Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Review: Anaya/ Randy Lopez; Sor Juana Follow-Up; Portrait of the Reader; On-Line Floricanto

Rudolfo Anaya. Randy Lopez Goes Home. Norman OK: U of Oklahoma Press. 2011. ISBN: 9780806141893

Michael Sedano

At first, Randy Lopez doesn’t get it. Then he seems to ignore what’s happening. What’s happening to Rudolfo Anaya, a reader might ask, reading confusedly into the pages of Anaya’s Randy Lopez Goes Home.

Anaya. A reader thinks of the classic curandera novel Bless Me, Ultima, set in the llano of New Mexico. Or a Sonny Baca detective story. Baca is no Randy Lopez. But then, home, for Randy, is Agua Bendita, a
magical place up in the mountains so weird Baca’s supernatural Raven would be freaked out. But Randy doesn’t notice, albeit a little confusedly, Randy takes it all for granted.

Welcome to Agua Bendita. El Demonio, he’s there. Aphrodite/Venus/Lust/ aka Mabelline, is here, too, and although a little past her prime, she strings out the bait for a disinterested Randy.

La Muerte, she’s hanging out at the fiesta making wisecracks. La Llorona, el coco, an old curandera named, not Ultima but Unica. We are hip deep in allegory, allusion, and being swept along the swift currents of the river of life. Full fathom five! Who can save us? Think “An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge” or “Steambath” for a frame of reference, unless Purgatory means something.

Some readers may object and close the cover after only a few pages. Impatience is its own petard. Such a reader would get a firmer perspective on the author’s direction by scanning the chapter headings, the story in a nutshell. Chapter eight announces, “Randy meets the librarian and receives the book How to Build a Bridge.” Chapter twelve gives a strange tingle, “The Devil introduces Randy to La Muerte. The old bitch explains the Roots of Life.” Chapter nineteen echoes that book, “The mob rebels against the bridge building. Todospedo the mayor makes Randy an offer he can’t refuse.”

If so inclined, one could quickly look through the author’s afterword, “A Note to the Reader: How Randy Lopez Came to Me.” QEPD Patricia Anaya. The author explains how he put the book together during his wife’s final year with him, the book their final work together.

Don Rudolfo has elected his elder’s prerogative to work out that sense of mortality that comes ineluctably as one ages. In this, Randy Lopez Goes Home may surprise a reader’s expectations. Anaya is not revisiting Ultima, nor resurrecting Sonny. Randy’s home is puro magic, the novel a spiritual treatise that comes at times ponderous, chistoso, irritating, allusive, always engaging, and ultimately hopeful.

The elder statesman of Chicano letters is working it out. But it sounds silly talking about it, making a checklist of the story’s complexities. Randy Lopez Goes Home speaks for itself in deceptively sparse prose laden with notes on identity, assimilation, change, xenophobia; all manner of life issues, as befits a chicano de senectute.

Local boy Randy’s roots go far back in the remote village. He’s written a book, “How to Live Among the Gringos.” Randy fears he has been swallowed up, has become them. His fears find confirmation when, reaching the village, rednecks do their obnoxious thing, and gente who should know him have no idea of his name nor Randy’s familia. He finds no escape from anomie; the usual exclusion from the one world, but lack of recognition from the other.

Shaken, Randy realizes he’s been asking the wrong questions. With that his conception of Home becomes an intermediate destination. Now Randy obsesses on bridging the river, to find his goddess, Sofia, over there, to live a future impossible here, on the other, perhaps wrong, side of Agua Bendita.

Anaya’s Randy asks, “Do things become better as we go through transformations? Do we gain wisdom? Of what use are we if we become fish droppings?” A few chapters later, Randy gets his answer, “Unica scratched her scalp. Her hair had grown thin from scratching when she counseled the young. Her body was bent with the weight of the questions they asked. It was much easier to search for herbs than advise the young. Hijo, she said, the soul goes on transforming itself. This you’ve been told. If Sofia recognizes you is up to you.”

Sofia. That’s “wisdom” in Greek. Randy knows this, he went to night school and sees Scylla and Charybis where La Llorona and La Muerte stand, all sorts of complex intercultural referents. Remember, Randy’s been among ‘em. So even though they took him in, can Randy go Home again?

FU from Sor Juana Conference

La Bloga friend Roberto Cantú happily shares follow up comments from enthusiastic participants in the recently-concluded 2011 Conference on Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz: Her Work, Colonial Mexico, and Spain's Golden Age.

The conference’s website, singled out below, now features a slide show of participants, and towards the bottom, selected videos of readings and performances.

