There is no other way to say this: Eduardo Corral is breaking down doors and making history. Or rather as the first Latino poet to be awarded both the Yale Series of Younger Poets Award and a Whiting Writers’Award Eduardo is signing our names into the history books, plain and simple. And we have Eduardo to thank for this long overdue acknowledgement to our contributions to American literature.
Back in March of 2011 in an exclusive interview for the Letras Latinas Blog Eduardo Corral had this to say regarding his recognition as the first Latino to be awarded a Yale Series of Younger Poets Award:
“I didn’t get here on my own. The other day I went to the MacDowell Colony library to locate the exact spot where my first book will be shelved. Let's face it: Not many Chicano writers are shelved here.... My book will be shelved next to Alfred Corn. And though my name will be printed on the spine, I won’t be the only Chicano poet next to Alfred Corn. My poems are scored with the influence and the words of Gloria Anzaldúa, José Montoya, Robert Vasquez, Lorna Dee Cervantes and Angela de Hoyos. These poets, these teachers of mine, helped me win the Yale Series of Younger Poets. They will keep me company at the MacDowell Colony library.”
His collection Slow Lightening (Yale University Press, 2011) is set to debut in April of 2012.
And this month, as the winner of a Whiting Writers’ Award, Eduardo Corral is yet again signing our names in bigger, brighter font. The Whiting Writers’ Award is given annually through the Mrs. Giles WhitingFoundation to ten emerging writers in fiction, nonfiction, poetry and playwriting. The awards, of $50,000 each, are based on “accomplishment and promise. Candidates are proposed by nominators from across the country whose experience and vocations bring them in contact with individuals of extraordinary talent.”
I recently had the pleasure of reading an e-chapbook by Eduardo Corral on the Web del Sol website. The poems in this chapbook inhabit a world of borders but borders not so much as markings of exclusion or confinement but rather as sites of hybridization and exchange. His poems are courageous and hit us with the brutality only a gifted poet can wield: Take for example the speaker Sofia, in the poem “Border Tryptich,” whom heeding her mother’s advise sprinkles gelatin powder on her underwear before crossing the Tijuana/San Diego border. When ambushed in the desert and forced to undress at gunpoint “the gelatin powder had stained my underwear a reddish brown.” “I was one of ten women. Our mouths were taped./ I was spit on. I was slapped. The other women were raped.”
His poems are courageous but they also know how to make you laugh even when witnessing such shameful practices as racial profiling. Take the poem “Ditat Deus” for example. In here the speaker—a bag boy at a store—finding himself “slightly troubled” when asked to follow around the “Mexicans and Native Americans” opts out for following “the handsome men.” Or take for example the character Sapo also in the poem “Border Triptych.” Sapo “shits behind a cluster of nopales,/ & shouts out our favorite joke, No tengo papeles!
The full chapbook can be found here.
Also check out Eduardo’s blog Lorcaloca and keep Eduardo on your radar as Letras Latinas launches the multi-year reading series “Latino/a Poetry Now” this November. Corral is slated to read in installment one of the series, at Harvard University, on Tuesday November 8, alongside Rosa Alcalá and Aracelis Girmay.