Friday, April 30, 2010

Dagoberto Gilb.


Dagoberto Gilb is working in the public schools with the HECHO EN TEJAS anthology he edited.

He writes well, and he cares about his community via action not a lot of hot air. A real writer. A real activist. Check out the New Yorker and Harpers, that's where you'll find his phenomenal work.

The cream always rises to the top.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Gwendolyn Brooks

I must get back to the work of writing. One must find the joy in the process without examining too closely the end results, which are often unfair.

We cannot after all change the world; we can only change ourselves.

I am thinking of the confidence of Gertrude Stein in the face of insurmountable male authority. How did she maintain such poise, such certainty in the face of historic sexism? I am thinking about Zora Neale Hurston who died penniless and was buried in an unmarked grave yet whose work stands tall now and is loved by contemporary women and men. I am thinking of Gwendolyn Brooks, here above whose work so eloquently addressed the concerns of women in organic free-flowing form. I am thinking about how so often such women are dismissed, discouraged and silenced, but these women would not be silent in the end because they actually wrote in the face of it.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Carolyn Forche

Yesterday I went to a workshop with Denver Poet Laureate Chris Ransick at FRCC. It was very helpful. Most of it was about voice and how some poets don't believe in "voice". I thought it was interesting. He opened with two quotes, one being by Mark Strand:

"Sometimes you have to take drastic measures and reinvent yourself as a poet. The writing of a new book is the domestication of that venture into strangeness."

I've been thinking about what was said in the workshop a lot since it is so very true. I'd like to domesticate some strangeness myself. I found the exercises we did very powerful!

He talked about tone and audience, about how we view our own "voice" and how we might go about changing it via changing our perspective. This seems simple, yet it's potentially powerful when it comes to looking on our "experience" with different eyes. What we reveal, how much we reveal, and how we reveal it matter. If we never go beyond experience our writing is going to not risk anything new, and it's going to have the same safe or comfortable investment and can become dull, redundant and limiting.

I had this same experience in Martha Rhodes' workshop at the Provincetown Fine Arts Center's summer program. And despite this only one poem in 7 does this perspective change, but none-the-less, I sense that the poems I have now can be played with in terms of perspective, and all this gives me something to look forward to this summer with the poems I have that are waiting to be revised.

He suggested counting words in lines, images, abstract nouns, looking at the length of words to find out what's underneath the voice one is using, shifting point of view, and how it's important to shift both perspective and technique.

This was a wonderful workshop, one of the best I've attended! It felt good to be around "poetry" again at work. I wish I had the personality to get hired in academia just because I enjoy such things, but I also recognize that I'm different than poets in academia, or more clearly, poets who teach creative writing. I admire them, but maybe I'm more of a workshop attendee, when the conductor is a gifted teacher.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Top Ten

Major Jackson


Up early again today and needing to straighten out an error in the Writers in the School's anthology. I've emailed the teacher and hope to get the problem straightened out by the end of the day. Not happy about it.


Hoping to hear about a job within the month. Needing to hear about a job soon.


Still reading Ashbery, still reading Maceo Montoya, but I'm almost finished and will write the review soon. I really like John Ashbery; he's currently one of my favorites, yet none of the poems I've read so far have bumped anyone of my top ten list of favorites, which isn't really a concrete list. Surprisingly, a few Wallace Stevens poems make the cut every time. I say surprisingly because I write nothing like Stevens or Ashbery, but I do feel they are an influence. Elizabeth Bishop is a bigger influence, so does this make one a modernist, or non-innovative when it comes to writing poems? Of course not. Especially since a Bishop fave of mine is "The Man-Moth". That said, I suspect an Ashbery poem may enter the mix. These are in no particular order.

Today's top 10:

Wallace Stevens' "The Idea of Order at Key West"
Wallace Stevens' "Sunday Morning"
Elizabeth Bishop's "The Man-Moth"
W.B. Yeat's "The Second Coming"
Adrienne Rich's "Diving into the Wreck"
Rainer Maria Rilke's "Duino Elegies"
James Galvin's "Practice"
Theodore Roethke's "The Dance"
Theodore Roethke's "The Waking"
Dylan Thomas' "Do not go gentle into that good night"

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Thomas Lux

I've been reading Maria Melendez's FLEXIBLE BONES and am enjoying it.

