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

Octavio Romano

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Retro Review: Afternoon of the Unreal by Luis Omar Salinas and New Chicano(a) and Puerto Rican Titles/Editions



As if you did not get enough of Fresno last week with Medrano, here are two days of Luis Omar Salinas, as we continue our look back at "zero" years with 1980 and the publication of Afternoon of the Unreal. It's such a good book, we are adding icing on the cake with Felipe Ortego's remenbranza de Salinas tomorrow. Plus, new books and stuff we missed.


Ten Years After Crazy Gypsy, Poet Triumphs with Poetry Collection
Review of Afternoon of the Unreal
by Raymundo Eli Rojas

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Afternoon of the Unreal (Abramas Publications) was a 1980 collection of poetry by master Chicano wordsmith Luis Omar Salinas. It came ten years after his first collection, Crazy Gypsy. The Texas native turned Fresno son, was one of Chicano poetry's best poets.

Last week, listening to Fresno poet Michael Luis Medrano read, he mentioned how the titles of Salinas' books themselves were like a poem, and so it is with Afternoon of the Unreal.

Afternoon of the Unreal was a triumphant return by Salinas, a book showing ten years of maturity and sophistication. 

Now, Salinas was not doing nothing from 1970-80, to use the double negative. In 1973, he edited with Lilian Federman, From the Barrio: A Chicano Anthology. In 1975 (or 76), gave us a quadrupole Fresnonazo with Entrance: Four Chicano Poets (Greenfield Review Press) by Leonardo Adame, Salinas, Gary Soto, and the late Ernesto Trejo. 

Charcoal drawing of Salinas around 1968 (the time he was at Fresno State College) by Karen J. McClintock
In 1979, he published I Go Dreaming Serenades (Mango Chicano Chapbook Series #2) on Mango Publications.

the poem “Magnificent Little Gift,” is as if Salinas was writing a therapeutic poem for his traumatized friend:

I collapse
into the awareness
that life has
been fighting
me.
The question is:
from what corner
of the room shall I slash
its grim victorious smile?

My feet ache from walking.
I rebel, slowly turning
into corridors of the mind
believing I'm an angel.

Afternoon contains some travel poems, with Salinas in such places as Flint, Michigan and St. Paul, MN...(“Norwegian Eyes”):

Passing Through

I compose a Chicano song
and my fists are mirrors
of forgetfulness and apology.
I feel the universe
move in like love.
The cars linger on the street
like cocktail drinks
and there's a silence
like a drummer on the way,
that won't be discussed

In open movie houses
the mind seeks flesh
and the city is overrun
by bureaucrats.
I can't find my scarf in
the clouds.
My mother is in Tenochtitlan
and my girlfriend
she's suppose to be knitting
destiny a sweater or perhaps
me a life.

Many of the poems in this collection are dark. They are an inner searching of unlit places of the soul, which only Salinas can illuminate for the reader. In the poem “Drunk Cemeteries,” like other poems in this collection, Salinas dwells on death and afterlife: “There are drunk cemeteries/in my heart/walking on dark roads in the evening....”  

Afternoon of The Unreal is filled with references to “darkness” and references to the afterlife (“fatal Aztec ghost,” “Ghosts chase the rose/and I smell death/turning/like a shoulder,” “cows that have become/pregnant overnight/and in the shape of death/the poem eats at her belly...”).

Salinas is stuck in motel rooms writing verse in loneliness as his travels keep him in lodging where poetry comes alive (“And my Nonsense,” “Passing Through”). Afternoon of the Unreal has poems of love unreached and “eye candy” fantasies, which amount to nothing but a good poem.

Containing close to 46 poems, the cover of Afternoon of The Unreal has a sketch of Salinas' likeness. Winner of the Stanley Kunitz Poetry Award, 1980, Afternoon of the Unreal is bounded in chapbook form. 

The collection's poems seem scrunched into the book, with some poems beginning at the bottom of another on the left side of the open book; the poem continuing to the top of the next page. This scrunched look takes away from the aesthetics of the layout, but Salinas' verse more than makes up for that.