Few words come as welcome to an event organizer as unsolicited evaluations. That such messages usually express an enthusiastic appreciation makes the message all the more welcome. Such are the messages Profe Cantú shares upon request with La Bloga.

Gerald, for one, writes how serendipity and electric signage brought him to the conference.

I just have to commend you on The Sor Juana Conference that took place last weekend. I was absolutely enthralled by the guest speakers and I couldn't have imagined anything less. I was fortunate to see the digital billboard state the date and time as I was leaving work. I teach 8th grade English at Belvedere Middle School so it was very much of a convenience to stop by right after work.

I came across Sor Juana in my literature classes and she has always been an inspiration to me, but the conference was just as much as an inspiration too. I hope to attend, and look forward to, similar conferences on the behalf the university and the Chicano Studies Department. I did purchase my shirt, got my poster, and still have my program schedule as a reminder of the muse who still transcends space and time as she still speaks to us till this very day. Hopefully, I can meet you one day due to the fact that I still have some burning questions to ask you about Sor Juana.

Once again, thanks, and I am glad the conference was open to the public. It beats any movie out there. A real inspiration.

Margaret’s attendance comes with great deliberation, an itinerary mapped from the bayou state to El Sereno. Clearly, Roberto and staff’s attention to detail, including that website, made the conference a value added experience:

Thanks for the shout-out from one Louisianan to another and your warm and eloquent greeting to the conference participants. It was an amazing experience in every way. Roberto Cantu’s conceptualization of the conference was brilliant, and he and his colleagues executed it with admirable adeptness. When I responded to his invitation I said that my head was spinning with ideas because of the very creative list of possible paper topics he suggested. Now it is spinning with the ideas presented and generated at what was truly an interdisciplinary conference that inspired and energized us all.

And it goes on and on with the additions to the gorgeous blog.

I very much enjoyed being on your campus and am impressed with everyone I met and everything I saw.

With warm regards,

Portrait of the Novelist, Reading His Stuff

Among the most distinctive pleasures of my recent invitation to workshop oracy at the National Latino Writer’s Conference is the opportunity to photograph poets and fiction writers engaging an audience. I plan to distribute the speaker notes for that workshop this month.

Among numerous consejos on planning and delivering an effective reading, I advocate a reader play to the camera. Locate the lenses in the house and make it a point to look up from the text and make eye contact with the camera. When you gesture, hold it just a beat, and enjoy a heisman moment.

If you’re a photographer, taking an effective foto of a reader involves a good trigger finger and two eyes. Get the feel for your camera’s responsiveness, the delay between press and click. If you can disable flash, do so. Hold the camera close to your body. Keep both eyes open. One eye scopes the actual scene, the other eye glances toward the screen--or looks through the viewfinder—to ensure the speaker is framed.

Listen to the reading, get a feel for the reader’s style and pauses. Take lots of exposures. Anticipate when the reader is going to look up. If you see the speaker’s eyes then press the trigger, it’s probably too late. The well-framed portrait is in focus on the speaker, the speaker has eyes and mouth open, the body is animated.

Other elements contribute to useful fotos. Dan Olivas, for example, sets up an easel that props up his novel. This is the “silent salesperson” technique. Every time the audience looks at Dan reading, or a photograph of Dan reading, the scene is likely to include the cover of Dan’s novel.

I held the camera low and pointed in the approximate direction. I like the feel of this portrait.

This is the best reader portrait in the lot. Eyes and mouth open, a gesture with the hands, the silent salesperson up front.

Vibiana Aparicio-Chamberlin and Estela Gonzalez are in the house, asking questions during the Q&A and livening up the event.

La Bloga On-Line Floricanto May Thirty-first Twenty Eleven

1."Homeland Security" by Raúl Sánchez

2. "Homelanded" by Israel Francisco Haros Lopez

3. "Who Am I? " by Elena Díaz Bjorkquist

4. "If Time Wears A Bracelet" by Abel Salas

5. "Orale" and “Here to Stay” by Maritza Rivera

Homeland Security
by Raúl Sánchez

“O beautiful for spacious skies,
for amber waves of grain,
for purple mountain majesties
above the fruited plain”

Where pilgrim, immigrant and slaves
make their home, the land of the free
instant suspect, brown skin criminal
could be an illegal who can’t speak English

No security in the homeland

Airport cameras follow
watched by trained observers
sweat, frantic run to the gate
a suspect with a camera

No security in the homeland

Fear in everyone’s mind
liberty obliterated, freedom hampered,
racism, marginalization and hate
there are no laws that protect us

No security in the homeland

Federal lawyers convict and deport
via satellite a criminal unwanted
wrong accusations based on prejudice
we are not secure, we are not safe

