Tuesday, April 27, 2004

A point of arrival 

Here is where I have gotten this semester in my rambling odyssey:

- I have been experimenting with writing in spanish or in a mixture of spanish and english in my own poetry

- I have translated some hybrid spanish/english poems into english and spanish.

- I've shared a lot of bilingual poetry, and my translations of it, with some spanish-speaking AND english-speaking monolingual poets. There are now a lot of curious people who want to read more of it and who felt inspired by Victor Hernandez Cruz, Jose Montoya, Leticia Hernandez and Luisa Valenzuela.

- I started writing some book reviews of these poets and I found people who would like to publish them.

- I've read quite a lot of poetry, some boring, some very exciting. The horizons of What is it possible to do with language widen for me as a poet. Now: What is it possible to do with languages.

All those things are far from my goal in the beginning of generating some sort of academic theory. But they are good, happening things!

Thursday, April 22, 2004

what could possibly be more fun 

What could possibly be more fun than translating that poem? I mean other than having written it. But as translation goes that was a happy fascinating romp. I get a silly "beavis and butthead" pleasure out of slang dictionaries because a dictionary is so very formal and the ideas are so funny and crude. anway this is a cool feminist poem. I took a little liberty with the end. (THAT WAS A HUGE PUN, as you will see) Decided to leave "coger" and "pendejo" and "Ay" in spanish, and had a great time thinking about about 20 different ways to translate "alocada libertina" keeping in mind that a libertina if a noun can mean a freed slave woman. ("slut" might be way too strong but I will check with the poet and different people) I left the parts that were spanish in italics. Ideally one woudl publish this facing with the original and then the english. or the english coudl be a footnote, whatever. I mean the whole point of the poem is that it goes back and forth between the 2 languages but in the interests of making a cheat sheet for the gringos here is my best effort that I think is a good job and reasonably witty.


In this country
it's easier for me to talk of things

like your ass, mine, and other dirty words
things unmentionable
because they can activate a spell
and freeze you in your tracks
so it's just that
what one says and writes
could turn real
Ay mama how scary
to hear my voice
ringing out so loud between these stone walls

in English it's not so loud somehow
no one understands what I say anyway
it's not the same to say coger as it is to say
fuck doesn't sound so 'low'
like it's playful, joking

asshole sounds better than pendejo
don't you think?

and there are so, so many shocking words
in my tongue
words that frighten
words that hurt or are uncomfortable
that I don't dare say
in english the words are sorta quilted, padded,
plump, made muffled,
, it's not me who's saying them
it's the other one
the foreigner
the radical free love slut
not the good girl from Mexico
she doesn't understand about anything crude
(or she keeps quiet about it)
and doesn't know what they do -
man and woman -
naked in a bed
how shocking
Heaven forbid - Lord help us -

In English words are far away,
and yet, at the very same time, so 'diarrhea of the mouth'!

for example 

A good example of what I'm talking about with canonization. The anthology that just came out - "Californi@ Poets from the G0ld Rush to the present". Why start there? Starting at 1850 sends a message right away. Looking at who and what is included in the anthology also makes everything rather clear. and I will make subsequent and competing anthologies, you can bet your boots.

Wednesday, April 21, 2004

poem to think about 


En este pais
me es más fácil hablar de cosas

like tu culo, el mío, and other conchinadas
cosas que no se mencionan

because they can activate a spell
and freeze you on your tracks
así nomás
lo que uno dice y escribe
puede volverse realidad
Ay mamá qué miedo
oír mi voz
resuena tan fuerte entre estas paredes de piedra

in English it's not so loud somehow
nadie entiende lo que digo anyway
no es lo mismo decir coger que fuck
fuck no suena tan 'pior'
como que es de juguete

asshole suena mejor que pendejo
?no crees?

y hay tantas, tantas palabras espantosas
en mi lengua
palabras que asustan
palabras que duelen o incomodan
que no me atrevo
en inglés las palabras están como acolchonadas
regordetas, traen mofle,
, it's not me who's saying them
it's the other one
the foreigner
the alocada libertina
no la niña buena de México
ella no sabe ni una grosería
(o se las calla)
y no saben que hacen
hombre y mujer
desnudos en una cama
qué barbaridad
Dios nos libre y nos ampare

in English words are far away,
and yet, a la mera hora, so destapadas!

by Liliana Valenzuela from Mujer Frontera, Mujer Malinche, 2003.

