Monday, April 8, 2013

breaking new ground in nurturing our younger voices

from left to right:
Marcelo Hernandez (University of Michigan)
Lynda Letona (University of Notre Dame)
Lauro Vazquez (University of Notre Dame)
Thade Correa (University of Notre Dame) 
Lauren Espinoza (Arizona State University)
"People keep asking about [a graduate CW program in the U.S.]
 in interviews/email conversations. Blah blah blah. 
All you need to know is this:

[your CW program] almost killed the poet in me.

I felt like the token brown poet 
at [pick a program].

The day I turned in my thesis, I swore never 
to write another poem again.

So many of my classmates were cruel, 
competitive beyond belief.

All my self-doubts were nurtured at [Workshop USA]. 
All my gifts were diminished.

At [XXX], for the first time in my life, I doubted the value 
of my background, my native tongue."

—winner of the 2011 Yale Series of Younger Poets’ Award
April 2, 2013 
on Facebook

That would be Eduardo C. Corral talking about the Iowa Writers' Workshop. But in truth, based on conversations Eduardo and I have been having for some years now, his statements above could have been uttered by any number of Latino/a writers who have experienced graduate education in the field of creative writing in the United States. In other words, just because the discipline is one in the Fine Arts does not mean insidious racism can be avoided, among both peers and faculty.

And so....Macondo.
And so....Cave Canem.
And so...,Kundiman.
And so....CantoMundo.
And so....VONA.

But the safer spaces listed above are/were large umbrellas, as they should be, catering to literary artists coming from places both inside and outside of academia. One might say, they are an alternative to, and perhaps shun, the academy.

But our poets, increasingly, continue to enroll and pass through graduate writing programs. And so Eduardo and I, among others, have been talking about creating what I'm going to call micro-scenarios where informal mentoring can take place from writers who have navigated these programs to writers who are currently in them. In truth, its been happening, one-on-one (thanks to e-mail, Facebook et al) for years now, among a cadre of writers whose sense of vocation extend beyond their own writing.

But the Letras Latinas experiment that took place at Notre Dame this past weekend was an effort at putting folks in the same physical space for a few days, and just letting them hang out, talk shop, break bread, read poems. The only formal aspect was a visit on Friday night by a poet who has navigated an MFA program, Diego Báez. And an informal colloquium on poetics on Saturday afternoon with award-winning, Notre Dame faculty poet, Orlando Ricardo Menes. We'll have a chance to read some testimonios, and thus hear more about what took place, along with more pictures, in due course. And, we'll be featuring a roundtable discussion, currently in the works, with these young poets, and a few others.

This post is just Letras Latinas (which is part of the academy) announcing a new front, a new nurture our emerging voices---specifically: those Latino/a poets who have chosen to pursue, for lack of a better term, formal graduate training. In this sense, we strive to be an oasis within the academy. And here is a good time to thank Lauro Vazquez for embracing his role as coordinator with gusto, and to Gil Cárdenas, who allowed use of his home in South Bend, IN for our literary salons/gatherings.

---Francisco Aragón
director, Letras Latinas
Institute for Latino Studies
University of Notre Dame

1 comment:

Linda Rodriguez said...

Absolutely brilliant idea, Francisco! Bravo!