Friday, July 1, 2011

Documenting the Academic Year: 2010/11

LETRAS LATINAS: 2010-2011 (highlights)

Around this time of year, in preparation for the Institute’s “annual report,” I am asked to submit a document that highlights the activities Letras Latinas has been directly (and indirectly) involved in. Because Letras Latinas is part of a university, our frame of reference is the academic year. It’s occurred to me to post here a version of the document I had to prepare and submit. This is meant as a form of documentation; a record, if you will, of what took place during the 2010/11 academic year. I’ve tacked on a brief “summer” section. Here it goes (though without hyper-links):

Fall semester

On September 15, Letras Latinas co-sponsored two events. Letras Latinas partnered with the Poetry Foundation and the Guild Complex in Chicago to present a program featuring former Andrés Montoya Poetry Prize judges Silvia Curbelo and Valerie Martínez. This was part of the PALABRA PURA series, which is currently in its sixth season

On the Notre Dame campus, Letras Latinas partnered with the Creative Writing Program in the English Department to present a reading by Mexican-born fiction writer Salvador Plascencia. In addition to meeting with creative writing graduate students, Plascencia was interviewed for the Letras Latinas Oral History Project.


On September 16, Letras Latinas co-sponsored two events. Letras Latinas partnered with the Poetry Society of America and the Arts & Humanities Initiative at the University of Southern California to present “Celebrando Chicana Poetry” in Los Angeles. The reading was an evening presentation at “Festival de Flor y Canto. Yesterday. Today. Tomorrow.” It featured Diana García, Maria Melendez, and Emmy Pérez. The multi-day festival was organized by Michael Sedano. The Letras Latinas session was introduced by then Poetry Society of America Program Director Rob Casper.

In Washington, D.C. on the same date, Letras Latinas partnered with Cave Canem and the American Poetry Museum for an event. Featured poets were: R. Dwayne Betts, Brenda Cárdenas, Paul Martínez Pompa, and Ines P. Rivera Prosdocimi. The post-reading discussion, which is a feature of APM events, was moderated by Fred Joiner.


On September 17, Letras Latinas partnered with Cave Canem and The Writer’s Center in Bethsesda, MD to present Brenda Cárdenas, Teri Cross Davis, Gregory Pardlo, and Paul Martínez Pompa.

These two back to back Cave Canem/Letras Latinas events were co-curated by Kyle Dargan


From October 13 – 20, with funding from the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA), Letras Latinas partnered with the Ragdale Foundation to carry out a special initiative--years in the making--that brought to Ragdale House in Lake Forest, IL eight Latino and Latina poet/editors from around the United States. Poets remained in residence to discuss issues facing those poets who are also literary editors, in addition to working on our own creative projects.

On the last evening of the residency, the eight poets read from their work at Ragdale House for members of the local Lake Forest community. The poet/editors were: Francisco Aragón, David Dominguez, Carmen Giménez Smith, Roberto Harrison, Raina J. León, J. Michael Martínez, and Maria Melendez.


On November 8, Letras Latinas partnered with other campus units and professor  Marisel Moreno in Romance Languages to present Salvadoran-born poet William Archila. In addition to visiting professor Moreno’s undergraduate class, “Migrant Voices,” Archila gave a public reading from his work for the campus community. Archila was interviewed for the Letras Latinas Oral History Project.


On November 11, at the Latino Art Now! conference in Los Angeles, Letras Latinas, in collaboration with Chicano artist Malaquias Montoya, launched the “Andrés Montoya Poetry Prize Initiative,” a two-year fundraising effort to benefit the Andrés Montoya Poetry Prize and the publication of a posthumous volume of poetry by Andrés Montoya. Malaquias unveiled “Untitled,” a specially commissioned silkscreen print inspired by the poetry of his late son, Andrés. The volume in question, colon-ization, has been edited by Daniel Chacón will be published by Bilingual Press, in collaboration with Letras Latinas.


On November 19 and November 21, Letras Latinas presented two special events. On the 19th, Letras Latinas hosted a literary salon in a private home in Washington, D.C., featuring Steven Cordova, who discussed his work and signed copies of Long Distance, which were given to attendees, courtesy of Letras Latinas. On the 21st, Letras Latinas partnered with Busboys and Poets and Split This Rock Poetry Festival and presented a poetry reading featuring Steven Cordova and Dan Vera.

Spring semester

From February 3 – 6, the Association of Writers and Writing Programs (AWP), hosted their annual conference in Washington, D.C., attracting 9000 attendees.

Francisco Aragón, director of Letras Latinas, served as Conference Chair. Letras Latinas, with the assistance of the Weissberg Foundation and Institute for Scholarship and Liberal Arts (ISLA) at Notre Dame, was a co-sponsor of the conference at the “Patron” level.

During the conference, Letras Latinas hosted a reception for the Macondo Writers’ Workshop, a national collective of writers that gathers every summer for a week in San Antonio, TX.

The 2011 AWP Conference Program featured a full page ad officially announcing the creation of the “Letras Latinas / Red Hen Poetry Prize,” which will support the publication of a second or third book by a Latino or Latina poet. Notre Dame English professor Orlando Ricardo Menes will serve as final judge. The inaugural deadline is in January of 2012.


On February 28, Letras Latinas partnered with Folger Shakespeare Library and the Poetry Society of America to present Naomi Ayala, J. Michael Martinez, and Valerie Martínez in the O. B. Hardison Poetry Series in Washington, D.C.

On March 14, Letras Latinas Blog posted an exclusive interview with Eduardo C. Corral, the first Latino/a poet to win the Yale Younger Poets Award, chosen by Carl Phillips.


On May 13, Letras Latinas announced the recipient of the 4th Letras Latinas Residency Fellowship: Chicago-based poet Jacob Saenz. This initiative identifies a Latino or Latina writer working to complete a first book. This initiative is a partnership with the Anderson Center in Red Wing, MN, whose Executive Director is poet and translator Robert Hedin.


On May 25, at the Museo del Barrio in New York, NY, the organization Latino Literacy Now hosted the 2011 International Latino Book Awards celebration.

137 awards in 53 categories were announced. Honorees were from USA, Latin America, and Spain.

Here are the full list of awardees:


On June 14, the Word for Word Poetry series in Bryant Park featured CantoMundo fellows Diana Marie Delgado, Deboarah Parédez, and Carmen Tafolla. Letras Latinas director Francisco Aragón was in attendance.


On July 1, The Austin Chronicle published a piece (by Macondo writer Belinda Acosta) on the second annual CantoMundo gathering:


On August 16, Letras Latinas will present a slate of writers at the Word for Word series in Bryant Park: Cynthia Cruz, J. Michael Martínez, Maria Melendez, and Toni Margarita Plummer.


LETRAS LATINAS could not carry out its work 
without the generosity of its individual donors, 
and the Weissberg Foundation


Special thanks to Oscar Bermeo, who regularly
contributes to Letras Latinas Blog

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