No security in the homeland

Patriot act is not patriotic
paranoia of fear, political madness
the government and its agents will not protect us
but plastic sheets and duct tape will

No security in the homeland

“America, America
God shed his grace on thee
And crown thy good with brotherhood
From sea to shining sea”

No security in the homeland

by Israel Francisco Haros Lopez

they want me to do something about homeland security
not me me and not they they. but yes. there is something
to dismantle in the insecurity. through broken y re-membered

they want me to do something about border fronteras.
beyond the understanding that gloria anzaldua put in
red and black ink. they want me to . well not they them.
and not me me. but it must be undone. through re-
membering. un-broken. trails before the tears. of sb1070.
187. 209. 1992. 1491. and the trail of aztlan y picket signs
with quetzalcoatls y chicano power fists. still stuck on the concrete.

there is something done in the words. when i let them go.
passed this screen. passed that policy. passed that facebook
page. passed four corners. of the womb. or water. y luz
infinita. con la cancion. pintamos visiones en el corazon
de la tierra y el corazon del cielo. where hummingbirds
can dance this ehecatl pintura.

Who Am I?
Elena Díaz Bjorkquist ©2011

Like others, I’ve asked
the question – Who am I?
In the mirror, I see
my mother, grandmother,
and all other women who came
before them – mujeres
from the ancient tribes of Mexico;
Aztecas, Chichimecas, Toltecas
Mixed with the blood
of the Spaniards
who conquered them.

My face reflects
the history of my people.
People ask me
what tribe I’m from
and appear disappointed
when I say I’m Chicana.
Somehow, that doesn’t have
the same mystique for them
as being Native American.
I used to answer, “I’m Meso-Amerind.”
A frequent response was “I knew it!
You look Indian.”

Confusion over my ethnic identity
Is not limited to white people.
Navajos ask me if I’m Hopi,
Hopis are convinced I’m Apache.
Mexicans and Mexican Americans
don’t mistake me for Native American.
They sense the historical significance
of my appearance.
Mexicans ask, “Where did you learn
to speak Spanish so well?”
As if they know
I’m like them, but not really.
Mexican Americans ask, “What part
of Mexico did your grandparents
come from?”

I call myself Chicana
rather than Mexican American
or Latina or Hispanic.
Chicana aptly describes
my heritage, my ethnic identity.
I am a mestiza, a mixture
of cultures that made
the Mexican people of today.
That mescla, or mixture,
is infused with the culture
my great-grandmother
and my grandmother acquired
as they adapted to life in the U.S.
and my mother and I got
by being born and educated here.

In Morenci, where I was born
and where I grew up,
most people of Mexican descent
called themselves Chicanos
long before political activists
of the 60’s and 70’s claimed it
for their ethnic identity.
Although I was active
in the Chicano movement,
I have always called myself

for all my relations
by Abel Salas

If time wears a bracelet
of teeth and marrow
fused in the ether
of a distant ash
If sighs unraveled
with spasms of glee
or the burnished amber
recoiling with iron doubt
If your pain pocked face
did not define elegance
and the placenta magic
of your unborn child
drew dragonfly paths
on moon crusted clouds
If my father recalled
his tears and anger
like a spigot of days
while love was laid
in a vault of desire
If I were no longer here
amidst paper and ink
threading love again
into braids of resolve
or whippoorwill notes
If years were stations
between polar stops
and the conveyor belt
shifted axis and speed
with eyelid precision
I would need you
want you love you
free you bless you
forgive you me us
them him her
even more

El Sereno, 2008

"Orale" by Maritza Rivera
By Maritza Rivera

Mexicans were here
before there was a border
before La Migra.

Here to Stay
By Maritza Rivera

I am the brown face
of immigration reform
that is here to stay.

Raúl Sánchez, Israel Francisco Haros Lopez, Elena Díaz Bjorkquist, Abel Salas, Maritza Rivera

1."Homeland Security" by Raúl Sánchez

2. "Homelanded" by Israel Francisco Haros Lopez

3. "Who Am I? " by Elena Díaz Bjorkquist

4. "If Time Wears A Bracelet" by Abel Salas

5. "Orale" and “Here to Stay” by Maritza Rivera

Raúl SánchezRaúl Sánchez is a Seattle Bio-Tech technician, translator, DJ, and cook who conducts workshops on The Day of the Dead. Featured in the program for the 2011 Burning Word Poetry Festival in Leavenworth WA. His work appeared on-line in The Sylvan Echo, Flurry, Gazoobitales, Pirene’s Fountain with La Bloga being the latest. In print his work appears in the second Anthology by The Miracle Theatre Viva la Word!, Latino Cultural Magazine, on Bookmarks by the Seattle Public Library 2007 Poetic Art Project, and in the Anthology Speaking Desde las Heridas (Publisher: Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México).

