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

Sunday, October 31, 2010

manuscript blues (bits)

yesterday, i sent off my ms to a contest. i'm sending it off again tomorrow. and a few more times in mid-november.
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david welch: you are my favorite hipster of the corn. thank you once again.
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today i found an interview with carl phillips via c. dale young's blog. in the interview mr. phillips talks about his upcoming yale judging duties, unbiased readings, what he expects in a collection. but the last paragraph of the interview really caught my eye:

...I believe the biggest problem with the majority of manuscripts that are sent out is that the writers themselves know they have not yet put together a manuscript of work that they entirely believe in. They have often been convinced by many of their teachers that they should put the best work up front, hide the lesser work in the middle, then close with a bang. But why submit a manuscript where you feel any of the work is lesser? I recently spoke with a poet who was pleased to have read a book in which five of the poems were wonderful. That isn’t enough, for me. I want everything to be wonderful. There are many who would say I’m expecting too much. But lower expectations are, to my mind, the reason why there are so many unsatisfying books of poems in the world.

poet after poet, teachers and peers, have told me to put the good poems upfront, to put the so-so poems in the middle, and close with more good poems. i've always thought this was crazy and stupid advice: i don't want so-so or weak poems in my ms. that's one reason it took me so long to put a ms together. i kept tossing out the weaker poems, the poems that didnt' fit. which meant that i had to write new poems. and i'm a slow writer, people. slow, slow, slow.
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the ms i sent out is pretty slim: 51 pages, and i've organized it like this:

1st section: 23 pages
2nd section: 9 pages
3rd section: 19 pages

the middle section is my code-switching poem, my best (I think) and most "difficult" poem. a poem full of spanish slang, of references to mexican history and narco culture, a poem that steals language from robert hayden and border corridos. i did not place my lesser work in the middle. gosh, that sounds so grandiose! but i believe it.
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i still can't believe i sent out my ms. i got real nervous when i handed it over to the clerk at the post office. i almost yanked it out of the clerk's hands. but instead, i closed my eyes until i heard the package drop into a bin. yes, i'm that pathetic.
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are you reading sandy longhorn's blog? i am really enjoying her posts.
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godspeed, my little poems.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Joanne, I can't wait to read your first book

MAY 25

Women have always inserted objects into orifices.
Swan feathers are offered to pacify the sea.
I once refused a gift of a toy.
The original rosary 165 rolled rose petals.
Think of the hands doing such affectionate work.
My birth on May 25 makes me a twin:
one of me immobile on the mattress,
the other never leaves the mountain.
Women have always inserted objects into orifices:
oiled snakes and molted stones;
sphinx moths and cygnet eggs.
After the execution of Christ
Mary Jacobe and Mary Salome
were exiled to the sea –
banished in a small boat without food, water, or sails.
Black Sara, queen of the gypsies
swam out and rescued them.
Now every May 25 the statues of Sara and the two Marys
are taken out of sealed boxes
from the crypt of Les Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer
and carried out on a boat to bless the sea.
Women have always inserted objects into orifices:
the tongue of a panther, the fist of a fox.
The juice of wild poppies drunk as anesthetic.
There are days when I can’t get out of bed.
Languor and legs weaving anamnesis and appetite.
Days when I can’t get wet, afraid of water.
So much is decided by the timbre of the sky,
by the particles afloat in my blood.
Somniloquy and the distillation of rose water.
The tongue extends itself to lilt on one’s own nipple.
Blessed by the visitation of pigeons on the lintel.
My hands tying together white sheets to make a ladder.
My hands unraveling the twine of a torn kite to the sky.

Joanne Dominique Dwyer

zone 3

from the review review:

The practice of publishing so many editors raises some serious ethical questions. How can unknown writers' unsolicited manuscripts compete with those of other editors? The latter might be good friends of the Zone 3 staff, or even people who promise to return the publishing favor sometime in the future. Thus we have to wonder--Is Zone 3 really open to discovering new talent, as their website claims? Or is the journal simply a forum for editor cronyism?

