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

Octavio Romano

Monday, August 02, 2010

Lunes con Lalo Delgado: Poetic Wisdom for Your Week y 1990 - Que Pronto Pasen Los Años

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of poems has been assembled by your truly under a more hectic set of circumstances. Even as I write this self-introduction, I bite into a turkey sandwich on French, (which I haven’t paid for) and sip hot chicken broth. All this is my office as I await a call from my wife, Lola, telling me she is ready to be taken to the hospital (which I haven't paid either) to give birth to our eight child. If this doesn’t happen today we have a dinner engagement to keep.

The poems too, express this hectic state and perhaps for the first time in my thirty nine years of living, I accept my humanity and yell happily – I too am confused, I can hurt, I can cry, and I can fall in low, I can get drunk, I can err. As if jerked back to the ground, for I have floated too long above this ground passing myself as a personal friend of God, I now enjoy my new residency among mortals, liars, sinners and weaklings of this earth.

Perhaps with each new set of poems I perfect what I wish to desperately possess, a poetic soul, eye, camera, tough. These particular poems speak of low, marriages, death and the movement, our beloved, Quixotic, Chicano movement, and in many of them I purposely let a few windows open inviting readers to touch, lick or kiss my soul-wounds, which after all are his own wounds too. I could say that among these poems may be found my rebirth but I won't because I am more committed to the perpetual eventuality of life and I know I am but an insignificant drum beat in this continuous rhapsody.

I remain unknown to those closest to me and that may explain why, with such force, I launch myself all at those seeking to at least for a moment, to be known – through these and other hundreds of soul-word-etchings. The phone has not rung, I have finished my sandwich and I have drunk my soup.

                   Lalo Delgado


somewhat serious and somewhat comical
with odds bordering the astronomical
we faced...guess what?
an oblate and a baptist minister,
the well documented gents were first
to spill the venum
and the star of the show, aleman
with semblance matching his pale shirt
withstood the verbal bombardment,
uriegas and avena flanked to the right,
saavedra and a beutiful chicana
by the tag of sylvia yañez
covered the rear and rivera, lali and mestas
tackled head on the evident
incomprehension of americansim.
we can forgive not knowing us
but not knowing christianity, education,
patriotism and law and order
their own tools is almost as unpardonable
as a sin against the holy ghost.
we started the show with a
prayer to the holy ghost
and concluded with 'stupid america,'
a short poem,
who won, all of you carnales ask,
....no one, confrontation with us is merely a task.

                                --- Abelardo B. Delgado


what's out there, hermano, do not ask me
i know because you are here you think freedom must be
we outside are fooled by that illusion
and the true fact is
that all the walls which captive keep you
exist out there in different
shapes and colors,
the guards you see around
out there take many other
kinds of uniforms
and unlike some of your sentences which end
the one outside is always life,
the prison out there are twice at ugly...
a women you don't love, a job
you don't believe in, a sickness
you cannot shed, a bottle
of liquor you can't lick,
a pound of weed you cannot drop,
a needle, a memory of home
you never had, a love no parents
ever gave, a friendship much betrayed,
and vicious bill collectors
who always ever seem to find you,
no mis carnales, just cause we are out
we are no freer than you are,
what is more the common prison of us all is just a clock
that tics and tics till it sees that we are fucked.
                                             --- Abelardo B. Delgado

Ray Rojas Commentary

Have you ever been at a spectacular movimiento event and said, "I wish we were recording this," or "We need to write this down." The writing of Lalo should not only be seen as poetry, but also as historical documentation. Whether it be a march, a protest, a meeting, a lunch, the opening of a clinic, Lalo wrote a poem about it. 

Very few of Lalo's poetry are found in journals and anthologies because Lalo did not feel his poems were written for that purpose. If they happened to land in a journal anthology, they were usually without his permission which he would pass off as flattery. Either as the keynote speaker, or just a guest, if Lalo was at an event, he probably wrote a poem about it. Above, he descibes an incident in San Antonio, a "confrontation" that he describes as "merely a task" in those days.

Prison readings

Lalo was also very fond of reading to prisoners and "Out There" is probably a poem he wrote for a speaking engagement at a prison. 

One colleague described to me how once, he drove Lalo to speak at a prison in, if I remember correctly, Canyon City, Colorado (that's the prison city right?). 