School is almost out for the summer, then I'll have nothing to do but apply for jobs. :[

No, that's not true. I will get started on revising poems that I wrote at Yaddo last summer.

It is a beautiful morning. I love Sunday morning and want to listen to some music! No, I want silence. The window is open and the trains have been hustling and cranking by followed by stillness, birds chirping and the distant hum of cars. The mountains are covered in snow and the morning light falls on them with that sense of magic I felt at Provincetown . You know, when the light has an orange twinge to it and everything seems to glow.

I need to finish a novel today and begin to write a review of it. I've been saying that for a long time. Things get in the way of it.

I may go to Boulder later today with a friend. I want a chai and need to return some library books.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Gender Bias in Latino Poetry, John Ashbery and June Jordan: Two Voices on Prejudice

I've been reading "The Tennis Court Oath" and other poems by John Ashbery. The "mulatress" in the poem threw me, and did the word "yon" and I've thought that some must of course like to decipher such things in poems. The fact they are disconcerting seems intentional, provoking and lines such as "for the carnation laughed here are a couple of 'other'" strike me as disturbing initially, but then there's this titillation and joy with the language.

I can see why so many have a love affair with Ashbery, and must confess I wanted to post only the Ashbery poem at first. I suspect what it comes down to on both poems, is the political and how it fits or doesn't fit into what we are doing as poets. So much is Ashbery fusing things together, the way distorted thoughts come to one in a fugue state:

... Your daughter's
dream of my son understand prejudice
darkness in the hole
the patient finished
They could all go home now the hole was dark
lilacs blowing across his face glad he brought you

There are no periods, no punctuation other than some quotation marks and an explanation mark. This is the way I like to experience "the political" when it comes to poems, not as a simplistic outraged cry or demanding, hurling pout without control over the language. And THAT says something about me.

Mostly I like Ashbery's use of language, and then again I go back to this white man writing politically about prejudice, about the disconnect there, the dissonance and dissociative qualities prejudice brings about in most of us of the human race.

That said, there's something to the genuine voice of a woman of color, to that experience of "other" beyond some intellectual quagmire or game or puzzle. So I will post the June Jordan poem too. It is indeed an outcry, so have I simply been "conditioned" to like the white man's work in terms of linguistic play? Does the white man miss the rashness of being pissed off, being completely at odds and screaming into a void in which no one is even listening. Okay, maybe a few listen, but the whole gender bias in Latino poetry has split my head, not just the gender bias in the larger world at large.

The fact is one can't really get mad, one must play the gentle game of smiling in silence to one's unintentional "disregarders". One must in the end resort to linguistic play, cat and mouse, shadow and flame. So the political therein must become muted? No, there are plenty of poets who write with flat indifferent language that expresses outrage about social injustice and this is not to say such work is meaningless. It isn't, but the question is more so what do we want to do as individual poets.

On a side note, I am tired of Latino males ignoring me when I say something and going gaga when someone with a penis says the exact same thing. It's frustrating, but the gender bias is real and one must deal with it I suppose by writing through it and past it. I always reflect back to Zora Neale Hurston and the difficulties she had with other African-American writers, primarily male in that they saw her work as too compromising, too kind to whites etc. or not "political" enough one could say.
It's amazing how continually male voices ring in joy of "diversity" when only male Latinos are discussed. I must contest this thing that the Dodge Poetry Festival is so wonderfully "diverse". Not when it comes to Latinos. All Latinos do not have a penis.

This in turn brings me to the question of "representation" which I have come to view with mutual disgust and mistrust. Why? It often replaces the quality of poetry and poems. Diversity for diversity's sake leads excessive self-marketers to be viewed as "representational" of Latino/a poetry and that usually ends with an "o". It simply takes the attention away from the poems, the language, the music etc. and places it on some cheap scale of masculinity to mediocrity.