Timothy Bradford on Elisa Gabbert

Reader beware. Even with such emotional and human gestures, The French Exit is no catchy-hooks-got-you-on-the-first-listen sort of book. It intrigues and hides and even frustrates the first time through, enough so that you find yourself wanting another listen, and then another, and as the full complexity of what is happening unfolds, quantum like, you realize you’re holding a dazzling book that richly rewards those willing to sound and puzzle it out.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

po-biz chat

I posted this:

michael luis medrano: to think about the last decade of Chicano Literature is really a question about how I came into writing and why I’ve continued on this path. I can say the last ten years has brought many fine writers who could’ve had publishing careers if they would have stuck with learning the craft.

huh? michael, you are telling me if we chicano/a poets “learned” our craft then the publishing houses would beg to publish our work? you got to be kidding. often it’s not a question of craft. it’s about timing, good luck, and connections. look at you, craftmaster, your second ms is still looking for a publisher.


Barbara Jane Reyes responded:

So, I actually agree to some extent with Medrano, not specific to Chicano literature, but to writers of color. Once, a writer I know told me, upon publication of my second book, that I’d broken that “first book curse.” How many perfectly good poets, this writer asked me, have we just never heard from again after their first book. Why is that? What’s happened there? Sometimes writers gradually fall out of the rigor or discipline needed to see a book manuscript to completion. Sometimes it’s just real life that takes writers away from writing.

Now, as for Eduardo’s response back to Medrano, yes I agree it’s about timing, connections, and maybe even “luck,” if “luck,” means being at the right place at the right time with the kind of work that specific editors are looking for, though really, there are so many indie publishing houses representing so many different aesthetic preferences. So rather than luck, I believe in strategy. Mostly, I believe it’s about time well-spent on craft, especially when craft gives rise to good work, solid, interesting, brave, and unique book manuscript projects that we authors can confidently carry through to completion.

But this is I want to say about connections; yes, it is about connections when the connections are made based upon the merits of the previous work we have done and continue to do, rather than simply who you know, or who you brown nose because you believe you can get something from them. In my mind, that’s something for nothing. Thomas Sayer Ellis wrote, “Let the work Network.” I am with this, and I don’t think I am being naive, to continue to believe that good work is rewarded.

And here is the comment I left on her blog:

Barbara, I don’t disagree with what you wrote. In fact, I really like “strategy” instead of “luck.” Though you can’t deny that a lot of times it’s a matter of being in the right place at the right time. That’s luck.

Maybe I’m misreading Medrano’s response, but I am objecting to the idea that well-crafted poems, a good collection, will bring publishers running to the poet. Not going to happen. Well, not often. I’ve heard of publishers seeking out a ms based on the work they’ve read in journals. In these cases, the work is doing the networking.

But to tell emerging Chicano/a poets that well-crafted, interesting, brave work will be lead to publication, to a career, is misleading and dangerous. Poets of color need to learn the po-biz ropes. I can’t tell you how often I come across a young Chicano/a poet with no clue about the po-biz. They don’t how and where to submit. They don’t know about fellowships and residencies. They don’t know how to seek out others like them. They need to learn to nativagate the po-biz world with grace, kindness and dignity.

And I must confess: I have failed to show kindess and grace in this instance. The last sentence in my reply is snarky, and mean-hearted. For that, I apologize to Michael Luis Medrano.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

bits

hi, diana park!
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THE WATER’S PIETY IN DOUBT AND QUESTION: J. Michael Martinez
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This one-week residency includes lodging and continental breakfast on Orcas Island in Washington State.
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i need to stop stressing over my f**king ms. i'm this close to a nervous breakdown. a poet recently told me to "cool thy nerves." ha. i'm trying! i'm trying!
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are you sending out your ms this fall?
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ray rojas: i always ask these to all authors/poets: What did this last decade bring to Chicano(a) Literature?

