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

Octavio Romano

Friday, July 09, 2010

Chicano(a) Publishing in 1980 - Que Pronto Pasen Los Anos y un paso para atras


We continue are retrospective look back at the "zero years" with our look at poetry publishing in 1980. We also take a step back on some previous blogs on Pinto writers and the Korean War.

Korean War and Chicano Literature: A Step Back

In our June 25 post The Korean War and Chicano Literature,  I cannot believe I forgot to mention this other classic, also by Rolando Hinojosa, Korean Love Songs. This is a 1992 publication off Bilingual Review Press. Hinojosa served in the army in the late 1940s and was called back in 1950 to serve in Korea with a reconnaissance unit. It was recently republished of of the press we will spotlight on Sunday in our Sunday Small Press Spotlight.

Here are some excerpts from a 1999 interview, A conversation with Rolando Hinojosa, Bilingual Review, Sept-Dec, 2000 by Philip K. Jason: 

Jason: He (Hinojosa) may be the only writer in any language who has written both a novel and a book-length poetry sequence about the Korean War.

The interview was conducted via E-mail in 1999.

PKJ: Korean Love Songs (KLS) was first published in 1978, and The Useless Servants (TUS) in 1993. These works, then, followed by many years their source experiences. When did you first realize that you would write about your time in Korea?

RH: Korea is mentioned in my first work, Estampas del Valley otras obras (1973) and in a bilingual edition of the same book called Sketches of the Valley and Other Works. An English rendition entitled The Valley was published in 1983. I mentioned it again in Klail City y sus alrededores (Havana, 1976). I did an English rendition of it and titled it Klail City in 1986. Korea appears in each work in some form or other, but nothing as sustained as in KLS and TUS.

In 1976 I read Paul Fussell's The Great War and Modern Memory, and this led me to write a third work expressly on Korea. It didn't go anywhere. I tried Spanish, and that didn't work. I then tried to translate what I had. Again nothing. I decided to reread Robert Graves's Goodbye to All That, and from there I went to Siegfried Sassoon's prose and poetry. I also looked at the poetry of Isaac Rosenberg and David Jones, and finally some created by Wilfred Owens. I realized I'd tried to write in the wrong language and in the wrong genre. Narrative verse was the ticket, and KLS came as a result of all that.

PKJ: Regarding Korean Love Songs, did the poems in this sequence tumble out in a rush (as Keith Wilson says his Graves Registry poems did), or were they developed over a long period of time?

RH: Yes, it came gushing out. The rewriting was a pleasure, as is all rewriting for me. The Useless Servants started out as a sort of journal; I thought it whiny, and I think I spent some eighteen months on it until I stopped. The handwritten manuscript sat around for a year before I went back to it. A journal format was the way due to its first person point of view, which is immediate and personal.

PKJ: Is there a factual journal that lies behind the fictional journal? Did you keep a journal while in Korea that became the basis for Rafe's journal several decades later?

RH: No, I didn't keep a journal. I imagine that since the scenes were so vivid (horrifying is a better word) and the emotions so many I didn't want to keep a journal then and there. As I have already mentioned, I did discuss Korea in my first and second novels. As for the third, that's an interesting piece of business. The first two settled the place and the people, their relationships, the history of the place--all the necessary furniture for the writing of a series, as I saw it.

Because I also wanted to show Mexican Americans and their different socioeconomic classes, I presented them in as many occupations and professions as I could. I mentioned Korea to show that the military had been another experience (as had the Mexican War, the Civil War, the Spanish-American War, World War I, World War II, etc.) of this population.

Since the first two novels had won a national prize and an international prize, and since I had written them in Spanish, I decided to write the third one in Spanish as well, and that it would show a group of youngsters in Korea.

PKJ: Was The Useless Servants, like Korean Love Songs, originally written in English?

RH: I started the book [that became KLS] in Spanish. Lost some seven months writing it in Spanish and it didn't work. I threw it away. Frustrated, I went back to reading Graves. I realized I'd made two mistakes: First, army life was led in English, not Spanish; so I had chosen an inappropriate language. Second, the genre was wrong as well. A novel wouldn't do it. Remembering Emerson's dictum of poetry being the force of few words, I saw that narrative prose in verse form was the answer. I then decided to write the work in English, but I'd use Spanish syllabification -- not the iambic meters -- in the work. That was it for Korean Love Songs, but Korea is mentioned again in subsequent parts of the series. In Rites and Witnesses, for example, I intercalated conversations among the two parts, the Rites and the Witnesses, and so on with the other novels.


