#Macondo2021

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.

my desk situation

I’ve moved away from what ritualistic things I might need in orer to start a writing session. I tell myself this, anyway, while still choosing a candle, a cup of coffee or tea, a good pen, and something that holds memory, even if only momentarily. Gemini Ink recently featured my writing desk on their blog. I will say this: more than anything, I need my desk to feel like it’s the only place in the world and, by writing, it does become that.

Cultivating Fields: an intro to writing poetry

Tamiami Trail, Florida

Gemini Ink has invited me back to teach a community-based class on poetry, this time with a focus onpoetry for new poets. I like the idea of being a new poet. Sometimes I think I’m an experienced poet but, at least weekly something reminds me that I can sit at my desk or on my porch completely in awe of the world around me or the experiences I’ve made it through and find I struggle to find any words at all. I think this is the moment we must let ourselves float through as poets. This makes all poets new.

I am looking forward to meeting new poets, as well as those who haven’t written in a while because of the changing world we have had to navigate or because our lives have changed and we can’t find room for poetry or because we are in awe and don’t have words.

In this class we’ll generate new work that starts as conversations with other poems or with ourselves and our own questions. Then, we’ll look at opportunities for where our poetry can go after it’s been written. Yes, we can and will discuss critique or writing support groups, poetic tools, ways to build community, and even how to stay motivated to keep writing.

But, more than anything, we’ll allow ourselves to get to the center of poetry: emotion, story, and breath. Without these there is no poetry.

I hope you’ll join me. For more information or to register contact Gemini Ink.

mother’s day revisited

Vanessa Martir‘s Writing Our Lives workshop series offers participants a larger view of mothering within a patriarchal and historical context, as well as within the context of our own mothers’ upbringing. I was able to participate in the worshop when she came down to San Antonio last year and was invited to submit work for this special feature through Intervenxions. You can read Vanessa’s intro and work by other participants. Mine is also there but I wanted to include it here too.

“bitter oranges”

My mother always said she had horse’s hair and I would laugh because I thought horse’s hair was super soft. Hers was more like skunk or goat. Thick. Bristly, but shiny. It moves as one, like an animal breathing—in then out—as fingers pass through. Her skin dewy, fresh from the shower. She smelled like soap, the scent lingering on her skin for hours. When she cooked, her fingertips smelled of sweating onions, or the cold, wet smell of meat. Sometimes a distant cigarette. She always smoked outside, even in the coldest months, stepping away from her own exhales to avoid the lingering scent.

I was born in Minnesota. An outlier, of course. Born in Havana, the island became a myth for my mother. In my life with her I’ve seen her choose other places to temporarily call home. Always Florida, in one way or another. Homestead sometimes, Miami proper when she feels free. We are in Central Texas, which is an endurance. Like bitter oranges which have a tantalizing appearance, but leave an impossible tartness in the mouth. Sour. She’s made do but never cared for this place.

For Christmas, I special ordered a couple of pounds of bitter oranges and was set to make dulce de naranja agria. It’s my mother’s favorite dessert. My grandfather would make it over several hours until the house smelled like orange syrup. I scraped away the orange zest until my hands were sticky with its oil. I scooped out the flesh and membrane to make mojo later. I cleaned the rind out, cutting it into quarter moons. They sat through three cycles of rolling boils for hours, until they became ghosts of themselves. Finally, they could be doused in sugared water and boiled down once more with cinnamon sticks. A sweetness thought unfeasible.

I placed it in a decorative glass container with an orange ribbon. My mother bites into one of the sugared skins and tells me it’s like a gift from her father, my grandfather, who by this time has been gone twenty years. Then she is silent. Her face creases and her look has moved from remembrance to anger. I don’t know what is bothering her. “I shouldn’t have had kids,” she finally says to me, not looking in my direction. She took a role she never wanted and somehow, she thought she was expected to hold the weight of that decision until the lilt of freedom was truly gone. Then she says to me: “You are so nice. I give advice and you listen, but you don’t take any of it. You’ll do what you want, I guess.”

World Refugee Day 2021

**update**

The reading date has been updated. With thanks to the San Antonio Museum of Art and its staff, who will be hosting this gorgeous reading on June 19, 2021, from 6pm to 8pm. Register to attend this virtula reading at https://bit.ly/WRDSA21.

June 20 is World Refugee Day.

In San Antonio local and regional nonprofits, community leaders, city representatives, and poets are celebrating the vibrancy of our migrant and refugee populations with a poetry declaration.

Those who identify as refugees and asylum seekers and who are interested in reading with regional poet activists can submit work. Please visit www.poetrydeclaration.org for more details. Details will be posted here as they are announced.