"Chicano writers from El Paso are the most progressive, open-minded, far-reaching, and inclusive writers of them all."

Octavio Romano

Wednesday, June 02, 2010

The Chapbook and Chicano(a) Literature, party deux


The chapbook is important to Chicano literature in that it made us survive.

It's like the plane crash of Ritchie Valens, the Big Bopper, and Buddy Holly, rock 'n roll almost died. There were so few rock n' rollers back then – Elvis was drafted, Jerry Lee Lewis was marrying little girls, that rock 'n roll almost died that day.

There were so few Chicano(a) writers back at the beginning of the Chicano Renaissance, you could count them on one hand.

The writers at the beginning of the Chicano Renaissance mostly published in the chapbook form. I am sure many thought there books were not chapbooks but actual books, nevertheless, the printing style was that of a chapbook.

Now when talking about Chicano Renaissance publishing, what I am referring to is the historical categories that Felipe de Ortego y Gasca (Felipe Ortego) implemented in his landmark thesis on Chicano literature. Ortego puts the Chicano Renaissance beginning around 1966 and the publications before that era are described at the Pre-Chicano Period or the "Mexican American Period" has historian Mario Garcia has termed it.

Remember, what some consider the one of the first “Chicano” novel did not come out until The Unscaled Fortress  (Bennett Printing) by Antonio Serna Candelaria in 1966, although John Rechy, Mario Suarez, Luis Perez, Fray Angelico Chavez, and Jose Antonio Villarreal had published novels before that time, scholar do not consider these distinctly Chicano(a).

Collections of short fiction were pretty much barren between Fray Angelico Chavez' 1940 publication of New Mexico Tripych and Sabine Ulibarri's Tierra Amarilla (Univ of New Mexico, 1971). I do not know the publication quality or type of the Pre-Chicano publications of poetry. There are many with Pre-Chicano Period authors such as Chavez and Josefina Niggli.

The first chapbook that I am aware was Felipe Ortego's The Wide Well of Hours (New World Society of Pittsburgh) in 1952, but even Ortego would admit to you he did not publish as a Chicano as he describes in other publications his journey through becoming Mexican American and subsequently – Chicano.

But around 1966, we began having a flourishing of published Chicano poetry, mostly in chapbooks:

Al cielo se sube a pie (Madrid - Barcelona: Alfaguara), Sabine R. Ulibarrí (1966);
I am Joaquín/Yo soy Joaquín (privately printed) by Rodolfo “Corky” Gonzáles (1967);
The Fast (Self printed 1968) by Abelardo Delgado;
Chicano: 25 Pieces of a Chicano Mind, Abelardo Delgado (1969);
Los cuartro (Barrio 1970) by Abelardo Delgado, Ricardo Sánchez, Raymundo “Tigre” Pérez, and Juan Valdez (Magdleno Avila);
Free, Free at Last, Raymundo (Tigre) Pérez; and
Crazy Gypsy (Origenes Publication 1970) by Luis Omar Salinas.

I am not sure about Salinas and Ulibarri's book, but most of the above I have seen and could be called chapbooks. I know Ulibarri's was a paperback published in Spain.

1971: The Year of the Chicano

The year 1971 would follow with the publications of a mix of hardbacks and paperbacks. One really well-printed hardback was Canto y grito mi liberación (y lloro mis desmadrazgos . . .)(hardcover later reissued in paper back) by Ricardo Sánchez.

Other 1971 poetry publications included:

Floricanto en Aztlán (hardcover Chicano Studies Center, University of California, Los Angeles ) by Alurista;
El ombiligo de Aztlán (paperback) by Alurista and Jorge González;
Encanto chicano by Javier Galvez;
Phases (paperback) by Raymundo (Tigre) Pérez;
Primeros cantos (San Francisco: Pocho-Che, 1971  )by Roberto Vargas;
Selected Poems, (chapbook) by Richard García;
Shadows in Ecstasy and Other Poems (hardcover on Vantage Press )by John Reyna Tapia;
Tarde Sobira by Alurista;
This Side and Other Things (paperback San Francisco Ediciones Pocho-Che 1971) by Elías Hruska y Cortes;
Vida de ilusiones (paperback El Tercer Sol Book Store )by Heriberto Terán;
White Heroin Winter (One Eye Press chapbook) by Carlos Morton, and
Yellow Lane by Bernardino Verastique.

