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<<August 2014>>
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1. Beyond Boundaries Part II. Ten On the 5th of the 8th: On-line Floricanto

Beyond Boundaries: Networking and Workshopping in Lake Como, Italy, Part II

Guest post by Thelma T. Reyna.

Here's a link to Part I of Thelma's Guest post on Melinda Palacio's Friday column. That column opens like this:

I was invited by one of my publishers to attend a national/international conference they co-sponsored at Lake Como last month. This “Abroad Writers Conference” (AWC) was designed as advanced learning for published authors from the U.S. Their “faculty” included 4 Pultizer Prize winners and 2 National Book Award recipients teaching intensive one-week workshops. Embracing this rare opportunity, I headed to Lake Como in my first overseas networking, workshopping, poetry reading experience. . . . 

Debut Reading from My New Book

My poetry reading at Lake Como was a highlight for me. How often do we have the opportunity to “debut” a new book in Europe? Instead of reading poems from my two chapbooks (all the poetry readers read from their chapbooks), I chose my new full-length collection—Rising, Falling, All of Us. I also purposely selected poems that my workshop fellows had not seen. It was my way of breaking from the norm.

Comprised of published poets and other authors, it was a tough audience. Pulitzer Prize winning poet Rae Armantrout sat in the front row to my left. Next to her was Paul Harding, a Pulitzer novelist. The famed poet Nikky Finney sat farther back. One of the conference co-sponsors, editor and publisher of Kentucky’s Finishing Line Press, Leah Maines, sat in the front row to my right. For about 20-25 minutes, I shared my poems about famous and infamous people, real and make-believe, dead and alive: my “persona poems,” for this new book is a gallery of snapshots of people we know or wish we did, people we’ve read or heard about. My opening poem was appropriate for being in Italy, I told the audience: “Pope Francis.”

With much relief, I can say that the audience was engaged, kind, and receptive.                       
Reading in the lovely, architraved              
room of the Villa Galliata.   
My Poetry Workshop colleagues,
with Rae (in black jacket) in the center.
Looking to the Future…for All of Us

The next AWC is scheduled for Spain (http://abroadwritersconference.com/). Though I had never heard of these AWC’s, I learned that Como was the tenth. Others were held in France, Ireland, Thailand, and other exotic places. Sometimes some of the same top authors (“faculty”) teach the 15 intensive hours of each workshop. There is, thus, a cyclical consistency, with faculty and attendees making repeat appearances.

Regardless of where other AWC’s are held, I hope there will be greater ethnic diversity in attendees as well as faculty. At Como, Nikky Finney, a divine African-American poet and National Book Award winner, taught a workshop. Of approximately 50 attendees, I met 3 African-Americans and the 2 Asian-Americans in my poetry group. As stated before, I never saw other Latinos.

A colleague of mine believes that more ethnic minority authors are not involved in international venues such as AWC primarily for economic reasons. This may be so. AWC presenters, however, are subsidized; and this is where diversity can be injected into AWC as a jumpstart. Imagine if our Latino heavyweights, especially our Pulitzer Prize winners (See http://hispanicreader.com/2012/04/15/latinos-and-the-pulitzer-prize/) were included as faculty. Or if Asian-Americans, such as Amy Tan, taught workshops along with African-American authors. The more diversity, the better.


There are those who’ll say, “If Latinos are not in attendance, interest in them would be moot.” Perhaps. But if it is beneficial for all authors to have visibility in international settings, to build national networks for learning, collegiality, and visibility purposes, then a means must be found for Latino authors to do this. Perhaps this is a discussion for La Bloga or other literary forums. How can authors of color obtain necessary resources for enhancing our work, our careers on a broader stage? Can there be “common pots” of financial support, for example, that are identified, created, and nurtured? Or do these exist already? How can awareness of these be expanded and leveraged?

I know that, personally, going to Lake Como was worth my investment of time, money, and effort. I believe that, for months if not years to come, my experiences there will impact my work somehow. For example, I am still in email contact with several friends I met there, and at least two book projects in which I’ll be involved are under consideration.

Writing—as is true of any other complex, serious undertaking—requires ongoing economic sustenance. True, all authors, except the big names, struggle to an extent. And AWC is not a be-all, end-all resource. But we can see what is and work toward what can be…for greater benefits for greater numbers.
* * *
Photo by Jesus Treviño
Thelma T. Reyna, Ph.D., is the author of four books, including Rising, Falling, All of Us—issued in summer 2014. Reyna’s short fiction, poetry, and nonfiction have appeared in anthologies, literary journals, textbooks, blogs, and regional print media off and on for over 30 years. Visit www.ThelmaReyna.com

Ten On the Fifth of the Eighth: August On-line Floricanto
Mark Lipman, Odilia Galván Rodríguez, Devreaux Baker, Ralph Haskins Elizondo, David Romero, Antonio Arenas, Iris De Anda, Josefa Molina, Gerardo Pacheco Matus, Xochitl-Julisa Bermejo

Four years ago when La Bloga and the Facebook group, née Poets Responding to SB1070, launched this ongoing series of On-line Floricanto readings, energies and passions drove hundreds of poets to fashion thousands of poems, giving them an audience via postings on Poets Responding to SB1070: Poetry of Resistance, the group's current identity. From those, the Moderators nominated five poems to appear in On-line Floricanto.

Moderators of the internet group, founded by Francisco X. Alarcón, nowadays name five exemplary works for monthly publication in La Bloga's On-line Floricanto. The volume of work entering the literary churn had been so ample that On-line Floricanto went weekly.

In recent days, poets' voices rise again. Sparked by world events and increasingly empowered racism at home, a deluge of poetry floods the Moderators. Reflecting the upswell of expression, this month the Poets Responding Moderators advance ten voices, several of them familiar from those heard in poetry's initial throes of disgust at Arizona's state-sponsored hate.

"The Border Crossed Us" By Mark Lipman
"Collecting Thoughts from the Universe" By Odilia Galván Rodríguez
"Ten Aspects of The World Without War" By Devreaux Baker
"Murrieta’s Morning Sun" by Ralph Haskins Elizondo
"The Ladder - Anastasio Hernandez-Rojas" By David Romero
"Sin Fronteras" By Antonio Arenas
"Here" By Iris De Anda
"La Llorona" By Josefa Molina
"The Children of La Frontera" By Gerardo Pacheco Matus
"The Boys of Summer" By Xochitl-Julisa Bermejo

The Border Crossed Us
By Mark Lipman

I step onto land
where my ancestors
planted our family tree
over 1,000 years ago.

I have known no other sand
between my toes
under my feet
this is my only home.

One day though
a stranger arrived
sat down at our table
drank our wine
ate our bread
raped our women
burnt our village
then declared me illegal.

The color of my skin
the language on my tongue
the god that I chose to believe in
demonized in order to justify their cruelty.

The freedom that I enjoyed
my right to self-determination
gone, victim to yet another
military occupation.

My peace,
simply a broken olive branch
cut from the tree they tore down.

My home,
rubble, beneath the tracks
of their bulldozers.

All I have ever had
all that I’ve ever known
all, taken from me.

My blood,
turned into their gold.

My heart,
broken from generations
of lies and betrayals.

If you cut me, do I not bleed?

Crushed, beneath the boot of technology
by persons with no soul or body to touch

with no heart to feel

eyes, blinded by hatred
ears, closed to any reason
mouths, shut out of fear

comfortably tucked away in their beds
while human beings die in the streets
under the batons and artillery shells
of a militarized police state

Wrapping oneself in a flag
worse yet, a religion
while making excuses for genocide
sanctioning the murder of children.

News actors continue to blame the victims
force feeding us lies, calling us terrorists
because we were born onto the land that they coveted.

Who is the real enemy,
the one who believes in something different than you,
or the one uses what you believe in to change who you are?

There is no escaping the soul staring back in the mirror
regardless of the shifting lines on some map
human rights have no borders.

Collecting Thoughts from the Universe
By Odilia Galván Rodríguez

What do the stars say
about children dying
or is it their spirits
twinkling down
big smiles on their faces
there's no suffering there
At the border
people act less than human
frighten traumatized children
in yellow school buses
their small faces pressed
against the windows
they see
the gnashing of teeth
hear shouts of rage.
What kind of war
is being waged here
these children fleeing war
fleeing death
looking for a place to dream
or looking for what's left
of their family
that's already flown away
for fear or promise
We wage wars
support criminal
heads of State
murderous coups
the false war on drugs kind
the raining down bombs
on innocents kind
the scaring of innocent children
riding on yellow school buses kind.
And who do we help
does all this war make life better
who is the real enemy
in a land
where one percent of people
owns more wealth
than the rest of us put together and
can we be put together again

Ten Aspects of the World without War
By Devreaux Baker

This is the morning soldiers dismantle guns
And abandoned tanks become nesting grounds
For cranes and starlings

This is the morning that trees are planted in the ruins
Of village streets and bunkers become seed exchange
Stations for non-gmo farmers

This is the morning that prayer flags fly
From the highest buildings in cities
That ring the world with chants or songs

This is the morning that snipers learn
The ancient recipes for baking bread
And distribute their loaves for free

This is the morning long tables are set
In the middle of rubble strewn fields
And musicians gather to welcome everyone

This is the night where stars are recognized
In the deepest recesses of space
As a saving grace

And men, women and children
Drift into sleep where there are no longer
The faces of war…but only the sound of wind
In trees, or water forming waves
Against some forgotten

Murrieta’s Morning Sun
By Ralph Haskins Elizondo

Murrieta’s morning sun had beamed
with hope for hospitality and shelter.
Greyhound buses filled with teddy bears
and dolls drove into town today.

Little eyes peered out from tinted windows
searching for their welcome party.
Instead the darkened crowds had gathered
blocking out all rays of hope.

Their signs and chants eclipsed
the chance for children.
Buses stopped and turned around,
every child a delicate piñata
filled with fear, ready to be broken
with the stick of hatred.

And as the day wore down
the heavens blushed in shame.
Sickened by the hateful scene below,
the mourning sun plunged off the western sky,
it spilled its darkest red upon the land
and died. There are no children left
to mourn Murrieta’s morning sun.

The Ladder – Anastasio Hernández-Rojas
By David Romero

This poem was written during a session of Last Words: Giving Victims a Voice.

Is a ladder
San Diego
Is a ladder
My name is Anastasio
I know all about climbing ladders
I’m a painter
A roofer
They tell me
Coyotes or police
One day
I will fall off
In screams and shadow
In bones and blood
I smile
You’ll only fall
If you look down
Will only look down
If you’re too afraid
To climb
I’ve never been afraid
I know all about climbing ladders
I’m a painter
A roofer
This life is a ladder
Tijuana is a ladder
The desert is a rung
Parched lips are a rung
Dry throat is a rung
Blistered feet are a rung
Hours waiting for work are a rung
The bosses are a rung
Cheap pay is a rung
La migra
La policia
But between the cold steel
Is a view
Each view
More beautiful
Than the one before
My kids go to college
They find work
In the shade
Never have to spend a day
Climbing ladders in the sun
I buy my wife a car
One that doesn’t immediately break down
She puts her feet to the pedal to visit her cousin
It runs
A new washing machine
A dryer
They run
For the first time
My wife
Every child
They run
Under one roof
This house
This freshly painted house
Our house
Shines like the afternoon
It rests at the top of the ladder
I can see it
I can breathe it
I can taste it
Like when I rise from my work
And rest on my haunches
Look out over a roof
See the tiles
Near completion
Like a glass jar of money
Almost full
I can see it
I feel it
The border is a ladder
And I am getting closer
With each job
Each crossing
Even at night
I will climb
My hands will grasp each rung
Because I have to
Because I am almost there
My hands
“Hands up!”
Grasp air
“Hands up!”
I fall
“Hands up!”
My hands reach out
"Hands up!"
The ladder is gone
“Hands up!”
I hit
"Hands up!"
They surround
On the desert floor
More than a dozen
Black uniforms
Shouting figures
Malevolent faces
Illuminated by the glow of tasers
Striking like rattlesnakes
They sting and bite
I cringe and cry
Each kick is a rung
Each baton is a rung
Each kick is a rung
Each baton is a rung
Each kick is a rung
Each baton is a rung
So many, many rungs
Bones and blood
Somewhere far in the distance
I see San Diego
But where
Has the ladder gone?

