Monday, September 28, 2009

The 4th Annual San Diego City College Int'l Book Fair is here.

* * *
Robert van Halberg: For whom do you write?

John Wieners: For the poetical, the people. Not for myself, merely. Or ever. Only for the better, warm, human loving, kind person. The guy on the street who might hold open a door for you, left the bumper on your car, stops to give you instructions, spares some change, lets you in his bookshop. Friends I take for granted, like the future.

from John Wieners: Selected Poems 1958-1984

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Polvo - my kimono

My brother reintroduced me to this band over the weekend. Their new album just came out after having been seperated for several years. I'd like to write a short story to this song where the last syllable descends upon the very last note.

Polvo - Tilebreaker

B nice to see their show in LA this October

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Winner of the Inaugural raúlrsalinas Guerrilla Chapbook Poetry Contest

I'm looking forward to congratulating and listening to, Joe Montoya, the winner of the inaugural raúlrsalinas Guerrilla Chapbook Poetry Contest on September 19th at Voz Alta in Barrio Logan. I'm sure it will be a special evening.

This chapbook contest was established "as a way to honor the late Xicanindio poet activist the Red CalacArts Collective, Calaca Press (San Diego, Califas) and Red Salmon Arts (Austin, Tejas) have teamed up to create the raúlrsalinas Guerrilla Chapbook Poetry Contest. The Redz seek material from authors whose poetry best reflects the lifework and interests of raúlrsalinas, including Native and immigrant rights, the Chicano Movement, Black Power, prison struggles, political prisoners, Leonard Peltier, Mumia abu-Jamal, social movements, EZLN, Cuba, independence of Puerto Rico, the Beat writers, and of course jazz, amongst many other issues related to culture, human rights, community empowerment and social justice."

One of the requirements for entering this contest that really impressed me was the need to include a description of one's community involvement.

How amazing is that!

Monday, September 7, 2009


In earlier times, the nymph Echo knew how to speak. And she spoke with such grace that her words seemed always new, never before spoken by any mouth.

But the goddess Hera, Zeus's legal spouse, cursed her during one of her frequent fits of jealousy. And Echo suffered the worst of all punishments: she was deprived of her own voice.

Ever since, unable to speak, she can only repeat.
Nowadays, that curse is looked on as a virtue.

Eduardo Galeano
from Mirrors: Stories of Almost Everyone

Last night my wife and I spent the evening watching a 3-hr special on the writer/educator/activist, Jonathan Kozol. We have read much of his works throughout our days of teacher education classes, workshops, etc., and to finally listen to him, and even see him offer a rare tour of his home was a nice addition to some of the arguments and concerns he put forth throughout the interview. Kozol highlighted the tragic dropout rates that still continue to clutch at minority students ankles, rattling off statistics that should make any sane person's stomach turn, yet nothing is done, no real war is waged. Kozol blames the right and left, stating that many of today's liberals seem like they're suffering from what he called "compassion fatigue." Kozol spoke about standardized testing--which is why I included Galeano above--and how it stifles creativity and inquiry, both for the student and for the teacher. I enjoyed listening to him talk about his love of literature, citing Rilke, Toni Morrison, and others, and how he was fired from a public school in Boston for teaching Langston Hughes, which inevitably led to his participation in the civil rights movement. As a thank you, Hughes sent Kozol a signed portrait, a picture he keeps over his work desk.

What struck me most about Kozol, besides his obvious passion to right wrongs, was his sense of humor, along with his admission that he did not feel like a seventy-three-year-old at all, but more like a fifteen-year-old. I loved that!