It's safe to say that I don't know if all of these paperbacks mentioned above were chapbooks, but Teran and “Tigre” Perez usually published in the chapbook mode. Morton's book was a chapbook.

The chapbook for Chicano(a)s was a form of rebellion. We were not being published by the big publishers or even small publisher, and until 1971, we were not published by the university presses. We make a big deal about supporting small presses today, because aside of university presses, small presses publish most Chicano(a) literature. Remember, as today, small presses were mostly owned or run by Whites, and there was a time they were not publishing us either. It is not so long ago.

So Chicano(a)s began to set up our own presses. We began publishing out of our garages, and getting collectives together to publish our own books, newspapers, and magazine. I think even The Plum Plum Picker by Raymond Barrio, at least it's first edition, was garage published.

I remember seeing one presentation at the National Association of Chicana and Chicano Studies on the proliferation of print publishing in the late 1960s and 1970s, unmatched today. Our literature was outside the mode, and we took in in ourselves to self published.

Although Floyd Salas' Tattoo the Wicked Cross was published by Grove in 1967, and with exception of John Rechy's work, it was only later that New York presses began publishing Chicano literature, although they mostly published novels like: Chicano by Richard Vasquez.The New York presses republished other titles that had been self-published or published with small presses.

In 1971 and 1972 would then see the publication of y no se lo tragó la tierra (1971) by Tomás Rivera and Bless me, Ultima (1972) by Rudolfo Anaya on Octavio Romano's Quinto Sol Publications on hardback. Autobiography of a Brown Buffalo (Strait Arrow Books 1972) by Oscar “Zeta” Acosta later picked up by a New York press.

However, novels were too long for chapbooks, so chapbook publishers mostly published short stories and poetry.

Chapbooks in the 1970s

Many mention the Chicano Chapbook Series as vital, but this series did not come out until after 1977. Between 1971 and 1979, there was a mother load of poetry book published. Just looking at who the authors were, one can tell most of these were chapbooks.

1972 – 14 poetry books
1973 – 10 poetry book-length
1974 – 10 poetry books
1975 – 20 poetry books
1976 – 21 poetry books
1977 – 22 poetry books
1978 – 10 poetry books
1979 – 11 poetry books

Of course this is not comprehensive and I probably have missed a ton of other publishings, but the numbers are impressive.

In comparison, short story collections were minimal with maybe less then 10 in the decade.

Nevertheless, Mango Publications was the most prolific in publishing chapbooks, most after 1977, and was probably most influential to other presses like Momotombo Press and M & A Editions.

Mango Publications, founded by Lorna Dee Cervantes, later included the help of Gary Soto, Orlando Ramirez and Adrian Rocha, these Bay area writers put out the regular stream of chapbooks introducing writers such as Sandra Cisneros, Jimmy Santiago Baca, Victor Martinez, Ernesto Trejo, Jim Sagel, and Alberto Rios.

Gary Soto admits in an interview with Francisco Aragon that the publishing of women was minimal as not many women were submitting. Soto also asks us to take note that they published more short story chapbooks then poetry in their first wave of the Chicano Chapbook Series.

There were few Chicano writers out there and it seem, according to Soto, when they would meet someone they'd ask if they wanted to get published. Mango didn't really solicit manuscripts. Soto only remember rejecting one manuscript during the “first wave” of the Chicano Chapbook Series.

Chapbooks in the last decades of the 20th Century and the beginning of the 21st
(your right, I missed the 80s, I'm still looking at that decade)

What could be called the “second wave” of the Chicano Chapbook Series involved more from Gary Soto and came out in the late 1990s. He states that had become more selective. Writers had to be under 35 and had to have a college degree. He felt the college degree filtered out some of the lesser-quality manuscripts. Among the well-known writers we see today that got published in that second wave include; Rich Yanez, Michael Jayme, Neomi Sanchez, Manuel Munoz, Rigoberto Gonzalez, Francisco Aragon, and John Olivares Espinoza.

