If interested in having me for a reading, class visit, or conference/festival, please contact me at lorcaloca AT aol DOT com

Friday, June 25, 2010

Illegal is Illegal

"That stupid tautology is what passes nowadays for thinking in today’s debate on illegal immigration. It’s stupid, because instead of explaining or justifying anything, that tautology glosses over the complex context of undocumented workers in the United States, and how many of us benefit from their work. With such glibness, we wash our hands of understanding their plight.

It’s good to be a hypocrite in this country on illegal immigration. It’s rare anybody calls you on it; it’s rare self-satisfied hypocrites do any reflection. Illegal is illegal. That’s it. Case closed. I’ve even seen that slogan trumpeted on political placards in upstate New York.

I was in Missouri last week, staying at a nice hotel, paid by the school which brings me in to conduct writing workshops. As I was editing and grading stories and essays from my students, there was a knock on the door. Two women with cleaning carts smiled sheepishly as I opened the door, and said in heavily accented English they would come back later.

I beckoned them in, saying it was okay. As I worked, I heard them chat in Spanish about Mexico defeating France in the World Cup. I introduced myself in Spanish, told them my parents were from Chihuahua, and saw their jaws drop. Yes, we were all Mexicanos, the guy in the oxford shirt with the Macbook in front of him, and the ladies who were cleaning the toilets and vacuuming.

I spoke to ‘Julia’ for a while, from Guerrero. She told me she desperately wanted to learn English, but had no time. “Trabajo dos trabajos. Diez y seis horas seguidas, y no me da tiempo.” That is: “I work two jobs. Sixteen hours back to back, and I don’t have the time.” She smiled a toothy smile while she said this, and my heart wanted to break. I asked her how they treated her at this hotel, and she said the manager was extremely nice to them. Julia told me she sends money back home every month, to her family in Guerrero.

What is remarkable to me is how often this scene has been repeated in about every hotel I have stayed in America. A few months ago, I was in Denver at an annual conference of writers. At one of the fanciest hotels in the Mile High City, again an undocumented worker was cleaning my room. I chatted with ‘Maria Teresa.’ As we spoke on the second day, she was almost teary when I handed her a signed copy of my first book, The Last Tortilla and Other Stories. I told her to have her children read her the stories. I almost lost it myself when she responded, as we said goodbye at the door’s threshold, that she wanted her children to become like me.

These are the people who are the overwhelming majority of the undocumented workers vilified by the idiots in Arizona, and elsewhere, as illegal immigrants. They are the salt of the earth. Many of them are desperate to be Americanos. But Americans already in power, many of Italian, German, Irish and Scandinavian descent, have forgotten how their grandfathers and great-grandmothers came to the New World. We want our hotels clean, and cheaply, so we can profit from the labor of Latin American workers.

We want our strawberries and apples picked beautifully, without bruises, and cheaply. But we turn the other way and somehow don’t hear when someone explains how this is possible at high-end markets like Fairway or Zabar’s in Manhattan, or across the country at Stop & Shops. Who is in the fields picking our fruit, for hours under the merciless sun? Who cares! Illegal is illegal, they say happily, as they stuff another strawberry in their faces at the Marriott.

I instead talk to undocumented workers, especially if I see them working diligently to make our country better. I ask the how they are. I listen to their stories. And I can only respect them in return. That’s the decent thing to do. That’s the right thing to do. When did we become so callous?

Again, this week as I walked on Broadway, in front of giant photographs of voluptuous supermodels at a Victoria Secret mega-store, who was rebuilding the sidewalks? With sweaty headbands, ripped-up jeans, and dust on their brown faces? Their muscled hands quivered as they worked the jack-hammers, and lugged the concrete chunks into dump trucks. Two men from Guanajuato. Undocumented workers. They both shook my hand vigorously, as if they were relieved I wasn’t an INS officer.

I imagined how much money Victoria Secret was making off these poor bastards. I wondered why passersby didn’t see what was in front of their faces. We use these workers. We profit from them. In the shadows, they work to the bone, for pennies. And it’s so easy to blame them for everything and nothing simply because they are powerless, and dark-skinned, and speak with funny accents. Illegal is illegal. It is a phrase, shallow and cruel, that should prompt any decent American to burn with anger."

Sergio Troncoso

steve fellner on neil de la flor

For a new gay poet, who no doubt wants to be read, it is a risky choice to mine the unabashedly comic, especially when it doesn't emerge from camp or self-deprecation...

i just have one word for you:


Tuesday, June 22, 2010

My iTunes 25 Most Played

O, Dear Readers!

I know you want to know. Yes, you do. Know what?? Well...You want to know the 25 songs I listen to most on my laptop. Crazy interesting, no? Yes, yes, it is. So without further delay....

