Monday, April 4, 2011

Supporting the necessary work: Wally Babington

Wally Babington and "Untitled" by Malaquias Montoya

When I introduced the poets at the Folger Shakespeare Library a few weeks ago, I made it a point to thank the Weissberg Foundation for their support of Letras Latinas in Washington, D.C. Crucial to that support, as I mentioned in my remarks, is Weissberg Foundation board member Wallace Babington. As the picture above indicates, Wally, (as he insists being called), is the owner of the Malaquias Montoya print specifically created for the Andrés Montoya Poetry Prize Initiative, which he purchased to lend his support. As I mentioned when I highlighted Valerie Martinez’s generosity a few weeks ago, the plan is to profile a selection of people who are going the extra mile in support of Letras Latinas, in this case one of its flagship initiatives: the Andrés Montoya Poetry Prize. Wally has agreed to answer a few questions.


Letras Latinas Blog:
Thanks for agreeing to answer a few questions, Wally. I know that your engagement with the arts, particularly in your role as a director with the Weissberg Foundation, has been in the theater, especially here in Washington, D.C.. But could you share with our readers some of your experiences with poetry in the last couple of years.

Wallace Babington:
I think one of the first readings I attended was the one that your Institute hosted at the Museum of American History back in the fall of 2009. There were two of them, and they were related with that exhibit on the guest workers. But I’m afraid the poets’ names escape me, but I remember being moved by the readings and the exhibit very much. And of course last September there was Brenda and Paul's readings at the Sumner School. I also enjoyed the salon and reading at Busboys and Poets with Steven Cordova last November, especially the conversation you conducted with Steven at Albert’s home. The reading at the Folger this past February also stands out because of the engaging discussion afterwards. I must say, and I think I’ve said this before, I’ve really appreciated being introduced to this new world of poetry and Latino poetry in particular. As someone who enjoys the theater, it has been interesting for me to note that poets do have to perform their poems!

I’m glad you’ve mentioned Paul (Martinez Pompa). As you may recall, I gave you his book, My Kill Adore Him (University of Notre Dame Press, 2009) because it was the winner of the Andrés Montoya Poetry Prize. Letras Latinas is currently raising money for the long-term sustainability of this prize. Could you share with readers why you said Yes to buying one of these prints?

The Weissberg Foundation has been happy to support the work of Letras Latinas, but before I answer your question, I want to take a moment to mention two other organization that I’ve been proud to support: Metro TeenAIDS, and Joseph’s House—two organizations I always like to mention when speaking of my philanthropy. But back to your question: I hope that my attendance at Letras Latinas events is evidence of my support. But I also believe it’s important, as a supporter of the arts, to make a personal investment. If I limited my arts philanthropy to the Foundation’s money only, I don’t think I could consider myself a true supporter of the arts.


Thanks, Wally. Might you have some parting words for readers of this blog who might be sitting on the fence about supporting the Andrés Montoya Poetry Prize Initiative.

I’ve only been enjoying poetry, Latino poetry, in any meaningful way for two or so years. If I can show my support of Latino poetry in this way, surely there are lovers of Latino poetry out there who have been reading and appreciating this work much longer than I have. I would hope some of them could rise to this special occasion and purchase this printBut if the cost of the print is too prohibitive, surely some of these same enthusiasts can make a more modest gift and designate it to support this prize. As they say, no gift is too small!

Note: Please do not hesitate to contact me if you have any questions aboutany aspect of this initiative, including about alternative ways to support the work Letras Latinas carries out.

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