Sunday, May 13, 2012

4 Poets on Community

Rigoberto González on Building Literary Communities

When I attended my first CantoMundo back in the summer of 2010, one of the most seminal moments of that experience was hearing Rigoberto González speak on the importance of community—not only of the importance of belonging to a literary community but also of being an active participant in building and enhancing the visibility of that community. Back when issue 1 of Latino Poetry Now was released the Editor’s Note read: “other than the El Paso Times, one would be hard pressed to name a newspaper that runs, with any regularity, reviews of poetry collections by Latinos (or any poets, for that matter).” 
Letras Latinas—through its review roundups, author interviews, book reviews and other pieces of literary criticism—is, as I see it, a response to that lack of literary criticism. And is one among many other bricklayers responsible for building and expanding this house for Latino/a Letters. Rigoberto González is of course another one of those pillars. A prolific poet and writer, Rigoberto leads by example, never forgetting that one of the tasks at hand is to increase the visibility of those who belong to our house, to our communities:

“Some writers may reject this path toward publication and mentorship, and that’s fine, just don’t expect any love back. These are already crowded houses anyway, and yet, there’s always a will to make room for one more. But only those who thrive within them know the importance of keeping an old tradition–of coming together in the spirit of shared experience–alive. It’s a very cold and expansive landscape out there, and communities like these, publishing series and retreats like these, make the journey into the professional and artistic world a little less daunting….”

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Barbara Jane Reyes on Community

In a similar vein as Rigoberto González, Barbara Jane Reyes—who beside being the author of Diwata (BOA Editions, Ltd., 2010), and recently noted finalist for the California Book Award, Barbara Jane Reyes is also a featured interviewee for Letras Latinas’ Oral History Project, a major effort to document and preserve the history of Latino/a arts and culture. In this Oral History Project interview, Barbara Jane Reyes speaks of the importance of diversifying the ways by which poet’s subvert literary forms and art disciplines and also speaks of her usage of the page, punctuation and language(s) in her own work. Like Rigoberto, Barbara too is concerned with the importance of building and maintaining a literary community:

“As for me, I think of myself as also plugging away at the work. One manuscript at a time. One or two teaching gigs at a time. One commissioned writing gig at a time. One curated event at a time. One reading or performance or classroom visit at a time. With room to breathe, and to express gratitude.


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Craig Santos Perez, “Letters to the Empire

I absolutely love what Craig Santos Perez is doing with his “Letters to the Empire:” “Beginning last November, I’ve experimented with writing political prose poems and submitting them as “Letters to the Editor” to one of the two major newspapers in Guåhan: The Marianas Variety (Marianas is the colonial name of the archipelago of which Guåhan is a part).” In one of these prose poems, titled “All our generations,” Perez writes: “Our language is worth saving. When Guåhan's greatest generation dies, they will be buried in the land, within Puntan's body. Sadly, thousands of acres of land were stolen from that generation by the U.S. military.” What I particularly admire about these prose poems and the concept of these “letters to the empire’ is that they seek out to engage a public and build a community beyond the space of the “page/book.” And while the political effectiveness of these poems which seek to speak out against the continued colonization and militarization of Guåhan is one that ultimately cannot be measured, these poems do reminds us of the possibility of the written word to engage and build communities that exist beyond the traditional literary circles and spaces and whose energies are often underestimated and untapped.

Here is what Craig Santos Perez has to say:

“In many ways, I also see these prose poems as “Letters to the Empire,” since The Marianas Variety, and the other island newspaper, The Pacific Daily News, are both edited by White-American settlers. Both papers have a long and proud tradition of supporting the continued colonization and militarization of Guåhan. While I know I don’t have to convince the readers of this blog about the power of the media to shape public opinion, you can imagine that this power is more pronounced on a small, colonized island where the media becomes an important colonizing agent.”

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Diana Marie Delgado @ Pom-Pom Rituals/ Tiny Umbrellas

Letras Latinas Blog has recently had the pleasure of welcoming yet another contributor to its roster, to its community of bloggeros: Diana Marie Delgado. Regular contributors have included winner of the 4th edition of the Andrés Montoya Poetry Prize, Emma Trelles and finalist for the 2012 Andrés Montoya Poetry Prize, Oscar Bermeo. Poet and playwright, Diana Marie Delgado, is the recipient of the 2010 Letras Latinas Residency Fellowship, she was awarded a month-long stay at the Anderson Center in Red Wing, Minnesota. Her poetry collection, Late-Night Talks with Men I Think I Trust, was a finalist for the 2012 Andrés Montoya Poetry Prize, and her short play, Desire Road, will be given a public reading in the Summer 2012. She is a member of the CantoMundo and Macondo writing communities. She recently reviewed Steady, My Gaze (Tebot Bach, 2010) and which was featured in this blog post.  She blogs regularly at Pom-Pom Rituals/ Tiny Umbrellas.

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