Poetry Smokin' Hot at Times-USC Book Fair

Michael Sedano

Three kinds of organizations populate the weekend tent city that springs up on the University of Southern California campus when USC hosts the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books every Spring: commercial and community interests, publishers, and self-publishing enterprises. Together they provide a snapshot of the reading public and industries serving them.

This annual gigantic literary trade show provides a good workout, even on the flat campus. I visit only a smattering of activities and cover two miles. with lots of stops. The festival makes for an engaging day of people-watching, chatting up visitors and authors, listening to soft-sell pitches from self-publishing businesses.

Non-book exhibitors buy big spaces. C-Span television had hundreds of square feet along with a mammoth mobile studio. I suspect USC’s Keck Medical Center got in free. The Health and Wellness Pavilion offered take-one folders and free sign-ups to talk to a doctor, be screened for glucose, skin and breast cancer, sleep apnea. Everybody here reads and breathes, so I hope Keck got in free.

The book fest is not cheap for exhibitors squeezed into USC’s ample green spaces and broad cement promenades. The smallest space at 10’ x 10’ costs $1150, the largest booths, 20’ x 20’, represent an investment of $3600 for two days in front of an audience.

Marketing is the key to any book’s success, and numerous writers demonstrated their commitment to their art, buying boothspace and setting up displays. Many do not take the next step: work the booth. Greet and meet people, draw their attention to your book, sell a copy and autograph your work. Go home satisfied and not have to schlep those books home.

Signage and long rows of white tents force exhibitors to jazz up the booth to bring people in. Some bring in visitors by offering freebies or a spin on a roulette wheel. Buying booth space doesn't guarantee people will stop and talk. It’s the Achilles’ Heel of all trade shows.

“Michael Sedano” a woman calls as I approach the Cinco Puntos Press booth. It’s a prime corner on the walkway toward the Poetry Stage, my destination today. Désirée Zamorano, whose The Amado Women is a 2014 title from Cinco Puntos Press, chats until a visitor leans across a table with a question and I head downrange.

There’s a plaque honoring Cesar Chávez in the verdant dell between the Annenberg School for Communication, and Taper Hall of Humanties née Founders Hall. It’s the right spot for poetrylandia.

The speech program in Founders traced its academic traditions to Aristotle and Plato. Annenberg began with Information Industry studies with a distinct futurist orientation. The two programs reflect a continuity akin to reading classic poetry and spoken word poetry. We won't argue a distinction. Visitors to poetrylandia had a chance to savor both outside the GetLit booth and inside Kaya Press' booth.

Miriam Sachs stands near the GetLit booth where those Poet tee shirts are on sale, together with details on doing slam poetry competitively. She stands in a semi-shady place to perform a pair of poems. It’s the format of the upcoming GetLit Classic Poetry Slam. Sachs recites a piece by e.e.cummings before transitioning into her own reponse poem to cummings’. The linked recitation creates an entertaining style for oral interpretation of literature and is the requirement in a 3-day competition upcoming.

Writers who read their own stuff to audiences need to watch skilled performers like Sachs. Unamplified, she projects without shouting above the din of passersby and ambient sounds of this exciting place. Although performing in constricted space, she uses all of it with arm and full body gestures, straying from home base only a few steps. Energy and excitement flow from her presence and voice. I am surprised when the audience doesn’t stand whooping and cheering when she finishes, that’s how infectiously she performs.

A wondrous contrast to the spoken word performer comes in Kaya Press’ Smokin’ Hot Indie Lit Lounge. Seated in a close circle of chairs with rows of standing listeners behind, Daniel Olivas and Luis J. Rodriguez read with effective restraint, adapting to the situation and engaging the audience in repartée and a Q&A.

Over in the children’s literature section, locutores on the massive Hoy stage work the sparsely filled seating area. In full sun, the venue doesn’t welcome loitering. Which is too bad because the pair of emcees welcome a portavoz to pitch LéaLA, a Los Angeles extension of the Guadalajara Festival del Libro. Read more about LéaLA in this La Bloga report.