Last year some time Bill Ehrhart told me that KLS was the only full book of poetry on the war. I was surprised. Astounded, too, I think. That I wrote it is due principally to my re-reading British World War I writing. I went to the Imperial Museum in Lambeth and worked there because I wanted to read about the three British Brigades and the accidental strafing one of their units underwent, which is seldom mentioned. The same is true of the French contribution, or the fighting and then the refusal to fight by some of the Dutch forces, which I omitted.

PKJ: Having written two book-length imaginative works about the Korean War and having referred to it in other works, you may feel that you're done with it as a subject for your art. However, I wonder if the memories are still vivid. Do images of the war come back to you very often?

RH: No, the images aren't vivid. I get a jolt once in a while when I see photographs and recognize them from times past. Perhaps it is the clothing. I'm as affected by other events--perhaps events that occurred in childhood or as recently as two years ago. Some disappointment, the occasional success, etc. It's a natural wearing away of memory, I should imagine. I think of people in some forgotten V.A. hospital or hidden away because of missing limbs or disfigurement. Those guys live it every day, I should think. My rereading of histories on Korea for Servants was done matter-of-factly. I don't think one can or should relive such events--that way lies madness. What can one do but get over it? Am I, for instance, to recoil every time I see a bridge because any number of them were blown up with people on them? No. That would be too much of a burden, Phil.

PKJ: As the fiftieth anniversary of the war approaches, do you have any thoughts about how U.S. citizens should remember it? Does it have, for you, any particular meaning or meanings?

RH: I have no thoughts of how our fellow citizens should or will remember the war in the year 2000. I daresay someone will make money from it. If you want to see what it was like (but only a mere approximation), I recommend one visit the monument in D.C. during the winter when it's foggy, cold, and damp, and when there's no one else there but you and the figures on patrol. People will go on lovely dear days with kids running around-a lot of talk and chatter. The occasional old guys will be there, too, of course, but they'll be alone, for the most part. No thanks.

PKJ: In your career as an academician, do you ever find occasion to address the Korean War?

RH: Montana will be the first time I will speak to an audience about the war. It won't be much, and I wonder how I will feel later on.

[In June 20-25, 2001, Hinojosa participated in the "Korea/America Dialogue," part of a series of such dialogues under a program called "America's Wars in Asia: a Cultural Approach." These conferences were held at the Maureen and Mike Mansfield Center at the University of Montana.]

PKJ: What was it like to gather with other writers and scholars at a conference focused on the Korean War?

RH: There were many knowledgeable people attending, and it's always a pleasure to see a wider picture. Not necessarily a more accurate one since every story is told from one person's perspective, created interests, and political affiliation. This went for both sides. The Koreans, with one exception -- notable, too -- were against the current U.S. military presence there.

They did not experience the war and can only imagine combat, although this tends to be tinted. For example, the last time I went to a movie was August '98. "Saving Private Ryan," it was. Much notoriety and all manner of accolades to Steven Spielberg. A Vietnam vet from San Antonio wrote and asked what I thought about it. I told him I wasn't convinced, and he agreed. Bill Ehrhart too. I then mentioned that even official films are unreliable since they can be doctored and sometimes are. A soldier runs through a street (that's real), a shot is heard (that may be real), the soldier falls (that may or may not be real) and the camera goes off elsewhere to another scene. Even John Huston's World War II films in Italy underwent re-shooting. Combat is not like that at all. It's there, and it doesn't go away. You even bring it back with you, years later. Now that's real. Still, I learned and was most glad to see that in my life, unknowingly, I have usually chosen the middle way, which is the Chinese way. No extremes.

A pleasant surprise were the Missoula vets. Right off, each one told you where they'd been in Korea. I didn't mention either KLS or Servants. I am not commercially inclined. The Missoula vets were fine--mostly retired by now and happy with their lot. Patriotic, I imagine, and I found them warm, congenial, unassuming, and vital.

PKJ: Have you remained in touch with any of the men with whom you served in Korea?

RH: No, I've not kept up. Most of the ones I knew were killed during the first six months of the war. David Dominguez died at the River Kum. Freddy Silva went missing, and I guess he remains MIA. There were a bunch of guys from 'up north': New York, Rhode Island, Pennsylvania, and New Jersey. I remember names, some faces, but I've no idea where they are. I'm seventy, and I was among the youngest of the guys. Some guys stayed in and made the army their career, and none that I know or knew returned to the Valley. We, too, were Depression-era kids as well, and the Valley offered from few to no opportunities since many had dropped out of school either in junior high or in high school. I knew I was going to college.