Sin Fronteras
By Antonio Arenas

Sin fronteras caminamos por el mundo,
Gritando a los cuatro vientos,
Que viva la paz entre hermanos,
Y liberando nuestros sentimientos.
Libertad de pensamientos,
Libertad de expresión,
Libertad de correr bien fuerte,
Por la emoción,
Como vuelan libres las aves,
Cantando un estribillo,
De paz y amor,
Y Teniendo de coro a un pueblo,
Que canta con el corazón,
Queremos paz en la tierra,
Sin fronteras en ninguna región,
Sin discriminación de razas,
Ni convicción política, ni religión.
Sin fronteras jugamos al fútbol,
Sin fronteras nos inventamos los juegos,
Sin fronteras escuchamos la música,
Que viva el idioma de los pueblos.
Regresan las aves a sus nidos,
Porque no podemos regresar a nuestra tierra,
Si es una tierra de hombres libres,
Un manantial de paz y belleza,
Donde se respira un aire puro,
Que no tiene fronteras.

By Iris De Anda

here we are
after years
crossing borders
wings & wire
monarch butterfly
flutter over under
forest trees
storm clouds
arid deserts
spring flowers
hope in heart
future in fingertips
truth in tongue
I AM dreaming
this here now
this you I
this us them
we are all together
there was no time
no space
no borders
only jade spirals
obsidian death
coral life
growing blooming
touching creating
sleeping awakening
luz consciousness
la Mujer
rises morning sun
roja, amarillo, naranja
refleja reflects
a mirror
deep ocean waves
profundo azul
everywhere floating
lotus crying
daughters of desert
Mother Earth drum
mud feet
clay dance
bruja guerrera
lagrimas lapis lazuli
copal fire
after years
here we are

La LLorona/ Cihuacoatl
By Josefa Molina

Let me drop the withered bodies of my young
at your doorstep, children eaten
by the Beast or left to die in deserts
next to bone dry water tanks shot full
of holes by local cowboys with
delusions they were sheriff.

Let me drop my dying children at your feet,
praying for refuge from the coyotes that follow,
that you've fed, that salivate
over the fear-filled scent of frightened children.
Coyotes call, promising home, then slit
small, smooth, brown throats and devour their prey.

Let me drop my ghost children at your border,
hoping for compassion in a land where full~ bellied,
ranting "Patriots" want to send them back
to the slaughter they've risked life and limb to escape.
"Patriots" cursing and spitting out jagged shards
of hate that dismember with a familiar terror.

I howl with anguished cries as I mourn
my sons and daughters. If only I could feed them
with my withered breast and let them drink salty tears,
I might save them. Instead, I'm left to wail
each dread full night, as I gather up the remnants
of their souls and softly call them each by precious name.

Copyright: 2014
Josefa Molina, PhD
All rights reserved.

The Children of La Frontera
By Gerardo Pacheco Matus

we are the children of la frontera
left to live, to rot and to dream en el desierto

day and night, we follow the old coyote’s shadow
through this dry world of cacti and rattlesnakes

en el desierto, the dead speak to us
disguised with our father and mother’s voices---

we listen to their feeble hearts
beat as soon as they tell us
the old coyote left them to die
alone and thirsty en el desierto

some dead children smile too glad to see us
others cry and shriek like crows
too fearful to see the old coyote
guide us through this wasteland

day and night, we follow the old coyote
through this labyrinth of bones and shadows
hoping we will live
free en el gabacho

we wear La Virgen de Guadalupe’s medal
for protection
so mother Death knows
we are the children of la frontera

day and night, we wait en el desierto
chewing and gnawing at dry cactus roots
until la migra breaks our spell…

day and night, we wait for la chansa
de cruzar la linea, no matter what…

as we are the children of la frontera;

The Boys of Summer
By Xochitl-Julisa Bermejo

In Carpinteria, California a preteen boy in red shorts
runs down a clouded over beach to play at junior lifeguard.
He is lost in a sea of boys and girls just like him
all smiling and learning lessons on how to be safe.

In Brooks County, Texas a boy with a note pinned to his shirt
addressed to an aunt in New Jersey
wrestles with his mother’s hopes pinned to this his shoulders.
Death pins his dehydrated and cramping leg muscles together.

On a beach in Gaza four cousins play soccer.
One calls Messi while another calls Neymar before the injury.
The score is tied. They set up penalty kicks on the edge
0 Comments on Beyond Boundaries Part II. Ten On the 5th of the 8th: On-line Floricanto as of 8/5/2014 3:40:00 AM
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2. Babybug mail

Look what came in the mail last week:
I think I need to go to the beach now.
But wait, there's an inside spread too:

There, that's a little cooler, whew.

0 Comments on Babybug mail as of 6/26/2014 5:13:00 PM
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3. Poetry Contest & Poetry and Prose Reminder

mindThe Mind Magazine First Annual Insight Poetry Competition:

General information:

Mind Magazine’s First Annual Insight Poetry Competition is now accepting entries. Deadline is August 15th. The winners will receive prize money and publication on the “Mind Magazine Top Talent” page, created to showcase the work of the finalists.

Fee: $10


First place: $300.00, Gold Medal Standing on-line presentation, and publication as specified.

Second place: $150.00, Silver Medal Standing on-line presentation and publication as specified.

Third place: $50.00, Bronze Medal Standing on-line presentation and publication as specified.

Forth place: $50.00, Mind Magazine T-Shirt and publication as specified.

Fifth place: $50.00 and publication as specified.

Electronic submissions are preferred, and can be purchased in the Mind Magazine store. Please be sure to include the entry identification number provided with your entry purchase, your return email, and the author’s name with each poem entered.

Send all entries clearly marked with the email heading, “Contest Entry” to: mindmagazinesubmissions@gmail.com Up to three poems may be submitted per $10 entry.

Entries may be mailed to:

Mind Magazine

PO Box 387

O’Brien, OR. 97534

Checks must be made out to Mind Magazine.

Entry Fees:

One to three poems: $10 All entry fees are non-refundable.


Mind Magazine is accepting submissions of poetry, prose, scientific articles and scientific papers. Poetry should be no more than three pages in length per poem, single spaced, #12 Times or Times New Roman font, two poems maximum per submission, one submission per month. Send submissions of poetry in electronic form, rtf or Word format, with the email heading clearly marked, “Poetry Submission” to Michael Spring at: bluecrow_4@yahoo.com  Include your return email and contact information.

Submissions of prose, scientific articles and papers must be provided single spaced, #12 Times or Times New Roman font, one submission per month, in electronic form, rtf or Word format, with the email heading clearly marked, “Prose/Science submission” to Rich Norman at: mindmagazinesubmissions@gmail.com  Include your return email and contact information.


Dream Quest One Writing and Poetry Contest See April Post

Postmark deadline: July 31, 2014 All contest winners will be published online in the Dare to Dream pages, on September 20, 2014. Entry Form: http://www.dreamquestone.com/entryform.html

Prizes: Writing Contest First Prize is $500. Second Prize: $250. Third Prize: $100. Poetry Contest First Prize is $250. Second Prize: $125.  Third Prize: $50. Entry fees: $10 per short story. $5 per poem.

To send entries: Include title(s) with your story (ies) or poem(s), along with your name, address, phone#, email, brief biographical  info. (Tell us a little about yourself), on the coversheet. Add a self-addressed stamped envelope for entry confirmation.

Mail entries/fees payable to: “DREAMQUESTONE.COM” Dream Quest One Poetry & Writing Contest P.O. Box 3141 Chicago, IL  60654

Visit http://www.dreamquestone.com for details on how to enter!


Talk tomorrow,


Filed under: authors and illustrators, Competition, Contests, earn money, inspiration, opportunity, Places to sumit, Poems Tagged: Magazine Contest, Money and Publication, The Mind Magazine Poetry Contest

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4. Review – The Croc and the Platypus

The Croc and the Platypus I commented recently on the Further Adventures of the The Owl and the Pussy Cat by Julia Donaldson and Charlotte Voake. Donaldson’s ineffable lyrical style does indeed take Edward Lear’s nonsense tale one step further and is a jolly expedition for the reader to navigate through. As you’d expect, it’s a very good picture book. Then I found an even better one.

Jacki HoskingWith ute-fulls of respect to Donaldson and Voake, Jackie Hosking’s and Marjorie Crosby-Fairall’s debut creation of The Croc and The Platypus is a very, very good picture book.

Fans of Lear’s will relish the lilting musical quality of Hosking’s verse as she transports us as effortlessly as Julia Donaldson through the Australian outback with as an incongruous couple as the Owl and Pussycat; Croc and Platypus.

Hosking is spot on with this ingenious retelling of a childhood classic however, somehow makes it feel much more loose and flowing and bizarrely, even easier to read than the original. Her narrative sings with a down-to-earth gritty realism but is delivered with Lear’s same congenial, nonsensical joie de vive. Hub caps ring and didgeridoos blow as Platypus and Croc ‘play up a hullabaloo…baloo.’

I love Hosking’s incorporation of recognisable Aussie icons; Uluru, tea and damper and lamingtons to name a few as Croc and Platypus trundle across the plains eventually camping under the Southern Cross after cleverly procuring their tent. For those not so familiar with ‘click go the shears’ terminology, there’s even a neat little glossary.

Extra applause must go to Marjorie Crosby-Fairall for her truly epic acrylic and pencilled illustrations. The outback is vast and engulfing as are the illustrations of this picture book with gorgeously generous helpings of full colour, movement and sparkle on every single page.

Hosking’s appreciation of, commitment to and finesse with the rhyming word are self-evident. She works them all to perfection in this richly Aussie-flavoured celebration about embracing unlikely friendships and sharing stellar moments with those closest to you whilst enjoying a good old Aussie road trip.

The Croc and the Platypus has every reason to glow proudly alongside The Owl and the Pussycat, and dare I suggest outshine it. Croc and Platypus launch invite June 2014

Discover and rediscover all three books here. For those in Sydney around early July, make sure you don’t miss Jackie’s launch of The Croc and the Platypus.

Walker Books Australia June 2014

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5. Summer reading starts here. The Gluten-free Chicano. On-line Floricanto.

Review:  Linda Rodriguez. Every Hidden Fear. NY: Minotaur Books, 2014.
ISBN 978-1250049155

Michael Sedano

Something there is that does not love a Summer Book. The intent grad student with one hundred years of novels to read by September. The television programmer who wants you to sit open-mouthed in the dark watching re-runs. The curmudgeon who wants no one to have any fun and sneers at “genre fiction.”

Those tipos don’t love a Summer Book.

But grad students can use a break. Re-runs, give me a break. Curmudgeons will refuse to have fun, even with the kind of book tolerant gente want to read cover to cover--non-stop si se puede and the phone is Off.

When you pick up a Summer Book you intend to be happily absorbed by cool characters in rip-roaring stories. While you don’t intend to take notes you dog-ear provocative, memorable, artful passages where the author’s having lots of fun, too. In short, you intend to be entertained, and that’s what’s in store from Every Hidden Fear by Linda Rodriguez.