The entire LA Times Festival of Books is a rousing success, as an endeavor. The same won't be true for many who bought a space and use it ineffectively. Sitting behind a table eyeing the passing crowd, hoping for someone to stop, eager to engage when someone does, is not the way to work a trade show.

Having interactive elements is a draw, but gimmicks aren’t required. C-SPAN was recording a Book Talk conversation while in other booths writers interviewed writers while the public watched intoxicated with the power of the press.

Meeting people should not be an option at events like this. For individuals to spend over a thousand bucks and just sit there cannot have been satisfying. “Meet and greet” is a useful strategy. Stand outside the booth in people’s way. Insist on saying hello, probe gently, “do your kids read mysteries?” Ask questions that demand interaction like, “hi, I’m me, may I show you my picture book?”

One author with a unique approach--for this trade show--and a unique book is Dr. Jungmiwha Bullock. Am I Half Giraffe? comes in five languages, French, Spanish, Korean, and Afrikaans, on the same pages.

Bullock stands in front of her table in the aisle, invites attention by donning giraffe horns and posing for a photograph with her visitors holding that book. She's brought a pair of her students but needs another person to help out with waiting parents.

Self-publishing companies I visited included iUniverse, Biting Duck Press, and Author Solutions. A Penguin/Random House operation, Author Solutions has a major presence with a double row of booths. I walk around them twice to be sure. I hadn’t heard of them.

I stop at their first booth, worked by sales staff. “If this is author solutions, what is the author problem?” The answer I had to probe for was one of a series of “packages” from training to editing to printing to marketing to author signings. Indeed, up one side and down the other side of the double row of tents, authors sit with their books stacked, a cover on easels or a broadside. Mostly the authors sit there and look up expectantly as people shuffle past reading the title.

Inspired to write, publish, and get a book signing through this company, only a few feel inspired to do something about it. All gladly answer questions, but only a few authors actively work the crowd. One has family passing out color glossy fliers that probably cost a nickel each. Gente have come to explore books so she gets a welcoming response from numerous visitors who take a flyer.

The spirit and creativity of independent publisher Kaya Press, together with the spirit and energy of Writ Large Press’ Jessica Ceballos, exemplifies what is best about a book fair. At its heart, the booth celebrates literacy in every breath, from poetry readings to the constant background clicks of typewriters.

Like all the other tables along the paths, shiny provocative books and objects cover horizontal surfaces. Inside, carpet covers the lawn, chairs and a sofa bound the rug, Kaya Press’ twist-smoking cartoon cat looks out from a banner behind the performers’ seats.

On the outside, manual typewriters and blank paper encourage people to stop. Lots of younger people ask questions about the ancient technology. Engaging guides explain operation and gently coax reluctant kids to start typing and make their own book. Hard return.

Kaya Press’ booth hosts pregnant women, toddlers in strollers, old guys with cameras, readers all and of all persuasions.

The experience of the poetry reading in the tent is like a virtuoso Trio in a living room. You can hear the cellist breathe, get a close look at the pianist’s fingers, watch the players’ eyes in mute communication. Instead of music we have poetry. Smokin’ hot experience with the poet, words and gestures and inflections, listeners nodding understanding, smiling in the moment, checking out the manuscript in a poet's hands, filtering out the busy background laughter, tap-tap-tap, a photographer hopes for a moment's eye contact.

2016 marks the 21st year of the LA Times Festival of Books. Authors jumping on the self-publishing train, publishers seeking to make their mark on the publishing world, readers looking forward to the stage or the lounge know what worked this year and will likely keep those, or seek them out again. Other stuff has to be changed.

As someone saddened at thoughts of people throwing away eleven hundred dollars to sit in a booth and watch the world go by, I hope next year's booth-buyers, self-published authors, independent presses and book sellers can get a lot more out of it.

Aztlán Libre Press Now in Hardcover

Chicano publishing takes another giant step as publishing house Aztlán Libre Press issuing its first title in a  hardbound edition. San Antonio Poet Laureate Laurie Ann Guerrero's A Crown for Gumecindo.

