"Letras Latinas Presents"
in dialogue with
Diana García reads in the exhibit space
Without a doubt, the readings that took place at the Smithsonian's National Museum of American History last weekend were among the most satisifying I've had the privilege of being a part of---as an organizer. Hearing Diana and Quique perform their work in that space, and experiencing how their work dialogued with the exhibit around them was something I couldn't have fully anticipated. Diana read a new six-part poem that she had written specifically for the occasion, a piece she began writing several months ago when I extended the invitation. And Quique was an exemplary performer of his work. They complimented each other nicely.
In many respects, these readings were an experiment. We asked a lot of Diana and Quique. We asked them to perform four times in two days. On Saturday they read at 11 AM, and again at 2 PM. On Sunday they read at 12 noon, and again at 3 PM. Each session lasted 45 minutes. The idea was to make their poetry available to the casual museum visitor during those periods of time. So on the one hand we had people attending each reading who were specifically there to hear the poets (and see the exhibit); and we had people who stumbled upon the readings while viewing the exhibit, took a stool, and were taken in by the voices they heard. Diana sold copies of her book, When Living Was A Labor Camp (University of Arizona Press), which is always a gratifying outcome for a book-published poet. And Quique read from his artisan and lamentably out-of-print book, Immigrant Museum.
The photographs included here are from the first reading on Saturday morning. The session was video recorded and should be available---some version of it, perhaps edited---on the web at some point. My principal collaborator on this initiative was Magdalena Mieri, who directs the Program in Latino History and Culture at the museum, which is located on the Mall at 14th St. in Washington, D.C.
The exhibit itself will be up until early January of 2010, and then it goes on the road all around the United States. Actually there are two copies of it that will be traveling to various venues. If someone can't physically make it to one of the exhibit's showings, it can be viewed, and listened to (there are audio oral histories) on the web.
Naomi Ayala and John Olivares Espinoza will be reading their work in the exhibit space on the weekend of December 5-6.