It’s official. I’m formally a Macondista. One of 24 accepted in an organization that is 26 years old and has a membership of about 200. In fine company indeed.

I’ll post quick observations or quotes from the week on this post. Come back to see what I post!

Tuesday, 7/27

Quotes by Sandra Cisneros:

“We are the writers. We saved ourselves with our pen.”

“I’m just the rough draft. My highest self is on the page.”

Allison Hedge Coke suggested we try for some generative writing. Search Facebook or Instagram for #poempromptsforthepandemic

Wednesday, 7/28

Quotes by Allison Hedge Coke:

“We are not strangers here. We are part of the collective and will always be.”

“Some work just comes through you and you just want them off of you.”

“Discomfort is important to my work as a poet.”

In workshop we spoke about western ideas of critiquing work and how crucial the need is for a fresh approach to poetry. AHC recommends approaching a poem as though it is the first poem ever seen, as though it represents all of poetry to the reader.

Thursday, 7/29

I’m already reminded how much femme-identifying folks take care of each other. When’s zoom acted up, or individual docs were being submitted, or someone had questions, these workshop folks come through for each other, giving what they were capable of energy-wise and stating it clearly. It’s a beautiful thing.

From the open mic reading:

“If you cut off my hands you will take my inheritance.” – Donna Miscolta

“My people forgot they rose from the earth.” – Angie Trudell Vasquez

“The old songs spill out like vintage jewelry, clunky and beautiful.” – Kathleen Alcala

“We know this much. We know a man is supposed to get pussy. And what if he doesn’t.” – Adela Najarro

Friday, 7/30

Inevitable discussions about relationships between agents, authors, and publishing were part of today’s events. As a poet I have always felt like I’m sitting in the back of the room. There was one question from a poet – there always is and it’s usually a young poet – asking about whether they should have an agent. The response was that, increasingly, poets are finding a need for them and that poetry is on the upswing in popularity. There was an expectation that poets in particular also sell their individual identity and activist identity as a package deal. This idea has increased in certain circles, leaving poets who completed their work in silence a little outside.

Other than that, the discussion was good, clearly addressing the role each has in ensuring the best final product makes it out into the world. I think, no matter what I’m writing, I’ll end up remaining outside of the larger publishing world. I just don’t think my work fits and I’m okay with that.

In workshop, I was reminded of the need to check in with each other not just as an opening but throughout.

And Allison Hedge Coke said this beautiful, off the cuff realization:

“We share the planet. Many people forget that it’s a great honor and privilege to share this planet with so many beautiful people and beings.”

And after years of denying what I do on the page, I am giving way to the maximalism that poetry can carry, to just revel in the velvet and decadence of every word, every line, as though this one poem I have in front of me might be the only one that makes it out into the world and so folks need to understand me and poetry through it.

Reminders: What does it mean to celebrate? What does it look like to be grateful?

Saturday, 7/31

In workshop we spoke of how to negotiate writing about family. This is one of the oldest and most difficult discussions writers have when grouped together. Allison suggested Joy Castro’s “Family Troubles”, an anthology of writers who discuss ways to navigate that. I wanted to pass it along to any readers.

Sharon Gelman, one of my fellow workshop attendees, said something I will carry for awhile: “Anticipatory grief is so difficult.” It struck me in multiple ways, both in the ways we increase our suffering by anticipating when she should strive for the present but also in those moments when we know the inevitable outcome of something and must reconcile that future grief with where we are now. Thank you, Sharon.

Poetic lineage. A whole other way to claim our chosen families, but within our writing.

Allison is a musician too and we spoke in the group about musicality. At one point she mentioned the energy/feeling of the music and how minor chords signify sadness but that this is in the US. The reminder that certain symbols and ideas have different meanings is good in considering how we approach out work.

And so I completed my first time at Macondo! I took away a lot from the gathering, though three of the major things were:

  1. I shouldn’t expect to find community based on proximity or appearance. Sometimes the very place we call home is not the place where we will find our people. Sometimes we need so much diversity we can connect as individuals who carry our history and understanding.
  2. Critique and feedback centered on what the poet themselves want and ask for is more important than following some established format. Respect and love for the work and the poet more than anything.
  3. Approach each work we create as though it’s the only thing in front of us. Really fall into it BUT have a second thing for balance, for breath, and the chance to step away.

Author: Jo Reyes-Boitel

poet, playwright, and essayist. queer Latinx.

One thought on “#Macondo2021”

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