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Thursday, September 14, 2006

I'm Taking the Train Instead

The Poetry Bus is rolling and rolling. Check out pics here and here. Notice anything curious? A lot of white/Anglo/pale/ivory faces! Oh, don't get me wrong. The Bus has invited important emerging Afro American poets like Major Jackson and Tyehimba Jess. And the Bus has also invited other writers of color of various shades and hues. Wonderful! But where are the Chicano/Latino poets? Correction: where are the emerging Chicano/Latino poets?* I say "emerging" because a great number of the poets on the Bus are young, fresh voices. Do the people behind the Bus believe there are no emerging Chicano/Latino poets worthy of a bus ride? Chale!

Oh, don't get me wrong. There are some Chicanos/Latinos scheduled to read. Ray Gonzalez and Edwin Torres. I respect the work of these two poets, but they're not emerging voices. I noticed a couple of other Spanish-sounding names but I don't know these poets. I'm glad they're on board. Are these poets the only Chicano/ Latino writers in the USA? It seems the people behind the Bus didn't search very hard to find the emerging voices.**

Look at the reading tour dates and you'll notice something even more shocking: there's no Chicano/Latino poet scheduled to read at the Southwest stops. Sufferin succotash! The people behind the Bus have some balls. Check again. Santa Fe. Phoenix. Austin (It boils my blood that the reading in Austin is taking place on a street named after Cesar Chavez.) Hard to believe, no?

The Bus is whack. I bet the Bus doesn't even stop at Taco Bell.

I'm tired of watching Chicano/ Latino poets from my generation be passed over. I was planning on attending the Poetry Bus reading in Phoenix in October. I'm no longer going to attend. Not after I noticed this salsa-free tour. Hey, I have to laugh or I might burst with anger. I would've loved to hear Joshua Clover and Richard Siken read. I like their work. Did anyone catch that? I like the work of white/ Anglo poets! I don't only read writers of color. Imagine that! But it seems the people behind the Bus don't read the emerging Chicano/ Latino poets. Or perhaps they do read them, but thought they could get away without inviting them onto the Bush?

I'm calling out the people behind the Bus. Can you tell us why emerging Chicano/ Latino poets are not on the Bus? Do you even see us?

Somebody please tell me my eyes are playing a trick on me! Tell me your eyes see the names of emerging Chicano/ Latino poets on the tour date schedule. Tell me!

And no, I don't want to be invited to read. I'm tired of being a token. I will refuse an invitation. But I'm willing to help the people behind the Bus find other emerging poets. I'm nice.


Justin Evans said...

Poetry Bus

They interviewed me
for an opening on the bus
and said I was too white bread
too rural, that I didn't laugh
at all the right moments, sang
"O Beautiful" in Vietnamese,
smelled like I didn't smoke a pipe
or drink the right beer.

They told me they were looking
for emerging voices
but those voices could not
surface in ordinary places
or from towns which reminded them
of Atlantic City.

I told them so what? They said
they liked my words but I would
never appreciate the irony
of Lincoln, Nebraska seeing
I already knew what a farm was.

Josh_Hanson said...

Freudian slip of the morning: "Or perhaps they do read them, but thought they could get away without inviting them onto the Bush?"

Kelly in Nebraska said...

I went to it Monday night, and although there were things I liked about it, I was struck by how all the poets seemed associated with academics. Even the local poets who were invited to read were either professors at the university or grad students there. One was a professor at a neighboring college. Nebraska is full of community-based poets who aren't affiliated with academic institutions, but I couldn't see that any were included.

Francisco Aragon said...

Thank you for this post, Eduardo. I'd been thinking the same thing since I had a glance at the publicity associated with this tour, as well.

Shin Yu said...

Not a whole lot of Asian faces either, with appearances by larger names like John Yau and Arthur Sze. Was surprised too that Dallas, TX didn't make it on the tour thru TX.

Alan Cordle said...

No women on the Portland stop, from what I can tell. And to think, Zapruder called me a misogynist. WAVE = Whites and Villains Exclusively! Is this the bus that tried to run over the corpse of Rosa Parks?

Tony said...

Hm... They wanted me to host a reading in Eugene, tho' they never invited me to read.

I don't know if this has to do with me being a Chicano, or my poetry being generally weak, but in any case, I wasn't asked.

Eduardo, even though I might not always show it, we play for at least some of the same teams.


RC said...

Yes,if you don't speak up no one is going to hear you.Give em hell,Eduardo.By the way,I see the bus isn't stopping in Papalote or Tumbleweed.

Diana Marie Delgado said...


Um. Okay. Totally correct. Should I be boycotting? I know so many amazing emerging poets, chicana/a/os, and non pocs, and they are not being showcased.

Um. Okay (2nd time). Is this a generational thing? Maybe gen x'ers and y'ers and not being taken seriously because we are kind of out of the loop because we refuse to conform. This is a good thing (by the way).

Who knows.

Charles said...

A lucid critique, Eduardo. Bold and honest--two things I love about you.

Anonymous said...

I propose to anyone who wishes more poets of color were included in the tour: on the day the poetry bus comes to your state, ride the public bus and pass out poems by poets of color, read work in a public library or a shelter or a school... teach someone in the neighborhood who has never written a poem to write one.

Emmy said...

oops.. that "anonymous" should say "emmy"... didn't mean to be anonymous.

Anonymous said...

It was a pretty bad scene. All white. Completely dominated by young hipster men. A couple of women -- an afterthought.

Francisco Aragon said...

Salt Lake City, UT:

María Meléndez

Denver, CO:

Sheryl Luna:

Minneapolis, MN:

Venessa Maria Engel-Fuentes

Chicago, IL:

Carl Marcum

Paul Martínez Pompa

Jorge Sanchez

Milwaukee, WI:

Brenda Cárdenas

Roberto Harrison

Buffalo, NY:

Peter Ramos

Toronto, Canada:

Veronica Reyes

New York, NY:

Rigoberto González

Urayoán Noel

Steven Cordova

Lidia Torres

Cynthia Cruz

Ada Limón

Washington, DC:

Naomi Ayala

Richmond, VA:

Carmen Calatayud

Santa Fe, NM:

Valerie Martínez

Gabriel Gomez

Phoenix, AZ:

Eduardo C. Corral

San Francisco, CA:

Scott Inguito

Adela Najarro

Portland, OR:

Martin Lemos

Meng said...

This recently came to my attention, as I was just in Santa Fe, and Gabe Gomez (fellow College of Santa Fe alum) has recently moved back there & just published his first book ( http://www.nd.edu/~latino/poetry_prize/ ) & is certainly "emerging" & he should be reading...but I don't think he is.

I don’t know how set the reader schedule is, but the tour itself still has another month to go, so perhaps they will realize their oversight & rectify? I do hope so.

John Gallaher said...

It seems to me that if you don't like this literary event, you should have your own. Get your own bus and drive across country. I'm sure libraries would be happy to have you stop.

This tour is billed as “bringing innovative poetry to big cities and small towns.” One can argue the definition of “innovative poetry,” obviously, but know that they are trying for a specific thing on this tour. Each literary event really can’t be all things to all people.

At first glance, I did notice that Ray Gonzalez, Edwin Torres, and Héctor Ahumada are participating. I know that isn’t the percentage, or the generation, you’re wanting, but it also is not something to dismiss outright.

This is a tour sponsored by Wave Books, so it seems obvious that they would invite poets, first, who have published with Wave Books (and Verse Press), or who are otherwise familiar to them through similar presses (or people who are suggested by local organizers).

I think the event I went to in Omaha was a good event. I think a similar event sponsored by a different press or journal or organization, including the poets you mentioned, would also be a good event.

Emmy said...

I was the one who accidentally posted as anonymous for the first anonymous posting recommending more poets to read work by poets of color on public buses, libraries, etc., in their communities (not the second anonymous--I don't know much about this tour and have not attended any readings because I live too far from all of them). Anyway, I took a quick look at the bus tour webpages and see this "advertising" line-up or blurb(below): "Participating poets include Eileen Myles, James Tate, Cole Swensen, Dean Young, John Yau, Vijay Seshadri, Lewis Warsh, Joshua Beckman, Dara Wier, Juliana Spahr, John Godfrey, Joshua Clover, David Rivard, Noelle Kocot, Matthew Zapruder, Ann Lauterbach, Tyehimba Jess, Dana Levin, Hoa Nguyen, Jeff Clark, Richard Siken, Bob Hicok, Katy Lederer, Kim Addonizio, Arthur Sze, Catherine Wagner, Srikanth Reddy, Matthew Rohrer, Thomas Sayers Ellis, Bhanu Kapil and over 100 more." I admire many writers on this list, but correct me if I'm wrong... no Latina/o poets are mentioned in this list of 30, even though a few Latina/o poets are participating, and I don't think most people would call every one of these poets "innovative" (all poets are innovative, I suppose, though many of these poets would not make Silliman's list, for example). There is an obvious eye to ethnic, gender, and stylistic "diversity" in this list too but I'd say it's not completely representative of the 100+ poets participating (though I did not do the math, nor do I assume to know the complexity of everyone's identity, so I could be wrong). I am only pointing these things out to demonstrate what the perception of the project might say to the poetry community and the audiences in attendance. While I am not personally upset by this tour because I believe there are bigger issues to attend to, I do hope this conversation leads to the larger conversation and more poetry readings. I think it's healthy to point out perceptions to get the larger conversation started. Funding is always a huge issue with beginning big projects like this one so it's not like everyone could easily start such a project. And while I commend the tour for existing at all, I also think it's fair to point out perceptions about under representation to begin the larger conversation...

Francisco Aragon said...

I think Emmy is correct to contexualize this event and point to the larger conversation about the (in)visibility
of Chicano/a and Latino/a poets in certain venues.
This bus tour seems to have sparked a conversation I've been having in private with anyone who will listen for the last three years.

So someone has said that the this Bus tour is about "innovative poetry"... Well, in Milwaukee, where the tour was slated for a stop, Panamanian-born poet Roberto Harrison just published (he's having a reading tonight!) a collection called Counter Daemans, which was blurbed by non other than Ron Silliman. And Brenda Cardenas is there, who is doing among the most interesting things with inter-lingualism around. And yes, Brenda was featured at Poetry Daily on August 26, Poetry Daily being the only mainstream venue that has been quite good about representing Chicano/a and Latino/a poets in the past few years. Don Selby and Diane Boller have been exquisite on that front.

On the exact opposite spectrum is the most Chicano/Latino-less space of them all: Poetry Magazine. They are coming on there three-year anniversary since Christian Wiman has taken over (which is not to say that JP was much better, though he did publish Gary Soto now and then). I share the lone most compelling piece of data:
in three years, they have received numerous, I mean numerous books by Chicano/a and Latino/a poets. And they have commissioned for review a grand total of 0 zero. No Alberto Rios, no Lorna Dee Cervantes, no Virgil Suarez, no Luis Rodriguez, no Judith Ortiz Cofer, no Ray Gonzalez, no Sheryl Luna, no Maria Melendez--they have received books by all these people, and many others and not one line. One.

So yes, as Emmy says, it's part of larger conversation.

CLAY BANES said...

i think you're absolutely right and you should go to the reading and talk to people and engage and participate.

otherwise tomorrow's gonna be just another today.

Collin said...

Hell, they're not even stopping in Atlanta. Do I care...not really. This is basically a publicity tour for Wave books. Nothing to get too upset about. I sure ain't breakin' a sweat. Eduardo...let's get a bus and have nothing but Latino/Latina and Gay/Lesbian poets onboard and stop in nothing but Christian right wing towns. We'd scare the shit out of them. :)

john said...

Overall there is a point to all of this, but I think that it is apt to say it is an issue with poetry at large and not Wave's fault. But at anyrate, the reality is that if you want to be part of the group you have to engage the group, a boycott seems at best ineffective— as if to say, "I'm not being heard so I won't speak." Yes, speaking here is something, but not much. There are some important things being said here (and some silly things being said, yes, I am talking about you foetry), but until they are brought into the larger discussion they don't mean much.

In the end I have to think that accusations tend to not help. Regardless of what is going on, no one wants to talk to a person who (right or wrong) has called them a racist behind their backs. I think it doesn't help and I think it is disingenuous.

Sheryl said...

Well, maybe I missed something, but I don't recall anyone using the "r" word in this conversation.

The path of least resistance or resistance? Either way you turn it is a long hard path. To speak or not to speak. It is always a labyrinth.

Diana Marie Delgado said...


I don't think a boycott was said to be the answer, but put to question as one of a many possibilities.