Cypher Books only puts out a book or two a year and it was great to find out that the book for the second half of 2009 would be Rachel McKibbens’ debut collection since she is that rare poet who can win a slam (emphasis on win) with the same group of poems she just got published (emphasis on published) in a journal.
This e-interview was one of the most fun ones I’ve had putting together since Rachel keeps it honest, direct, visceral, artistic, gruesome and light-hearted all in the same breath. No doubt you’ll find the same qualities in her first book, Pink Elephant, when it comes out in October.
INTERVIEW WITH RACHEL McKIBBENS (excerpt)
OB: Folks are quick to label your poetry under a couple of different banners: slam, performance, confessional, Def Poetry, raw, dark, literary. How would you define your poetics?
RM: I don’t think I can define my own poetics. My brain is all over the place. I’m writing sestinas about the female version of Pinnochio one day, then writing about the dead dog in my mother’s refrigerator the next. All of the words in your question can describe at least one of my poems, but none of these words can cover them all.
The complete interview is live at Letras Latinas.
The Acentos Workshops are starting back up next week and I thought an e-interview with Acentos Workshops Director Sam “Fish” Vargas would help to spread the word and give more insight into the goals of the Workshops.
I also kept thinking about the question Craig Santos Perez has been asking on his blog lately: “so someone tell me why an organization like the ACENTOS FOUNDATION will offer FREE, OPEN TO THE PUBLIC writers’ workshops in the Bronx (with some of the most respected writers around as teachers)”?
Good question. So I went straight to the source for the answer:
YOU HAVE SOME OF THE MOST RESPECTED POET/TEACHERS IN UNITED STATES POETRY ALONGSIDE A DYNAMIC COLLECTION OF UPCOMING WRITERS FACILITATING WORKSHOPS IN POETICS, PERFORMANCE AND POLITICS, ACENTOS COULD CHARGE A MODEST FEE FOR THESE TOP-NOTCH WORKSHOPS BUT INSTEAD MAKES IT ENTIRELY OPEN TO THE PUBLIC. STRAIGHT UP: WHY KEEP IT FREE? WHY NOT CHARGE?
You know that when NYC forgot about Puerto Ricans and minority Latinos in NYC, The Young Lords were born. They got together and MADE things happen. They never charged for the soup kitchens, Hep tests, and general help for their community. I model what Acentos does on much of what our forefathers paved the way for us. We have to make things happen for our community. If my community can’t afford college or a workshop at an absorbent fee, they are still entitled to gain that knowledge. We are getting something back that has no price from the community: hope. We will never ask much from the community but hard work and dedication to the craft. With that, we feel is enough payment to have wonderful work created within the halls of the workshop.
Word. Read the whole interview at Letras Latinas and feel free to comment.
The first of a multi-part e-interview with Chicana writer Vickie Vértiz is live at the Letras Latinas blog:
Oscar Bermeo: It’s the post VONA week, what do you think you’re missing most about the VONA experience?
Vickie Vértiz: I am missing the room where I take writing risks into really dangerous places, imaginary or real, with trust, developed as a result of our faculty and colleagues creating a safe space. “Safe” meaning affirmative, encouraging, through honest, pointed critique. This is space that exists as a result of a shared experience, through a visceral understanding of what life is like for people of color in this country.
Read the complete interview here.
This all comes from a great recorded conversation that went down right after VONA wrapped up a few months back. It’s taken a long minute to go live since I had no idea the art of transcription is no muther-luvin joke and if this conversation hadn’t brought up such great points I may have given up on completely. Good thing I kept at it cuz if you like what you read in this part of the interview, you will love what’s to come.
This is the second interview I’ve conducted at Letras Latinas and one more is on the way. I’m thinking I may have a knack for these things and hope to find some different voices to chat with and see what’s on their horizons.
All thanks really go out to Francisco Aragón for giving me the opportunity to develop these e-interview skills, a great forum to promote them, and the trust to bring in different perspectives to enrich the scope of the Letras Latinas blog. Mil gracias for all this and everything else you do, Francisco.
My e-interview with Acentos Review Co-Editor Eliel Lucero is live at Letras Latinas blog. Also, if you’re in NYC this weekend, you should go check out the Acentos Review FREE reading/celebration at the Bowery Poetry Culb.
(Photo of Eliel Lucero courtesy of Peter Dressel)
• Rich Villar recounts Martín Espada’s visit to the Acentos Writers Workshop over at Letras Latina.
On the walls hung 112 photos of headstones from St. Raymond’s Cemetery in the Bronx. Martín’s workshop revolved around Edgar Lee Masters’ SPOON RIVER ANTHOLOGY, a book of persona poems in the voices of the dead. Masters took the names from the headstones of Spoon River Cemetery. The Acentos workshop was about to do the same for St. Raymond’s.
Espada started with a half-hour lecture on the life of Edgar Lee Masters, along with a reading of poems from the book itself. Some of the poems were in conversation with other poems. Most of them were highly speculative about the dead person’s occupation, demeanor, relations, and relationships to the other dead people. So, taking from these cues, and keeping in mind things like birth dates and death dates, names, proximity to other headstones, and a large dose of speculation, 78 workshoppers (Attrition! Where is thy blush?) were sent wandering around the room in search of personae to write about, and through.
Complete report here.
• Espada is also quoted over at The Nation regarding baseball, steroids and how the players are held to blame for the greed of the owners and the demands of the fans.
As baseball fan and poet Martin Espada told me, “Baseball is the Main Street of sports. (Think Cooperstown.) It’s full of history and nostalgia, and paved with the bricks of hypocrisy. Now it’s the rhetoric of the ‘drug war,’ handed down from the Nixon White House forty years ago to MLB and ESPN today.”
He is absolutely correct. We are supposed to tsk-tsk at players who are supposed to “just say no” to their addictions to fitness and monster stats, when their success at the park is our addiction as well. We also have yet to truly take owners to task for their addictions to public money and send them to detox.
Complete article here.
• Jean Feraca interviews Espada at Here On Earth: Radio Without Borders. (RealPlayer required)
Espada: “What I consider despicable is silence.”