michael luis medrano: to think about the last decade of Chicano Literature is really a question about how I came into writing and why I've continued on this path. I can say the last ten years has brought many fine writers who could've had publishing careers if they would have stuck with learning the craft.

huh? michael, you are telling me if we chicano/a poets "learned" our craft then the publishing houses would beg to publish our work? you got to be kidding. often it's not a question of craft. it's about timing, good luck, and connections. look at you, craftmaster, your second ms is still looking for a publisher.
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good lord, am i really that bitter and small?
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Thursday, October 21, 2010

hottie of the week: brandon flowers

manuscript update

i sent my manuscript to a few people. i am, like usual, consumed by self-doubt: it took a lot of mental strength to click the "send" button.

some folks are just going to read it; some will offer feedback. i asked those people to read the ms through the lens of these three questions/ concerns:

1. are some of these poems overworked? i think some of them suffer from my always-editing-disease. i'm thinking about the last seven lines of 'to alexei..." and the last couplet of "saint anthony's church" and the third section of "temple in a teapot..."

2. does this ms need a glossary?

3. does this ms feel like a weaving of two different manuscripts? i've tossed out so many older poems, and inserted newer poems. i think i've changed somewhat as a poet in the last five years. the older poems owe a debt to robert hayden, donald justice, gary soto, derek walcott, rita dove, david st. john. the newer poems owe a debt to c.d. wright, henri cole, bei dao, jean valentine, octavio paz. is the voice consistent? do the imagistic and thematic obsessions unit the older and newer poems?

maybe i'm asking the wrong questions.

sigh.

the madness continues.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

manuscript update

total pages: 51
number of sections: 0

i've tossed out the section breaks! the table of contents looks odd, but it feels right: an unbroken column of titles. no gaps between the titles. just a column of nouns, adjectives, and verbs, etc.

i am nervous about the change. it's drastic. i've spent years working on an order, and that work always included section breaks. i never once thought about getting rid of the section breaks.

until now.

section breaks weren't working for my manuscript; they were segregating my poems: surreal poems here, border poems there, family poems here. yes, yes, i know that's my fault. i couldn't find a way to cluster the themes/ motifs/ obsessions in my poems into sections that enhanced the reading of the collection. i failed.

once i took out the section breaks something happened: all the walls disappeared: i placed a border poem next a surreal poem and i saw for the first time (!!) the links between the poems. i saw how one poem lead the reader to the next. this happpened again and again.

but in a sense i still have section breaks. i'm using jarring juxtapositions as breaks in my manuscript. by placing a fragment poem right after a family lyric, i'm hoping to rupture the flow, to disrupt the reader's expectations.

i think it's working.

ha. famous last words.

Wendy S. Walters on Thomas Sayers Ellis

In "The Judges of Craft," Ellis cites his own rejection letters from literary journals: One editor dismissed a poem for being "too strident" in its assessment of racism; another felt its way of "addressing . . . the politics of the writing scene" wasn't novel enough.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Summer Kitchen Series: E-Talk

Daniel Nathan Terry

Ed Madden


Ron Mohring is making and publishing some beautiful chapbooks through Seven Kitchens Press. I met him in the fall of 2008 when I was living in Lewisburg, Pennsylvania. He's a humble and big-hearted poet. One afternoon he came over so I could help him assemble some chapbooks. He does all the stitching and folding by hand! He showed me how to properly fold the stock paper, but I don't think I impressed him with my work ethic: I talked too much while we worked on the chapbooks. Sorry, Ron!

This summer Seven Kitchens Press launched a limited-edition chapbook series focusing on LGBT authors. Daniel Nathan Terry and Ed Madden both had chapbooks published in the series. I asked them to talk about their chapbooks. Here is their conversation:

Ed:
Susan Meyers told me that I would love your work, when she saw that we were both in Ron Mohring's Summer Kitchen chapbook series --and she was right.  Honestly, as I read your book, I was moved over and over, but also I felt such an affinity for your book --such a connection to the imagery and themes and tone.  So I'm delighted to have made your acquaintance (even if only virtually) and to have this conversation.
 