Joining the efforts of Guerrero are California artist Maceo Montoya and an introduction by Tim Z. Hernandez.

Aztlán Libre Press, together with sponsorship from the City of San Antonio Department for Culture & Creative Development, Gemini Ink, Southwest School of Art, plans a May 6, 2015 Launch Celebration in SanAnto. Email the editors for more information editors@aztlanlibrepress.com.

In advance of the opening, when Guerrero will read from and sign her book, you can order A Crown for Gumecindo via Small Press Distribution at www.spdbooks.org and publisher-direct at www.aztlanlibrepress.com.

Cal State Los Angeles Spring Conference

From La Bloga friend and conference organizer Roberto Cantu:

This year’s Gigi Gaucher-Morales Memorial Conference will draw attention to the work of Mexican writer Mariano Azuela (1873-1952) and the Novel of the Mexican Revolution, a narrative cycle Azuela initiated with the publication of his novel Los de abajo (The Underdogs, 1915).

Six sessions focus on novels by Mexican writers Mariano Azuela, Nellie Campobello, Martín Luis Guzmán, Juan Rulfo, and Carlos Fuentes.

This conference is the result of a close collaboration between Mexican and U.S. faculty from Cal State L.A., Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, the Latin American Institute (UCLA), and the Center for Mexican Studies (UCLA). This University event will take place at the Music Hall on May 15-16. The conference program highlights include:

Keynote speaker: Dr. Kristine Vanden Berghe (Université de Liège, Belgium).

Featured speakers:

1. Dr. Georgina García Gutiérrez Vélez (Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México).

2. Heribert von Feilitzsch (Historian, German-Mexican Diplomatic Relations).

3. Chicano writer Michael Nava to speak on his novel The City of Palaces.

4. Dr. Florence Olivier (Université Sorbonne Nourvelle Paris 3, France).

5. Chicano historian Dr. Max Parra (University of California, San Diego).

6. Dr. Niamh Thornton (University of Liverpool, United Kingdom).

7. Dr. Maarten Van Delden (University of California, Los Angeles).

A theatrical adaptation of Los de abajo with performances by Mexican actress Alejandra Flores, and a cast of six professional actors and four Cal State L.A. Alumni.

For conference information and schedule, visit: http://marianoazuelaatcalstatela.blogspot.com

For questions, contact:  rcantu@calstatela.edu

Faltan 43

When the government of Mexico disappeared the 43 normalistas, it was the crime that people refused to ignore. Such an enormous crime brought gente en masse into the streets, and caravans of parents into the United States. Neither the parents nor conscienticized people the world over will let go of the anger. One day, historians will point to the tragedy of los 43 as one of the major causes of the Mexican Revolution of 2015 or 2016. How much government criminality can the gente take before they explode?

La Bloga friend Abel Salas, with editing by bloguera Xánath Caraza, composed this poem to keep alive the memory and determination of the rallying cry, ¡vivos los llevaron, vivos los queremos!