I wrote to L.V,. and asked if I could quote her poetryin a review which I am sure i can get published in one of a couple of places and offered/asked to translate some of her poetry.


very cool - several hours later. L.V. wrote back and said yes let's do that and was super nice and enthusiastic. I really want to translate "bocas palabras"!

not much progress 

I read quite a lot but didn't take great notes and have not done what I thought I would do. I am going to at least try writing something on Liliana Valenzuela and on Leticia Hernandez (separate essays, one for each). Horribly i can't find the Razor Edge book - it is lost somewhere in my vast disorganized library - so i might just write on 2 poems of hers that i have xeroxed. I also want to talk a bunch about Valenzuela's "Sin vergüenza".

But mostly what happened this semester is that I read quite a lot and wrote poetry. The structuralist essay hasn't been written (yet?) and I've only written one Wikipedia entry that was kind of lame. I am also writing a general book review style essay on In/Formation in which I talk about its poems and Montoya and in passing will also mention a lot of other writers. Maybe that will be useful to make more people curious and make them read those writers.

The question of "why is this important to you, to poetry, etc" was a hard one and threw me for a loop. short answer is, "I know some spanish, like translating, like boundary crossing." As a poet it is useful and mentally freeing for me to translate or to read other languages. It shakes me out of linguistic or mental ruts --- ruts in the structure of language or the meanings of words.

for me personally I like the feeling of dislocation I get when I have to try to think in 2 languages. I love translating and specifically require translations to have both languages together - I believe strongly that when translations are published it is very important to have the original language next to the translation if at all possible. That way information is maximized and anyone who can read the original to any extent can look at it and think about it and think about the choices of translation. Mixing languages without too much worry about what happens next or who is listening seems brave, bold and important.

For me to write poetry partly in spanish will result in spanglish that is amateurish but that is no reason not to try any more than a recent immigrant to the u.s. shouldn't try writing poetry in english. Also when I am reading a lot of poetry in spanish and studying grammar, etc. though I am not fluent I am partly thinking in spanish and so it naturally comes out in poetry that I'm writing. this hopefully not arrogating any sort of cultural identity to myself (as I have seen people do) (Though I have my own personal issues with growing up being exposed to a lot of spanish but not being fluent)

I also believe that it is important to translate poems into various languages - to be a bridge between cultures. Sometimes english translators act as if they are doing some latin american poet a huge favor by translating them and possibly this is to some extent true that if as a poet one breaks into an english speaking and book buying audience you become more famous and maybe even make some money as the u.s. is a huge powerful empire. this can be very obnoxious though as if one is not really important as a poet until known in the u.s. and this seems a horribly imperialist thing to think. to what extent for example neruda becomes a u.s. commodity - it is very strange - with just love poems emphasized and not his way cooler political poems so that what "neruda" means to your average U.S. gringo poet is that whole exoticized latin stereotype as some sort of placeholder or signifier for primeval tropical passion... this, I especially hate... I don't want to participate in that sort of thing...

The Aztlan stuff and 70s chicano movement poetry is important to me as history that I don't want forgotten or worse completely unknown to, say, kids growing up in my neighborhood whether they are white or latino/chicano it seems important to me somehow and neglected. I asked Prof. M. "why is montoya not in the norton anthology for example" because it does make me feel outraged and he just sort of threw up his hands and said "why? we've been asking that question for 30 years..." as if to say, why do you want to canonize the non canonical? I don't necessarily I guess, but a little bit of that seems like a good thing (though it does seem to end up in tokenism - but does that make it utterly pointless? maybe not.) So yes I do want to engage in a little canonizing but one insight I have is that To know anything about something, it is necessary to look in both canonical and non-canonical sources. The disjunction between the two REVEALS SOMETHING and that something can be: racism, patriarchy, capitalism, or possibly just hegemony in general. For me to know about José Montoya it is actually necessary for me to know that he is NOT in the norton anthology and what IS in there, and then to know something of the context of chicano poetry/ latino poetry. For me to "know" about Liliana Valenzuela it is not enough (for me, at least) to "know" her text and read it. I want to know also, that i've looked in the Aztlan anthology and the Flor y Canto ones and thought about this: where are the women? Which women are in there? What are they saying? What is there to be said or written by women that hasn't been? Where does Valenzuela "fit" in there?