Rodriguez writes like she’s enjoying herself. Lavishing pages to develop a hateful asshole character who deserves to be dead, introducing detective Skeet Bannion and various residents of a small Missouri town threatened by real estate moguls from nearby Kansas City, killing him takes a while. Then the author kills the jerk with gruesome excess. Justice requires Skeet Bannion to step up in the face of inept local policing.

Bannion comes with a history of hair-raising times in cases sketchily alluded in passing detail. In fact, Every Hidden Fear will motivate readers to seek out Linda Rodriguez’ two earlier Skeet Bannion novels, Every Last Secret and Every Broken Trust. The Cherokee connection adds a unique resource to the character’s potential.

The detective’s a real-looking character, not some hot chick but plain old her. But there’s something about Skeet that has the local cop and a big muscular vato sniffing around. Skeet says it’s not important, keeps her nose to the grindstone as compense for no sex “in a while.”

Everyone else is hooking up. The little town has lots of good-looking women, old and young, who fell for the young heartthrob who left town and a knocked-up beauty behind. When the appropriately named Ash returns as front man for the mall developer, he threatens to name names. He claims fatherhood of the son in a public cuckolding of teenager’s father. He lives up to his name, ash-hole.

Skeet's teenager finds himself in a love triangle between the railroaded suspect, a teen heart throb girl, and himself. The girl lives with an evil stepmother, the one who gleefully describes Skeet’s beauty faults. The evil stepmother is hooking up with Ash’s rich, evil employer, himself a rapist.

What a suspect list. "Joe, you've got a strong suspect in Peter…Bea was most likely sexually involved with Ash when he was a kid…Walker was furious with Ash for causing all this trouble".

No spoilers here. Summer reads are supposed to be fun and Linda Rodriguez has enough formula to keep the pages flying by. There’s romance, intrigue, back-biting, crummy people you can’t do anything about. And there are serious issues like senior abuse versus senior love, steamroller economic development, growing up.

Rodriguez weaves a lament for hometowns throughout the book, in frequent references to passing trains, and walking. Trains become particularly potent. Every chapter carries at least one instance where Skeet hears a train rumbling through town. The motif becomes eccentric, noticed. It’s a set-up.

 “You noticed?” the author seems to say, having fun, when she has the failing cop, Joe, make her point about disappearing hometown economies. “Wish they hadn’t destroyed the trains. America’s railroads were the envy of the world, but we gutted them, and now can’t get to most places in this country by train. Damn shame!” I dog-eared that page.

With summer’s slower pace and vacation time, a Summer Book fills the leisure time need for fun, entertainment, and every now and again, something to make you sit up and take notice. Turn off teevee. Take a break. There’s a lot to “genre” writing that deserves attention. A good start in 2014’s Summer Book list is Linda Rodriguez’ Skeet Bannion novel, Every Hidden Fear.

The Gluten-free Chicano Cooks
Gluten-free Breakfast Crepe

Crunchy peanut butter and maple syrup wait on the table for the morning’s sweet beginning. You can prepare bacon, weenies, or ham in advance. These delectable delights cook in about five minutes, and you can turn out a batch of these in a short time.

This recipe makes a thin batter that spreads to fill a cooking surface. Two eggs create a creamy texture. Enhanced with sour cream and equal portions flour and milk, the batter cooks into a thin, flexible pancake you can use as a dinner entrée, a breakfast treat, or a quick merienda when the occasion fits.

Breakfast Crepe
Serves two or more, half hour refrigerator to table.

Two eggs
¼ cup King Arthur gluten-free flour
Pinch baking soda
Pinch baking powder
Vanilla or other flavoring to taste
¼ cup milk
1 tbs sour cream
greased non-stick frying pan, hot

Hold the Vanilla when you plan a savory filling like garlic butter. Look for The Gluten-free Chicano's Garlic Crepe in a future La Bloga.

Beat the eggs frothy with the dry ingredients and vanilla. Then add the flour and incorporate it into the eggs.

Whip in a tablespoon of sour cream. Be vigorous but don't mind a smattering of white spots where you didn't get all the sour cream into the mixture. You could substitute melted butter.

A non-stick surface is essential. Ladle a small amount into a hot pan, just enough to cover the bottom. Hot means the flame touches the bottom of the pan and nearly smokes. Let the crepe bubble before turning.

If you're good, flip the pan. I use a spatula, tilt the pan and delicately flip over. Don't worry about liquid; lift the crepe and let the liquid slide under then flip the crepe atop that.

The dappled surface indicates a hot surface. This thin batter cooks quickly once turned, half a minute or less.

The eggy batter is rich and flexible. The pockets formed on this side capture fillings if served this side up, or rolled with the outer side the first pour.

On-line Floricanto
<!--[if gte mso 9]> Normal 0 false false false EN-US JA X-NONE <![endif]--> Frank de Jesus Acosta, Xico González, Frank de Jesus Acosta, John Martinez, Fernando Rodriguez, Francisco X. Alarcón

Maya's Gift (Honoring Maya Angelou) 
by Frank de Jesus Acosta

Today a poet became her poems
Soulful songs of the caged bird
Child of Africa, cradle of humankind
Legacy of slavery, an American anathema
Inheritance of hope, spiritual defiance
Heart of conviction, defying abhorrent hate
Unbroken by bigotry, sexism, or poverty
Claiming the inalienable ways of love
Walking a life of advocacy, sovereignty
Inspiring women to rise in inherent divinity
Admonishing men to live in fullness of equality
Spirit pen of justice, revealing painful truth
Lies of history, dogma of tyranny, canons of greed
Envisioning a world with prose of possibility
Verses of healing for wounded generations
Women, mother, sister, friend, warrior shaman
Today you ascend, our guardian lyricist ancestor
Leaving us a literary legacy of eternal living words
Seeds of love; that the poem within us all may rise 

Poem by: Frank de Jesus Acosta

Original Dreamers
by Xico González

In the immigrants’ rights movement
often times we hear of the Dreamers
with their graduation gowns
fists in the air
and beautiful butterflies

Marchas, rallies and sit-ins
that lead to deportations
Sacrificios de sueños soñados

In senators’ offices
self-sacrificing dreamers
get arrested and deported
to prove a point:
the US immigration system is broken

For the dreamers,
la escuela o los guachos
Dos caminos
that end in papeles and green cards

Let me ask you a question,
what about the original dreamers?
Who speaks for them nowadays?

They have sueños too

Have we forgotten about the
padres, madres
hermanos y hermanas
that came to the US too old 
to go to school
or join the armed forces

They have sueños too

Pero le tubieron que chingar
In low paying jobs
como los files, la construcción, los hoteles,
rich people’s homes, and restaurants

You know the ones bumping
cumbias, norteñas, banda y racheras
in kitchens across the United States

The ones that yell,
“Apurate güey,”
“ya esta listo güey,”
“No mames güey,”

They have sueños too,

They dream that their children
will have a better life in this country
instead of discrimination and exploitation

They have sueños too

Migra raids at workplaces
that lead to deportations
Sacrificios de sueños soñados

For the original dreamers,
el trabajo y la explotación
Dos caminos
that end in fear and shadows

They have sueños too

El jóven que trabaja en la construcción en la Bahía
has dreams too

La señora que cuida güeritos en Hollywood Hills
has dreams too

El señor que trabaja en los files del Valle de San Joaquín
has dreams too

So let us help the original dreamers
dream their dreams of a better future
without the fear of being deported,
Exploited and used

Next time you hear of the Dreamers
think of their parents and siblings
because they share the same dream

They have sueños too.

© Xico González 
I wrote this poem for the event "Filed Away: The Undocumented Experience,"  a conversation and exhibit sponsored by UCD SPEAK and the UCD Cross Culture Center.  The poem was inspired by two posters that I created for the 1ro de mayo: Dia del Trabajador Rally and Marcha in Sacramento.

Maya's Gift (Honoring Maya Angelou) 
by Frank de Jesus Acosta

Today a poet became her poems
Soulful songs of the caged bird
Child of Africa, cradle of humankind
Legacy of slavery, an American anathema
Inheritance of hope, spiritual defiance
Heart of conviction, defying abhorrent hate
Unbroken by bigotry, sexism, or poverty
Claiming the inalienable ways of love
Walking a life of advocacy, sovereignty
Inspiring women to rise in inherent divinity
Admonishing men to live in fullness of equality
Spirit pen of justice, revealing painful truth
Lies of history, dogma of tyranny, canons of greed
Envisioning a world with prose of possibility
Verses of healing for wounded generations
Women, mother, sister, friend, warrior shaman
Today you ascend, our guardian lyricist ancestor
Leaving us a literary legacy of eternal living words
Seeds of love; that the poem within us all may rise 

I Love You Forever Olivia
by John Martinez

For my mother

It is not a dream, but a loop,
A replay of her breast falling
From my sleeping face

The dawn, the sycamore
In the window, her hand
Hushing my lips
When I cried out,
Squeezed between
Her soft folds

And time doesn't fade,
But lingers in the crevices,
Between sweat and laughter,
How she combed my hair,
With hands of pain and joy

No, the sky won’t bring
Her back, bundled
In wings, as promised,
No golden chalice
Pointing her path to me

She lives right here,
In the journey of my blood,
She will always be-

So when the wind smiles
Into my window,
With the fruit of her breath,
I will always say:

"I love you forever, Olivia"

© John Martinez
All Rights Reserved

by Fernando Rodriguez

A single human being
can take many jobs
can make many shifts
Vacations there's not 
Courageous, brave, strong 
Delicate to the touch 
Yet hard to the bone

A restless being
Night without sleep
Sacrifice all and all that she has
Kisses and love struggles and more
The hardest profession
The worst valued one
There's billions of women 
but mother just one 
A day in a year for sure it’s not fair
To thank all the efforts
And all that she cares
Thank You mother
Today in your day

por Francisco X. Alarcón                 by Francisco X. Alarcón

Via James Downs:

From a new book of bilingual eco-poems by Francisco X. Alarcón, Borderless Butterflies: Earth Haikus And Other Poems / Mariposas sin fronteras: Haikús terrenales y ottos poemas that will be published by Poetic Matrix Press in 2014.

<!--[if gte mso 9]> Normal 0 false false false EN-US JA X-NONE <![endif]--> Frank de Jesus Acosta, Xico González, John Martinez, Fernando Rodriguez, Francisco X. Alarcón

Frank de Jesus Acosta is principal of Acosta & Associates, a California-based consulting group that specializes in professional support services to public and private social change ventures in the areas of children, youth and family services, violence prevention, community development, and cultural fluency. In 2007, he authored, The History of Barrios Unidos, Cultura Es Cura, Healing Community Violence, published by Arte Publico Press, University of Houston. Acosta is a graduate of University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA). His professional experience includes serving in executive leadership positions with The California Wellness Foundation, the Coalition for Humane Immigration Rights of Los Angeles (CHIRLA), Downtown Immigrant Advocates (DIA), the Center for Community Change, and the UCLA Community Programs Office. He is presently focused on completing the writing and publishing a two book series for Arte Publico Press focused on best practices to improve the well-being of Latino young men and boys. Acosta most recently co-authored a published “Brown Paper” with Jerry Tello of the National Latino Fatherhood and Family Institute (NLFFI) entitled, “Lifting Latinos Up by Their Rootstraps: Moving Beyond Trauma Through a Healing-Informed Framework for Latino Boys and Men.” Acosta provides writing and strategic professional support in research, planning, and development to foundations and community-focused institutions on select initiatives focused on advancing social justice, equity, and pluralism. He is also finalizing writing and editing a book of inter-cultural poetry and spiritual reflections.