Por Abel Salas

¿Cómo se dice que estamos hartos?
¿Cómo deletrear la angustia de una
madre y la rabia de un padre? Do we say
Enough?! ¡Ya basta! ¿Cómo dejar el zumbar
De la fosa y el fuego crecer en nuestros
Sentidos hasta ahogar a cualquier otro
Sonido? Y no es suficiente solo decir
Que estamos hartos. We are so tired,
Exhausted, porque el dolor tampoco es
capaz de traducir el clavo en mi cráneo,
La bala que le metieron a un tocayo
normalista. Porque eran niños igual que
tanta mujer en la frontera violada y los
jóvenes negros asesinados por los
Policías al norte de la frontera. Y no soy
Nadie para hablar sobre injusticias que
No he sufrido. Solo sé que ante esa
Impunidad y la arrogancia detrás del
Gatillo, viven cobardes, loveless,
Self-loathing shadows of humanity
Dark souls we have created because,
In the end, we have allowed them to
Be, made them with our privilege and
Our need to bury ourselves in the
Anesthetized oblivion of money, or
Drink or pleasure. Porque estamos
Hartos de la muela, el hueso y la
Ceniza, estamos hartos de los Peña
Nieto, los Aguirre y la pobreza en
La Cual nace la avaricia y la violencia
All the way up the food chain, esa
Narco-democracia and you will have
Noticed that U.S. television networks
Have ignored the outrage y aún esas
Grandes manifestaciones. Obama is
Silent on the matter. ¿Qué pasó, mi
Presidente? ¿Te amarraron la lengua?
Es que estoy harto y tengo el pecho
Partido, el corazón roto, la
Garganta ronca de tanto llorar a
Solas y en el silencio de mi cuarto
vacío en donde los 43 y los miles
igual desaparecidos viven y piden
venganza, justicia. They were just
boys, not students at a radical left-
wing rural college. Jóvenes que
apenas empezaban a leer y luchar
por un mundo mejor, que ni sabían
del rastrillo porque todavía ni
bigotes ni barbas les salían en la cara

May 1 Poetry Classic Slam at LATC

I'm looking forward to an early morning walkabout in DTLA on Friday, May 1. I'm a volunteer at the check-in table for teams reporting for the middle day of the three-day Classic Slam event scheduled for the Los Angeles Theatre Center on Spring Street, East of Broadway.

Visit the GetLit website for details.

On-line Floricanto for National Poetry Month
Francisco X. Alarcón, Tom Sheldon, Sharon Elliott, Raúl Sánchez, Paul Aponte, Armando Guzman, Jolaoso Prettythunder, Jorge Salas, Jackie Lopez, César E. Chávez

"Algo más / Something Else" by Francisco X. Alarcón
"Beyond language" by Tom Sheldon
"Coming Home" by Sharon Elliott
"It is Dangerous to Have Dark Skin" by Raúl Sánchez
"Cesar Chavez Drive" by Paul Aponte
"Welcome to Arizona" by Armando Guzman
"medicine woman" by Jolaoso Prettythunder
"Bajo un cielo azul / Under a Blue Sky" by Jorge Salas
"Sweetness" by Jackie Lopez
"Oración de la lucha del campesino / Prayer of the Farm Workers' Struggle" by César E. Chávez

Francisco X. Alarcón, award-winning Chicano poet and educator, was born in Los Angeles, grew up in Guadalajara, Mexico, and now lives in Davis, where he teaches at the University of California. He is the author of thirteen volumes of poetry, including Canto hondo / Deep Song (University of Arizona Press 2015), Borderless Butterflies / Mariposas sin fronteras (Poetic Matrix Press 2014), Ce • Uno • One: Poems for the New Sun (Swan Scythe Press, 2010), From the Other Side of Night / Del otro lado de la noche: New and Selected Poems (University of Arizona Press, 2002), Sonnets to Madness and Other Misfortunes (Creative Arts Book Company, 2001), and Snake Poems: An Aztec Invocation (Chronicle Books, 1992). He is the author of six acclaimed books of bilingual poems for children on the seasons of the year originally published by Children’s Book Press, now an imprint of Lee & Low Books. He is the creator of the Facebook page “Poets Responding to SB 1070.”

Beyond language
By Tom Sheldon

Sprawled on our mother in slumber
beneath a salt studded indigo sky
at the mercy of the midnight mind
dreaming of sunshine
and the morning to come

© copyright Tom Sheldon

My name is Tom Sheldon and my  work has been shown in local galleries, as well as the Museum of Natural History here. I have won art competitions at the State Fair level. I also love to write poetry; my poetry has been  featured in La Bloga, Monique's Passions e-magazine, Poets Responding to SB1070 on Facebook, as well as Dreams and Divinities 2013 along with Writers in the Storm.