Israel Francisco Haros LopezIsrael Francisco Haros Lopez is both a visual artist and performance artist. His work is an attempt to search for personal truths and personal histories inside of american cosmology. The american cosmology and symbolism that he is drawing from is one that involves both northern and southern america that was here before columbus. The work both written and that which is painted is attempting to mark and remark historical points in the americas and the world.The mark making attempts to speak to the undeniable presence of a native america that will continue to flourish for generations to come.The understanding which he is drawing from is not conceptual but fact and points to the importance of honoring and remembering ancestral ways of living as a means of maintaining healthy relations with all humans,the winged, all those that crawl on this Earth, all Life, the Water, the Sacred Fire, Tonanztin, Tonatiuh,the Sacred Cardinal Points,everything inbetween, above and below and at the center of self and all things in the universe. Currently the visual motifs are drawn from both a pre-columbian america that had far far less physical, mental or spiritual borders . Recent works are exploring Xenophobia in laws such as "SB 1070" both in written and visual format. Israel considers himself an environmentalist poet seeking to awakening those harming our first mother Tonantzin.He also draws inspriation from the contemporary styles of inner city youth who use public space by any means necessary as their method of artistic expression. Israel also draws much of his inspiration from his peers and contemporaries who constantly show him innovative ways to approach cultural and political dilemnas. The written words cannot be without the painted image. The painted image cannot be without words. Neither the written work or visual work can be without sound without vibration, as all things on this earth carry vibration. As such his written and oral work is constantly shifting as it is performed or recording. The same poem,story,monologue or abstract diatribe shifts within the space it is performed taking into consideration audience and the theatrics and vibration of the moment.

Elena Díaz BjörkquistElena Díaz Björkquist, a writer, historian, and artist from Tucson, writes about Morenci, Arizona where she was born. She is the author of two books, Suffer Smoke and Water from the Moon. Elena has been on the Arizona Humanities Council (AHC) Speakers Bureau for ten years performing as Teresa Urrea in a Chautauqua living history presentation, and doing presentations about Morenci, Arizona and also the 1880’s Schoolhouse in Tubac.

Elena is co-editor of Sowing the Seeds, una cosecha de recuerdos, an anthology written by her writers group. The project was funded by AHC. She is nearing completion of another collection of Morenci stories entitled Albóndiga Soup and has co-edited a new anthology entitled Our Spirit, Our Reality; celebrating our stories by the Comadres of Sowing the Seeds.

A SIROW Scholar at the University of Arizona, Elena conducted an oral history project funded by AHC; “In the Shadow of the Smokestack.” A website that she created contains the oral history interviews and photographs of Chicano elders living in Morenci during the Depression and World War II. Another project funded by AHC and the Stocker Foundation is “Tubac 1880’s Schoolhouse Living History Program.” Her website is www.elenadiazbjorkquist.net/.

Elena is one of the poet moderators for the Facebook page “Poets Responding to SB1070.

Abel SalasAbel Salas is the Publisher and Editor at Brooklyn & Boyle, an Eastside arts, literture and community journal based in the historic Boyle Heights neighborhood of Los Angeles where he is also part of the Corazon del Pueblo: Arts, Action & Education Collective. He has taught creative writing in LA County juvenile halls, and his work as a journalist has appeared in The New York Times, Los Angeles Times Magazine, Los Angeles Magazine, Latina, The Austin Chronicle, The Brownsville Herald Oye Magazine, Tus Ciudad Los Angeles Magazine and Artillery Magazine among many others. Salas has been invited to share his poetry on stages in San Francisco and Monterey Bay, Havana, Cuba, Toluca, Mexico and Mexico D.F. and most recently as part of Poets Responding to Arizona HB1070 in Washington DC and at the National Latino Congress held earlier this year in Austin.

Maritza Rivera CohenMaritza Rivera Cohen is a Puerto Rican poet who has lived in Rockville, MD since 1994. Maritza has been writing poetry for over 30 years; has been published in literary magazines and anthologies and founded the weekly Mariposa Poetry Series, which ran from September 1999 to October 2002 in College Park, MD. She has been an associate poetry editor for WordWrights Magazine in Washington, DC, a judge for poetry competitions and slams and is the author of “About You”, a collection of poetry “for women and the men they love”. Her latest book of poetry, A Mother’s War, was written during her son’s two tours in Iraq to help make the intensity of war a reality for everyone. She is a regular contributor to Poets Responding to SB 1070

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