The Poetry Center at the University of Arizona
As most readers will be aware Latino/a Poetry Now, on the verge of its penultimate installment, will be resuming this Thursday at the Poetry Center in Tucson, Arizona. This installment (co-sponsored by The Poetry Center at the University of Arizona/Letras Latinas/Poetry Society of America) will feature a reading (7pm) by poets Carmen Giménez Smith, J. Michael Martínez and Roberto Tejada, poets whose work “challenge and undermine what one might expect when one hears the term, ‘Latino poetry.” As most readers will also be aware, each of these Latino/a Poetry Now installments have also been accompanied by a moderated roundtable conversation (hosted at the Poetry Society of America’s website; see here (installment 1: Rosa Alcalá, Eduardo C. Corral, Aracelis Girmay); see here (installment 2: William Archila, Ruth Irupé Sanabria); and see here (installment 3: Xochiquetzal Candelaria, Lorena Duarte, Rigoberto González) which offer invaluable insights on each poet’s work and which have served as pedagogical tools at the various institutions where this series has been hosted, and where the various poets' work(s) have been taught.
As we anticipate the reading and the forthcoming roundtable conversation (installment 4) featuring poets Carmen Giménez Smith, J. Michael Martínez and Roberto Tejada, I thought it befitting that we would share these—older—but more than relevant links to the work of our featured readers.
Carmen Giménez Smith @ NPR
One of the maxims of poetry appears to me to be that famous excerpt from William Carlos Williams’ “Asphodel, That Greeny Flower” that states: “It is difficult to get the news from poems yet men die every day for lack of what is found there.” Like any other maxim, this and other sayings tend to lose their power with time and repetition. But for the folks at NPR’s All Things Considered, that maxim still holds resonance as each month they invite a poet to compose a poem to be read on the air reflecting on that day’s particular stories. For the month of May of last year that poet was Latino/a Poetry Now featured poet Carmen Giménez Smith, who read a poem titled “The Day Disco Died,” and which borrowed from Frank O’Hara’s poem “The Day Lady Died,” as a model for Gímenez Smith to channel her own language and ideas in order to arrive at an elegy that serves as a model for this particular “occasional poem.”
Roberto Tejada @ BOMB Magazine
Roberto Tejada is the author of the most recent Full Foreground (University of Arizona Press, 2012), a CantoMundo faculty poet and a Latino/a Poetry Now featured poet and he is currently featured at the site of BOMB Magazine in an interview conducted by Esther Allen. I first met Roberto Tejada at last year’s CantoMundo workshop in Austin, Texas. From the first conversation I had with Roberto, I was immediately intrigued both by his comments regarding poetry and politics but also by his persona (as is elucidated in the interview). I was intrigued by the fact that Roberto was born in the U.S. of Colombian parents but was shaped as a poet and artist—like Mandorla, the literary magazine he helped found—“by the milieu and scene of Mexico City” where he spent many years living. Esther Allen describes Roberto’s work and Mandorla as “a bridge” that serves as the point of intersection where the history, politics and identity of the two American hemispheres meet—Roberto and other poets like him intrigue me by their ability to bend the idea of “identity” and to be able to bend this conception through a more artistic lens. Like the literary magazine El Corno Emplumado that was also founded in Mexico City and that in the 1960’s served as a site where artists from both hemispheres contested conceptions of art and U.S. foreign policy, Mandorla and Roberto Tejada’s work continues this tradition.
J. Michael Martínez @ The Poetry Society of America
One of the main features of The Poetry Society of America, which is one of the co-sponsors of Latino/a Poetry Now, is the “New American Poets Series” which “recognizes some of the most interesting recent first book poets.” In 2009 Carmen Giménez Smith was herself featured in this series, which back then did not have the critical introduction that now accompanies the posts featuring these newer poets’ works. In 2011, Carmen went on to select the work of J. Michael Martínez (now featured in this Poetry Society of America series) for his collection Heredeties for which he was awarded the Walt Whitman Award from the Academy of American Poets. It is then fitting to conclude this post with what Latino/a Poetry Now featured poet Carmen Giménez Smith has to say about the work of another Latino/a Poetry Now featured poet, J. Michael Martínez:
“J. Michael Martinez's work is writerly and lush. Martinez has set heady terms for the ambition of his work, much like Mallarme's "pure poetry." He creates textual maps of the histories through which he comes to be and in doing so enacts the polyphonic strains of influence, both intuitive and aesthetic. His poems are maximally lyric, almost Romantic at times. The high lyricism in his work constructs a profoundly singular voice, one that still engages with the post-identity tradition of Gloria Anzaldúa. Like Anzaldua, his poems are political because they tell the complex stories of a marginalized culture; develop a system of ethnography out of public and private family history, but his work is also deeply prescient; he is in the forefront of emerging poets of color resistant to the narrow channels previously available for identity construction.”