Coming Home
By Sharon Elliott

coming home
is not a homecoming
it is an arrival

it is not returning
to rooms that were always empty
it is draping your bones
with the skin they were born for

it is not trying to bake Grandma’s cookies
or locking the door
against marauding brothers
it is sleeping under a sanctified sheet
with a knot tied in it

it is not inheriting the good china
it is smashing crystal glasses
against a brick wall

it is not sending Christmas cards
to bygone addresses
written on long time ago envelopes
it is  drawing your name in the sand
for waves to etch into the crust of the earth

it is not bringing turkey
to a bloody day of nefarious remembrance
it is baking sweet potatoes over
cedar fires
next to a cold blue river

it is not a return
it is not a looking back
it is not a slow memorial
it is life in forward motion
under a roof nailed to cross beams
of your own manufacture

get a hammer
home is just around the corner
you are almost there

Copyright © 2015 Sharon Elliott. All Rights Reserved.

Born and raised in Seattle, Sharon Elliott has written since childhood. Four years in the Peace Corps in Nicaragua and Ecuador laid the foundation for her activism. As an initiated Lukumi priest, she has learned about her ancestral Scottish history, reinforcing her belief that borders are created by men, enforcing them is simply wrong.

She has featured in poetry readings in the San Francisco Bay area: Poetry Express, Berkeley, CA in 2012 and La Palabra Musical, Berkeley, CA in 2013.

She was awarded the Best Poem of 2012, The Day of Little Comfort, Sharon Elliott, La Bloga Online Floricanto Best Poems of 2012, 11/2013, http://labloga.blogspot.com/2013/01/best-poems-of-2012.html

It is Dangerous to Have Dark Skin
By Raúl Sánchez

NaPoWriMo 4-9-15

we “could be criminals”
we “could be violent”
we “could be thieves”
we “could have a weapon”
we “could be illegal”

we “look” suspicious
we “are up to no good”
we “wear strange clothes”
we “look dirty from working all day”
we “don’t look like regular folk”

We are dangerous—
because WE speak our mind
because WE protest police brutality
because WE demand Justice!
because WE like to live in peace
because WE want to be free!

It is dangerous to have dark skin
In Amerika

Raúl is a translator currently working on the Spanish version of his inaugural collection "All Our Brown-Skinned Angels" nominated for the 2013 Washington State Book Award in Poetry. A 2014 Jack Straw Writers fellow. Also one of the mentors and judges for the 2014 Poetry on Buses project sponsored by 4 Culture and King County Metro. Last October, he participated in the TEDx Salon event in Yakima, WA titled: “How Creativity Heals” available on U-tube. http://beyondaztlan.com   and http://moonpathpress.com

By Paul Aponte

Searing planes of lasting melancholy inhabit the poet's mind, and the words must flow - if at least to help us all to repudiate this world's poison, to mend hope, to raise our will.

These searing planes of lasting melancholy that inhabit the poet's mind, also inhabited Cesar Chavez' mind.

The searing planes of the fields of wrath
The searing planes of backs
The searing planes of hands
The searing planes of faces
Worn, scorched, torn, chafed, broken.
Broken faces.

Yes, the searing planes of lasting melancholy inhabit the poet's mind.

I write no poetry about this subject.
The poetry is already written.
Cesar Chavez' actions wrote it.
In his fight to unite people for a common struggle,
In his speaking for workers that couldn't speak for themselves,
In his passion to uplift those around him to continue fighting
for worker rights.

.. that is how he continues to drive us,
.. that is how he lives in us

Cesar Chavez Lives!

Cesar sparks movements.
Chavez blooms poetic minds.
Lives in our own deeds.
........… our smiles.

Cesar Chavez lives
in the sorrows that continue in the lives of all people

Cesar Chavez lives
in the fight against poisoning of workers
in the struggle for safe working conditions
in the often treacherous climb to improve our lives economically
in our unity with our black brethren in preventing more
unnecessary killings
in our outraged unity when another one falls
when we take the action to write over and over again to
political leaders
when we sustain the pressure about the 43 killed and
against the corruption that allows it
when we sustain the pressure against the government
of Arizona over their racist limited view of what
education should be

Cesar Chavez lives
He lives in the face of the child of color first arriving to
the first grade class
He lives in the face of the mother that is already setting
up her puestecito
He lives in the face of the father that is working the fields,
still amidst pesticides
He lives in the middle class parents that were the children
of farmworkers
He lives in the grandchildren of farmworkers now getting
a better education

Cesar Chavez lives
when we sustain pressure over equal pay for women
in our fight against the continued disparity and divergence
in corporate vs. middle class income.