Instead, one must write, right? So how does one get back to writing after the realization that the frustrations Zora Neale Hurston must have felt still exist in the literary world? With all the complaints against the "white" literary establishment, the underlying prejudice towards women and particularly Chicanas is undeniable, so I think the only thing one can do at this historical moment is write through it. I am thinking of the work Diana Garcia does with FIRE AND INK, an anthology of social action writing, and Carmen Giminez Smith's Odalisque in Pieces and how one must begin to support such writers not because they are "representational" but because they are good.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

"One season only, and it's done."-- Stanley Kunitz

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

I am reading an article titled "Still Separate, Still Unequal" by Jonathan Kozol (above). Currently I've been working for Writers in the Schools and looking for a teaching position in the Denver Public Schools, as well as in my hometown El Paso, TX which is on the U.S. Mexico border across from Ciudad Juarez. I have of course, also taught at CU Boulder and have seen a difference in the schools in let's say Boulder, or a wealthier area vs. a poorer area (Southwest Denver). I have been astonished at the differences in student bodies, student opportunities and faculty diversity or lack there of. It has long bothered me and left me feeling powerless, until I walked into public school classrooms this year. Yet the heavy air of bureaucracy has me weary, but doing something to chip away at the disproportionate educational opportunities interests me.

When I was in high school, in El Paso I was told I was not college material and put on the "vocational trek". And I think this is still happening throughout the educational system. So does one choose to fight a losing battle? Does one believe in the ability of education to open minds and open opportunities for America's poorest students and graduates? I think so. I think we try to educate the poor in face of an unjust educational system at all levels that is akin to "Apartheid" which Johnathan Kozol calls it in this article titled "Still Separate, Still Unequal: America's Educational Apartheid."

Monday, April 19, 2010

I was lucky to meet Martin Espada at AWP and recently got the good news that I've been accepted to the Canto Mundo Master Workshops which will be taught by Espada and Demetria Martinez (below). Both are highly politically charged poets. I find them truly interested in serving their communities through language and specific action, in truly helping others out beyond mere mouthing about activism. I also find them both highly intellectual and historically aware, so I feel wonderful about being accepted and am in serious need of a couple of workshops. I am also eager to meet Demetria Martinez, so I'm very excited about Canto Mundo in July!


A poet I admire just said she liked 7 so I feel better. I've just had a weird feeling about the collection and what's happening with it is up in the air, so it was nice to hear someone likes it.


Sunday, April 18, 2010

Anxiety over 7 manuscript all night long. I need to let it rest.

Friday, April 16, 2010

from "White Roses" in THE TENNIS COURT OATH by John Ashbery

"...But you will not listen, you are like the swan.
No stars are there,
No stripes,
But a blind man's cane poking, however clumsily, into the
inmost corners of the house.
Nothing can be harmed! Night and day are beginning again!
So put away the book,
The flowers you were keeping to give someone:
Only the white, tremendous foam of the street has any
The new white flowers that are beginning to shoot up about

from John Ashbery COLLECTED POEMS 1956-1987. Library of America. 2008.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

I received/purchased the following books signed by their wonderful authors at AWP.

FLEXIBLE BONES by Maria Melendez
HEAVEN BELOW by Oscar Bermeo, Palimpsest press
by Suzanne Frishkorn
BREATHING, IN DUST by Tim Hernandez
ELSA'S HUNGER BY Carolina Monsivais
ARC AND HUE by Tara Betts
MY KILL ADORE HIM by Paul Martinez Pompa (not signed!)
INSIDES SHE SWALLOWED by Sasha Pimental Chacon
heredities by J.Michael Martinez
FIRE AND INK: AN ANTHOLOGY OF SOCIAL ACTION WRITING BY Diana Garcia, Francis Payne Adler, Debra Busman

I may write some more about these books as I read them or possibly review them for the El Paso Times later this summer. I had a good time at AWP. At first I was wondering about alone wondering what the hell I was doing there, but then I started meeting people. It was a good experience.


I have papers to grade today mostly, and then I need to go to Colorado Humanities to take some paper work in for Writers in the Schools so I can get paid! Yay!


Monday, April 12, 2010

AWP went well. I learned several important lessons, the foremost one being to have confidence in my work. The second one is that I've worried far too long about things and people that have no bearing on my work or its reception. I attended some good panels, but also wandered about the book fair and had dinner and drinks with some wonderful writers! It was overall a great time!