Tuesday, March 09, 2004

pobre viejo 

"Buenos dias, don Walt!" I called. "I have been
waiting for you. I knew you would one day leap
across the Mississippi!
Leap from Manhattas! Leap over Brooklyn Bridge!
Leap over slavery!
Leap over the technocrats!
Leap over atomic waste!
Leap over the violence! Madonna!
Dead end rappers!
Peter Jennings and ungodly nightly news!
Leap over your own sex! Leap to embrace la gente
de Nuevo México! Leap to miracles!

I always know that. I always dreamed that.

[excerpt from Walt Whitman Strides the Llano of New Mexico, Rudolfo anaya]

Monday, March 08, 2004

texto y contexto 

Now I see one reason why prof. Murguia made an exasperated noise when I mentioned "Literatura Chicana: 1965-1995" and said "oh no, read "Literatura Chicana, texto y contexto". Oh so very much better. I'm glad they both exist and I will finish reading the 1965-1995, but T. y C. blows it right out of the water.

The introduction explains everything I have been struggling to express lately. And succinctly and clearly and un-boringly. I should have started reading here in January!

WHY IS THIS BOOK NOT IN PRINT!? I will go nuts with this, thinking of all the awful books published and re-published and literary agents who spend their lives looking for good things and not having the sense to know good things. I know why, and even the book itself knows why. Still, I have to shout it.

"It is impossible to separate the fulfillment of a people's artistic and esthetic sensibility from the question of their access to power in ecomonic and political terms, as well as to education and social justice. the scarcity of chicano literature is primarily the result of an exclusionist and intolerant American society that has maintained a purist and static view of literature. The basis for what is literarily valid and thereby publishable has been the degree of conformity to pre-established literary, ideological and linguistic norms - norms which reflected the interests of the groups in power." (p. xxvi of the introduction) <--- I will forward this to the Sanjo Nonprofit that has been so frustrating [boldface emphasis is mine]

"Chicano writers were faced with two alternatives, neither of which was adequate:
1. if they adhered to Mexican models in order to publish in Mexico, their writing would have to be directed to a Mexican readership; therefore they could not reflect the Chicano experience.

2. If they wanted to write and be published in the United States, they would have to relinquish the Spanish language and the attendant conceptual and philosophic orientation in language..."

The contexto is so good- the idea of "chicano literary heritage".

I only wish for an index, and a fatter book.

moco pome 

As I fell asleep last night I could not get the goofy "moco pome" out of my head.

And if you see
A moco on my
Bigote -

Don't suffer
My shame and
Don't punish
Me with silence...

Tell me about it!

So silly but actually, generally applicable to everything, not just boogers, and an admirable sentiment. If I'm being an idiot... Tell me about it! (that's why I have comments eh?)

I think part of the funniness is the "POME" part where you want to go "po-me" at first not realizing that we have switched languages to an odd spelling of "poem".

Sunday, March 07, 2004


I forgot to say this. It was kinda cool to see Gómez-Peña in a crinoline and red high heels performing with the queerest of the queer the other night at 848. I don't care if he is actually a Real Pervert or was just dressing up in a costume, and in fact if he is not a Real Pervert it's actually even better and braver to come do that and that's what coalitions are about. It nice to see hybridity and postmodernism put its macho where its mouth is.

The mechanical conductor/Hitler elocutionary declamacion cyber-arm was quite oddly disturbing.


So brilliant and masterful & such perfect fluid limpid grace of language and leaping (right there in the middle between "Wouldn't one's" and "Alas, a sealed-forever heart!" holy mother of god there is a golden moment of poetry!

pues que dificil a ser politico y apasionado pero no didactic, What a stripping. "My heart laid bare" claro que he read or lived Rimbaud. living in the moment of uncertainty.

There are ways in which gaba readings of El Louie sentimentalize in the worst way and how it is easy for us/them to hear. it gets coopted very easily. I have seen it in action. Louie being buried over and over! I am glad he is not dead but it's painful to see the "hmmmm" moment of his humdrumization and burial and exhumation as the myth and oh the barrio/ghetto but do you palo alto poets ever cross the lines of your own highway? The "hmmmm!" and the nod and little smile AS IF SOMETHING ESSENTIAL HAD BEEN UNDERSTOOD. It's not FOR usthem that way. No. This is not that.