Xico González is an educator, artist, poet, and a political and cultural activista based in Sacramento, California. He received a MA in Spanish from Sacramento State, and a MFA in Art Studio from the University of California at Davis.  González currently teaches Spanish and Art Studio at the Met Sacramento High School.
The work of Xico González seeks to empower people uniting in common cause against a common oppressor disguised in different máscaras.  Gonzalez's silkscreen posters address and support numerous political causes, such as the struggle for immigrants' rights, the Palestinian and Zapatista struggles, and the right for Chicana/o self determination.  González is not only an artist, but is also an activist/organizer that puts his artistic skills to the benefit of his community.  Xico's work contributes to the long dialogue of art, activism and the legacy of the Chicano Art Movement.  González has been influenced primarily by his mentors, Chicano artists Ricardo Favela (RIP), and Malaquías Montoya, and by early Chicano art collectives like the Mexican American Liberation Art Front (MALA-F), and the Rebel Chicano Art Front also known as the Royal Chicano Air Force (RCAF).
<!--[if gte mso 9]> Normal 0 false false false EN-US JA X-NONE <![endif]-->

John Martinez studied Creative Writing at Fresno State University. He has published poetry in El Tecolote, Red Trapeze and The LA Weekly. Recently, he has posted poems on Poets Responding to SB1070 and this will be his fifth poem published in La Bloga. He has performed (as a musician/political activist, poet) with Teatro De La Tierra, Los Perros Del Pueblo and TROKA, a Poetry Ensemble (lead by poet Juan Felipe Herrera) and he has toured with several cumbia bands throughout the Central Valley and Los Angeles. For the last 17 years, he has worked as an Administrator for a Los Angeles Law Firm. He makes home in Upland, California with his beautiful wife, Rosa America y Familia.

My name is fernando Rodriguez and i decided to express myself in this poem as a gift for all the mothers because of what they do all year round. Writing gives me freedom and freedom gives me joy, joy gives me happiness and happiness is what we look for.

Francisco X. Alarcón, award winning Chicano poet and educator, was born in Los Angeles, grew up in Guadalajara, Mexico, and now lives in Davis, where he teaches at the University of California.  He is the author of thirteen volumes of poetry, including, Ce • Uno • One: Poems for the New Sun (Swan Scythe Press 2010), From the Other Side of Night: New and Selected Poems (University of Arizona Press 2002). He has two books poems coming out this year, Borderless Butterflies / Mariposas sin fronteras will be published by Fall 2014 by Poetic Matrix Press, and Canto hondo / Deep Song will be published by the University of Arizona Press at the end of 2014.
Francisco is also the author of four acclaimed books of bilingual poems from children on the seasons of the year originally published by Children Book Press, now an imprint of Lee & Low Books: Laughing Tomatoes and Other Spring Poems (1997), From the Bellybutton of the Moon and Other Summer Poems (1998), Angels Ride Bikes and Other Fall Poems (1999), Iguanas in the Snow and Other Winter Poems (2001). He has published two other bilingual books for children, Poems to Dream Together (2005) and Animal Poems of the Iguazú (2008). 
He has received numerous literary awards and prizes for his works, like the American Book Award, the Pen Oakland Josephine Miles Award, the Chicano Literary Prize, the Fred Cody Lifetime Achievement Award, the Jane Adams Honor Book Award, and several Pura Belpré Honor Awards by the American Library Association. He is the creator of the Facebook page, POETS RESPONDING TO SB 1070. 

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6. Spring Planting

An Unremarkable Square of Dirt
by Anika Denise (Copyright, 2014)

The first days in my garden remind me of my mother. On Mother's Day, we'd plant the flower bed at the front of her house--a small, unremarkable square of dirt just to the right of her front door; but to us, it seemed a grand garden. It was the first place she'd lived after moving out of New York, and it had a flower bed that needed flowers.

Busy hands allow my mind to wander. As I sift through soil with my fingers, I remember a conversation we had when I was seven years old. "Mom, what will I be when I grow up--will I be a mom with lots of kids, or a lady who goes to work every day like you?" I asked. I think you'll do it all," was her answer.

I wish she'd told me it would not be always be a perfect balance.

I pull weeds from between the iris bulbs and listen to sound of my breathing. Now my mind travels to when my first daughter was born, red-faced and howling, tiny fists clenched. I remember how she didn't stop crying for three months. And how tired I was. I remember how often I fell short of doing it all.

I rake the bed, evening the soil, and and part a tiny space to place the plants.

I am wiser now, after child number three. I know that all is a fantasy, and it's okay to settle for some.

I wonder, Am I doing a good job? Does she think I'm a good mom?

And then I remember the unremarkable square of dirt by my mother's front door, and how now, in this moment, there is a flower bed that need flowers.

I'll be joining a cast of thirteen remarkable women this Saturday, May 10th, at the RISD Auditorium for Listen To Your Mother, Providence. Tickets for the show can be purchased online here.  If you are in the area, I hope you'll come.

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In the mess we call home, there was an iphone and a starbucks cup and a beanbag with a tired bloodhound pup and there was one teen girl, with wavy curls and two preteens making scenes and a daddy on the computer, a champion “tooter’ and a fight with food – what manners.. how rude! […]

8 Comments on WITH APOLOGIES TO MARGARET WISE BROWN, last added: 9/16/2013
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8. Monday Musings: Poetry

RECITAL Lightning strikes a chord and Autumn tap dances on a floor of encrusted gold and ruby… while Thunder claps in appreciation —                       and Winter waits in the wings. Filed under: writing for children Tagged: autumn, ballet, dancing, fall, free verse, free verse autumn poetry, free2rhymeornot, freeverse, freeverse poetry, micropoetry, poems, poetry, poets, recital, […]

5 Comments on Monday Musings: Poetry, last added: 10/8/2013
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9. SittieCates

SittieCates has been writing for more than ten years. She has covered topics about health, travel, recipes, writing, family, children and many more.  The author of Sleepyhead? NOT!, 13th Breath: A Collection of Poetry and Prose and Are You There, God? It’s Me, Kaitlyn Zamorra, Smiling at You,  she is currently working as a freelance writer.

Please tell everyone a little about yourself, Cates.

Cates photo2SittieCates: SittieCates is my virtual pseudonym. My real name is Jacqueline, which I mostly prefer my family, old friends and relatives to use. Most of my friends call me Cates. Online, a lot of people call me Sittie. I prefer having my pseudonym, “SittieCates”, written without a space to denote oneness or balance.

I have worked for traditional publishing firms as a Writer and Editor. I also taught English to Filipinos at a local school. I’ve handled students from Grades 3 up to 4th year High School. I was the Guidance Counselor and the Head of the English Department. Aside from those jobs I had at that school, I was also the adviser for the school publication and was in charge of the Theatre Guild.

After a few years, I became an ESL teacher for Koreans. Then, I had an offer at another publishing firm so I went back to writing and editing.

In between those full-time jobs, I tried to squeeze in time to engage in writing the stories that I love; not the articles that I usually spin at work. I’ve managed to publish a poem, a few short stories for kids and some articles in other local magazines published by other publishing firms. While my aim was to write about topics I really love in snippets of time available, I have to admit that there were lots of times when I was too tired to engage in that because of my hectic work schedules. You see, whenever I came home, all I wanted to do was collapse on my bed and pray that I would have a restful sleep so I could function well the next day.

When did the writing bug bite?

SittieCates: I’ve always wanted to write. My parents and siblings would scold me because I would write everywhere. They particularly hated it when I would write on the walls. It looked really messy, but all those scribbles were, in a way, special, because they held dozens of stories only I could understand.

I wrote my very first “nearly legible and more understandable” story when I was in kindergarten. It was part of an assignment. There was a blank page for that in the book, and we were tasked to write a story. We were encouraged to draw the characters, too.

So, I peppered the page with stick figures, the only drawings I could muster. J And I wrote a very, very short story about three girls who always wanted to sing. And when I say short, I really mean short because I only used a few sentences. The title was written as one word; it included all three names of the little girls in the story.

What particular genre/s do you prefer?

SittieCates: For the genre, I seem to gravitate more towards children’s stories. I published two ebooks for kids. One is Sleepyhead? NOT! and the other is Are You There, God? It’s Me, Kaitlyn Zamorra, Smiling at You. I have a third one that’s already with my illustrator. It’s about learning colors. It’s perfect for kids aged 3 to 5, but younger and older ones up to 8 would also love it.

I also love poetry. I’ve compiled a few of my poems and published them together with some essays in my ebook, 13th Breath: A Collection of Poetry & Prose. The ebook is inspirational and autobiographical. If you read it, you’ll get to know a few things about me. I’ve created an ebook trailer for this at: http://youtu.be/31TfRehsfSU. One of my favorite poetry lines that I’ve written in the ebook includes this one: “In the evenings when the wind speaks softly in my ear… When the stars give out a shine so enchantingly clear… When the soft beams of moonlight leave a trail of shadows in sight… I listen to the sweet, melodious sound of your voice at night.”

What other genre/s are you interested in venturing in?

SittieCates: I have a novel. Currently, I’m polishing that one. It’s my first novel and it’s a romance story, but there’s a little bit of twist there. J I’ll just announce that when it’s ready.

When you started writing, what goals did you want to accomplish? Is there a message you want readers to grasp?

SittieCates: That’s a good question, Shelagh. When I started writing, just like most authors, I wanted to share my works with a lot of readers. I wanted my works to be read and, hopefully, bring something helpful, amusing or inspiring to the readers – whether the story is for kids or for grown-ups. I truly wanted to give my readers that experience. Even though they may not always have a smile on their faces after reading what I’ve written, I wanted them to feel satisfied or complete, with nary a nagging and confusing thought bothering them afterwards when they close the book.

Could you tell us more about your current book bundle promo for kids?

SittieCates: I’d love to, Shelagh!

The Sittie Case Book Bundle_SittieCates As I’ve mentioned earlier, I have published two ebooks for kids that are up at Amazon (at http://amzn.to/1dTolwE) and other retailers, priced and sold individually. These two are included in a book bundle at http://flipreads.com/sittie-bundle. The bundle, Sittie CASE, is offered at a very, very low price until January 31, 2014 only.

To give interested readers an idea of the children’s stories included in the bundle, here are the descriptions for both:

Sleepyhead? NOT!

Mabel Robbins is a bright, sweet and cheerful kid who likes to play make-believe. She faces no trouble during the day. But when nighttime comes, her problem begins. She couldn’t sleep easily like the rest of her family.

Thinking that she is different, she seeks help to correct her sleeping problem.

But nothing seems to go right!

Will Mabel Robbins be able to find the “right” way to sleep easily? Find out now at Sleepyhead? NOT!

Sleepyhead? NOT! children’s ebook trailer can be seen at YouTube.

Are You There, God? It’s Me, Kaitlyn Zamorra, Smiling at You

When Kaitlyn Zamorra learned to write letters to God from her parents, she started telling Him everything: the things that she likes and what she considers to be “no fun” at all. She also told God about a precious gift that was lots of fun.

But then, something happened. Her source of happiness seemed like it was going to be taken away from her.

Will she be able to save something that gave her lots of happiness? Or will Kaitlyn soon realize what’s truly “lots of fun”?

Are You There, God? It’s Me, Kaitlyn Zamorra, Smiling at You Children’s ebook trailer is at YouTube.

While the denomination there is in Philippine Pesos, interested buyers can avail of it in dollars by choosing Paypal as a mode of payment. I would suggest that readers check the FAQ at the site to know more about the file reading formats before they purchase and download the bundle.

