Sunday, December 4, 2011

Latin@ Featured Poets: Francisco X. Alarcón, Eduardo C. Corral and Ruben Quesada

Francisco X. Alarcón @ Acentos

As the manuscripts for the Andrés Montoya Poetry Prize (which will be judged by Francisco X. Alarcón) begin to trickle in to the Letras Latinas office here at Notre Dame, it is almost by serendipitous consequence that I came upon two poems featured in the current edition of the Acentos Review by Francisco X. Alarcón. I first came upon Francisco X. Alarcón’s poetry as a junior in high school. I remember in particular the joy that came with being blown away by the simplicity of language and imagery that came with the lyric flights so characteristic of his poetry. Over the years, I’ve had several encounters with Alarcón—once in 2010 at a poetry reading organized to raise funds for the victims of the Chile and Haiti earthquakes in San Francisco, California. A steadfast believer that in our times—times so characteristic of environmental, social and spiritual degradation—the writing of a poem can act as a transcendent force of prayer and cosmic renewal, Francisco X. Alarcón is a poet I keep returning to both for guidance and inspiration. Of the two poems—En invierno and La noche—my favorite is En invierno, “In Winter:”

In Winter

the branches of trees
turn into open air roots
beseeching the sky

In deceiving simplicity of language and imagery, Alarcón leads the reader beyond reason and into the realm of intuition and pure imagination (see La Noche where night becomes coffee “spilled all over the Earth’s tablecloth”), where even roots—like hands in prayer—can transcend what binds them to the ground.


Eduardo C. Corral strikes again.  And this time Eduardo C. Corral has two poems To Robert Hayden” and “To the Angelbeast” in this month’s edition of Poetry Magazine and which can be read online at the Poetry Foundation along with a beautiful thirty minute podcast and two “q&a” mini-interviews regarding his two poems.

Eduardo C. Corral writes: “I shouldn’t admit this in public, but I sometimes sleep with his [Robert Hayden’s] Collected Poems under my pillow. I want some of his greatness to seep in!" And in the two poems featured in this edition of Poetry Magazine, Eduardo has paid Hayden the ultimate tribute by making the speakers in his poems counterbalance the ambivalence present in the homoerotic poems of Robert Hayden and in the poet himself. Like the wedding ring which is “tossed” by Hayden’s imagined lover in the poem “To Robert Hayden,” Eduardo C. Corral recalls times when gay men were jailed and beaten for acting upon their desires. And in “To the Angelbeast” Corral reminds us of the emotional and physical bliss possible of same-sex relationships. I find myself lacking the words to describe what Eduardo has accomplished in these two poems; as much as this is a tribute to Hayden it is also an affirmation of Hayden’s sexuality, as Eduardo explains: “He [Hayden] believed the cancer that claimed his life was a punishment for his orientation. As an out-and-proud gay man, this saddens me…. To counter this sadness, to claim Hayden as one of my queer forefathers, I wrote a poem in which Hayden has an intimate encounter with another man. Not a stranger, but a man he already knows.… Hayden, in this poem, doesn’t fear or detest his desires. This comforts me as a gay man and as a poet who adores his work." 

Of the content featured on the Letras Latinas Blog—author interviews, review roundups, etc—one of the most rewarding and pleasurable projects is that of author interviews. Currently I am reading Ruben Quesada’s collection of poems titled Next Extinct Mammal (Greenhouse Review Press, 2011). I look forward to interviewing Ruben. In the meantime, a review of Next Extinct Animal can be read here.

 “My First Sight of St. Louis,” “Cimmerian,” and “Nostalgia,” three poems from Next Extinct Animal are currently featured at Moonday Poetry. “Too much time has passed,/ and I’ve almost lost this freight/ of memories, that dawning/ of light over bluestem grass” writes Ruben in “Nostalgia.” What Ruben evokes over and over again in this collection is the ever elusive and endangered animal of memory and movement, a poet, a prophet, a collector of things past. His poems, portraits of neighborhoods and its people are poems of moving towards place and memory, toward the edges of beauty, of “the alpenglow of tomorrow and tomorrow.”

No comments: