Monday, May 14, 2007

Acentos Recap, Anticipating(?) Lavoe, and Other Matters

1. From South Bend to the South Bronx

Francisco Aragón, the Latino poet.for.all.seasons who writes this blog and directs Letras Latinas at Notre Dame, gave a stellar reading at Acentos last Tuesday.

It's easy to say that with his work on page, every word has weight, every line break is essential, and there is no wasted space. What's interesting to me is how all that careful writing translates into the reading of the poem. This is the part where I could easily slip into a defense of spoken word. But truthfully, most (not all) of the folks doing it today have no regard for the concept of lines, and they rush through the work like a bull in a three-minute china shop. Francisco does not come from this school, and we're all the better for it. He was not rushed, he allowed the words and breaks to guide his voice, he paused and pronounced the imagery with the same weight they carry on the page. This is clearly a poet most comfortable with crafting images I'd like to read, but he surprised me by showing those same images to me with his voice as well. In other words, the writing crafted the performance. Shouldn't it always be this way?

So here's a topic for discussion. Poets. How do you "see" a poem? Are you a listener first, or a reader first? How did/does your initial forays into the world of poetry color your tendencies?

Also last Tuesday, we were thrilled to have such an amazing cast of characters in attendance, most of whom did pieces on the open mic. Fish was there, of course. A returning favorite, Renato Rosaldo, was in the house, as was Jaime El Maestro, Ray Medina, Aracelis Girmay, Felix Rivera (who brought company), and John Murillo. Jessica Torres brought a student (also a former student of mine), as did John Rodriguez. Eliel Lucero brought his significant otra, always nice. And everyone got to hang together, a veritable sancocho of brilliant Latino poetic minds. This is how I want every Acentos to be: home. Home for anyone with a brilliant piece to share, regardless of the language, regardless of the outcome on the open mic. This is our community, and I can't wait to see it grow out. I'm very gratified to hear that Francisco enjoyed the open as much as he did, and I further hope that some of the Acentos heads can make it out to Chicago for a Palabra Pura reading. I think I might, very soon.

2. El Cantante--The Real Thing, or Piñero II?

So the movie about Hector Lavoe's life comes out on August 1st, with Marc Anthony in the lead role. I'm a massive salsa fan, so hearing and seeing Marc sing Hector Lavoe's repertoire is going to be a kick in the ass for me.

I must admit a little bit of apprehension about the movie though. It's written and directed by Leon Ichaso, who is now on his second movie biopic about tragic-ass Boricuas. Apparently, they're telling the story from Lavoe's wife's perspective—not surprising, considering that the wife is played by Jennifer Lopez (who also produced). This actually could be interesting, because you wouldn't expect the most macho of hombres having his story told from the wife's eyes. I'm still willing to give it a chance, but let's just say I have my doubts. The very idea of Jennifer Lopez starring in the Hector Lavoe story will get people's hackles up, especially after such gritty melodramas as "Maid in Manhattan" and "The Wedding Planner." She has about as much street cred as I do. (Which is to say, zero.)

Still, I and about three million of my fellow Boricuas will end up seeing this movie. I just can't shake the feeling this will be a big-screen hatchet job fiasco on par with Piñero. Oh yeah, and what in the name of Walter Mercado is the deal with all these Puerto Rican junkies in the movies? Don't get me wrong, I love Hector Lavoe as much as the next guy, but really, a few of us DID manage to get famous without shooting up. Anyone ever told Leon Ichaso about Pedro Albízu Campos? They are making a Che movie. I'm just sayin', Leon. I'm just sayin'.

3. O.B. Writin' Dat Hot Fiyah!

Coming soon to the blog: A full-on, foofoo review of Oscar Bermeo's Anywhere Avenue, a new chapbook from the founding curator of Acentos. I do not intend to write some fluff job, either...this will be my first foray into the arena of literary criticism, and I want to start honestly, albeit with some familiar territory. The first edit job I ever got from a fellow poet was Oscar's take on a poem I sent him over (yes, I remember my roots), and he proceeded to hack the shit to pieces. I still don't agree with him on the edits, but I can promise this will not be retribution. And hopefully, it won't bore people to death, either. I want to retain some semblance of silly-serious me and still be a good critic. Is that possible? I guess we'll all find out together.

What I can say unequivocally, before you guys see the full report: Oscar has grown leaps and bounds from the tentative Poeta (with a capital P!) that I met in 2003. His voice is expanding, expansive, and layered. He's got a better grasp on poetry now, but more importantly, he has a better grasp on HIS poetry.

Hungry? Why wait? Check out Mr. Bermeo right here. And his blog here. Drop him a line and maybe you too can explore Anywhere Avenue.

4. Richie is Pathetic and Wants Your Pity

The lady is in London until May 31st. Someone, please, throw me a conversation over here!

Seriously though. If you happen to be in London, or know anyone who will be, tell em Tara Betts is on that side of the Atlantic. They weren't ready for Stonehenge, and they ain't ready for La Betts. The rest of her U.K. itinerary is right here on her MySpace page.

That's it for now, kids.

Paz, pasteles, y mucho mucho pero mucho amor...


barbara jane said...

hi rich! for sake of "throwing you a conversation here," let me put this out there, from our last couple of emails:

a couple of things on line, since you bring up cecilia vicuña: it's interesting what she ends up doing with line in INSTAN, in terms of physically demonstrating it on the page, and then in performance, when she brings out actual string and moves with it, and thus, makes these enactments of line.

i believe, in many ways, that even in oral tradition, and even without referencing written text, we can still talk about line and its significance as a unit in storytelling, song, and other poetic forms predating the written word. whether it's in 'refrain,' or chorus, or call and response, or whether it's in the teller's asides, when s/he slips out of the narrative to directly address his/her congregation, then slips back into the narrative.

and then of course, there's the end rhymes and meter, the pneumonic devices for recitiation, and which determine line.

... so then, the thing i was originally thinking about 'honoring' the precision with which we write each poem, i am thinking that in considering oral tradition, our emphases change through constant retellings. still, i also think that we don't 'use' the line break the same way that it was used when there was a total reliance on the oral transmission.

Francisco Aragón said...

I'm glad to hear you are going to forray into poetry reviewing. Perhaps LPR can pair you with a book to review at some point...or an essay on a particular Latino poet's work....or an e-interview with someone. Let's talk.

Juan Duque said...

I ain't much of a poetry person, unless it s borges. Yet, i like yer blog; found it looking for posts of h lavoe. I imagine you know R. Peña? Anyhoo, check out my music blog:

Most of it ain't full latin, but hell, who is.