Daniel:
As am I, Ed. It seems I’ve been circling your work for the last few years. Susan Myers also suggested that I read your work, after I gave a reading from Capturing the Dead in Charleston, but I think that was nearly a year before our books crossed paths at Seven Kitchens. It has also just occurred to me that a professor of mine at UNCW recommended that I read your book Signals shortly after its release, but the MFA reading list left little time for extras. It wasn’t until I read the other four chapbooks in the Summer Kitchens series that I encountered your poetry for the first time.
 
I was stunned by your book. I read the opening poem, “Dust,” at least three times before I could move on. What shook me about “Dust,” and indeed the rest of the book, was I felt I was reliving some of the most fragile and intimate moments of my own life. I wondered later, when my fiancé, Ben, was reading Nest, if he would connect as deeply to your words, even though he and I (unlike you and I) have such different backgrounds. The wonderful thing is that he did. It is one thing for a gay poet from rural South Carolina to identify so closely with the work of another gay poet from the rural South, but quite another for an Neo-Expressionist Painter from Milwaukee to feel that you’ve captured his experience as well.
 
I could go on for pages praising the precision of your language, the quiet beauty of your images, the breath and tone of the poems, but it was this immediate, powerful, and personal connection to the poems that first moved me and compelled me to recommend your work to others—but that’s what you do with good poetry.

Ed:  
I was stunned by your work too.  The poems for David, who died of AIDS, were so compelling and heartbreaking, but it was the final poem that gave me chills.  I read bits of the book to my partner to Bert as we were driving recently -- the title poem "Waxwings," "Nighthawks," the wonderfully thick opening poem "Scarecrow," and the last poem "After the Storm."  That final poem is such a stunning poem -- and such a stunning love poem.  You're driving along, you see cemetery flowers scattered across the road, and your partner asks who picks them up.  At first you want to answer him literally, but you realize that's totally inadequate and absolutely not what your partner is asking.  So you want to be the person who can do something--put them all back.  "For you I want to be the man who knows which garish bouquet goes where."  And then, "for you, I want to be the kind of man who sees this sad morning as the evidence of a blossoming."  This poem keeps leaping forward in such beautiful ways: "as if the dead woke during the storm, threw back the covers, and danced in flowers and thunder until the sun came up."  That is beautiful.  I wish I could have written it.  I love that at first the speaker wants to be the kind of person who can do something to fix it, who knows who to fix it, but then realizes he really wants to be the kind of person who sees things differently.  Poetry is not about the doing, but about the seeing--seeing differently.  And still, all the way through, it's a love poem: "For you, I want to be the man...."  Stunning.

Ron Mohring used interesting prints in all of our chapbooks, but I love that he used a mourning fabric for yours.  So perfect, especially given this poem.

Daniel:  
How did you first learn about Ron and his press?
 
Ed:
I knew about Ron's Seven Kitchens Press through the annual Robin Becker Chapbook Prize, which I had entered.  Is that how you came to the series?  He emailed me about the summer series, and I was delighted he wanted to include Nest.  (By the way, did you read R.J. Gibson's winning chapbook, Scavenge?  Beautiful!)
 
Daniel:
Yeah, that’s how I encountered Ron Mohring and Seven Kitchens. It was a strange thing. I’d never entered an LBTG poetry contest before I entered the Robin Becker Chapbook Prize—somehow I never felt representative of the community. I suppose I thought of myself as too rural, too nature-oriented. I was surprised and thrilled to learn that my book was not only a finalist, but that Ron wanted to include it in the Summer Kitchen Series.
 
I am beholden to Ron. Not only did he do a beautiful job with the series, crafting each book so beautifully, he also introduced me to poems and poets that have enriched my life. And that’s good editing, good book making. And Ron excels at that, don’t you think?
 