1. French Navy: Camera Obscura
2. Getting Away With It (All Messed Up): James
3. Lloyd, I'm Ready to be Heartbroken: Camera Obscura
4. High and Dry: Radiohead
5. A Letter to Elise: The Cure
6. Don't Stop the Music: Rihanna
7. Fake Plastic Trees: Radiohead
8. I Had a Love: Blue Angel (Cyndi Lauper's first band)
9. Spring Love: Stevie B.
10. Only You: Yaz
11. Nude: Radiohead
12. Between Something and Nothing: The Ocean Blue
13. Eighties Fan: Camera Obscura
14. Libros Tontos: Bronco
15. Keep It Clean: Camera Obscura
16. All My Friends: LCD Soundsystem
17. Ballerina Out of Control: The Ocean Blue
18. Weird Fishes/Arpeggi: Radiohead
19. Show Me What I'm Looking For: Carolina Liar
20. Closer: Travis
21. Brilliant Disguise: Bruce Springsteen
22. Wake Up Call: Maroon 5
23. With Every Heartbeat: Robyn
24. Fugitive: David Gray
25. Take Me Out: Franz Ferdinand

What do you think? Not very gay, right? That surprised me, too.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Looking for an online writing community?

"Swirl and Swing is a community of serious writers who are committed to writing every week and, just as important, to critiquing the writing of others. We like to maintain a group of about eight writers so there is always something on the table and always a conversation going. The group values critiques that don’t stop at “I like this” but delve into what’s likable about it, what’s working and not working, whether the piece is heading in its most advantageous direction, whether there is room to push forward. The atmosphere is safe, welcoming and non-judgmental. We love experimentation and maintain a space where failure is encouraged and celebrated as the only way to create something verdant and new. I like to think of the group as an estuary where we can all be little fish together before we venture out of the reeds into the open water. Please click HERE to see a description of how the group works. If you think you might be a good fit, send a couple sample poems and a brief bio. Someone from the group will respond to you shortly."

Sunday, June 20, 2010

wild nothing bits

i was going to drive to the cantomundo retreat happening early next month but then i realized it was going to take me about eight hours to get to alburquerque. eight hours is a long time, folks. also, i was going to drive alone. myself. in a car. with hundreds of miles to drive. no thank you!
so i just booked my flight on southwest airlines. little more than an hour each way. what a difference!
love love love this track: chinatown by wild nothing.
have i told you how excited i am about the cantomundo retreat? i just can't wait. cynthia cruz is going to be there!
Like a Jose Garcia Villa poem, it was magical...
the macdowell colony cut some wires: I’m writing this from the MacDowell Colony, an artist’s retreat in the woods of New England, and I am sitting in the one spot on the property with Internet access. There used to be two buildings wired here, but apparently the place was taking on the continual-partial-attention quality of a midtown Starbucks, with everyone hunched over their laptops after dinner instead of talking to each other...
i have a lot of titles. but no poems.
also love love love this track: summer holiday by wild nothing. the song brings to mind early joy division, no?
the library at the macdowell colony was one of my favorite places to hang out. i would often go there in the middle of the night or early in the morning; i loved being there alone. i would tinker on the piano, i would close my eyes and think of life on other planets, i would read and read.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

change is good (bits)

not happy with my drafts these days. it hurts to open the "revise" files on my laptop. all those jumbled words/ lines!
bloggers everywhere are updating the look of their blogs! he added books. she added a flock of birds.
i have a killer ending for a poem. unfortunately, i have no beginning. or middle.
confession: i still listen to a-ha. correction: i still love a-ha. the band is breaking up later this year. they just released their last single: butterfly, butterfly (the last hurrah). it's vintage a-ha: melodic, bittersweet.
Bill Murray loves poetry!
i want to write a good poem. is that too much to ask for?

Monday, June 14, 2010

Hottie of the week: Benny Feilhaber (USA World Cup Team)


i should really shower.
still thinking about moving out of arizona. researching some stuff.
Five New Queer Voices To Watch Out For
i'm a terrible speller. i have always been one. the other day i misspelled the word "breast" in a draft.
there's a lot of breasts in my poems. gosh, i sound like a pervert.
love this: I think it was Tomas Tranströmer who said that poetry was like the notes kids pass back and forth in the classroom (now they are texting each other), while that teacher History drones away at the podium.
echo/ hecho/ echo/ hecho/ echo

Sunday, June 13, 2010

PSA: What's American About American Poetry?