Cesar Chavez is alive
because Corky's "Yo Soy Joaquin" is alive
because Nancy's "Virgen De Las Calles" is alive
because Francisco's "Mariposas Sin Fronteras" is alive
because Jose's "El Louie" is alive
because the art of the RCAF is alive
because the art and poetry of the NEW artists is alive.
.... because we are all alive. WE are here.

Jose Montoya, Martin Luther King, Emiliano Zapata, Malcolm X,
Robert Kennedy, Cesar Chavez:

The leaders of justified outrage are alive,
if we want them to be.
If YOU let them light the fire,
that sparks your words to be heard,
that inflames your art that moves leaders to action,
that generates movement across borders,
that have the same goal as Cesar Chavez
- truth, peace, and prosperity for ALL.

Paul Aponte is a Chicano poet from Sacramento, California.   Paul, is a member of "Escritores del Nuevo Sol", and can be seen reading at various venues throughout the SF Bay and Sacramento areas. He is the author of the book of poetry "Expression Obsession" , and has been published in "La Bloga" and in other international publications. Many of his poems can be found on his Facebook "Notes" under the pseudonym Wolf Fox.

Welcome to Arizona
By Armando Guzman

Welcome to Arizona.
This is the land of privatized prisons;
paid for by your tax dollars.
We do not fund education.
Who will fill our prisons?
We have a quota to keep.
The uneducated are a necessity in Arizona.
We need to protect the southern border.
There is an invasion of children reaching
our desert lands and we must
place them in makeshift concentration camps..
Prisons are good business.
Don’t you know?
Prisons are good for the economy.
Education is a poison that destroys the economy.
Let me tell you about those little children,
They are trying to overthrow the government.
Those little boogers are a threat to our ‘American ways.
Here in Arizona we ban books that are against the American way.
“Bless Me Ultima” is the Mexicans “Art of War”.
We have to pasteurize and homogenize all of your minds.
Our biggest investment is to the future and well being of Arizona.
Prisons are big business and there is a lot of meat on the bone.
A child that does not know how to read is a passive child.
We should not even teach them to count.
It’s a great business model.
It’s great economics.
Keep them ignorant and uneducated.
We will just keep building more prisons and raking in the cash.
In Arizona we have a great business model.
If you have deep pockets then by golly
we will have your best interests in mind.

J. Armando Guzman is from the border town of Nogales, Arizona and has one chapbook published. 60 Miles From Heroica was published in 2014. Armando grew up in between Mexico and Southern Arizona. He is currently working on more poetry and flash fiction. Contact www.facebook.com/guzmanarmjoe or sanchomando@gmail.com.

medicine woman
By Jolaoso Prettythunder

because i know the name of monsters
am a monster
hands like shovels


can coax the medicine from the root
rhizome of sleep
rhizome of twitching and perspiration
making them diaphoretic

making them joyful

deer arms

making poison

making the cure

destroying it all in one night

Jolaoso Pretty Thunder is an initiated Apetebi and Orisa priestess of Oya in the Lukumi tradition. She lives in the woods of Northern California with her two dogs Rosie Farstar and Ilumina Holydog. She is a certified practitioner and student of herbal medicine (Western, Vedic, TMC and Lukumi) and  is an ordained minister of First Nations Church. She is a well traveled poet and  loves southern rock, porch swings, pickup trucks, cooking, camp fires, lightning, steak, long drives, hot cups of coffee, gathering and making medicine and singing with her  friends and family.