PKJ: When it comes to writing about past events that touch your own experience, like the Korean War, how do memory and intellect interact?

RH: I don't think that memory and intellect should interact, although they do. I remember telling Bill Ehrhart that intellect is lazy, memory is active, and that one has to be careful. You know that the police, attorneys, and judges too are usually skeptical of the testimony offered by eye witnesses because they misrepresent testimony as evidence. Too, memory is fun, while the intellect requires rigor. I think that's how myths arise, from memory. Intellect also requires time to digest certain facts or hearsay before it reaches a decision. Time is a great eroder as well as a leveler.

The decision to read and reread political and military books on Korea was a big help. I wanted to get the furniture correct; I didn't want to rely on memory for names, battle sites, or dates. The intellect needs to be jostled about, brought to heel, as I've written to the Montana people. While notes are helpful, one must be on the lookout for memory s intrusions. The same happens to you in the classroom; you're asked a question, you're not sure of the answers, so you tell the students you'll look it up. That's the intellect at work. But memory is more interesting; it brings events to life that may not have occurred at all, but time the eroder has cemented in people's brains events that did not take place and this forms part of one's memory.

Also, memory may color the facts of the matter--the truth of the event--and it may summon forth a personal agenda and present something imaginary as factual. That memory plays an important role in myth-malting is not news, I don't think. The Alamo is an example: the receivers of the myths are impatient with the intellect since it needs time to separate fact from fiction, and if the intellect is not forced to act, it too will join the myth makers. But memory is also an aid to the writer and to an extent, to the historian; oral history and literature may be unreliable, but they may lead the historian to pursue and research certain matters that have been represented as fact. Thus the wary historian uses his intellect.

PKJ: Today, what are your strongest memories of your time in Korea?

RH: The strongest memories after all these years remain the same: the weather (monsoon and freezing winters), the desolation (burning of forests and scarring of the countryside) the refugees (dead men, women, children, and their bones), and fear (the unknown, pain, and death). Living with uncertainty, frustration, and the loss of friends. Boredom followed by periods of feverish activity. The occasional homesickness. There must have been anger, too, which most likely was a product of the uncertainty that accompanies one during periods of tension. At times, admiration for the people around me. That about covers it.
I don't think writers have an obligation (except as Wilde said at one time or another) that one should write well. I remember watching All Quiet on the Western Front when I was a pre-teenager. I hated the teacher who inveigled his students to join the army; it was so patent what it was he was doing. (As you may recall, that ploy was later used in The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie). Aside from Ehrhart's poetry, I've read two of his books: the one on his boot-camp platoon, and the other, Vietnam-Perkasie. Rough as the writing is, it is truthful and on target. Feigned poetry (Jarrell's "Ball Turret Gunner" and "Little Friend," for two brief examples) is usually on target too. Karl Shapiro (a former Marine) wrote some fine poetry as well. It has to do with language, I guess.

As for burying wars -- there's little evidence of that. Ironically, of course, that includes me. That years passed before I wrote is something that happens to many writers; time passes, maturation sets in, and then one finds a key. For me, the key was World War I and the fine writing by the poets of that era plus the three World War II novels in Powell's A Dance to the Music of Time. As to why there are so few works on Korea, it could be due to a generational occurrence: the Great Depression and a lack of education among the majority of Americans. But people are people. There's Tom Hanks on TV saying that a monument to World War II must be erected; he's a pitchman for its funding. Now, what if he had not appeared in. . . Saving Private Ryan? What would his attitude have been toward the monument then? Not germane to your questions, of course, but there it is.

 (Bolded text bolded by PF for emphasis)
To read the entire interview chick here: A conversation with Rolando Hinojosa


 Chicano Writing from la Pinta, a step back


                     Above,Reymundo "Tigre" Perez

A few weeks ago we posted a post called Pinto Poetry and other Prison Writing. Looking back, there were a few more I failed to mention. I mentioned Judy Lucero, but failed to mention the title of her book: Memoriam (1973). 

Also, another one is "Tigre" Perez who I mentioned in our 1970 Retrospective. I was finally able to find a Perez' book Free, Free at Last off of Lalo Delgado's Barrio Publications. 

Two others are Ricardo Mora author of The Black Sun de Richardo Mora (Trucha Publications 1973)and Alex Kirack author of Space Flutes and Barrio Paths (Tolteca Pubns 1972).

When I was at the library looking for the books for our 1980 retrospect, I came across this book on pintos.

