Monday, May 28, 2012

Latin@ Featured Poets: 4 interviews

Emma Trelles and Blas Falconer @ The Best American Poetry blog

Poet and editor of The Other Latin @: Writing Against a Singular Identity (University of Arizona Press, 2012), Blas Falconer, is currently featured over at The Best American Poetry blog in an interview by the winner of the fourth edition of the Andrés Montoya Poetry Prize, Emma Trelles. In The Other Latin@, editors Lorraine M. López and Blas Falconer bring together a collection of 20 essays that seek to answer the following question: “How can we treat U.S. Latina and Latino literature as a definable whole while acknowledging the many shifting identities within their cultures?” And this interview by Emma is a great starting point of discussion. Speaking of the inspiration behind this project, and of the role played by mentorship in understanding identity Blas Falconer states:

“When I started reading Rane Arroyo and Judith Ortiz Cofer, I thought, ‘Oh these writers are like me in some way.’ But they were able to find their own voices and incorporate their cultural influences. They were doing what I wanted to do, and I saw them as legitimate Latino writers. It was a way in for me. I realized I am also a part of this community. In that sense I saw them as models.

When my first book came out, I felt an incredibly nurturing response from the Latino community that I had never expected. Even today, five years after my first book was published, I still feel welcome and there's no question I'm part of this community. It made me feel as if my own experience was legitimate, and it's resolved this kind of conflict of estrangement I've had. I’m grateful to the Latino community for embracing diversity within itself.”

                [Continue Reading.]


Aracelis Girmay @ The Brooklyn Rail

Latino/a Poetry Now featured poet and National Book Critics Circle Award finalist, Aracelis Girmay, is currently featured at the Brooklyn Rail in an interview by Melinda Cardozo. When I first read Teeth (Curbstone Press, 2007), Aracelis’ debut collection of poems, one of the things I loved about this book was the smilingly simple way in which Aracelis turned language and objects—the letter “B,” a watermelon, a pilon—and rendered these shapes, through the use of the metaphor, into sometimes surprising, sometimes sad, but always compelling new narratives and images. Here are some favorite lines:

From “Ode to the Letter B:”

“Half butterfly, two teeth,/sideways: a bird meet[ing] the horizon.”

From “Ode to the Watermelon:”

“& in Palestine,/ where it is a crime to wave/ the flag of Palestine in Palestine,/ watermelon halves are/ raised/ against Israeli troops/ for the red, black, white, green/ of Palestine. Forever,”

From “Ode to the Litte r (From Kingdom Animalia):
“Little propeller/ working between/ the two fields of my a’s,/ making my name/ a small boat/ that leaves the port/of old San Juan”

From the aforementioned interview:

“I was in Eritrea a couple of years ago and the language, or one of the languages of Eritrea, is Tigrinya. I don’t speak very much Tigrinya—only things that have to do with food. The alphabet is totally different, and I found myself really interested in trying to find clues in the language in terms of hearing the language—trying to understand any piece of the language that I could, and then looking at the shapes of the alphabet and the letters and trying to read them in different ways. Obviously, I wasn’t reading them for comprehension in Tigrinya, but what could that shape be, or how might I find a story with whatever language I have in the shapes of things.”

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Barbara Jane Reyes interviews California Poet Laureate, Juan Felipe Herrera

Letras Latinas Oral History Project interviewee, Barbara Jane Reyes is currently featured over at Harriet in an interview she conducted with California Poet Laureate, Juan Felipe Herrera. Needless to say, Juan Felipe Herrera is the first Latin@ poet to be named Poet Laureate of my home state. Writing of their previous attempts to nominate Juan Felipe Herrera as Poet Laureate, Barbara Jane Reyes writes: “Indeed, a couple of years ago, during the Schwarzenegger administration, with a group of poets including Oscar Bermeo, Ching-In Chen, Javier O. Huerta, Craig Santos Perez, and Matthew Shenoda, we nominated Herrera for the position, so very wary of how our then-governor would read such unabashedly political poetry…” In these reactionary times, times of arrested books, Juan Felipe Herrera reminds us that in the midst of chaos ideas can still escape the prison-dungeon. His appointment as California Poet Laureate is more than symbolic assertion of our culture and of our poetry; it is a reminder that writing can be a consoling act of resistance that gives a kind of pleasure and gratification, that it is an assertion of the self where such an assertion is not permitted:

“This is the most political thing we can do – to be brave about our lives and be willing to step into a wider neighborhood of lives, to be part of the polity, the city. The questions of color, language, race and class have a lot to do with how we compound suffering in the lives of others based on distorted criteria. Poetry can breathe through these hard perceptions and conceptions of what is right, good, and meritorious, and just maybe provide a little more humanity to make things better, softer, freer, more equitable. Poetry is a potent anti-fear spray.”

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Daniel Olivas interviews Richard Blanco

Daniel Olivas of La Bloga discusses Richard Blanco’s newest collection of poetry, (University of Pittsburgh Press) particularly the three sections of the book which define this collection. Sections that Richard Blanco describes as “movements” and which serve to paint a picture of the events that have shaped the work of this poet born in the milieu of the Cuban Diaspora.  With these movements as a point of departure, Blanco discusses how his poems color the different dimensions of what it means to grow up the son of Cuban parents of the Diaspora, his identity as a gay man, his literary influences and habits and how his work as an engineer introduced him the world of writing:

“Oddly enough, engineering is largely responsible for me “getting into” poetry.  When I began my career as a consultant engineer, I had to work on a lot of permitting jobs, which meant a lot of writing letters back and forth between agencies explaining often abstract concepts and arguing my clients point of view—much like the sonnets which root back to legal pleas exchanged between lawyers.  Anyway, this got me paying really close attention to language, how it can be crafted, its nuances, etc.  In short, I fell in love with words.”

                [Continue Reading.]

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