Saturday, August 4, 2012


Tatiana de de Tierra
(photo credit: Hillary Cook)

The web has been humming, or at least it seems that way, with homenajes for Tatiana de la Tierra. Pablo Miguel Martinez posted a heartfelt account of a meeting with her in Denver during an AWP conference, which he posted on the Macondo facebook page.  Over at La Bloga, RudyG mentioned meeting her only once (also in Denver during AWP) and made a selection of some his favorite pieces by her for La Bloga (she was a regular contributor on Sundays). Rene Colato Lainez added to the chorus at his Wednesday slot on La Bloga with his, “Hasta Siempre Tatiana.”  

I had heard a few weeks ago that Tatiana been diagnosed with cancer and my mind darted back to the summer of 2008 when Tatiana attended the Macondo workshop for the first time.  But I didn’t really have the opportunity to interact with her as much as I would have liked. But I remember her passion for small press publishing, particularly her self-published chapbooks, and immediately considered her a kindred spirit.

A couple of days ago I came upon the comments section of Rene’s post and read:

“Here is tatiana de la tierra's performance at the 2010 Festival de Flor y Canto. Yesterday • Today • Tomorrow.

qepd, tatiana


I copied and pasted that url into my browser and experienced Tatiana’s 17:08 minutes of brilliant performance. Those who have heard Tatiana know what I’m talking about. She read what I think has become one of her signature pieces “Píntame una mujer peligrosa.” She read a piece about the tongue and I swear I could hear Francisco X. Alarcón’s singular laugh in the audience! She read from her children’s book. She read an inventive poem which I’m thinking she may have called “Queering.” She closed by singing a lovely piece, in Spanish. And it occurred to me that part of her artistry is what she does with her mouth, whether it’s singing or creating subtle sound-effects with her lips and tongue. In other words, the sounds a human mouth can make is part of her art. After hearing her performance at the Flor y Canto, I sought out the youTube recording (about 6:30 in length) of a presentation she gave in Spanish, presumably in South America. It was quite illuminating, a poetics of sorts in which she talks about discovering Edna St. Vincent Millay. But this gives way to what seemed like a seminal moment for her: discovering radical women of color, as she put it. In short, the more I heard her speak the deeper I felt myself being drawn in.

This morning I found a very very moving homage that consisted, simply, of photographs of her with what sounded like a soulful indigenous soundtrack of song and instrument (a movement of flute). It’s a shade under 4 minutes. A photo-music love poem to/about Tatiana is how I would describe it. I can’t imagine anyone seeing/hearing this and not being deeply touched:

Homenaje a Tatiana de la Tierra julio 2012

Suddenly, it seemed, I had Tatiana on the brain. I spent a good part of the rest of the morning exploring her work at:

There’s so much to admire and enjoy, but I want to single out, here, what felt like two amazing documents. She titles them: “Activist Latina Lesbian Publishing Part 1” and "Activist Latina Lesbian Publishing Part 2.” They tell the story of esto no tiene nombre and conmoción, two groundbreaking publications in their day. For those of us with the editing/publishing bug, it’s must reading. But really, it’s must reading, period, in my view.

Online today I ordered what I could find:

For the hard ones: A Lesbian Phenomenolgy/Para las duras: Una fenominologia lesbian

Pintame una mujer peligrosa

Porcupine Love and Other Tales from my Papaya

I also read, today, something online that I had already read but forgotten that I had read: an interview with her on La Bloga on self-publishing posted about two years ago:

Lorenzo Herrera y Lozano penned a tribute, in Spanish, over at his blog, Hairspray & Fideo, recounting how he first heard her read at a NACCS conference in 2001, but what I most appreciated about his tribute to her was this:

tatiana no permitió que la industria poética dictara el camino de su poesía. Manteniéndose una escritora autónoma durante la mayoría de su carrera artística, tatiana nos trajo obras irremplazables como For the Hard Ones: A Lesbian Phenomenology/Para las Duras: Una Fenomenología Lesbiana (publicado por Calaca Press y la misma tatiana), Píntame Una Mujer Peligrosa, y Porcupine Love & Other Tales from My Papayaentre otras. Al haberse esperado a que una industria capitalista le brindara el honor que merecía nos hubiésemos perdido de la riqueza de su arte.

As we know, Lozano is now a small press publisher himself and it seems clear, to me, that Tatiana de la Tierra was a mentor and touchstone for him.

There is also a very moving account (with photos) of Tatiana, including her final weeks, here:

It’s by Diane Lefer and it was heartening to hear that Tatiana’s archive will be housed at UCLA. And I was glad to read this:

tatiana began to write her own memoir and send me chapters. They should be published and read and the only reason I’m not posting them here is so that on-line publication won’t stand in the way of Olga Garcia, her literary executor, shepherding them into print.

Finally, Amelia Montes, a fellow Macondista, and the person who shared Sunday duties at La Bloga with Tatiana, will be posting a multiple-voiced homage on Sunday. I’ve decided to pen these modest musings here, as documentation, at Letras Latinas Blog.


Daniel Olivas said...

Gracias, Francisco, for remembering our friend and fellow artist, Tatiana.

Daniel Olivas said...

Gracias, Francisco, for remembering our friend and fellow artist, tatiana.