(And yes, Scavenge, is a gorgeous book.)
 
Ed:  
Ron's books are beautiful.  It's interesting you said you didn't think you could be "representative of the community" because your work is maybe too rural or too nature-oriented.  I feel the same way sometimes, and I've often wondered why.  I remember, several years ago, an editor at a press telling me my manuscript was Southern and gay, and that it needed to be predominantly one or the other.  I wonder why we tend to think of the pastoral--nature poetry-- as nostalgic and regional.  I'd like to think that nature poetry can be deeply engaged with the social and the political, not just in contemporary environmental concerns, but as a way to interrogate who we are and how we fit or don't fit.  Like your poem about the anhinga --God, that's a strange Southern bird!-- where this central natural image functions in so many ways as a comment on the relationship between these two men, one stuck in his rural heterosexual life, the other desperate for flight.
 
I loved the birds in Waxwings, by the way:  cedar waxwings and anhingas (do you call them water turkeys?) and crows and ibis.  And the nighthawks --what a stunning little poem of lust!  I love nature poetry that is so attentive to the specificity and complexity of the natural world.
 
I also love the way so many of your poems move-- the leaps, the juxtapositions.  The title poem and the way it moves from observation of the natural world (and the seeming fitness and unity of it) to a little gay boy's fantasy of what his life might be like (it's almost like a number from Glee!), and that final line, that desperate desire for "a story / he can share."
 
Silence seems central to this book -- our inability to say what we want or need to say.  I sometimes tell my students to write a poem that uses an image from the natural world to say the thing that they can't or won't or shouldn't say, but there's something more disturbing and powerful to me about the silences in your book.  
 
Daniel:
Wow—I haven’t heard anyone call an anhinga a “water turkey” in years, but yes, the locals did call them that or “snake-bird.” I always found the latter so fitting, and sometimes I used that name. But once I found its proper name in a book, I always called it “anhinga.” I loved the sound of it--like a word of power, like a primitive spell. Names are so important—like in your title poem. You use the proper name of “shrike” rather than the colloquial “butcher-bird.” So important. The colloquial name, as wonderful as it is, overstates and would have, I believe, undermined this powerful and delicate poem. Whereas the sound of “shrike” suits the tone and tension of the poem, predicts but holds back the poem’s chilling ending.  
 
It is interesting how often we both speak through birds, especially when what must be said is, perhaps, beyond direct, human speech. In the haunting and mysterious poem, “Morning darkness,” I love how you begin with the anonymous singing bird that “has only one small song, which he sings // tirelessly.” You then move to the speaker—to his fear for the budding flowers that may be taken by an early frost, to his memory of childhood desires and unnamed emotions banged between chalk erasers, to his wonder and sympathy for the dead and what mattered to them in life. Near the end, we feel this cycle of desire and loss, this relentless vanishing of our lives, of our experiences, reaching out for the speaker as “Wisteria / embraces the back fence, the oak, fills / the yard with a syrupy scent.” This short poem seems to be a series of observations that are, at least to my mind, questions without answers which eventually lead the reader to ask the inevitable, dreaded question of human existence: Why? Your poem answers in the last lines “in the dark, / a bird repeats its small simple song, / repeats its small, dogged, insistent song.” I think this answer is brilliant and is the only answer possible to our lives—though it isn’t a direct answer, because life isn’t a direct question.
 
I suppose, for me, these asked and unasked questions are what haunt me the most about Nest. Perhaps these questions are akin to the silences you mentioned in my poems.
 
I must also mention how much I admire your ability to move between, to mix, what is often regarded as ugly (by some) with what is beautiful. I’m thinking of the images in “Dust” and “Viscous.” How lonely, terrifying, erotic, human and ultimately beautiful is your use of semen in those poems? You don’t have to answer that one. But I am fascinated by your ability to transform things, or to simply reveal what is intrinsically beautiful in things that are often thought of as common or crude—say, in the habits of a shrike, the contents of a barn, or the drying semen on the skin of the belly after sex, just to name a few moments in Nest.