Joshua Marie Wilkinson: If your schools of poetry keep you from dissimilar poems, your losses are legion.
Cate Marvin: The female writer in this country confronts a constant and enduring insult: she is "equal," yet she is not recognized. There's no other way to say this: women's poetry in this country is kicking some very serious ass. So, if you ask me, Look out. I'm no gardener, but I like to think some of the strongest plants grow in the shade.
Dante Micheaux: Being able to express my homosexuality through poetry constantly reminds me that I am American.

congrats, peter!

The Department of English and the MFA Program in Creative Writing at Virginia Commonwealth University are pleased to announce that The Lions by Peter Campion was selected as the winner of the 2010 Levis Reading Prize, awarded in the name of the late Larry Levis for the best first or second book of poetry published in the calendar year 2009.

Friday, June 11, 2010

oh my

there's a poet on facebook who keeps updating us on the ranking of his just-released book on amazon.com.

he's selling more than wallace stevens!
he's not selling as well as matthew dickman!
he's selling more than jewel!
he not selling as well as jorie graham!

if i start doing this shit when my book comes out, please feel free to call me out.

thank you.

bits and bits and bits

i'm feeling restless. i need to pick up my feet and walk out of the desert. i'm hungry for new landscapes, for new connections, for a new life.
do you like my fish? don't forget to feed them! left click! left click!
oh robert hayden!
i want to move to the pacific northwest. seattle or somewhere in oregon. i want the rain to punish me.
triquarterly online is launching soon. the first installment will feature the work of william gass, antonya nelson, steve almond, achy obejas, thisbe nissen, jenny boully, michael anania, alan shapiro, and others. read their blog here.
rain, rain, rain, rain.

Untitled (Perfect Lovers): Two Commercial Clocks: Félix González-Torres: 1991

In one interview, he said "When people ask me, 'Who is your public?' I say honestly, without skipping a beat, 'Ross.' The public was Ross. The rest of the people just come to the work."

Wednesday, June 09, 2010

Ni Una Mas: Drexel University

Major Art Exhibition, ARTMARCH, Film Screenings, Concerts and Lectures Will Bring Attention to the murders of over 700 Women in Juarez, Mexico

Ni Una Mas is a powerful Drexel University-wide collaboration of academic, student and institutional departments intended to raise awareness about gender violence and, in particular, crimes against women in the Mexican bordertown of Juarez. The cornerstone of Ni Una Mas is an art exhibition featuring over 70 works of art by twenty international artists, including Yoko Ono, Kiki Smith, Nancy Spero, Irish activist painter Brian Maguire and local artists Arlene Love and Jen Blazina. Work of noted forensic artist and Philadelphia native Frank Bender will also be included in the exhibition. Ni Una Mas will demonstrate to students and the Philadelphia region that art can be a force for social change.

Complete info here.

You can view the catalouge here.

Pete Turchi on Making the Most of a Writing Workshop

One of the most useful things a workshop can do for the writer is to reflect the intention of the work back to her.

Tuesday, June 01, 2010

Hottie of the week: Senator Scott Brown

dancing girl press chapbook series

dgp is happy to accept manuscripts from women poets for publication in our annual chapbook series. We plan to publish 10-20 chapbooks per year chosen from the best of the manuscripts we receive.

Submissions are currently OPEN.
Submission period: June 1st-August 30th, 2010

Complete guidelines here.

one of my favorite poems

At Darien Bridge

The sea here used to look
As if many convicts had built it,

Standing deep in their ankle chains,
Ankle-deep in the water, to smite

The land and break it down to salt.
I was in this bog as a child

When they were all working all day
To drive the pilings down.

I thought I saw the still sun
Strike the side of a hammer in flight

And from it a sea bird be born
To take off over the marshes.

As the gray climbs the side of my head
And cuts my brain off from the world,

I walk and wish mainly for birds,
For the one bird no one has looked for

To spring again from a flash
Of metal, perhaps from the scratched

Wedding band on my ring finger.
Recalling the chains of their feet,

I stand and look out over grasses
At the bridge they built, long abandoned,

Breaking down into water at last,
And long, like them, for freedom

Or death, or to believe again
That they worked on the ocean to give it

The unchanging, hopeless look
Out of which all miracles leap.

James Dickey


AWP received 981 event proposals for our 2011 Conference & Bookfair in Washington, D.C. This is the most proposals we've ever received. Accepted panels will be announced in early August.
Wow. Keeping my fingers crossed that one of the proposals with my name attached gets picked. I don't want to miss another AWP.
CantoMundo is fast approaching!
Literary Novelist Turns to Vampires and Finds Pot of Gold
Charles Jensen: I got to the Lammys late because my publisher, Steve Berman...
We all should start writing novels about zombies.
Today was about more than me being sad or weepy for no good reason. It was about me sitting at my desk and wondering if there was in fact a place for my poetry (or any poetry) in this world?