Since it’s my first time to have a book bundle, I thought of celebrating it while the promo was running. So, I created a worldwide event on Google Plus. But not everyone could join. So, I transferred the event to Facebook, invited some friends and encouraged them to invite others. The Facebook party, which I named, The Sittie CASE Book Bundle Party has already started, and would end by January 31. Others can still join the event if they like, provided that they do so before the last day of January.

How do you develop characters?

SittieCates: I’m a people watcher. I observe people of different ages, professions, etc. I’ve been doing that since I was like 6 or 7 years old. It was just like a game before.

People may think I’m naturally talkative. But I’m only like that online. In person, I’m often what you may refer to as “unusually quiet”, especially when there are so many people around. It’s not that I’m a snob, but I merely prefer to observe people and things around me. That is if my nose isn’t buried in a book.

Often, I listen to how people talk. I take note of how they carry themselves, what clothes they prefer to wear, their mannerisms and other things. I also try to feel the underlying messages that their statements try not to reveal because, as I’ve observed, there are some who would tell you one thing but mean another thing, and I could somehow feel and notice that even if they try really hard to keep that to themselves.

It’s amusing to observe people because I feel that by doing this, I would be able to create the possible lead characters and antagonists of the story, sort of like getting inside their heads and seeing how they think. In real life, I try to capture all that. I try to incorporate these things in my stories so it would adopt a “real” atmosphere, especially in my upcoming novel. (Other character sketches I’ve had are kept in a notebook and I’ll be using those next time.)

What about the setting?

SittieCates: When I created the story setting for my upcoming romance novel, Bookworm, I had to struggle for awhile. I was trying to decide if a serious mood would be best or not. With regards to where and what time the story would take place, I chose what I knew, what I was familiar with, and injected that in the novel. Hopefully, the readers would love it.

Do you have a specific writing style? Preferred POV?

SittieCates: For most of the articles I’ve written, I would say that I’d go for the first-person POV.

But with stories, I try to experiment. I used both the first-person and third-person POV for my stories for kids. Sleepyhead? Not! was written using the third-person POV while Are You There, God? It’s Me, Kaitlyn Zamorra, Smiling at You used the first person.

However, for my upcoming novel, things are totally different. It’s not going to use any of the POVs normally used in writing novels. I wanted to try something else. So, I decided to use a different approach, which you’ll all see when my novel will be published. And I sincerely hope you would all wait for that.

How does your environment or immediate circle of friends, family and colleagues color your writing?

SittieCates: I find that a part of me seems to come out – regardless of whatever I create (poems, songs, articles, stories, etc.). It may be about the people I’ve met, the experiences I’ve had or the experiences that I knew someone had.

Sometimes, I find that helpful. Other times, no, because when I’m faced with a certain character, and I see that character as someone I know, it wouldn’t help the tale at all, especially if something happens in the story. What I mean is that being the real person that that character is, when he or she is faced with a dilemma, obviously, he or she would do the same thing that his or her character’s “real” counterpart would do. When that happens, all creative juices would be blocked, and that wouldn’t contribute well to the story because I wouldn’t know what else to write. As you can see, for me, when that story character thinks, feels and behaves like the real-life counterpart, that’s the end of the story. You can’t move past that because you would say that the real person wouldn’t behave, feel or think as such. So, there’s no more ideas coming in. You’re blocked! I’ve encountered that when I was writing the first few drafts of Bookworm. It was really hard to move beyond that. So, I changed the story a bit, and tried to see a story character as not being totally similar to a real-life counterpart.

Share the best review (or a portion) that you’ve had.

13th_Breath_Book_Cover_1563x2500SittieCates: Delighted to do so, Shelagh! Some of the links for the book reviews I’ve received for 13th Breath: A Collection of Poetry & Prose” and “Sleepyhead? NOT! are at the tab marked as “Book Reviews Written by Others for My Works” at my two blogs.

I also loved this one that was posted on a retail site. It was for one of my ebooks for kids, Are You There, God? It’s Me, Kaitlyn Zamorra, Smiling at You. It reads:

“A wonderful and delightful story, adorably illustrated, about a little girl’s faith and innocence as she starts understanding about change and learning to love her baby brother. Well done! Five stars all the way (the stars seem to be missing on this review). My child loved it, too!” ~ Patrick Heffernan, Author of Greywalker, a novel

Where can folks learn more about your books and events?

SittieCates: People can follow me in a number of ways:

Twitter: https://twitter.com/SittieCates

My Blogs: http://www.myownwritersnook.blogspot.com and http://www.sittiecateslovestories.blogspot.com

Facebook Pages: https://www.facebook.com/TheMusingsofaHopefulPecuniousWordsmith and https://www.facebook.com/SittieCatesLovesStories

Google Plus: https://plus.google.com/114470887211929135419

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/7415659.SittieCates.

Shelfari: http://www.shelfari.com/sittiecates

Thank you for joining us today, Cates.

SittieCates: Thank you so much, Shelagh! I really enjoyed the interview. All the best to you and your site! And happy holidays to everyone! J

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10. Low Writers Fly High, On-line Floricanto Tara Evonne Trudell

Take Me Low Riding In Your Car, Car

Review: Lowriting: Shots, Rides & Stories from the Chicano Soul. Santino J. Rivera, Editor. Art Meza, Photographs. Saint Augustine, FL: Broken Sword Publications, LLC, 2014.
ISBN-10: 0989631311 ISBN-13: 978-0989631310

Michael Sedano

The man lurks across the aisle from my company’s display. A leading automotive window manufacturer, we are at the huge SEMA show in Las Vegas.

The man stares at the van window display, then walks around to the other side of our large display area where the sunroof sales team works the crowd. Over three days he keeps appearing at the periphery of vision as I churn the crowd into the display. Finally, on the third day of the show, he walks close enough for me to step into the aisle and greet him.

English. He doesn’t speak a lot of English, back home in Kyoto. He whips out a copy of Low Rider Magazine and points to a tricked-up van with a set of bay windows and a bubble window in the rear hatch. My company makes those windows, I gesture and open my catalog.

No, not the windows in Low Rider. He pulls out a copy of a slick Japanese auto magazine. An installer’s nightmare, a craftman’s virtuoso installation. The Japanese van has a line of five window slits on the driver side, his and hers sunroofs, a pair of roof-top vents, and six more windows on the passenger side. My company manufactures them all, in Los Angeles. A tour, of course.

Over the course of several years, the gentleman from Kyoto visits me four times a year to socialize and place his orders. When his business struggles he haggles a bit more, occasionally reducing an order to a twenty-foot container. His normal buy fills a forty-footer. That’s a lot of windows.

A few years after I start selling windows to Japan, Luis J. Rodriguez comes to Tokyo and witnesses what we had wrought. Rodriguez sees a well-defined low rider cultura, from wheels to drapes, vatos to hynas, thriving among Japanese gente.

I say “we” because the assembly workers at the window factory are almost every one of them raza: Mexicanas and Mexicanos, a few Salvadoreñas Salvadoreños, and a handful of Chicanas Chicanos. They used to get a kick out of my stories about their windows cruising Tokyo streets low and slow. Copies of the Japanese magazines showing the fruits of our labor wore out their staples in the lunch rooms. If they read English, they would truly dig low writing.

Rodriguez’ account of his 2006 trip to Tokyo’s low rider culture kicks off the first two prose pieces in Broken Sword Publications’ latest contribution to chicano culture, Lowriting: Shots, Rides & Stories from the Chicano Soul.

Editor Santino J. Rivera has assembled a hybrid anthology mixing belle lettres with expository writing. Lowriting makes an ambitious attempt—270 pages--to take the pulse of Chicano Soul as expressed by automotive enthusiasts writing in diverse genres.

Three prose pieces frame the collection, Rodriguez and Rivera at the opening, and near the end, Xicano X’s apologia brings the collection to anthological climax, despite 100 pages remaining in the work. It’s an interesting collection.

Underlying the essays scattered across the collection is a vision of cars and cruising as dualities. On one hand, the cars and bikes stand for artistic and often self-taught engineering skill. On another hand--those of writers and poets--low writing collectively contains a metonymy for the chicano part of United States culture, the cars, the gente, the traje, the history. One should remember the Japanese Luis J. Rodriguez visited were imitating “American” culture, and chose low riding aesthetics. Finding Japanese Xicanos screams irony to Rodriguez, that la cultura finds a valued place in Japan while back home it’s the contrary.

Rivera’s interview with film star Danny de la Paz tackles a host of theoretical issues revolving around cars and chicanismo. The interviewer approaches the star like a fan but when the third wall comes down he discovers a serious analyst who’s done high-level chicano studies research.

De la Paz delineates between his characters’ ethos and the actor’s own upbringing as a middle-class kid in a preponderantly Anglo suburb outside of Los Angeles. There’s a dissonance lurking under the Q&A, that moviegoers think Puppet and Chuco are real and that De La Paz has special insight into their portrayal. He wasn’t a vato off the block, he was a theatre-trained college actor who used to watch “real vatos” during filming.

It’s a jarring disconnect that even the actor perceives. Rivera observes that De La Paz considers himself an “ambassador of the Chicano culture,” and delves into what rhetoricians call “ethos,” the persuasiveness, or authenticity, of a character’s (or politician’s) embodiment. The subject hangs out there, just out of reach of the interviewer. The interview ends with the interviewee illustrating that acting the part doesn’t make one an expert but only a more informed fan. De la Paz owns the low rider archetypes, it turns out he doesn’t own a low rider.

Xicano X writes a first person fan letter to low riding in the essay, “Lowriders: Time and Money Well Spent.” El Equis doesn’t own his own low rider but rhapsodizes about other people’s cars. The title explains premise of his essay. Activists and professors lament the lana and love devoted to a machine and idle cruising when there are so many issues la comunidad needs address.

Xicano X’s response is to reaffirm low riders as valuable cultural commodities that, with book banning sweeping the nation, keeping low riding culture alive is a way to ensure the survival of material culture and the values imbued in a paint job or hydraulics.

The essays, provocative as they be, are not the best part of Lowriting: Shots, Rides & Stories from the Chicano Soul. The poetry is. And, that said, one of my favorite non-expository pieces is not a poem at all, but former bloguera Gina Ruiz’ inventive story, “Lorca Green.”

Ruiz’ story comes with a familiar theme of alienated kids and sexual abuse. There’s a collection of neighborhood kids and a pachuco outcast. The vato has a soft spot for the girl narrating the story. Ruiz’ skillful narration leads the reader to what seems a set-piece rape scene when Ruiz kills the narrator. The dead girl’s voice wraps up the loose ends and brings matters to a heart-satisfying close.

Andrea J. Serrano’s “To All The Cholos I Ever Loved Before” and “A Prayer for Nuestra Señora la Reina de la Calle Central A Litany (With a Nod to Juan Felipe Herrera)", are the first poetry after the opening essays. Serrano sets a high standard that only a few of the other poets equal. Serrano’s poetry makes an especially inspired choice given the prevalence of “hynas” as toys rather than essential members of the scene.

In “Cholos” the persona might be one of those groupie hynas flitting from driver to driver. But she’s not an empty bikini, she’s a woman with longings and right now she misses the simplicity of mindless cruising because, like the woman in “Prayer,” they’ve grown beyond the mindless part but kept the identity that cruised because the mayor, the cops, adults said “no cruising.” That was like telling you not to be yourself.

Nancy Aidé Gonzalez, Viva Flores, Ricky Luv, Richard Vargas, Raúl Sanchez, and Tara Evonne Trudell, make important contributions to the literary collection, while Roberto Dr Cintli Rodriguez, Allen Thayer, and Gustavo Arellano’s essays do the same for the anthology’s expository collection.

Rivera issued a call for writers and most of the literary work is new and produced for this book. The expository stuff mostly is reprints, well worthwhile. Thayer’s discographic essay, for example, will put tunes into your ear.