This book, Alma Abierta: Pinto Poetry, MAYO de CRC , came out of some workshop that a Mexican American Youth Organization (MAYO) did with "Chicano residents" at the California Rehabilitation Center in Norco, Califas. It is/was a drug rehab center operated by the state. They started the class in 1978.

1980 Poetry Retrospect

 My apologies for the black and white images. I almost walked out of the El Paso Public Library with the books so that I could scan the cover, almost got away with it, but the pinche books were in the Reference Section and could not be checked out. So if you need any "references" check out the Raza Section of the El Paso Public Library, Main Branch. 

Sandra Cisneros' image of Bad Boys on her website was too small, but it's in color, so I'm posting both.

Above, Afternoon of Unreal cover

Afternoon of the Unreal
(Fresno: Abramas Publications )
Luis Omar Salinas

Afternoon of the Unreal reflected the influences of Salinas’s reading of and interest in Spanish poetry—the generation of ’27—Lorca, Jimenez, Machado, Hernandez, and more—as well as South American poets Neruda and Vallejo. A deeper imagism, an element of the surreal, would combine with his ability to target specific emotional states revealing to the reader his mature voice, a voice more sophisticated than the immediate voice of politics and emotion ten years earlier. A sense of melancholy, a romantic longing and wildness balanced by a quixotic wit and irony, would be evident in Salinas’s following books—Prelude To Darkness (Mango Publications, 1981) and Darkness Under The Trees / Walking Behind the Spanish (Chicano Library Press, University of California Berkeley, 1982).
                                 ----Christopher Buckley

Poet Jose Montoya wrote, “…no one has ever disputed the fact that Luis Omar Salinas es el mero chingon de la poesia chicana. This has been not only the opinion of his fellow poets but of critics as well…He’s our Guru.” --- from Xican@ Poetry Daily

Salinas just passed away in 2008 and he really got a lot of despedidas from the gringo and chicano world. Google "Luis Omar Salinas" and you get a bunch of good shit.

Bad Boys
(Mango Publications, Chicano Chapbook Series #8)
Sandra Cisneros

Bad Boys is a short collection of poems by Sandra Cisneros published in 1980. Like The House on Mango Street, the poems in Bad Boys revolve around stories from Hispanic neighborhoods and are characterized by short, vivid phrases that evoke impressionistic images of her characters.
                                                ---- Janet Sarbanes

Of course, the Chicano Chapbook series published a lot of the big names we hear today. On the other hand, just as many are lost in space or are writing the Great American Novel in recluse. Pero the ones that we do hear about, Alberto Rios, Rich Yanez, Rigoberto Gonzalez, Francisco Aragon, to name a few are doing wonderful things for our reading raza.

 Blue Mandolin, Yellow Field
(Tonatiuh Quinto Sol International),
 Olivia Castellano

Unfortunately, I don't have a description of this book. I need to ask some of the veteranos like Juan Felipe Herrera or Felipe Ortego (Los Felipes) or Joe Olvera what was the Grito Del Sol "Quarterly books." This was book three, in year five of this series. Do you have a description of this book? Or a copy and want to review for our blog? Please email me at rayerojas AT gmail.com.

Comité Editorial/Editorial Committee, Arizona Canto al Pueblo IV

This one was an anthology of the participants of the Canto al Pueblo IV.

Above, cover is maroon in real life
Como arbustos de niebla 
(Mexico, D.F. : Editorial Latitudes Chicano Chapbook Series)
Gary Soto ; traducción de Ernesto Trejo.

This book was a collaboration between the Chicano Chapbook Series and Editorial Latitudes which I think is a Mexican press. It's a very small chapbook, not in the regular Chicano Chapbook Series size. About the size of a pocket calender: about 5 in x 3 1/2 in.

(Alexander Books)
Rina G. Rocha

This one was on the stacks, the library catalog said. Pinche raza never putting stuff back where it belong. Or maybe the old law school ploy of hiding books. Again, do you have this book? Scan the cover and send us the image (rayerojas AT gmail.com), send us a description, even better a review.

In their father's name
(Mango Pub Chicano Chapbook Series 7)
Michael Sierra

Ditto description above.

Palabras De Mediodia=Noon Words: Poems
Lucha Corpi (Poetry Collection).