bajo un cielo azul
por Jorge Salas

el polvo
se levanta
bajo los tacones
de un par de zapatos femeninos
y prosiguen
se rasgan
se parten
y pierden su color
en el desierto fronterizo
bajo un cielo azul
se secan lágrimas
de sudor hecho lodo
lenguas lamen
hacia adentro
y a tientas buscan
saciar su angustia
en la garganta reseca
engañar la sed
hechos bola
se esconden
en los pozos
se refugian
en las sombras
se funden
con la tierra
y esperan aullando
el regreso
de la luna
para transformarse
en ratas
para cruzar caños
de aguas negras
que un día fueron campos
de guayaba
y tamarindo
las luces
del cielo
desnudan a la noche
recorren barrancos
y levantan las sombras
de las rocas
de los arbustos
escuchan los murmullos
de los vientos
corazones afónicos
se abrazan
de los arbustos
hasta cubrirse
de negro
salen huyendo
de las armas
de la sangre
de la muerte

under a blue sky
By Jorge Salas

dust arises
under the heels
of a pair of feminine shoes
they stumble
and proceed
they tear
they break
and loose their color
in the border desert
under a blue sky
tears are wiped
of sweat
turned mud
tongues lick
towards the inside
and on touch attempt
to quench their anguish
in dried throats
to fool thirst
they run
in a cluster
they hide
in cracks
they seek refuge
in the shadows
they blend
with the earth
and await howling
the return
of the moon
to transform themselves
into rats
in order to cross
sewage pipes
that one day were fields
of guayaba
and tamarind
the lights
from the sky
strip the night
search hill sides
and lift shadows
off the rocks
off the weeds
they listen to murmurs
caused by the winds
aphonic hearts
hold on
to shrubs
until covered
in black
they run away
from arms
from blood
from death

My name is Jorge Salas. I was born in Michoacán, México but raised in Salinas, California since I was 9 yrs old. I started writing verses when I was a boy. My skills improved after I read great writers like Pablo Neruda, Octavio Paz, Jorge Luis Borges, Carlos Fuentes, Gabriel García Márquez, among others. I attended Macalester College and earned a double major in Spanish Language and Literature and Studio Art in 1991. My learning continued at Colorado State University where I earned a Masters degree in Spanish Language and Literature. There, I explored my cultural identity in the US through writers like Lalo Delgado, Gloria Anzaldúa, Lucha Corpi, José Montoya, José A. Burciaga, etc. I am presently working on my 17th year as a high school Spanish teacher. I love reading and writing poetry, short story, and novels, but my passion is seeing my students get excited about writers they can connect with.

By Jackie Lopez

Sweet is the rose in all her sweat when she dances.
Sweet is the drummer when all he wants are romances.
Sweet and redeeming is the thunder and lightning that comes from the God, Chango!
I hear there is a sweet, sweet, sweet rain coming tonight.
I shall wear my pretty dress and undress.
This world needs more sweetness.
Sweet is the life of the Hathors.
I once knew a queen by that name.
She was irresponsible in her spontaneity.
I have always been the accused.
I lay quietly in my sleep waiting for the sweet finger to caress me.
I know how these things go.
When I was on Planet of the Apes, the apes treated their women with sweetness.
I think that is what we need now.
We need some kindness to infiltrate the universe and plant a love bomb.
I am ready for it.
Sweet is the truth and sometimes the lie.
Sweet is the God who wears a disguise to seduce his mortal women.
Most of what ails us is the patriarchy.
They replaced sweetness with violence.
We die of hunger now and are whipped in the process.
When I was a Jesuit, I wrote my novels in the woods.
I chopped wood and carried water and sweet was my soul.
I now have a thing for candles.
A good fire heals me too.
When I was a child, I dreamed of being an adult.
When I became an adult, I dreamed of being wise.
Now I drink my water with some wine.
Little is left to say, only, there is a sweetness in that line I just made.
And, sweet are the worlds that course through my mind.
Sweet is the keyboard and the nonchalant mystic woman before it.
I have been accosted to no end by the divine.
The angels are keeping track of me.
Oh-oh, life is so good that I think trouble is coming.
How sweet to have a strong faith.
When I was younger, I had it, and I gave it to all.
Nowadays, I end my poems with thunder and lightning.
Nowadays, I end the dance with a Gypsy pose.
Soon, I will be receiving love letters.
I hear it on the radio and on the news.
I hear there is an emancipation by those who have been abused.
Mother Earth has her enlightenment grid.
Father Sky has his nymphs.
I am available for seduction.
But I don’t want to leave the earth that bore me.
I kiss her with my tears.
And, I drown myself in her waters.

