I'm nearly finished re-reading Salvador Plascencia's The People of Paper. I might be using it in the classroom this semester. It's great to revisit the cast of characters who rise together to protect El Monte, California from the omniscient Saturn. Characters like Federico de La Fe, Little Merced, Froggy, Baby Nostradamus, and others. The characters are memorable, each for the most part, wrestling with sadness or loss in some way. If you'd like to read a summary of the novel, go here. In light of the recent NSA scandal, the all-knowing Saturn in the novel has taken on a different meaning for me as a reader and a citizen. As EMF (El Monte Flores) struggles to regain its autonomy or self-determination from Saturn, members of the crew protect themselves by shielding their homes with lead walls or learning to mask their thoughts in order to thwart Saturn's mission for total control. They also use other ingenious ways to disguise their livelihoods from the eye in the sky. It's all out war in El Monte, and the people with flowers in their hands are making headway!
In my new book The Yearning Feed, I include a quote from Bernadette Mayer's Midwinter Day to open the collection. Midwinter Day was instrumental in providing me with a process for a longer collage poem I put together in the book called "The Xoco Letters." Midwinter Day is a book-length poem in six parts that takes the reader through an entire day, including dreams and the act of emerging from them. Pretty cool, que no? I read somewhere that Bernadette Mayer rehearsed for the project by sketching through shorter periods of time to exercise the mind to better capture the different levels of consciousness we operate with on a daily basis. Totally different in subject matter, "The Xoco Letters" is about the U.S./Mexico border and the dangers the desert poses for the clandestine, in addition to the waterways such as the New River and the All-American canal that have claimed the lives of some of those attempting to enter this country from across the southern border. The New River continues to be an open sore for the Mexicali and Imperial County region though there have been significant moves to alleviate the environmental dangers of the notorious New River on both sides of the border. Numerous talks and tours by various environmental agencies, governmental promises, etc. have been issued throughout the years, but it continues to flow and empty its chemicals and pathogens into the Salton Sea. Locally, the people have fought hard to address the issue, organizing cleanups and soliciting larger agencies for support, and with the relatively new New River Wetlands Project, the toxicity of the river seems to be decreasing. I was also happy to read about California's AB 407 via the Imperial Valley Press:
"AB 407 passed the Assembly Committee on Environmental Safety and Toxic Materials on a vote of 6-
0. AB 407 entails the California Natural Resources Agency and the California Environmental Protection Agency (CalEPA) to establish and administer the “New River Watershed Water Quality, Public Health, and River Parkway Development Program” to coordinate the funding and implementation of the recommendations from the New River Improvement Project Strategic Plan."
There have also been significant efforts to educate children about the matter, offering school tours to visit the New River Wetlands Project. I have a strong feeling that a group of brilliant scientists and civic leaders will emerge from this next generation of Imperial Valley students who will ultimately solve the problem that this river poses with their beautiful minds and commitment to the environment and human rights--building on, of course, what has already been established by the warriors in the Valley currently fighting the good fight.
Some of the most impactful images I have seen in my life are of people floating down the New River in hopes to enter the country from Mexico, knowing what that river contains and the health risks associated with it.
Back to Bernadette Mayer: here's a Bernadette Mayer poem called "The Tragic Condition of the Statue of Liberty." And here's an interesting roundtable discussion about the poem including Anne Waldman, Julia Bloch, Katie Price, hosted by Al Filreis.
I've also been reading Guillermo Gomez-Pena's Warrior for Gringostroika. The energy and scope of his writings (I've never seen his performances en vivo) always excite me
Finally, a great place to read about latin@ literature is at The Hispanic Reader. I totally want to read Patricia Engel's and Tim Z. Hernandez's new books.