(above) Chicano Chapbook Series title

Looking at Rich Yanez' Sacred Heart, the chapbook is staple bound of four 8 ½ X 11 pages with a 8 ½ x 11 cover on harder paper. What is beautiful about the Chicano Chapbook Series and other series like it, they did not try to overdo the chapbooks. An artist was used to do some art, maybe include an introduction and title page, the poetry or he short story, and that was it. That was it – basic. No prize in the Cracker Jack box, no glossy cover.

The Chicano Chapbook Series was not the only chapbook publisher. Calaca Press and Red CalacaArts Publications would put out a series beginning in the 1990s targeted at Chicano(a) writers. Francisco Aragon would run a chapbook series through Momotombo Press. Other presses that published Chicano(a)s were Red Wing Press, Moving Parts Press, and Pudding House Press.

 Moving Parts Press/Chusma House chapbook by the late Alfred Arteaga

Moving Parts, who published Alfred Arteaga, Elba Rosario Sanchez, as well as two compendiums of poetry illustrated by Jose Antonio Burciaga, also published some hard-core, more complex publishings like CODEX ESPANGLIENSIS from Columbus to the Border Patrol by Guillermo Gómez-Peña. This was not a chapbook, but I just thought I would throw it in (if you have not seen it, there's a copy at Special Collections in the UTEP library unless it was on lone).


The RedCalaca Arts series would be a more radical series then the Chicano Chapbook Series publishing writers such as Raymond R. Beltran, Sara Rebeca Duran Garibay, Olga A. Garcia, and Sandra C. Munoz. I can say they were popular among Chicano(a) student activists, as I was one at the time and the activism and human rights direction that RedCalaca pushed was a breath of fresh air. 

Swan Scythe Press would publish several Chicano and Latino writers, though not necessarily focusing on Chicano and Latino writers. These included John Olivares Espinoza and Maria Melendez. M&A Editions published several chap books. Co-founded by Angela de Hoyos it published such writers as Trinidad Sanchez, Jr. Wings Press also runs a series called the Whitebird Chapbook Series. 

Calaca Press chapbook

There are so many more to mention, but most other chapbook series are not necessarily dedicated to publishing Chicano(a)s, and I will probably get some chastising from friends from not mentioning their press or books, but oh well. Please view my Sunday Press Spotlights of the last few weeks to see more on City Works Press and Mouthfeel Press.

The chapbooks keep our literature alive, it rebels against the establishment (even our own), it's cheap, and it bring to light new authors.

But as you have seen, there is always someone to go through, even when publishing a chapbook. Whether it be a small press, a generous writer's publishing a series, a university press editor -- there is always some type of barrier -- for good or bad or the ugly.

So my question and follow up are: Why go through that barrier? And why you should...

To be continued...



Raymundo Eli Rojas said...

20 Young Writers Earn the Envy of Many Others


Raymundo Eli Rojas said...

Hopeful writers in the Bay Area and beyond thought signing with Berkeley publisher Creative Books was a great idea -- until the firm abruptly filed for bankruptcy


Raymundo Eli Rojas said...

Speaking of The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly, check out Ennio Morricone's relationship to El Paso on an archived blog post:

Kit said...


I just came across your website while searching out the whereabouts of Encanto Chicano (1971) by Javier Gálvez –– a book (or chapbook) that seems out of print. I became interested in Gálvez after reading a poem of his, “This Morning,” in Fine Frenzy: Enduring Themes in Poetry, 2nd ed., 1978, McGraw-Hill Book Company. Where the reference-source for “This Morning” (that is, Encanto Chicano) inexplicably failed to show up in the Acknowledgments section of that poetry anthology.

Anyway ... have you any information about Javier Gálvez, in particular as to whether it might be possible to still find a copy of Encanto Chicano?

Thank you.