I taught my final classes of Writers in the Schools today and have the first graders left. I will really miss doing this. WITS is a great organization that I encourage all poets to get involved with because it is meaningful, exciting work. I'm honored to have been part of it. I hope to do it again next year!!! I attended a Writers in the School panel, a panel on Cave Canem, a panel on re-mapping Aztlan and a panel for the new anthology Fire and Ink! My take on AWP is that it was a reality check for me, a time to stop being self-deprecating and morose. I am doing fine. All is well. Everyone is healthy.

I realize after a long time of listening to people talk about social action and community that Writers in the Schools is a grassroots organization that is truly involved in working with underprivileged students in the community. I greatly admire people who write the grants and get this stuff organized. Wow. I think that takes a special individual. I am very impressed with everyone I met that deals with WITS.

I have papers to grade, poems to type, poems to write, poems to revise, poems to read and a life to live.

Wednesday, April 07, 2010

A poem by Alberto Rios

The silence of the video above unnerved me, but it is fitting for the poem being read. I need to make friends with silence.

Today I have a meeting to attend at 1-3 and will get some stuff organized before attending the reading AWP offsite reading with Tim Hernandez, Michael Medrano and Lee Herrick this evening.

It snowed last night here in Denver, so if you are here for the AWP conference, I hope you brought layers as advised by B.R. ;) It is likely to melt by tomorrow or even this afternoon, but you never know with the Colorado weather.

I'm not sure which panels and events I will attend, but knowing me, I'll show up Thursday afternoon to attend some panels. I'm interested in some Writers in the Schools panels. There is one this afternoon, but I have a group meeting that I must attend.


Charles Simic reading three poems


I need to do some reading this morning and am feeling a bit scatter-brained when it comes to settling down and reading. I am almost done with the novel THE SCOUNDREL AND THE OPTIMIST by Maceo Montoya and will write a review of it soon and send it to EPT. Yes, I am a slow reader these days, but I am enjoying the book still.

I am still going to read a poem about trauma, sexual abuse and healing at the ONE POEM FESTIVAL on Friday evening and will nervously attend the Con Tinta celebration. Again the poem is about healing more than anything else.

I am happy to see Alicia Gaspar de Alba receive an award and Lalo Delgado honored at the Con Tina pachanga. Interestingly, Lalo Delgado taught at Metro State before I taught there.

I can't believe I've been in CO 7 years. So, who knows what will happen. I may stay here, and I may go home to focus on writing and worry less about having a "career" to make money. The U.S. government needs to help create jobs if they want their money back from people like me. I mean really, thank God my family will have me. But I am hoping to get a second interview for the job in Denver. We'll see. I'm not sure where I am meant to be, really.

Tuesday, April 06, 2010

Sylvia Plath reads "Daddy"

Never use your own words against yourself.

Be impeccable with your word.
Never take anything personally.
Always do your best.
Don't make assumptions.

S gave me this book, THE FOUR AGREEMENTS by Miguel Ruiz. I need to read it again I think. First I need to finish the novel I've been reading and write a review of it.

I've been drawing a bit and journaling and it's been overall a peaceful time for me. I need to write again. I've decided to try to write again. It's been good to take the time to draw. I also need to finish RADICAL FORGIVENESS by Colin Tipping. It helps one let go of blame and anger which is of course a good thing.

Sunday, April 04, 2010


Breathing, In Dust
Join Tim Hernandez and friends to celebrate the release of his debut novel.

Featuring readings by Lee Herrick, Michael Luis Medrano, and Zuleman Inai.

Free to the public
*An official AWP Off-Site Event

772 Santa Fe Dr 80204

Wed. April 7th 7-9 pm!

Saturday, April 03, 2010

Sherwin Bitsui


I typed a poem from my journal which I will read at the One Poem reading at AWP. The langauge is kind of flat, but it is about trauma and recovery. I think I am reading it for healing purposes more than anything else. Hopefully people will be okay with it. C says it's a good one to read, so I'll put it on her. ;) It's going to be kind of difficult to read.