When they got to the prison, the prison had set out a bowl of punch and Lalo and my friend served themselves. Tasting it, they realized the prisoners were trying to get "sugar highs" since getting highs from any other substance in prison was difficult, so the prisoner had filled the punch bowls with fruit punch concentrate. They did not dilute it or anything. (For you youngans, back in the day, you use to buy this bottles of fruit punch concentrate and then add water. I don't know if they still sell them like that anymore). 

Not wanting to refuse drink with the prisoners, they drank the fruit punch concentrate. My colleague describes the drive back from Canyon City being one with their eyes wide open.

 "Out there", "San Antonio Confrontation 215", and "No other set" are (c) Abelardo Delgado from Mortal Sin Kit and published with permission of the Delgado family.

a look back at 1990 

Although we have not  our look back at 1970 and 1980, we will begin our retrospective on the year 1990. That's 20 years ago. Damn, how time flies. Because Arturo Islas' Migrant Souls was published in 1990, we will be having some reflections on Migrant Souls and Arturo Islas by several guest bloggers. 

We published Felipe Ortego's rememberance of Islas a few days ago if you missed it. So take a look below. All commentary is mine with exception of publisher's descriptions and reviews.

Becky and Her Friends 
Arte Publico Press; 1St Edition edition (May 1990)
ISBN-10: 1558850066 
Rolando Hinojosa
Hinojosa is of the prestigious Miguel de Cervantes prize for literature. (READ ABOUT THIS AWARD HERE)

Publisher's description: This novel in Hinojosa's Klail City Death Trip Series of novels, which follows generations of Anglos and Mexicans in the fictional Klail City, Texas, focuses on a character who has previously not taken the limelight: Becky

Intaglio: A Novel in Six Stories
Arte Publico Press; First Paper edition
(April 1990)
ISBN-10: 1558850163
Roberta Fernandez

Publisher's description: In this deftly-narrated novel made up of sensitive portraits of six extraordinary women of the Southwest, Fernández examines the deep-rooted culture of women born at the turn of the century on the U.S./Mexico border.

Migrant Souls
February 1990
HarperCollins Publishers
ISBN: 0688074103
Arturo Islas
Publisher's description: When iron-willed Josie Salazar's husband walks out on her and their two daughters, she flees California and returns to her Texas hometown just above the Mexican border. 

It seems her husband, Harold Newman, had good reason to dissolve their marriage, but this masterly novel's winding, nonlinear plot only gradually divulges the secrets of Josie's sprawling clan, introduced in Islas's well-received first novel, The Rain God. 

The second installment in a projected trilogy vigorously portrays three generations of Mexican-Americans fighting prejudice while struggling to achieve self-definition. 

Their adaptive responses to Anglo culture vary sharply: Josie's proud, atheistic father, Sancho, is easygoing; her pious aunt Jesus Maria sees sin everywhere; her favorite cousin, Miguel Chico, a closet homosexual, becomes a writer and is labeled an ``ethnic novelist''--a fate one hopes will not befall the author of this beautifully delineated, down-to-earth, affecting saga. (Feb.)

Southbound: The Sequel to Faultline
Naiad Pr; 1 edition
(December 1990)
ISBN-10: 0941483789
Sheila Ortiz Taylor 

Sheila Ortiz Taylor is  one of the pioneering lesbian Chicana writers, this novel was a sequel to Faultline

Publisher's description: Arden, in need of a job, loads her six children, 300 rabbits, and Alice into a hearse and heads south, all the time avoiding her ex-husband, who wants custody of her children, and Ruth, who wants Alice.

How Town
[Mass Market Paperback]
Fawcett (September 13, 1991)
ISBN-10: 0345369874
Michael Nava

In the last 80s, you could count on you hand the number of "out" gay Chicano writers. Not only a pioneer in that sense, but also a pioneer in Chicano(a) mystery fiction, and of recent candidate for judge.
Publishers' description: Gay Los Angeles lawyer Henry Rios has misgivings about defending a known child molester accused of killing a porn peddler, even though the case against him is circumstantial at best. But research into the dead man's past sheds a frightening light on the murky circumstances of the murder -- bringing Rios face-to-face with a cold-blooded killer . . .