I'm not the man... but I am The Man... and this applies to forgiving the rapists as well as anything else (better gendering/un-gendering poem than any "mayan princess" blowhardia)

I hope this is Fair Use:

In the cold compassion
Of my bosom
Habrá perdón
My destructors?

To find warmth
Hard-frozen -

When the thaws of
Primaveras have
Come and have gone
   Sería imposible -

Wouldn't one's
Uneasy adversary
   think the same
   heridas that
   expose the heart
   of the heart

Surely welcome
El calor de los
Rayos - rays of
Warmth, however
   Wouldn't he?

Indeed, si el acero
Which pierces deja
Una funda que repela
El calor

   ...sealing hurts
   forevever. Y las
   recompensas se vuelven
   las red-hot scars

That defy the time-healing-time
That fails, and so, and so,
The mind inherits
the burden of
Del pasado.

Mind is not,
Alas, a sealed-forever heart!

La mente, al contrario,
Is an omniscient,
Unyielding thing

And remembers!

Where does it find
Compassion to forget long
Enough to


-- José Montoya, 1971 from In Formation: 20 Years of Joda

Busting open language and logic is necessary

also note the movement between formal and informal english (as I am less good on formal vs informal spanish i can't always tell but I feel it sometimes)
in other poems you get english dialects, hick, brit, etc...

ThE CRYPTOGRAPhA's traitorous footnotes anotaciones

montoya notes 

I have to say... "Pobre Viejo Walt Whitman" is a great poem. I have read it 50 times and am still having that "huh? I'll read it again" moment. Every time I read it again, in this enjoyable circularity, I feel a deeper intuitive understanding. It is unsettling in the best way.

It is rare for a poem by one poet about another to achieve this level of depth, vision, and un-boringness. I feel sure that no one else on the planet has said what Montoya has said about Whitman. I am trying to jump blind into the stone footsteps of a dinosaur following printed dance instructions, a chart with shoeprint footsteps, and my feet don't fit and my eyes are in a different place, how can I imagine what color the dinosaur is? What, what, what? Thank you!

Commenting up 20 years of Joda and noting translations for myself like insane gaba cryptographer, laughable, but, here I am with "dictionary of chicano spanish" in hand and then figuring out other things - often simple things that throw me for a loop. "hechen" and I'm like huh? again, instantly guessing echar from context with a slangy "h" but wondering if it's a play on hecho, created constructed made. I think yes.
Y qué nos queda, hermanitos?

To look out at a gravel path

Esperando al contratista.
Ahí viene el troque, hechen
Los sacos!

beginning wikipedia edits and investigation 

Already the Wikipedia is being so helpful.

Bilingualism useful terminology I will now go back and apply to stuff i was trying to say earlier

non-convergent discourse this often happens when people are trying to talk to each other in 2 languages

Thursday, March 04, 2004

another funny etymology 

I just had a "Beavis and Butthead" moment while reading the preface to In Formation. Montoya mentions that if you mispronounce joda with an english J sound it sounds like "chora", "barrio slang for phallus". I realized maybe this is the etymology of the word "choad".

heh heh heh.

Yes, I am easily amused... like Beavis...

paz and montoya 

In high school I had a giant poster of Octavio Paz on my wall.... like a rock star...

I have a funny image in my mind now. a diptych. one side is that photo of Paz and the word CHINGA and other side is a photo of Montoya and the word JODA superimposed

If it were a triptych what would the third panel be?


I realized last night that earlier my neighbor had used some variant the word "blichear" as we were talking about doing our hair. (mine is purple, hers has red streaks). I was wondering about how these words are made. For instance I said "blogear" the other day. Why blogear and not blogar or blogir? It just FELT right. I guess -ar verbs are the most common. But why did I want to make it -ear? I am not sure.

I will look online and see what other people say. I am not sure what verb people use (or what "bitácoras" means. will investigate.) For sure people say "el blog" and "unos bloggers" and "emailear". Pues este aparece bastante &uuacute;til: diccionario del cyberspanglish

I also hear "el Web" said around here (in the public library usually) - not "el Red" much less "la Telaraña Mundial".

Just got my Dictionary of Chicano Spanish. This independent study class is tempting me to madness with the used book buying online. Only $5.00 for a fabulous dictionary! $6.00 for "Action: The Nuyorican Poets Cafe Theater Festival" which turns out to be a 500 page hardback book with an interesting color cover. What a bargain.

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