Sunday, April 14, 2013

Poetry Pasta and Vino To Celebrate Two Year Anniversary!

PPV, Circa 2011! Reading the First

April is a busy month. We've been through this already. But you know what? Right now's a good time to pause and reflect on a little something called Poetry, Pasta and Vino.

Poetry Pasta and Vino began as a reading series at Carino's Italian, hosted by none other than the Barrio Poet, Edward Vidaurre. It turned into a monthly celebration to raise money for nonprofit organizations, promote the arts, and reach out to the community. All good stuff.

Today, I'd define PPV as an arts movement, and it's been a big part of the local arts reniassance (as Jan Seale has described it!) that began kicking up the dust in, oh, maybe 2007. I've been honored to have been with this reading series since its not-so-humble beginnings, and have grown and stuck with it ever sense. PPV even did a fundraiser for Mouthfeel Press, back in 2012!

Anyway, I think what's most signifncant is that, although the reading series has grown and changed, it's always been about fostering a community of writers. It's been an event that I've looked forward to each month to see familiar faces, meet new poets, get inspired, have my chance at the mic. PPV has been about sharing good food and wine with artists. When those three ingrediants combine, magic happens, and the magic has been going strong now for over two years.

This month, PPV will be celebrating its two year anniversary. Ok ok, so it actually began last MARCH, so it's a little over two years old. But still. The featured reader is none other than Emmy Perez, my former professor! I'm honored to be on the list of readers, too. I think what I'm most excited about, though, is the Mariachi Mariposas, an all women mariachi.

I've even bought a new dress for the event :-X Which means now I have to go. I hope to see you there! Here are all the details:

Friday, April 19th
Echo Hotel in Edinburg

We celebrate our 2-year anniversary in Edingburg with the poetry of Emmy Pérez. Emmy Pérez is the author of a poetry collection Solstice and has recent work forthcoming or published in Mandorla, The Laurel Review, Cuadernos de ALDEEU, and NewBorder: Contemporary Voices from the Texas/Mexico Border, among other publications. Recent work in PALABRA: A Magazine for Chicano & Latino Art was nominated for a Pushcart Prize. A member of the Macondo Writers’ Workshop founded by Sandra Cisneros and an inaugural CantoMundo poetry fellow, in 2009 she was the recipient of the 2009 Alfredo Cisneros Del Moral Foundation Award. Previous awards include poetry fellowships from the New York Foundation for the Arts, the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown, and the James D. Phelan Award for her prose writing. A graduate of Columbia University and the University of Southern California, currently she is an associate professor at the University of Texas-Pan American, where she teaches poetry/creative writing, Mexican American Studies courses, and has led poetry workshops in local detention centers with her students. In 2012, she received a UT Regents’ Outstanding Teaching Award. Originally from Santa Ana, California, she has lived on the Tejas-Mexico border, from El Paso to the RGV, for over a decade.

To help us celebrate we welcome featured musicians: Mariachi Mariposas

Mariachi “Mariposas” was founded in the summer of 2012 in an effort to preserve and promote our Mexican music and Hispanic heritage through the views and musical expression of a female. In a male dominated genre, Mariachi Mariposas has united to form an all-female mariachi group who share the passion and the love for mariachi music and who are dedicated to being positive role models for our young student mariachis in schools across the United States.

Our featured artists will be announced soon.

Partial proceeds from this event will benefit the Gloria Anzaldúa Scholarship for Social Justice and Mexican American Studies.

One of our featured artists: Celeste De Luna

“My artwork seeks to validate Xicano/indigenous people’s experiences, my personal narrative in that experience, and strives to be aesthetically pleasing, even though some subjects may be disturbing. Common themes in my work include migrant/border experiences of women, children, and families, the experience of mixed documentation status families, the social effects of documentation status, and the spiritual struggle of conflicting identities, including “survivor’s guilt”. A migrant can be defined as a person who physically moves from one country to another. I see myself as a migrant moving back and forth through multiple conceptual worlds.” C. De Luna
Celeste De Luna is visual artist/art educator from lower South Texas. She has exhibited her work in various cities in the Rio Grande Valley, San Antonio, San Diego, and Chicago. De Luna is a part time instructor at South Texas College, continues her studio practice, and collaborative creative projects. You can reach her at

Featured artist: BEATRIZ GUZMÁN VELÁSQUEZ is an interdisciplinary artist born in Reynosa, Tamaulipas, Mexico. The border crossing of Reynosa-Hidalgo has seen her grow up slowly giving her sorrow and happiness. Writing and producing art, pauses her past to give her time to take in the hardships she has experienced and seen at the border.

Featured Artist: Esmeralda ‘Emi’ Zuniga
Esmeralda ‘Emi’ Zuniga is an artist, writer, and community activist. Born in Edinburg and raised in San Juan, her family has lived in the same general 75 miles for over 200 years. She is in a relationship and has two daughters. Her art work is fueled by her passion for her Mestizo culture and the mixture of being a lesbian catholic.
While her past art work has focused on using indigenous symbols her latest work is focusing on popular American paintings and replacing them with reflections of her reality. She believes that the history of white America has conveniently left out the Latino culture and story.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Katie's Writerly Crush on David Rice

Katie! And Rice. Courtesy Garcia-Spitz
So I'm just going to come out and admit it: I have a totally professional and writerly crush on David Rice.