Art Meza’s fotos range from breath-takingly engaging to documentary car portraits. Among my favorites are the back cover foto that appears also between the Danny De La Paz interview and Andrea Serrano’s first poem. The foto, “Dreaming Casually, Mayra Ramirez ’56 Chevy Bel Air” displays gorgeous rich tonality from the black black of the rear window at the foto’s right to the mosaic of greys to pure white framing the driver’s arm resting on the door. And yes, they’re worth a thousand words, and the price of the book.

I read the collection on a computer screen. The graphics are stunning. The print book hopefully comes on good heavy coated stock that treats Meza’s work with the respect fine art photography merits, or why bother?

Josh Devine’s spot illustrations offer clever graphic amuse bouches between entries. I wonder if the spark plug Lupe is Devine’s work? The clever pastiche deserves a credit.

The entire collection deserves not only a reading but an order via the publisher or indie booksellers. Low riding, like football or ice hockey, might be an acquired taste, but low writing, like any United States literature, is essential to comprehending the “soul” and the “chicano” in “chicano soul.” As the interview relates about the film, Boulevard Nights being taught in C/S classes, Lowriting: Shots, Rides & Stories from the Chicano Soul will be taught in chicano studies courses.

The Gluten-free Chicano Cooks
Meatless, Glutenless, Fast and Cheap Torta

This is 1920s depression-era cooking, a can of string beans, an onion, an egg, some cheese, butter. And it's delicious! It's a torta de string beans.

Growing up, my familia called these tortas. When I got to the big city after the Army, I learn the locals use "torta" for a sandwich. But then, they also called a taco a "burrito." We all speak a dialect. Where I come from, an omelette is a torta and a sandwich is a sandwich.

Use an omelette pan or one you can flip the contents with ease over medium flame. Lightly coat the sartén with some non-stick spray, then drop a tablespoon of butter into the heated pan.

Add some sliced or diced onion to wilt, and in a few seconds, the drained string beans.

Here I'm using a 6" individual sartén for a single serving. With a larger pan, you'll likely want to finish it under the broiler, and if all else fails, go ahead and scramble everything.

Cook for a few minutes, or until refrigerated beans are hot all the way through. Pour a couple of vigorously beaten eggs into the mixture, cook until the egg is almost set and top with a big pinch of grated cheese.

Fold the torta, or flip it, or--and this is what I did because the torta stuck a bit to the bottom--pop it under a high broiler for a few minutes until brown and crusty.

Present whole on a plate with your favorite sides. If you use a 10" skillet, serve on a platter and cut the large torta into pie-wedges.

Fifteen minutes start-to-finish. Gluten-free, meat-free, inexpensive, delicious, authentically chicano.

La Bloga On-line Floricanto With Tara Evonne Trudell

La Bloga welcomes Tara Evonne Trudell to On-line Floricanto, both as a way of recognizing her distinctive poet's voice, and to update Trudell's One Million Border Beads poetry bead project La Bloga reported in January.

The project advances as Tara's vision forms itself around the goal of crafting 1,000,000 strips of poems typed on paper and rolled into beads. Trudell fashions elegant jewelry like the twin necklace adorning a display of photographs of 13 poem beads. You can participate in the bead project via this link to La Bloga-Tuesday's January 7 column.

¡Soy La Tierra!
By Tara Evonne Trudell

soy la tierra
I learned
as a little girl
I knew this
always being
the dirty child
“allergic to white”
my mother would exclaim
taking one look at me
coming in
after playing
in the mud
and rain
I had a taste
for dirt
since the beginning
soy la tierra
I quickly forgot
growing up
in a Disney mentality
image obsessed
judgmental society
the mined polished diamond
meaning more
than the natural
heart shaped river rock
I wandered far
only to get lost
on paved paths
fighting meanings
on what it meant
to be a woman
by material possessions
and religious persecution
the confusion
in disconnect
I fought back
just to regain
my balance
soy la tierra
I found out
further down
the dirt path
I sat there
long enough
to realize
who I was
coming from earth
all my life
lost in the search
outside myself
soy la tierra
I tell my children
one by one
planting seeds
that will never die
soy la tierra
I will whisper
to mi hombre
only wanting
the one
who would fight
and die
for my land
soy la tierra
I share smiles
con mi hermanas
grabbing hands
sharing laughter
and tears
shaking dirt
from our skirts
our earth moments
making us real.

¡soy la tierra!

c/s tara evonne trudell

Far Away
By Tara Evonne Trudell

the mojave desert
I dreamed
my people
moving through
heat waves
and hunger pains
mothers fathers
willing life
dying to cross
a line
drawn in sand
drones hovering in air
dangerous spy tactics
always monitoring
the calculation
in military moves
real life
hunger war games
forcing survival
the extreme NAFTA
and CIA manipulation
taking land
and killing people
corrupt government
holding meetings
with drug lords
in slick suits
making up
hard core
to act on
with militarized force
feeding masses
misled lies
laced with hate
turning one side
the other
with neither side
existing at all
every day life
selling American
dreaming material
sold by elite thugs
and prison profiteers
in slick suits
making up laws
in corrupt politics
the buddying up
of corporations
filling systems
making a business
out of brown people
handcuffing butterflies
taking away
the freedom
to migrate
caught by ICE
profiling parents
the leaving
left alone
in terrified children
separating families
creating impossible reuniting
the written word
in small print
USA court documents
the taking away
of Mexico
in parental rights
when accusations fly
calling names out
USA labels
of being brown
in a country
too far
to care
when not close
to home
American comfort
family circles tight
the choice
to be unaware
what’s really going down
south of the border
the human race
running away
when excluding
their own
mechanical hummingbird
droning on
the keeping
of government control
gleaming profit
in big brother eye
the elite
banking on profits
of brown people
to survive.

c/s tara evonne trudell 3 de marzo  2014

Heart Chakra
By Tara Evonne Trudell

as a woman
of experience
I can say
my broken
heart chakra
more than
birthing pain
a tattoo
going on
the dying
inside love
heart chambers
to death
his last words
he left
creating permanent
in cold air
him telling me
was merely
poetic thought
cutting me
and deep
his final words
letting go
crushing blow
setting me
down hard
me feeling
earth stunned
trees stilled
river stones
cast aside
me halting
on my path
the excruciating
slow time
of overwhelming
not one moment
the shattering
of my heart
did I not
my love
to matter.

c/s tara evonne trudell

Qué Amor
By Tara Evonne Trudell

qué amor
fast and furious
feeling like
the first colibrí
arriving in spring
the alive energy
in rebirth
and earth
the stillness
caught in air
the becoming
of wind
somewhere else
ocotillo y nopal
twisting and turning
shadow dancing
across desert
rock walls
seeping water
seeking rivulets
running away
in puddles
of rain
damp sand
clinging forever
qué amor
the movement
of air
in left over
of heavy storm
heart tenderness
the remains
left to grow
surviving last love’s
qué amor
cruising in
low and slow
the floating feeling
of above ground
skimming senses
the taste
in smiles
flowing nectar
leaving lips
the dusting
of golden pollen
tipping butterfly wings
qué amor
tingling natural
nature essences
breaking the surface
of brown
qué amor
copal smoke
sacred corazón
te quíero mucho
pulling soul
from the edge
of letting go
qué amor
all over
trilling colibrí

c/s tara evonne trudell

Quoting Zapata
By Tara Evonne Trudell

Quoting Zapata
while voting Obama
in a time
when being brown
is a crime
racist fools
USA rules
Monsanto king
of everything
fake and untrue
the new
killing fields
the poor
the constant need
to feed
the fat
and greedy
Nazi soldiers
camouflaged hiding
human hunting
leading cactus borders
natural crossing
Indigenous breath
to exhale
pausing pulse
natural migration
of hummingbirds
and butterflies
negotiating humanity
their needs
offering dirty work
lying in wait
banning books
angry desperation
to choke out
our culture
to feel us
their heavy handed
back room ways
banks governing
a society
paying war
our people
who speak
warrior words
trilling rhythms
vibrating of resistance
don’t quote
if you can’t handle
blood red
brown hands
raising fists
holding hearts
standing strong
drumming beats
fighting to resist
the occupation
of our Motherland.

c/s tara evonne trudell

Multicultural notebook
Serendipity Leads to Village

La Bloga-Wednesday’s columnist, René Colato Laínez keeps me and other readers updated on children’s picture books featuring razacentric characters and stories, a rare genre as a stroll through any bookstore illustrates.

There’s inestimable value in having characters and stories reflecting kid readers. Sadly, bookselling hasn’t caught up the pent-up demand for such work. Happily, self-publishing and specialty houses like Arte Publico and Lee and Low are closing the gap between demand and quality books.

Still, marketing is the bugaboo of all publishers. A book sells only when people know it exists. “Top 100” lists invariably fail to list raza authors. Some award programs, like Tejas Star, showcase latina latino kid lit, thus feeding titles into teacher-parent word-of-mouth networks. In the end, serendipity probably has as much to do with learning about a book as any deliberate campaign.

That’s how I came to enjoy a copy of Adaku and the Spirits by Evelyn Unde-Iyawe, illustrated by Sonya Finley, serendipity. 

Unde-Iyawe is a school administrator whom my wife met in the course of a workday for both women. Adaku and the Spirits is a multicultural treat for kids and fabulous compare-contrast material. The story is set in an idyllic village in third world Africa.

A courtesy book of sorts, the story’s directed at pre-schoolers learning about following rules uncritically and about individual responsibility. I can imagine certain parents going into a tizzy when river spirits threaten to eat a child.

Adaku hangs out with malcriado kids who trick the girl into getting caught by loquacious spirits hungry for human meat. While the spirits debate eating Adaku, village warriors arrive to rescue Adaku. Back home in the village, the girl’s ill-raised friends have to sweep the zocalo for a week and bring leña to viejitos for three days. Everyone learns a lesson and promises never again to disobey their parents nor trick the hapless.

Information on the author and buying the book at the author’s website.
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11. Remembering Frida. Not Forgetting Fukushima: On-line Floricanto.

Scholars Reaffirm Frida
Michael Sedano

The reading from the 2013 anthology Remembering Frida featuring editor Roberta Orona-Cordova, contributors Lara Medina, Maria Elena Fernandez, Sybil Venegas, Antonia Garcia-Orozco, and Marisa Garcia Rodriguez, moves along steadfastly in La Plaza de la Cultura y Artes  gift store. Seated at floor level with sunlight pouring in from a storefront window behind them, the scholars read from their chapters. One musician performs at the gathering on International Women's Day.

The pace is appropriate to prose, particularly the dry, lulling syntax of academia, so the audience is doubly delighted when Sybil Venegas semi-dryly propounds her theory that a Chicana from South-Central taught Frida her look. Venegas enjoys the irony that the wild popularity of cosas Frida Kahlo reflects not a discovery but a style come back home. It’s the conceptual highlight of an afternoon that at first seems conventional. It was fabulous.

Roberta Orona-Cordova. Cover foto licensed from Vogue Magazine.

Orona-Cordova frames the anthology as a personal manda honoring the professor’s mother, who, like Kahlo, lived in physical pain and marriage to a mujeriego. After the reading, Orona-Cordova distributes a copy of her text, a useful tactic academics might elect when reading in a popular setting.

The Editor's introduction challenges gente to think critically about the Kahlo ethos and iconography. Fans soured on Frida Kahlo owing to commercialization and image saturation, a painful injury in a still-evolving raza aesthetic. Orona reminds that during the movimiento Chicanas struggled to discover powerful mujer images to celebrate, to bestow widespread recognition and acceptance of a distinctive ethos. Why reject Frida, now that her image and the whole FK thing is the cat’s meow? The idea of Frida retains its inherent power, gente need to re-think.

