CantoMundo Day 3: Real Talk

I’m up way too late typing this out but if I don’t do it now it might never come out.  So much positive information about not only being a Latino poet but also a reminder about the power of the word, community and friendship.

Today started with the fellows sharing a poem they wrote the night before.  Yes, CantoMundo bringin the new shit.  As a fan of first drafts I was really happy this developed and plan to keep it going on.

So why bring a first draft? Why not a poem in progress? How about just workshopping a nearly done poem?  For me, it revolves around trust and vulnerability.  We are all CantoMundo fellows, we all applied and were accepted on the strength of our work; we don’t need to prove anything.  But we can share in the process of building a poem and say the things we didn’t think we would say.  We can risk not being perfect in front of each other and celebrate that risk.  If we can’t do it amongst peers, then where are we gonna do it?

After the first draft readings, we met back up at to talk about Latin@ poetics, politics and everything in between.  It was honest and open with a broad number of topics put on the table.  No one seeking immediate answers but sharing out the things outside of poetry that we feel affect our writing.  Or, to put it bluntly, real talk.  I appreciated all the opinions and reflections and feel that getting all the things we normally talk about privately out into an open space built up a huge amount of respect in the room.  It also confirmed that CantoMundo has the potential to be more than just a workshop, it can be a place where we can initiate serious poetic activism.

Lunch followed and I was lucky enough to break bread with one of my literary heroes, Jimmy Santiago Baca.  Jimmy is super busy so I appreciated the time he spent with me, Barbara and (new CantoMundo friend) Luivette.  We are all fans of Jimmy’s work and it was great to share our appreciation for his work and his company.

Note to literature fans: Take the time to thank your literary idols. Even if its just a “I really liked your book” comment at a busy book signing.  Trust me, the artist appreciates it.  Word.

Back to work with CantoMundo and workshop with Martín Espada.  After a super informative reading of poems, we were sent off to work out the poetic idea and craft it into poem.  The work from all the fellows was top-notch and I got out a poem I’ve been meaning to write for a long time.  Good time.

On the reflection tip, I took a similar workshop with Martín about six years ago.  Back then, I was more interested in how I sounded and if I was projecting the right things in my poetry.  Now, I was more interested in how the people in my poem sounded and if I was honoring their history with my words.  It’s good to feel that poetic growth in me.

Next came Rigoberto González talking to us about the importance of community and individual activism.  Rigo talked the real talk as he went over how too many poets make the same mistakes over and over again, never learning from past mistakes.  Simple to the point and inspirational.  Rigo reminded us that there is never a community of one and either we pool our resources together or else we put ourselves in the dominant culture’s hands.

To cap off the day, Martin and Demetria had an open reading.  I’m happy to say the ‘burque folks came through and the place was packed.  Martín read classic, recent and brand new poems that show he is a master of reinvention.  Just when you think you got his poems figured out, Martín makes new leaps and takes serious risk to keep pushing himself farther.  Demetria also read a variety of work that highlighted the fact that the struggle is a long one, the system we are up against is massive and, in return, our poetry must be greater.

The real talk seems to be this:  You gotta make it happen.  Not tomorrow, or soon, or in a second; no, it has to happen in the right now.  The only way poetry can change the world is in the now, if the poetry is “near forming” then we risk the world “near change.”

Now I have to write  a new first draft for tomorrow. It’s gonna be tough but I’m willing to take the risk and share the real talk.