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New Books and Editions in 
OCTOBER 2010 and 
Some Titles We Missed
Chicano titles



Paperback - NoPassport Press February 3, 2010
ISBN-10: 0578048817
Octavio Solis

This volume collects three of US Latino playwright Octavio Solis' most exciting plays about US-Mexico border relations. With a preface by Douglas Langworthy, this is an essential volume to deepen understanding of not only US Latino and Chicano theatre but American theatre as a whole.



A Glass of Water
Paperback - Grove Press; Reprint edition (September 14, 2010)
ISBN-10: 0802145108
Jimmy Santiago Baca (Author)

A Glass of Water is a gripping tale of family, loyalty, ambition, and revenge that offers an intimate look into the tragedies unfurling at our country’s borders. The first novel from award-winning memoirist, poet, and activist, Jimmy Santiago Baca, it is a passionate and galvanizing addition to Chicano literature.

The promise of a new beginning brings Casimiro and Nopal together when they are young immigrants, having made the nearly deadly journey across the border from Mexico. They settle into a life of long days in the chili fields, and in a few years their happy union yields two sons, Lorenzo and Vito. But when Nopal is brutally murdered, the boys are left to navigate life in this brave but capricious new world without her.

A Glass of Water is a searing, heartfelt tribute to brotherhood, and an arresting portrait of the twisted paths people take to claim their piece of the ever-elusive American dream.

Stories from the Edge
Paperback Heinemann March 26, 2010
ISBN-10: 0325029482
Jimmy Santiago Baca

"I paced my cell with a book in one hand and a knife under my mattress. I knew I could have a long and happy life with a book in my hand or I could have a miserable short life with the shank that was in the mattress." -Jimmy Santiago Baca
Stories from the Edge enriches and extends Jimmy Santiago Baca's critically acclaimed memoir, A Place to Stand. Early stories elaborate on his travails as an abandoned child in an orphanage.

Later stories draw on Baca's post-prison life as a writer and his ongoing work with struggling adolescents, prisoners, and society's dispossessed. Centered around conflicts and life-altering choices, Baca's gripping personal narratives will resonate with adolescents and adults alike.


David Taylor: Working the Line
Hardcover Radius Books  May 30, 2010 
ISBN-10: 1934435244
Luis Alberto Urrea (Author), Hannah Frieser (Author), David Taylor (Photographer) 

David Taylor's photographic examination of the contentious territory that is the U.S./Mexico border is organized around a series of approximately 260 obelisks that demarcate this boundary, and which were installed in the late 1880s. I

n the course of pursuing this project, Taylor earned a remarkable degree of access to U.S. Border Patrol, the agents of which often refer to their job in the field as "line work"-a term that is also an apt description of the time Taylor has spent documenting these obelisks.

He has acquired a privileged insight into the intertwined issues of border security, human and drug smuggling, the construction of the border fence and its impact on the land, and has portrayed immigration issues in a way that humanizes a difficult and sensitive social and political issue. Taylor's compelling images capture the deep complexity of the politics and people of this terrain.

Puerto Rico

Outlaw: The Collected Works of Miguel Pinero
Paperback - Arte Publico Press September 30, 2010
ISBN-10: 1558856064
Miguel Pinero, Nicolas Kanellos (Editor)

"A thief, a junkie I've been / committed every known sin," Miguel Pinero sings in "A Lower East Side Poem." Part observer, part participant in the turbulent goings-on in his Nuyorican barrio, Miguel Pinero blasted onto the literary scene and made waves in the artistic current with his dramatic interpretations of the world around him through experimental poetry, prose, and plays.

Portrayed by actor Benjamin Bratt in the 2001 feature film Pinero, the poet's works are as rough and gritty as the New York City underworld he wrote about and loved. "So here I am, look at me / I stand proud as you can see / pleased to be from the Lower East / a street fighting man / a problem of this land / I am the Philosopher of the Criminal Mind / a dweller of prison time / a cancer of Rockefeller's ghettocide / this concrete tomb is my home."

His depictions of pimp bars, drug addiction, petty crime, prison culture and outlaw life all drawn from first-hand experience astound the faint-hearted, as Pinero poetizes an outlaw vernacular meant to shock proper, bourgeois culture.
 