Lara Medina

Lara Medina enlarges popular knowledge through historical research and criticism. Medina’s critic’s eye discerns issues of patriarchy, fashion, identity choice, and appropriateness in Kahlo’s style and its adoption by women over recent years. Medina points out that fashion, not indigeneity, motivates Kahlo’s favorite style, la Tehuana. Kahlo had little personal experience nor knowledge of the Tehuantepec region. It's a key point that reinforces the view that clothing speaks to identity choice in reaffirming an American culture in a pointed exclusion of Eurocentricity.

Medina observes how indigenous couture features soft, loose garments that hide a woman's body. The fashion lets color and style be the expression of her identity, the Look not her looks. It's an extension of the critic's focus upon women making strategic identity choices on their own terms.

Marisa Garcia Rodriguez

Marisa Garcia Rodriguez travels from New Mexico to share the stage with her colleagues. Garcia studies media and reads today from her Master’s thesis, a section on the movie, Frida. The critic finds the Frida of the movies one-dimensional. The portrayal of the artist as driven from outsiders, as needing validation by Diego Rivera and art critics, misserves the passionate artist by mischaracterizing Kahlo’s self-motivating creativity.

Orona-Cordova takes a moment to acknowledge Marisa’s position as a young scholar. The only non professor on the panel, Garcia Rodriguez represents an emerging generation of chicano studies scholars. Assessed on the basis of Garcia’s presentation—she summarizes and adapts to the situation superbly in a solidly argued analysis—the field will be in top hands. The next generation of C/S scholars will no longer remember the movimiento. Like Marisa, they'll develop their understanding and subject matter by reading the research, consuming and creating the arts, and sitting on panels with Veteranas like today's.

“Who knows who Miguel Covarrubias was?” Show of hands: zero. Sybil Venegas is indomitable. “Who knows Rosa Covarrubias?” No hands. “Who knows Frida Kahlo?” A few hands.

Sybil Venegas with foto of Rosa Covarrubias on Caramelo

It’s a tough house that melts in Venegas’ hands when she holds up Sandra Cisneros’ novel Caramelo. The face on the cover is not Cisneros, it’s Rosa Covarrubias, Venegas tells the mystified audience. Demystifying, Venegas explains Rosa Covarrubias grew up in South-Central Los Angeles before moving to Mexico City, where she marries Miguel.

A dancer and actor, Covarrubias favors indigenous clothing that make her a standout in the artistic world of Mexico City of the roaring twenties and thirties. Rosa may be the first primera clase woman to dress like her maid servants, but with sincerity. She’s the subject of a traje tipico photographic suite by notable U.S. photographer, Edward Weston.

Young Frida, a woman in her twenties like the college women emulating the look today, marries Diego Rivera, artist and mujeriego, and moves into his social circle of bohemian artists and patrons. Forty-something Rosa Covarrubias, a social maven of the clika,  who's been everywhere and done everything twice, befriends the blushing bride. The inexperienced woman looks up to this swashbuckling bohemian Veterana, maybe like a madrina, maybe like a favorite tia, maybe as the sine qua non of young Frida's aspirations.

I'll leave the speculation to Sybil Venegas. Venegas cannot connect with an historian’s accuracy her ratiocination that Frida picks up Covarrubias’ liberated actitud and fashion sense, but the argument has rich speculative ground to back it up.

Venegas presents the argument with a happy and understated Chicana nationalism, and the audience eagerly accepts the scholar’s position that Mexican American Rosa is a proto-Chicana. Thus, Venegas reasons, the style that birthed a Salma Hayek movie, an endless stream of artwork featuring Frida iconography, and a hagiography surrounding Kahlo’s beauty, is a Chicana Thing. No wonder it works. ¡Ajua!

Maria Elena Fernandez 

Leave them laughing is a useful strategy when a reading is running long. A final reader doesn’t want to be “more of the same." Maria Elena Fernandez’ piece, FK Nopal en La Frente, is tailor-made for last position on a two-hour panel. It would be a good closer to the book, but it’s the third essay in the twelve chapter collection. Click here for Table of Contents of the $65 book, $52 ebook.

Fernandez crafts a funny, manic monolog that begins as a woman in the midst of a Frida Kahlo breakdown, streams through a consciousness of news, myth, fashion style, feminism, winding its way into a solid mujerismo that reconciles itself to various status quos. The monolog parallels Orona-Cordova’s introductory reminder that this popularized image is what you wanted. Use it. Don’t let it be exoticized nor trivialized out of your control.

Antonia Garcia-Orozco

Control is what one hears in a virtuoso musician’s fingers, especially when striking a superb instrument like Antonia Garcia-Orozco’s guitar. A musicologist, Garcia-Orozco’s rich mezzo articulates words and phrases with crystal precision, despite the hollow space that swallows her voice. She closes the reading playing and singing her composition for the anthology.

The LA Plaza space is not a presenter’s favorite spot. Only the first few rows get good views of readers. Folks beyond see bobbing heads accompanied by amplified voices. Yet, here is good/better/best news. The good news is the reading is an element of a new spoken word program in town, Platicas at LA Plaza. Better, this one’s on the eastside, east of Silver Lake even. Best, the crowd filling the space reflects the effective work of Ximena Martin, Curator of Public Programs, LA Plaza de Cultura y Artes. Institutions grow because they have capable people like Martin, who was eager to talk about her upcoming native ingredients cooking talks.

The gift shop space isn’t going to grow a platform, so in future, folks need to get to the museum early enough for favorable seating. Photographers are going to live with that bright window, the gallery needs that light.

Presenters are going to want to stand up and project to the groundlings. Remembering Frida readers worked collectively, one holds the microphone so her neighbor can read from her manuscript. Poets could work from memory, or Martin probably has a lavaliere mic; the sound cart is excellent. The absence of a lectern doesn't mean a reader shouldn't stand, and I hope there won't be one in future.

Academic presenters will want to remember it’s a public audience, not inured to the ritual of the academic conference. Relax, personalize, and keep it shorter.

A public reading of difficult prose in a gift shop should not exceed five pages to seven pages--think about two minutes a page. Listeners count pages so presenters benefit from a folder or notebook. Any reader will do well to remember a dictum for meeting planners: a person’s brain can absorb half what their nalgas can tolerate.

LA Plaza de Cultura y Artes. 501 North Main Street, Los Angeles, CA 90012 • 888 488-8083 • M,W & Th, 12–5 pm, Fri-Sun 12-6 pminfo@lapca.org

Remembering Frida. Roberta Orona-Cordova, Ed. Kendall-Hall, Dubuque IA, 2013.
ISBN: 978-1-4652-2911-3 print
ISBN: 978-1-4652-3573-2 ebook

On-line Floricanto For the Gente of Fukushima and All of Us
Iris De Anda, Sharon Elliott, Red Slider, Francisco X. Alarcón, Res JF Burman, Suzy Huerta, Odilia Galván Rodríguez

Curator's statement by Odilia Galván Rodríguez
~ A special feature floricanto to commemorate the third anniversary of the Tohoku earthquake, tsunami and subsequent aftermath at Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant in Japan. ~

On March 11 2011, the Tohoku earthquake devastated northern Japan and less than an hour after it hit, tsunami waves crashed Japan’s coastline. The tsunami waves reached run-up heights, which is how far the wave surges inland above sea level, of up to 128 feet and traveled inland as far as 6 miles. The tsunami flooded an estimated area of approximately 217 square miles. The number of confirmed dead surpassed 18,000, with more people still reported as missing. In addition to other very serious damage, the tsunami caused a cooling system failure at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant, which resulted in a level 7 nuclear meltdown and release of radioactive materials. About 300 tons of radioactive water continued to leak from the plant every day into the Pacific Ocean, affecting fish and other marine life.

In response to the devastation, in addition to calling for material support, assistance, and prayers, Poets Responding to SB 1070 asked the world community to join them in an offering to the people of Japan of condolences and hope, in the form of poems.

Poets Responding to SB 1070 moderator, Odilia Galván Rodríguez, took on the task of gathering people’s work and subsequently, on April 19, Michael Sedano collaborated in this tribute and produced a special edition of La Bloga. Like today's column, that La Bloga featured Frida Kahlo.


Three years later the nuclear crisis continues to threaten more lives. While we are told that the clean up at Fukushima Daiichi is ongoing and that we have nothing to worry about, with regard to the radioactive water that is spewing into the Pacific Ocean daily, everyday we hear of more people becoming ill and dying of cancer. We hear reports of dead birds falling from the sky, marine life perishing en masse, and know something is amiss even though we are told otherwise.

This year, to bring attention to the situation at Fukushima and other global environmental concerns affecting our earth, Poets Responding to SB 1070 and Love and Prayers for Fukushima, a Facebook page started by Odilia Galván Rodríguez, called for poems for a special remembrance of what happened three years ago in Japan and to honor all those who lost their lives, and for their families and friends.

We know that we are but a tiny part of this grand web of life, that we are all connected, and what has happened to Japan affects us all. Some of the poems included here are new and some from the original tribute. United in struggle ~

Wednesday Prayers for Fukushima
by Iris De Anda

Something is happening
Something is happening in our ocean
Something is happening to our pachamama

we must come together and do something about it
I ask that we gather our intentions
wherever you find yourself on Wednesdays
I ask that you pray for our water
that you pray for our earth mother
that you pray

this prayer can be a simple word
a closing of your eyes
a wish
a thought
a song

you can meditate

she is asking for us to hold a space
a healing space
a whole space
a tranquil space
a space within

at night or early morning
I send her my prayers
in the middle of the day
I send her my prayers
as I breathe air & drink water
I send her my prayers

alone I create a little ripple
together we can create a wave of love

Wednesday Prayers for Fukushima
Wherever you may find yourself

When birds fall from the sky and the animals are dying, a new tribe of people shall come unto the Earth from many colors, classes, creeds, who by their actions and deeds shall make the Earth green again. They will be known as the Warriors of the Rainbow.

Copyright © 2014 Iris De Anda
All Rights Reserved.

Doom Tears
by Sharon Elliott

for Fukushima and the rest of the planet

doom cries
dragon tears
molten lava
drips from eaves
wet with

leather wings
beat against

claws wipe
sprinkling fire
against the mountain top

wailing grows
louder than the
breaking sea

9 years
90 decades
900 centuries
of unremittent
under a
carnelian sky

green growing things
beneath dirt
baked by

for a blue sky
that does not
show itself

hidden by smoke
and fire

burning down
which should be prayed for

Poem Copyright © 2014 Sharon Elliott.
All Rights Reserved.

Born and raised in Seattle, Sharon Elliott has written since childhood. Four years in the Peace Corps in Nicaragua and Ecuador laid the foundation for her activism. As an initiated Lukumi priest, she has learned about her ancestral Scottish history, reinforcing her belief that borders are created by men, enforcing them is simply wrong.

She has featured twice in poetry readings in the San Francisco Bay area:  at Poetry Express, Berkeley, Ca.  in 2012 and La Palabra Musical in Berkeley, CA in 2013.

She was awarded the Best Poem of 2012, The Day of Little Comfort, Sharon Elliott, La Bloga Online Floricanto Best Poems of 2012, 11/2013, http://labloga.blogspot.com/2013/01/best-poems-of-2012.html

She has a book: Jaguar Unfinished, Sharon Elliott, Prickly Pear Publishing 2012, ISBN-13:  978-1-889568-03-4, ISBN-10:  1-889568-03-1 (26 pgs)

The Fearful Symmetry
by Red Slider

They say it didn't happen that way,

that some died quick and others not at all.

They say it was all in the sway of "necessity,
"Called down from the sea to wash away our sins, 

yet even now burns brightly, beneath our skins.