Jackie Lopez is a historian that has come to the conclusion that there are no words to place in context the tumultuous life she leads.  At first, you see a distinguished figure who makes a lot of noise about history, social justice, healing, and all sorts of shamanism in San Diego‘s cultural centers.  At heart, she is a dancer and a poet that does not let go of the fact that she is  transcendental meditation.  When I ask her what she would  tell the people; all she answers is that it is in the soul where the healing lies.  Her aim is to plant seeds of enlightenment personality.  She claims that her poetry is beneficial to humankind because it awakens the “I am” process.  Recently, she has written a 120 page poem and is seeking a publisher for this.  Her poems have been published by Panhandler Productions, Warren College Literary Journal (UCSD) “The Hummingbird Review“, and Poets Responding to SB1070 face book page, Kill Radio, and soon in the “North American Review.”  She can be contacted via email at:  peacemarisolbeautiful@yahoo.com, day and night.

Oración de la lucha del campesino
por César E. Chávez, Fundador del UFW (1927-1993)

Enséñame el sufrimiento de los más desafortunados;
así conoceré el dolor de mi pueblo.
Líbrame para orar por los demás
porque estás presente en cada persona.
Ayúdame a tomar responsabilidad de mi propia vida;
sólo así, seré libre al fin.
Concédeme valentía para servir al prójimo
porque en la entrega hay vida verdadera.
Concédeme honradez y paciencia
para que yo pueda trabajar junto con otros trabajadores.
Alúmbranos con el canto y la celebración
para que se eleve el espíritu entre nosotros.
Que el espíritu florezca y crezca
para que no nos cansemos de la lucha.
Acordémonos de los que han caído por la justicia
porque a nosotros han entregado la vida.
Ayúdanos a amar aun a los que nos odian;
así podremos cambiar el mundo.

Prayer of the Farm Workers' Struggle
By César E. Chávez, UFW Founder (1927-1993)

Show me the suffering of the most miserable;
thus I will know my people's plight.
Free me to pray for others,
for you are present in every person.
Help me take responsibility for my own life
so that I can be free at last.
Grant me courage to serve my neighbor
for in surrender is there truly life.
Grant me honesty and patience
so that I can work with other workers.
Enlighten us with song and celebration
so that the spirit will be alive among us.
Let the spirit flourish and grow
so that we will never tire of the struggle.
Let us remember those who have died for justice
for they have given us life.
Help us love even those who hate us;
thus we can change the world.

©michael v. sedano

Cesar E. Chavez (1927-1993) is a United States labor movement hero.

Has A Decade Already Passed?

A short stroll from the Gold Line terminus brings you to one of LA's topmost galleries for local and raza art, Chimmaya Art Gallery. The gallery's openings invariably draw a who's who of artists, collectors, and if-only-I-had-money art lovers. The snacks are always outstanding, by the way.

Drivers will be pleased finding next-door and near-by parking, even if they don't bring their own hyphens. Don't do CPT to avoid longer walks along Beverly Boulevard or environs.

5283 E. Beverly Blvd  /  Los Angeles, CA  90022  /  323.869.8881

Chimmaya hosts book releases and stocks its boutique with in-demand purses, jewelry, and garments. The gallery represents notable painters and sculptors, like Las 2 Fridas featured in Olga García's August 2010 column. I'd missed this show, but thanks to bloguera Olga, I rushed down to Chimmaya and added this one to my collection.

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