This long-awaited collection includes previously published and never-before-published poems; ten plays, including Short Eyes, which was later made into a film and won the 1973-1974 New York Drama Critics' Circle Award for Best American Play, "The Sun Always Shines for the Cool," and "Eulogy for a Small Time Thief."
 
A co-founder of the Nuyorican Poet's Cafe, Pinero died at the age of 41, leaving behind a compelling legacy of poetry and plays that reveal the harsh, impoverished lives of his urban Puerto Rican community.

Puerto Rico in the American Century: A History since 1898
Large Print- ReadHowYouWant October 21, 2010
ISBN-10: 1442961856
Csar J. Ayala (Author)

This is Volume 1 of the Book. Other volume can be found at Amazon Search using the ISBN 9781442962040.In 1941, publisher Henry Luce announced the coming of the American Century from the pages of Life magazine.

The moment symbolically marked the rise of the United States as a global power. It has been pointed out many times that American influence as proclaimed by Luce in 1941 and as built by U.S. strategists after 1945 did not imply the construction of a new colonial empire following the British or other European models.

This is undoubtedly so, but it should not lead us to forget that there were exceptions. For some, the American Century had begun much earlier, on the eve of the twentieth century, when the SpanishAmerican War of 1898 led to the installation of U.S. colonial governments in the Philippines, Puerto Rico, and Guam.

While the Philippines became independent in 1946, Puerto Rico and Guam remain under U.S. sovereignty to this day. Puerto Rico thus became an anomaly: a colony of a fundamentally noncolonial imperialism.... The objective of this book is to acquaint the reader with the history of Puerto Rico since 1898.

Such a project is never a neutral or valuefree operation. We bring to it a particular perspective and set of interests. While we relay many findings of past contributions in this field, we also depart from some prevalent views regarding many of the events, processes, and historical figures discussed here.

But before we go into these, it is appropriate to begin with some facts and a brief overview of the terrain we will coverThere are many good reasons to embark on a project such as the writing of this book. In our case, it has been the most direct of motivations: we are Puerto Rican, and the object of this work concerns us dearly. But we have done our best to keep our affections from dimming our critical faculties. It is for the readers to judge to what extent we succeeded or failed.



Paperback - Markus Wiener Publishers; 1st edition October 1, 2010
ISBN-10: 1558765182
Manuel R. Rodriguez
In the 1930s, Puerto Rico was economically and culturally a nineteenth-century agrarian state dominated by sugar and coffee plantations. Then came the New Deal, and the island changed forever. Puerto Rico entered the twentieth century in every respect, including its economy, culture, and infrastructure. This transformation was neither easy nor without resistance. The author leads the reader through this upheaval with all its ups and downs. Manuel R. Rodriguez is a professor of history at the University of Puerto Rico.

Power at the Roots: Gentrification, Community Gardens, and the Puerto Ricans of the Lower East Side
Hardcover - Lexington Books October 16, 2010
ISBN-10: 0739146246
Miranda J. Martinez 

Through direct engagement with gardeners, activists, and residents, Miranda Martinez shows the breadth and diversity of the community gardening movement and how these groups inserted themselves into local politics and development to create change. She demonstrates how real people are effective as social forces amid large scale urban change and looks at the complexities and contradictions involved in transformations of urban neighborhoods.

One of the most important contributions of this study is its focus on the Puerto Ricans of the Lower East Side and their struggle to sustain its Latinidad. It goes deeply into the ethnic and cultural significance at the neighborhood and personal level to show the contradictory meanings of gentrification to Puerto Ricans and others, and more importantly, the ways that the history and culture of Puerto Ricans are ignored, devalued, and erased.

By going to the grassroots, this book vividly demonstrates how Puerto Ricans interact with the global and local trends involved in gentrification and how the struggles against displacement can alter the boundaries of the process.



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Estimated Driving Time:
El Paso: 2 1/2, TX
Las Cruces, NM: 2 hrs from
Albuquerque: 3 hrs
Lubbock, TX 4 hr 20 min
Odessa, TX: 4 1/2 hrs

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Info. and reservations (915) 591-4108