Monday, June 21, 2010

Letras Latinas at Cave Canem (2)

June 21, 7:30 pm
Toi Derricotte, Cornelius Eady & Ed Roberson
with Letras Latinas Poet Brenda Cárdenas

University of Pittsburgh at Greensburg
Village Hall, 150 Finoli Drive
Greensburg, Pennsylvania

[for tonight]:

In the summer of 2004, I was putting together a book proposal for what eventually became The Wind Shifts: New Latino Poetry, published by University of Arizona Press. I was living in Indiana at the time and I remember thinking that I wanted and needed to find voices from the midwest. I struck gold when I came across something called Between the Heart and the Land: Latina Poets in the Midwest, an anthology co-edited by, and including the work of, someone whose name was unfamiliar to me then: Brenda Cárdenas.  I remember being dazzled by what has become one of my favorite poems, titled “Report from the Temple of Confessions in Old Chicano English.” In it Brenda deploys what linguists call “code-switching,” that seamless shifting, back and forth, between English and Spanish—a trope that, when done well, is one of the most indelible contributions Chicano poetry has made to American letters. Brenda is a master at it.
Aside from The Wind Shifts, her work has appeared in a number of places, including Prairie Schooner, RATTLE, the anthologies U.S. Latino Literature Today and The City Visible: Chicago Poetry for the New Century. Online her work has appeared, among other places, at Poetry Daily. In 2004, Brenda published a chapbook with Momotombo Press, which is part of Letras Latinas at Notre Dame. Of this volume, the young poet and critic, Craig Santos Perez, writes: “From the Tongues of Brick and Stone constructs a lyrically taut web haunted by songs of disparate experience.” In 2009, Bilingual Press, housed at ASU, published Brenda’s first full-length collection, Boomerang, which is the third title in Canto Cosas—a book series featuring work by Latino and Latina poets. As series editor, I felt extremely fortunate to have acquired this title.
Brenda Cárdenas holds an M.F.A. in Creative Writing from the University of Michigan and currently teaches in the PhD program in Creative Writing at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. Anyone who spends any time chatting with her would rightly guess what a passionate and dedicated teacher she is. The city of Milwaukee is also lucky to have her as its current Poet Laureate.
Let me end by sharing a couple of brief comments about Boomerang, which I hope many of you will buy. In his Forword, award-winning poet and current Guggenheim Fellow Juan Felipe Herrera writes: “This collection is volatile the way a panther or trickster coyote is capable of deft performance at night or at dawn when all is quiet and seems to be in order…It demarcates a new era in Chicana and Latina poetics of the Americas.”  And Rigoberto González, another award-winning writer and former Guggenheim Fellow, concludes, in the El Paso Times, with these remarks: “What makes Boomerang shine as a Chicano book is that, though Cárdenas doesn't shy away from engaging such familiar territory as family, language and raza identity, these subjects are given fresh direction and energy as she wields her poetic powers with sensitivity, intelligence and skill.” Please give a Cave Canem welcome to Brenda Cárdenas.


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