I had the pleasure of attending one of his readings last month as a part of UTPA's Festiba. Man-oh-man. Phew. It was awesome. Packed room. And he was so inspiring! You see, I used to teach Rice's books back when I was working with the Upward Bound program, and my students loved his work because they could relate to it. And I loved his work, too. His stories are the kind that stick with you.

Anyway, I stumbled into the reading a few minutes late, and was surprised at how packed the room was.  Packed! I actually didn't know Rice was reading. I was there to support one of our department's T.As and another colleague Robert, who were also reading. I peeked my head in, then started out. A man stood up, beckoned me back, and gave up his seat to me. I reluctantly accepted and squished my way into the crowded room. I'm glad I did! :-)

Rice was the last reader on the list. When Robert introduced him, the seat-giver-uper took the podium. It turned out HE was David Rice. Aye. So not only is he smart/inspirational/creative, but he's also... kind! And gentlemanly. Phew.

The reading was fantastic. I mean, all of the writers were fantastic, but I'm glad they left Rice for last. It was the perfect note to finish on. He read this amazing story about a boy killing a hummingbird without a witness, the guilt. Powerful stuff. See, the stories have this surface simplicity, but this depth, too. That's what makes for a good poem. That's also what makes for a good story, apparently.

After the reading, I had some business to take care of. I was heading off to the library for the Dean's Author Reception. This year, I was in charge of organizing it (which was a wonderful headache!). I was so nervous about the reception...

Luckily, I had the help of Edward Vidaurre, Barrio Poet extraordinaire and now the Arts Coordinator of Edinburg. The reception turned out to be pretty delightful, but I was mega stressed the entire time. However, as things were winding down, I noticed that none other than David Rice had arrived! Squeeeeeeeee!

And you know what? He introduced himself to me. X-D I was a little bit giddy and excited. I think I probably sounded like an idiot. It kind of reminds me of how, when I was a stupid teenager, I was ridiculously excited and squealy to meet Mudvane's guitarist. Good lord. But now, I'm of course a more mature and professional human being (yeah, right.).

You know what REALLY made me squee? When Rice said that he read this blog :-X And that he was MY fan. Ok, so he was probably just flattering me on the fan thing... but it made my night. I went home a happy gal.

So there you have it. My writerly secret. Don't tell anyone, ok?

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

The Garden Uprooted Gets a Thumbs Up!

So... the conventional writerly wisdom is to not read your reviews.

I ignored this advice. Last Thursday, my local newspaper, the Monitor, ran a super review of The Garden Uprooted (alongside a review of Brenda Nettles Riojas' La Primera Voz Que Oi). I knew the review was going to run, and I had been thinking about it since their reviewer, David Bowles, asked me for a review copy. It was a little agonizing.

Come Thursday morning, I was on my way to work and of course, the review was on my mind. I was obsessing. I ended up buying a copy along the way, before my first class even began. I opened it up, scanned through the paper, and there it was, the review.

I think David hits my book spot on, calling my book " a rich hybrid verse." That's exactly right, both in content and form. I love it.

Truth be told, I'm a little self-conscious about The Garden Uprooted. I know, I know, I shouldn't admit that in public but here I am, admitting it. I mean, I'm happy with the book, but these poems are the ones that taught me how to write. I'm a different poet today for having completed that manuscript. Maybe all books are like that. Maybe I need to get over myself.


I'm really grateful and happy for this review. This inspires ME to write another review, which I will, for the next issue of Boxcar :-)

Saturday, April 6, 2013

National Poetry Month and Me

A new logo!
I both love and hate this month.

I love it because poetry is, once again, a part of our national conversation (or at least more of one than it usually is). I love it because my facebook feed is filled with poets who are talking about their work, encouraging each other, arguing about poetry. I love it because people argue whether or not poetry is dead, when in fact, we all know it's not. I love this month because of NaPoWriMo. I love it because of the public readings. I love it because at the end of the month comes the grand-daddy event of them all, the Valley International Poetry Festival, which I always see as an opportunity to meet poets, learn something new, travel the valley, showcase my year's worth of work, get inspired.

I also hate national poetry month. I always intend to do great things and end up feeling insignificant, not serious enough, stupid, uninspired, the like. Case in point, this year, I fully intended to do NaPoWriMo, but on April 1st, I had not a shred of spare time, let along the mental space for poetry. And so began the month...

Anyway, this month, I DO have big plans, which include finishing up various editing projects (Boundless, Twenty, Interstice), celebrating Poetry Pasta and Vino's two year anniversary on the 19th, and, last but not least, this year I'm a co-organizer for the Valley International Poetry Festival, so I'm going to be more involved than ever. Oh, and of course, I plan to write! Napowrimo? Nah. But write, write I shall.