In a way I have been connected with Letras Latinas from the moment I conceived of myself as a writer. I started writing poems—or rather those early attempts at poetry and which one has the courage to call poems—in 2006 as a senior in high school. Poems that I then would go on to submit to that year’s edition of the Andrés Montoya Poetry Prize, which of course I did not win. On Monday the 16th I did have the honor of introducing the winner of the fourth edition of the Andrés Montoya Poetry Prize, Emma Trelles, who read alongside judge, Silvia Curbelo at McKenna Hall, the building housing the Institute for Latino Studies here at Notre Dame.
|Judge, Silvia Curbelo|
Silvia Curbelo is the author of three collections of poetry. She has received poetry fellowships from the NEA, the Florida Division of Cultural Affairs, the Cintas Foundation and the Writer's Voice. Awards include the Jessica Nobel Maxwell Poetry Prize from American Poetry Review and the James Wright Poetry Prize from Mid-American Review. A native of Cuba, Silvia lives in Tampa, FL, and is editor for Organica magazine. In 2010 she served as judge for the Andrés Montoya Poetry Prize and selected Emma Trelles’ winning manuscript Tropicalia for the prize, which was recently announced a finalist for the Foreword Book of the Year Awards.
Reading from her debut collection The Secret History of Water (Anhinga Press, 1997) of which Carolyn Forché said: “In Curbelo’s intimate telling, even water in a drinking glass is “river beginning to be named.” This is a compelling first collection of necessary poems.” In a reading of lush and sensuously lyric poems, Curbelo summoned to testify the body of water that separates an archipelago of human lives, as in “Balsero Singing” where despite being on a precarious raft at sea,
is incidental, falling
all around him like a word
or a wing. In another dream
he is dancing in a cottage by the sea
and music is language he has just
learned to speak, the cool yes
of her throat. The sky goes on
for days with its one cloud waving,
the song lifting him like a sail.”
[More poems here.]
Of Tropicalia (University of Notre Dame 2011) Silvia Curbelo wrote: “Tropicalia is first and foremost, an atmosphere. Walking into these poems, one enters a soundscape where something akin to a heavy brass line underscores the scenery….Visually, the effect is pure motion, a long camera sweep of overpasses and street signs, tract houses, palm trees, gardens, weeds—all blown through with a language that is insistent as a hot summer breeze.” For me hearing Emma read her poems allowed me to rediscover that courage that first drove me to call my poems, poems:
“I hope you never read my poems.
I do not care for the sweet wine you serve
warm from the pantry, or the email you sent
about a savior at the supermarket.”
Emma reminds me that the poet besides being driven by a desire to communicate is also driven by the sheer force of vocation. Emma’s vocation gives a poetry, that as Campbell McGrath points out in a blurb for Tropicalia, where the world “may not always look better” but is “ a better place for all lovers of poetry, thanks to her [Emma’s] rich and heartfelt book.”
In 2012 Emma Trelles was named winner of the fourth edition of the Andrés Montoya Poetry Prize for her winning manuscript Tropicalia. Twice nominated for a Pushcart and the recipient of a Green Eyeshade award for art criticism, she has been a featured reader at the O, Miami Poetry Festival, the Miami Book Fair International, and the Palabra Pura series in Chicago. She received her MFA from Florida International University and is a regular contributor to the Best American Poetry blog.
[Listen to Emma read here.]