About Nava: Michael Nava is the author of seven Henry Rios novels, five of which (Goldenboy, Howtown, The Hidden Law, The Death of Friends, and Rag and Bone) have been Lambda Literary Award winners. He is an attorney in private practice in San Francisco.

Baseball in April and other stories
Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, c1990.
ISBN: 015205720X
Gary Soto

Baseball in April is one of the most widely-used young adult books today. I wish I would have had something like this when I was joven.

Publisher's description: A contemporary classic about the pitfalls and triumphs of the teenage years is given a fresh new look for its tenth anniversary.

About Gary Soto:  GARY SOTO's first book for young readers, Baseball in April and Other Stories, won the California Library Association's Beatty Award and was named an ALA Best Book for Young Adults. He has since published many novels, short stories, plays, and poetry collections for adults and young people. He lives in Berkeley, California. www.garysoto.com

*Above cover image is of a later addition.

(Spanish Edition)
Dos Pasos Editores; 1. ed edition (February 1990)
ISBN-10: 0961540346
Sergio Elizondo

From one of the masters of Chicano Spanish-language prose.

Publisher's Description: Winner of the Premio Nacional de Literatura José Fuentes Mares, Suruma is a tale full of laughter and bring criticism of the system that has robbed both Chicano and non-Chicano characters of their culture. In Spanish. 

Entering a Life
Arte Publico Press; First edition. edition (January 1990)
ISBN-10: 1558850147
Ernesto Trejo 

One of the Fresno Schools poetry masters. Sadly, Trejo would pass a year later in 1991 to cancer, the first of the Chicano writers to die of cancer in the 1990s. Trejo and Entering Life are the subject of a post on the Olives of Oblivion: Great Books from Great Poets blog.

"Ernesto Trejo is a poet of mysteries and incarnations, of secret unnamed presences, of the magical interior spaces of childhood and the luminous floating orld that flares and throbs, that burns in time" (Edward Hirsch). Entering a Life is "a book that is at once compassionately sympathetic as well as perceptivly empathetic, and Trejo's craftsman-like amalgamation of both qualities gives his work a forceful originality that is all too seldom seen" (The Texas Review).

Immigrants in Our Own Land and Selected Early Poems
(New Directions Paperbook)
New Directions Publishing Corporation; Rep Sub edition
(November 1990)
ISBN-10: 0811211452
Jimmy Santiago Baca 

Publisher's description: This book is a new, expanded edition of Jimmy Santiago Baca's best-selling first book of poetry. A number of poems from early, now unavailable chapbooks have also been included so that the reader can at last have an overview of Baca's remarkable literary development.

Review: "A poet like Jimmy Santiago Baca needs not to rely on the poetic paraphernalia to be successful. He has life to draw his technique from. His poems do not have that pared-down-language quality, but are wordy in the best way because they are more than language; they speak the poet's truth, and the truth of his people. More than anything, this book — and it is a book of poems rather than a collection of poems — is moving. One wonders how did the poet find patience to endure writing these poems, which are about much that is painful." Reviewed by Daniel Weiss, Virginia Quarterly Review (Copyright 2006 Virginia Quarterly Review)

The Searchers: Collected Poetry
Arte Publico Press (February 1990)
ISBN-10: 155885018X

Publisher's description: This moving collection, edited by Julián Olivares, contains the twenty'six poems the late author published and an equal number which the editor discovered among the author's literary papers. In taut but impassioned lyrics, Tomás Rivera celebrates the common experience of humanity and renews his search for the encounter of the self, community, the past and the continuity of the dead through the living. 

Variaciones Sobre Una Tempestad/Variations on a Storm
Third Woman Press (January 1, 1990)
ISBN-10: 0943219051
Lucha Corpi 

We mentioned one of the pioneers of Chicano(a) mystery fiction, Michael Nava, above. However, must add Lucha Corpi to that list too.
I'm gonna have to go to the library for description and cover image of this one folks. I could not find one on the web, not even on Corpi's website. More to come...

Who Will Know Us
Chronicle Books (March 1, 1990)
ISBN-10: 0877016739
Gary Soto 

Soto's fifth collection of poetry.

Publisher's description: Poems deal with dreams, mortality, violence, memories, marriage, parenthood, and nature.

 There are still some biographical book I want to cover, but I'll save those for next week.

This week:
- The Pain of Writing
- Interview with Guillermo Reyes author of Madre and I 
- New Books in August

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