* * *
This summer has been nice. I read more than I thought I would have. Some of the highlights were Galeano's Mirrors: Stories of Almost Everyone and Open Veins of Latin America (reread), I Wanted to Write a Poem: The Autobiography of the Works of a Poet by William Carlos Williams, The Balloonist by Eula Biss (reread), the new Gabriel Garcia Marquez biography, Utopia Parkway: The Life and Work of Joseph Cornell by Deborah Solomon, Against Interpretation and other Essays by Susan Sontag, Oscar Zeta Acosta: The Uncollected Works, plus a grip of other invaluable reading pleasures.
* * *
Speaking of reading, I just finished Paul Martinez Pompa's My Kill Adore Him. Lean and tough, this collection addresses several social ills that continue to afflict this society of ours much more profoundly than the current flu scare. Racism, gender politics, homophobia, police brutality, workers' strife, among other important issues get served up and presented here. As a matter of fact, Pompa's poem "The War on Poets Goes On" totally reminded me of an incident I encountered at Dulles Airport, where I had to stomach a young security guard accuse me of being a liar for not telling him that I had a travel-size toothpaste in my backpack. Believe me, if I would've remembered that I had a travel-size toothpaste in my backback, I would not have been furiously chomping on several sticks of gum during our long flight.
Since reading this poem, I have started an essay about some of the most ridiculous encounters I've had while crossing back through our borders. For awhile, my friends used to joke that they didn't want to cross the border back into the U.S. if I was in the car because that would guarantee them a quick trip to secondary. As with all jokes, there is always an element of truth, even if it's not necessarily found in its content. Unfortunately in this case, the truth was obviously in the content, as well as in their slightly veiled anxiety that prompted them to say it in the first place.
And finally, I just started William Vollman's gargantuous Imperial. Cashing in on a gift card, in addition to a discount, I was able to afford this giant. About fifteen pages into it, I can't wait to see what's ahead of me. In the first few pages, Vollman has already mentioned the New River, the last ditch effort for those trying to enter the country illegally. There was a picture several years ago in the Imperial Valley Press that depicted 4-5 people floating on black, plastic trashbags filled with their belongings down one of N. America's most polluted rivers. Surrounding these desperate people, were large clumps of foam attributed to all of the poisons churning in that water. Every so often, I remember that image in the newspaper; it's one I'll never forget for as long as I live.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Children of the Desert Mountains Chapbook Release Reading

The Red CalacArts Collective, Calaca Press and Voz Alta present:

Children of the Desert Mountains
Chapbook Release Reading

Saturday, September 19, 2009 @ 7pm

Albuquerque, NM poet
winner of the first
raúlrsalinas Guerrilla Chapbook Poetry Contest

From Los Angeles, CA contest runner-up

Local San Diego poets

Plus, opening music by

1754 National Ave.
Barrio Logan, Califas 92113

No Cover!

Free chapbook to the first 50 people through the door!

Praise and props for Joe Montoya:
“In language that is unadorned with fanciful literary conventions yet conjures up a hauntingly beautiful, gritty, and honest portrayal of life on the rez, Montoya’s debut is most welcome, leaves his readers wanting more, and is a powerful tribute to the life’s work of our ever present maestro and friend raúlrsalinas.”
- Louis G. Mendoza, Ph.D., editor of raúlrsalinas and the Jail Machine: My Weapon is My Pen

“Un homeboy y poeta de aquellas who gifts humanity with words of hope and compassion. A humble yet evocative offering that deeply resonates with the struggles and writings of East Austin veterano raúlrsalinas.”
- Rene Valdez, Executive Director of Red Salmon Arts and Resistencia Bookstore

“Joe Montoya’s words are Native reflections that bring to light the hurt and hope of a mostly forgotten people. He is an honest voice illuminating the darkness of life on the rez; worthy of helping carry on the legacy of raúlrsalinas.”
- Brent E. Beltrán, co-owner of Calaca Press

Vernon “Joe” Montoya is a Native American poet and short story writer born in Albuquerque, New Mexico and raised on the Santa Ana and San Felipe Pueblos. As a young adult he was incarcerated on drug offenses and used his time in prison to read and write poetry. He is a proud father of two daughters and two sons. Joe has won several poetry slam competitions and is currently working on his first full book of poetry. He reads, lectures and facilitates literary workshops in jails, prisons, juvenile facilities, middle and high schools. He also is a full-time undergraduate student in Criminology at the University of New Mexico in Albuquerque and a full time employee at Five Sandoval Indian Pueblos, Inc., part of their Behavioral Health Team as a Certified Prevention Specialist that focuses on alcohol, tobacco and drug abuse prevention among adolescents in his community.

For more info:

Organized by the Red CalacArts Collective -
Supported by Calaca Press -
Hosted by Voz Alta -

The raúlrsalinas Guerrilla Chapbook Poetry Contest and the Children of the Desert Mountains Chapbook Release Reading are supported in part by the Ford Foundation, JP Morgan Chase, and Southwest Airlines through a grant from the NALAC Fund for the Arts. For more info