Wednesday, November 18, 2009

A little bit of community: PALABRA PURA's 2009 finale

 Rita Maria Martinez

In February of 2008 Letras Latinas and the Guild Complex kicked off "The Wind Shifts: New Latino Poetry ON TOUR" in Palm Beach, FL. The invited, featured readers  were Eduardo C. Corral, Sheryl Luna, and Kevin A. González.

I remember realizing, beforehand, that neither myself, Eduardo, nor Sheryl, had ever met Kevin. We were certainly aware of, and admired, his work. Actually, that's not entirely true: I had met Kevin briefly for about a minute at the AWP Bookfair in Chicago in 2004 at the Momotombo Press table, but hadn't had the pleasure of conversing with him substantially---until Palm Beach. This was precisely one of the goals of the tour: to create scenarios where anthology contributors could meet each other, perhaps for the first time, and interact.

Another bonus that Saturday was that Richard Blanco, Emma Trelles, and Rita Maria Martinez made the drive up to Palm Beach from the Miami area. I knew Richard, had corresponded with (but hadn't met) Emma, but didn't know Rita. All seven of us went to lunch after the mid-morning reading and had a great time. I remember Rita mentioning that she had a forthcoming chapbook, as did Emma. They both sent their collections to me at some point after that, and I remember just loving them, so much so that I included  them in a guest post for Madam Mayo, in which I talked about five poetry books I especially enjoyed in 2008.

PALABRA PURA 2009 was lucky enough to have on its roster this year both Emma and Rita. Emma read beautifully last June, and tonight I'll finally have a chance to hear Rita read poems I've admired and enjoyed in print. Situations like these are what I enjoy about having the privilege---because it is a privilege---of striving to carry out Letras Latinas' mission. In short: attempts at fostering community, even if for brief spans of time. It's akin to the ethos one experiences in the Bronx with the ACENTOS Foundation; it's akin to the ethos one experiences in Kansas City, MO with the Latino Writers Collective; its akin to the experience PALABRA PURA tries to emulate in Chicago.

Here are two interviews with Rita Maria Martinez:  

And another with Gonzalo Barr, which includes some sample pieces from:

Jane-in-the-Box (March Street Press, 2008).


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