Ed:  
Glad I don't have to answer that one!  I actually censored "Dust" once when I read it before--changed "cum" to "sorrow"--"rub your cum/sorrow into the dust."  Not sure what that says about me or the poem.  There's something almost too personal about those poems.  Again, I think there are some uncanny affinities in our work.  For me, "Dust" does what "Waxwings" does-- explores a young gay man's silences through images of the natural world in which he finds himself.  We're both writing about kids desperate to find a way out and to find a way to talk about who they are.  In some ways, I think we're still those kids.  Aren't we?

And for me, the silences in your book are so powerful.  Those dreams "cluttered / with impossible, / beautiful reunions."  Or the field that is "blank as an unwritten page."  The impossible, the unwritten, the unshared, the unspoken.

I can't wait to read more work from you.

Daniel:
And I’ll be rereading you until your next book comes out. It’s been wonderful getting to know you and your poetry, Ed.

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Daniel Nathan Terry, a former landscaper and horticulturist, is the author of two books of poetry: Capturing the Dead (NFSPS Press 2008), which was awarded The 2007 Stevens Poetry Prize, and a chapbook, Waxwings (Seven Kitchens Press 2010). His poetry has appeared or is forthcoming in Poet Lore, The Spoon River Poetry Review, Big Muddy and The MacGuffin. He holds an MFA in Creative Writing from UNC-Wilmington.

Born and raised in rural Arkansas, Ed Madden is an associate professor of English and gender studies at the University of South Carolina. His poems have appeared in Borderlands, Los Angeles Review, Poetry Ireland, Southern Humanities Review, and other journals, as well as in Best New Poets 2007 and the Notre Dame anthology The Book of Irish American Poetry from the Eighteenth Century to the Present. His first book of poetry, Signals (USC Press 2008) won the 2007 South Carolina Book Prize. A second collection, Prodigal: Variations, is forthcoming from Lethe Press in 2011. His chapbook Nest was published earlier this year by Seven Kitchens Press.

apply! apply!

Colgate University invites applications for the Olive B. O’Connor Fellowship in Creative Writing.

Writers of poetry, fiction or nonfiction who have recently completed an MFA, MA, or PhD in creative writing, and who need a year to complete their first book, are encouraged to apply. The selected writer will spend the academic year (late August 2011 to early May 2012) at Colgate University in Hamilton, New York. The fellow will teach one creative writing course each semester and will give a public reading from the work in progress. The fellowship carries a stipend of $35,500 plus travel expenses; health and life insurance are provided.

Applications should arrive by January 15, 2011. There's no application fee. Complete info here.

Monday, October 04, 2010

boxcar

the latest installment of boxcar poetry review is up and running!

tomas q. morin interviews robin ekiss

traci brimhall & gary mcdowell talk about book sections & aubades.

Saturday, October 02, 2010

saturday night bits

the stars complete the melody...
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i'm at a starbucks. and it's saturday night.
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raise your hand if you think i don't have a life.
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i'm working on a glossary for one of my poems. my facebook buddies know what i'm talking about.
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Welcome to the inaugural issue of Lavender Review. The theme of this issue is anything related to Sapphic: By Lesbians. About Lesbians. About Sappho. In Sapphics.
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it's raining! where? outside! i'm funny!
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waitlist again. keeping my fingers crossed.
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okay, you can all lower your hands. i know, i know: i have no life.

Friday, October 01, 2010

cantomundo 2011 guidelines

CantoMundo 2011 will convene July 7-10, 2011, in Austin, Texas.

Master Poets Judith Ortíz Cofer and Benjamín Saenz will each teach a three-hour craft workshop.

These workshops will center on a particular element of poetic craft that is of interest to the instructor. All participating poets will attend both workshops. CantoMundo 2011 also will include a reading and book-signing that will be open to the public.

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Please apply and please spread the word!