Sunday, September 25, 2011

Rigoberto González reads from Black Blossoms at Clarksville, Tennessee’s Austin Peay State University

On September 15th, Rigoberto González read from his newest collection of poems Black Blossoms (Four Ways, 2011). Afterwards he introduced poet Amanda Auchter winner of the 2010 Zone 3 First Book Award for Poetry, an annual contest hosted by Austin Peay State University and judged recently by González.

One of the most searing impressions I have of the first CantoMundo gathering is this one: we are all gathered in a conference room at New Mexico’s National Hispanic Cultural Center—this is the last session of the workshops—we are wrapping up this first CantoMundo experience when a poet walks in. This man commands our attention; he gives off sparks as he walks. Imagine it for a second: he walks as if in a magnetic mantle, pulling us in as if we were iron or nickel. To say that at that time I knew who this man was would be deceitful. That poet’s name is Rigoberto González. I was in the presence of a giant and I did not know it.

To say that Rigoberto Gonzalez is a prolific writer would be an understatement.  The breadth of his work expands the memoir, the novel, the short story collection, the YA novel, the children’s picture book, and three collections of poetry, including the brand new Black Blossoms (Four Way, 2011), which was recently reviewed in Publisher’sWeekly.

But Rigoberto is also a generous man. To not mention his hard work promoting and enhancing the visibility and appreciation of Chicano/Latino writers would be to reduce his stature to the size of a pencil’s eraser. It would suffice here for example to mention his gracious introduction of Momotombo author Octavio R.Gozalez’s The Book of Ours (Momotombo Press, 2009). Or his ten years as a book-review columnist for the El PasoTimes.  Or his editing of Camino del Sol: Fifteen Years of Latina and Latino Writing (University of Arizona Press, 2010), which recently won 1st place in the poetry in English category at the International Latino Book Awards, and Xicano Duende: An Anthology (Bilingual Press, 2011) by Chicano poet Alurista, which Rigoberto edited and introduced.

I recently read So Often the Pitcher Goes to Water until It Breaks. Rigoberto’s poems here are a litany of characters, inhabiting a world of death and loss and even love, but never safety.  In his poem “Horn” Rigoberto writes of a bleeding bull—his horn violently snapped from the skull. Rigoberto writes: “There is no seeking pity,/ no screwing the horn back on.” Rigoberto’s poem too—like the bull—rocked me, snapped my horn off and now too—for me—there is no screwing the horn back on.


Also check out Artemio Rodriguez’s print titled ‘’Que Culpa Tengo Yo De Ser TanGuapo” inspired by Rigoberto González’s poem “Papi Love” which was part of Letras Latinas’ collaborative project “Poetas y Pintores: Artists Conversing withVerse.” And keep Rigoberto González on your radar as Letras Latinas launches the multi-year reading series “Latino/a Poetry Now” this November. González is slated to read in
installment three of the series, at Macalester College, in the Fall of 2012, alongside Xochiquetzal Candelaria and Lorena Duarte.

And finally a treat: Check out this taped recording of Rigoberto reading from his newest collection Black Blossoms:

--Lauro Vazquez

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