One way that Letras Latinas carries out part of its mission (“enhance the visibility, appreciation and study of Latino/a literature both on and off campus of the University of Notre Dame”) is through its signature collaborations (in no particular order): Latino/a Poetry Now, Andrés Montoya Poetry Prize, Letras Latinas/ Red Hen Poetry Prize and The Letras Latinas Residency Fellowship. Another but by no means less important approach is in identifying and supporting emerging voices. And which has led, for example, to my collaboration—as moderator for Latino/a Poetry Now, among other projects—with Letras Latinas. My work here has not only enriched my graduate experience at the University of Notre Dame but has facilitated my transition from university student to poet and editor. It is in this spirit of collaboration that I present you here with a post featuring three poets in three distinct MFA programs.
Lynda Letona @ Literary Review International
Raised in California and Guatemala, Lynda Letona is an MFA candidate in poetry at the University of Notre Dame. Her poems have appeared in hotmetalpress.net, The VLP Magazine and the anthology The Best of Pen in the Classroom. “My Body is a Cage,” a non-fiction piece by Lynda is currently featured at Literary Review International. Written in a form much resembling biblical verse, “My Body is Cage,” explores the political absurdities behind the blockage of the DREAM Act and the too familiar feeling of transnational displacement:
“1:8 And there was a day when the powerful people in America (much more powerful than the Witches of Oz) called Senators, decided to vote down the DREAM Act to show Munchkins and their parents a lesson for testing the sovereignty of America and they told Lynda that if she wanted to be free, she would have to return to the land of Oz. She wasn’t sure what America wanted her to get there, but to prove her loyalty, she went forth into Oz.”
Javier Zamora @ Dirty Laundry
Javier Zamora is a CantoMundo fellow and a poetry candidate at NYU’s MFA program in creative writing. His poems have appeared in numerous publications. In 2011 Javier Zamora won the Organic Weapon Arts Chapbook contest for his Nueve Años Inmigrantes. Having to immigrate to the U.S. at the age of nine in order to be reunited with his parents, Javier Zamora literally and metaphorically chronicles his journey across those troubled waters and landscapes separating him from his parents in order to arrive “somewhere that feels like home.”
Javier Zamora is currently featured at Dirty Laundry for his poem (in audio) “There’s So Much Room Underneath An Upturned Rowboat” in which the reader is submerged in a sweaty afternoon where coconuts “sweat coconut juice” and Chamol discovers for the first time “the smell of coconuts” beneath Caracol’s breast.
Elizabeth Acevedo @ Acentos Review
Born and raised by Dominican parents in the heart of New York city, Elizabeth Acevedo is an MFA candidate in poetry at the University of Maryland, College Park and a CantoMundo fellow. Acevedo’s poetry—infuses the word with hip-hop and bolero—in order to translate and make sense of the world. She has been featured at such prestigious venues as the The Kennedy Center of the Performing Arts, The Kodak Theatre, and Madison Square Garden and is currently featured at the Acentos Review with her poem “A Conversation with the Djembe.”
The Malinké people of West Africa believe that a skilled drummer is one whom can make the djembe “talk.” And Acevedo—with her beautiful rendition of a djembe playing in a train, “the metal casket which propels us home,” not only makes the drum talk, but by her hand it “hums,” tapping a “hundred prayers from its hollow mouth.”