesthetics and themes often associated with Latina/o Literature. The ultimate goal, however, is to reflect diversity in the work of these—as well as the greater community of—contemporary Latina/o poets.**


*Based on the advice of the third reviewer, Arizona has requested that I also include essays by fiction writers. Lorraine Lopez, fiction writer and professor at Vanderbilt University, has agreed to co-edit the book. The inclusion of these fiction writers will make the book more useful in contemporary Latino Literature classes. The downside, of course, is that there will be far less room for the many Latino poets writing such interesting poetry right now.

**I came to choose each poet in a unique way. For example, I heard Rodrigo Toscano’s work at an Acentos reading, where forty-some other Latina/o poets read. No one else sounded like him. It was thrilling. After Gina Franco and I read together in Chicago last year, she shared some of her new prose poems with me, and I thought that what she was doing was entirely new. When I read Peter Ramos’s book, I couldn’t help but think of Berryman’s Dream Songs and wondered what his other influences were. When I taught Rosa Alcalá’s poems to my undergraduate class, they couldn’t stop talking about them. They were taken by the lyricism and mystery of her work. Roberto Tejada, who is celebrated for his poetry, also happens to be an accomplished visual arts critic, photographer historian, and curator."


"Revising Modernisms: Innovative Latino Writing in the 21st Century"

"Breach: Emerging U.S. Latino and Latina Poetry"

Gabe Gomez writes:

"I’m involved in two panels Revising Modernisms: Innovative Latino Writing in the 21st Century and Breach: Emerging Latino and Latina Poetry. The “Revising Modernisms” panel explores the relationship between contemporary “experimental” US Latino/a poetry and Modernism, the role of the media in the construction of identity and spectacle, and how both literary and visual art may posit counter-narratives to media-appropriated representations. I’ll be discussing Breach Press, which is my new publishing venture with J. Michael Martinez, who organized this panel.

The “Breach” panel is straightforward reading by five poets (including me), and is our way of officially launching our press. I wanted to organize a reading that represented the vanguard of Latino/a poets, so I invited Roberto Tejada, Carmen Gimenez-Smith, Rosa Alcalá, and J. Michael Martinez to read. In my opinion, these writers are creating the most exciting work in contemporary Latino/a poetry; it’s a real honor to be reading with such a tremendous group of young writers. We’ve created a small chapbook for the occasion, which includes work from all the Breach panelists. We will distribute them throughout AWP. Ultimately, these two panels represent the kind of work and theory that we would hope to publish through our press. The panels represent a small sampling of the diverse styles and points of view that concern or address the topic of innovative Latino/a writing."

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