Lots of really good poets will be reading. I am glad to be included with them.


I am headed to get my oil changed and then go out with some friends in Denver today.

I need to get a lot of work done: typing poems for Writers in the Schools, finding bilingual poems for Writers in the Schools, grading papers, prepping for my class, and lots of basic chores to do this weekend. Who would think someone so underemployed would have stuff to do. I am glad to have things to do. Sometimes I get very bored thinking and think about how I need a "real" job. But maybe making it peacemeal with part-time gigs "is" what I need now as I've been told. But let's face it, America is about cash.


Trauma causes us to blame others. I think the whole life isn't fair thing is a thing to write about. According to APPROVAL ADDICTION by Joyce Meyer "When we have been mistreated, it seems totally unfair to just forgive those who have hurt us. We feel someone needs to pay for what has happened to us. When we hurt, we want to blame. We want justice!...We must make an effort to forgive and let go of anger."

I still like this book a lot.

Well, have a nice day.

Friday, April 02, 2010

James Baldwin. I love these final videos when he's older, wiser.

I am posting a lot but next week is AWP and I suspect I will post less since I have to go downtown and find parking and pay for parking and walk a ways in order to attend the conference. It's kind of weird to have it come to Denver since I live here. It's a bit less exciting than when you travel to the conference. I'm going to try to attend con tinta, but I teach during the time it is scheduled. I suppose I could take the bus too, but I live in Arvada and driving seems easier now since buses may not run out here very late.

It's so quiet online now. No wars. No tossing of insults. No jagged mis-perceptions and lashing out. Hmmm. Am I healed? Not yet, no.

No seriously, I'm glad for that quietness.

I uploaded my Yaddo files to Google documents and hope this will get me to at least revise them. It's hard to write, difficult to get motivated to write. The weight of po-biz has me down, down, down.

I'm thinking seriously about sending my manuscript elsewhere since I have been given the run-around like you wouldn't believe. I guess it's a money thing. Who knows. Patience has never been one of my virtues, so maybe it's best to work on it now. I will seek out someone with the initials C.E. at AWP and see if I can't get some concrete response. I feel like a feather blowing in the wind. Where I will land is anyone's guess.

I wonder if anyone will like 7. It seems that side of Po-biz has me down, down, but I will try to focus on the moment and living day to day. It would be healthier if I stopped reading blogs, the internet and po-biz happenings. It seems too that that is mostly an internet thing. It's like if you leave it, it no longer exists!

I want to look at the AWP schedule and decide which panels I will attend. I am going to attend the Tim Hernandez, Michael Medrano and Lee Herrick reading for sure and will post that information here soon.

My, I've taken to journaling online I suppose. Too much journaling on my part, but it feels good in some ways. It helps me organize myself a bit, a bit.

I need to type up the poems from second graders this weekend. It's urgent. I still haven't done it, but I love, just love the poems from the children in Writers in the Schools!!!!! I will miss this if I can't do it next year; I mean if I actually end up getting a job and being employed like the rest of the world.

I'm rambling.

Ha! It's okay, it's my blog.

Thursday, April 01, 2010

S believed in a creator.

Lately, for the last decade or so, I've had trouble believing in a creator, but when I think of the Universe as a living being, or as a unified field, I think maybe I do believe in such wholeness, such oneness.

S shared a flame of love with me, but I forget it most days.

I do find that love is not an easy thing, it takes work and effort, so we try and try again past our errors I suppose.

I was wounded early, unloved. Trauma became my teacher, unconsciously. Consciously I forgot what happened, unconsciously that distrust ruled every action, every anticipation, my ability to love others was thwarted.

So, we are on this journey I suppose and I've carried a lot of crap for a long, long time, which isn't really very long in this brief lifetime. We learn to let go of these burdens somehow, learn to trust others and see the good in them.

It's hard for me to see the good in myself sometimes, often. Well, I am sharing this video because it is what S was to me, a light. I think being such a light is a good thing. We must see the light in ourselves too.


I'm still tired but I'm going to have conferences with my students tonight, so I'm going to try to get some protein here so I'll have energy to really be of help.


Have a nice day.