Before the mystery fiction, this is Lucha Corpi. These poems were all in Spanish vato and vatonas. Arte Publico republished this book in 2001 as a bilingual edition and in Arte Publico's Pioneers of Hispanic Literature Series. Here's a link to the Arte Publico edition: Palabras de Mediodia as well as the 2001 edition description:

"Palabras de mediodia/Noon Words is Lucha Corpi’s pioneering collection of poems that established her as a major figure in Mexican American literature. Written in Spanish and expertly translated by Catherine Rodriguez-Nieto, the poems fairly bloom off the page in a display of lyric virtuosity.

Corpi is the first of the Mexican American poets to explore through deeply personal and intimate feelings potentially explosive political topics: transculturation, the role of women, her commitment to social change, and the grand themes of love and death.

Highly sophisticated, enchanting, and well steeped in the literary tradition of Juana de Ibarbourou, Federico García Lorca and Pablo Neruda, Corpi’s poetry successfully portrays the magic of her childhood in tropical Veracruz, her move to the city and the challenges of modern life in San Luis Potosí and the San Francisco Bay Area. Particularly moving is Corpi’s struggle to bridge the chasm between the obligations of family life and single parenthood and the career opportunities of the outside world."

The Unicorn Poem 
 E.A. Mares
(San Marcos Press)

I don't have much info on this except that E.A. Mares is a good poet. I know "The Unicorn Poem" is an epic poem good enough to be republished by Westend Press in 1992: The Unicorn Poems of Flowers and Songs of Sorrow (ISBN 0931122651)(Amazon link). “Mares proposes not a myth of bloodletting, but one of survival in love and goodness,” said the late Juan Bruce-Novoa. Mares has had many books and translations on Wings Press. His latest is off of the University of New Mexico Press: Astonishing Light: Conversations I Never Had with Patriciño Barela.

Un Trip through the Mind Jail y Otras Excursions
(Editorial Pocho-Che: San Francisco)

Not to be confused with Raul Salinas de Gortari, what can you say about the late Raul R. Salinas. This is the classic pinto word wizard. Since his recent death, he has a chapbook contest sponsored by Calaca Press in his name. Above is the original cover image of Up Trip. The book was republished by Arte Publico Press Pioneers of Hispanic Literature Series in 1999: Up Trip Through the Mind Jail y Otras Excursion (ISBN 9781558852754). I remember performing pieces of Up Trip when I was in Forensics at UTEP.

2nd Edition, Arte Publico description:

"Here is the long-awaited second edition of a pioneer work of Chicano literature, originally published as a collection in 1980 after individual poems by Salinas had appeared in numerous magazines, newspapers, and anthologies from the 1960s through the 1970s.

These fifteen years of poetry forged in the heat of the Chicano Movement (a period Salinas spent, in part, in prison) reveal the growing politicization of intelligent and talented minority convicts incarcerated at a time when their communities were marching forward. Prison bars were not strong enough to limit Salinas’s highly lyric, even rhapsodic calls for liberation — poems inspired by jazz, the Beat writers, nature, and political skirmishes."

""He confronts everything he sees directly and produces poetry that is hard-edged yet humane, beautiful but wrenching. This is a thoroughly admirable book."" —Robert Phillips 

The vato gained so much fame from this one book that when there was a revival of interest in him in the late 1990s, he published a whole tonada de libros from 2000 to this death, which I think was in 2008.

 Rosa, La Flauta
(Editorial Justa Publications, Inc.)
Sergio Elizondo

You don't get full-Spanish prose almost anywhere nowadays in Chicano(a) Literature, but Sergio Elizondo is a master at it.

A collection of stories written in Spanish that reflect "a personal world of people long since gone out of his life but not forgotten; child and adult experiences, and travels to foreign lands." —Charles Tatum


Pluma Fronteriza will continue is 1980 Retrospect. Today was just poetry. Are we like Reagan and forgot a book? Or were you thinking of the 1980s and Reagan and it made you forget a book. Please let us know!

Hijole carnales, you all wore me out today.

Coming next week
Sunday - Press Spotlight
Monday - Lunes on Lalo
Tuesday - Interview with Lorenzo Herera y Lozano
Wed - St. Paul and Chicano Literature


The link we share with you today is: Cafe Campesino Fair Trade Coffee

The hierba we share with you today is: Gordo Lobo - Mullei - has been used for century to  Calm Cough,  Sneezing,  Sore Throat,  Fights Diarrhea,  Dysentery,  Diphtheria. It also used as a Intestinal Antiseptic, Also Works Well in Healing Burns,  Sores and wounds on the Skin.

Your juarense calo lesson for today is: que salido! -- Que mal andas! -- You're out of it
                                     -- from Glosario del Calo de Cd. Juarez, Ricardo Aguilar

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