They say it didn't happen that way.

It was worth the price, "necessity,"
They say. "The survivors heal in time.

Those that don't survive, quickly die.

Their silence said as much," they said,

"It was necessary to end the war,"

they didn't suffer.

Somewhere, deep in the skin of their ghosts,

hubris burned brightly, renewing the curse

of Prometheus, plucking our livers from

the ashes of Fukushima-Daiichi. Once again

they will say, "It didn't happen that way,

It is the price of success and necessity,"
burning brightly, beneath our skins.

They say, to end a war we must light up the day or,
to light a lamp, place a speck of sun upon a coastal ledge
where ashen ghosts are still at play among the ruins, 

their shadows lengthened into rays of paper, fan and broom.
By fire or by sea are the sins of ignorance swept clean 
they say, while a thousand folded paper cranes pass by 
in lingering review, they spin eternities in hubris gray; 
they calculate the half-life of a day burning brightly, 

beneath our skins.

© 2012 red slider.
All rights reserved.

Urgent Nuclear Prayer
by Francisco X. Alarcón

disarm these ticking
bombs called reactors, Mother Earth,
have mercy on us!

we foolish children
who recklessly play with fire
are getting all burned

Toci Tonantzin!
Citlacueye! Tlazateotl!
tla Tlatecuhtli!

© Francisco X. Alarcón
March 24, 2011

Urgente plegaria nuclear
por Francisco X. Alarcón

desarma las bombas
de reactores, Madre Tierra,
¡tennos piedad!

como niños tontos
jugamos con el fuego,
hasta quemar todo

Toci Tonantzin!
Citlacueye! Tlazateotl!
tla Tlatecuhtli!
© Francisco X. Alarcón
24 de marzo de 2011

Francisco X. Alarcón, award winning Chicano poet and educator, born in Los Angeles, in 1954, is the author of twelve volumes of poetry, including, From the Other Side of Night: Selected and New Poems (University of Arizona Press 2002), and Snake Poems: An Aztec Invocation (Chronicle Books 1992), Sonetos a la locura y otras penas / Sonnets to Madness and Other Misfortunes (Creative Arts Book Company 2001), De amor oscuro / Of Dark Love (Moving Parts Press 1991, and 2001).
His latest books are Ce•Uno•One: Poems for the New Sun / Poemas para el Nuevo Sol (Swan Scythe Press 2010), and for children, Animal Poems of the Iguazú/Animalario del Iguazú (Children’s Book Press 2008) which was selected as a Notable Book for a Global Society by the International Reading Association, and as an Américas Awards Commended Title by the Consortium of Latin American Studies Programs. His previous bilingual book titled Poems to Dream Together/Poemas para soñar juntos (Lee & Low Books 2005) was awarded the 2006 Jane Addams Honor Book Award. 
He teaches at the University of California, Davis, where he directs the Spanish for Native Speakers Program. The issue of eco-poetics and xenophobia are a the core of three upcoming collections of poems, Poetry of Resistance: A Multicultural Anthology in Response to SB 1070, Borderless Butterflies: Earth Haikus and Other Poems / Mariposas sin fronteras: Haikus terrenales y otros poemas. He is the creator of the Facebook page POETS RESPONDING TO SB 1070 where more than 3,000 poems by poets all over the world have been posted.

Japanese Earthquake Haiku
by Res JF Burman

I first heard of the Earthquake whilst listening to a Music Programme from Vancouver. A frequent listener posted from Tokyo that she could feel earthquake tremors. The following collection of haiku (isn) verses followed from that.

I hear from Vancouver
Of Tokyo quakes... small world
In peril

Sitting safe at home
My heart goes out to all at risk
In quaking Tokyo

Man is so small
When the Dragon shrugs it's shoulders
Playthings of the gods

Japan lies bleeding
Scattered across her farm land
My heart bleeds for her

Ships take to the land
And cars take to the water
Racing to destruction

After the quake… the waves
So many lives turned upside down
Reduced to mud and matchsticks

Our thoughts and prayers
Are with you all in Japan
Living in harms way

Every child I see
Rescued... saved from the wreckage
My heart swells.... tearful joy

I see the loving care
As a boat load of children
Are passed hand to hand

Save them all.. Dear God..
Or Goddess.. save all of them
They need your mercy now

How strange to fear the rain
Or the gentle breeze blowing
From Fukushima

Snow falls on the scene
Of Japan’s great disaster
Gently… like a kind touch
Bestowed too late

Shunbun no Hi
A day for admiration
Of nature… cruel jest

But despite it all
In a Tokyo park today
Cherry Blossom hope

Copyright © Res JFB 11th March 2011
All Rights Reserved

Old Soldier, disabled Vet, War Pensioner, reformed, well mostly!

Ex-traveller, builder, carpenter, cabinet-maker, wood-turner, forester & silviculturist, herdsman and cow-lifter! Ex-donkey driver too! Lots of ex’s due mostly to age and disability but a bit of all of them still leaving their mark!

Now a long time practicing Taoist. (I’ll get it right some day!)

Into music, poetry, Oriental art, religion and philosophy. Photography. Beauty in all it’s forms; landscapes, seascapes, forests & mountains. And, of course, beautiful people, especially the ladies!
I am not a good walker nowadays but I still love wild places & the wild side. Love trees, bamboos, beautiful women and all with beautiful souls, animals and old dogs and children and watermelon wine!

After Shock~
by Suzy Huerta

Tonight, prayers the people of Fukushima
will escape the unnatural breath

of radiation. Four burning reactors and acid
rains hang overhead. Together, we walk this coastline

of nuclear meltdown. The living cry for having outlived
tsunami explosions, and I decide I won’t cry death

that can, at the whim of wind and
ocean currents, take over, seep slowly

into expectant lungs and belly. Before the final seizure,
cancer born of hyper-energy and fabricated sun, I declare

my right to battle. 50 plant technicians stay behind
when levels spike into dangerous territory, more dangerous

than centuries of plate tectonic tension, and surging waters.
Like them, I focus on the fixing. I will not spend energy

this night at my desk, eyes on screens, on newsreels
of broken spirits: mothers to new babies,

70 year old husbands who couldn’t hold on
to waterlogged, drifting wives. I take their gaping wounds

like a bullet in protest, demand something better
and walk with their torment like a lover, saying goodbye

in this balmy, California sunset. Loose steps glide on
downtown, potholed pavement. Returning home, I discover

purple and yellow bulbs, ripe and blasting brilliantly,
growing spring into dying, winter skies.

Copyright © Suzy Huerta
All Rights Reserved

Suzy Huerta was born and raised in San Jose, California.

She currently teaches English composition and literature at Foothill Community College where she also coordinates the Puente Program.

Suzy Huerta's poems have been published in The Packinghouse Review, El Coraje, La Bloga and other journals.

Five Senryū
~ an offering to Ocean
by Odilia Galván Rodríguez

on wings of ocean
water gives life or destroys ~
they were carried skyward

ocean endless
with no bottom to speak of
she cannot be blamed

for mysteries of life
painful as they are deep
clouds without answers

mighty ships sinking
as if gravity were no more
a chasm

earth-water fissures
a breach in reality
our safety lost

©Odilia Galván Rodríguez, 2011

Author Odilia Galván Rodríguez, is of Chicano-Lipan Apache ancestry, born in Galveston, Texas and raised on the south side of Chicago. As a social justice activist for many years, Ms. Galván Rodríguez worked as a community and labor organizer, for the United Farm Workers of America AFL-CIO and other community based organizations, and served on various city/county boards and commissions. She is the author of three books of poetry, of which Red Earth Calling ~ Cantos for the 21st Century ~ is her latest publication.  Her creative writing has appeared in various literary journals and anthologies such as, The En'owkin Journal of First North American Peoples, New Chicana / Chicano Writing: 1& 2, Reinventing the Enemy's Language: Contemporary Native American Women's Writings of North America, Here is my kingdom: Hispanic-American literature and art for young people, Zyzzyva, The Beltway Poetry Quarterly, La Bloga as well as other online sites. She most recently worked as the English Edition Editor for Tricontinental Magazine, in Havana, Cuba under OSPAAAL, an NGO with consultative status to the United Nations.  She is one of the facilitators of Poets Responding to SB1070, a Facebook page dedicated to calling attention to the unjust laws recently passed in Arizona which target Latinos, and Love and Prayers for Fukushima.  She also teaches Empowering People Through Creative Writing Workshops nationally.

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12. The Bickering Sisters

There once were two lovely young girls, sisters in fact, who lived in a spacious abode that seemed, too often, to close in around them. They were two of four daughters, not the golden-brown edge ones, but the soft, fair-haired, middlest sisters, mixed and squeezed together so much that they couldn’t get along. In fact, they bickered constantly.


They bickered near, they bickered far

They argued things trivial, humdrum, and bizarre.

“I’m sick of your manners,” one would often yell.

“I don’t like your meddling or dubious smell”

The other undaunted, her resentments would list

And sometimes erupt in a tirade of fists

Finally the lady of the manor (the loveliest, fairest maiden in the land) had had quite enough. She threatened, cajoled, and punished the two sisters. In frustration, she assigned them chores in the hopes of building teamwork. The clever mother’s schemes worked…but only for a season. For the enmity between the two sisters had grown as great and thick as their noble father’s ample chest hair.

He, the master of the house, was wise on his own account and took action to solve the embarrassing bickering once and for all. He tied the legs of the two sisters together with red silky ribbon, telling them to write down ten things each admired in the other. Only then would the ribbon be removed and their freedom attained.

He congratulated himself on his shrewdness and saw to the other important tasks of the manor, little knowing that the two cunning sisters conspired against him. Each composed a flowery list detailing their own most praiseworthy virtues, swapped scrolls, and beckoned their father back to their dungeon. So pleased was he that he released the two fair girls immediately with a tender kiss on each brow.

He boasted to his lovely wife in their bedchamber that night and wondered at how she could possibly resist his dashing charm. While choruses singing praise echoed inside his swollen head, the lady heard the familiar bicker, bicker, bicker from the other side of the door. The master and fine lady gave up! Would the two sisters ever be confidants or were they doomed to dwell in the moat of antipathy ever after?

Alas, one fine day, something came into their hands that brought the two together better than any silk ribbon ever could. It was warm, imaginative, and likable to both parties. They loved this thing, pondered it, and discussed it non-stop. Oft in the evenings, side by side they could be found on a blue, fluffy throne doing nothing but soak up the enjoyment of this thing…together. Yes, together.

An amazing light shone over the humble manor – the light of peace.

What was this wonderful thing of harmony, you ask? What could it possibly be? It was a book, then another, and another. It was literature that bound their squabbling hearts and imaginations together.

The lord of the manor, a brilliant novelist in his own mind, felt it important to pay tribute to one of the tomes that brought reconciliation to his home. To celebrate Divergent’s theatrical debut, I give you Virgil’s take on one of the wonderful works that put hatred asunder.

Not coming to a theater near you….


Artwork By Georgios Iakovidis (1853-1932)
Imitation Artwork yet unclaimed

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13. La Palabra at Ave50. Twenty. On-line Floricanto: Blackjack

La Palabra Hosts Bloguera Xánath Caraza, Shy But Flyy, and Debuts Eric "Praxis" Contreras

It was Karineh Mahdessian's second time at the helm of the monthly reading series, La Palabra, at Northeast Los Angeles' Avenue 50 Studio.

 She hit her stride. Unfazed by a featured reader's late arrival and Xánath Caraza's time-certain departure an hour after the 2:00 opening, Karineh improvised with aplomb.

Mahdessian altered the series' pattern of Open Mic and Featured Reader. In this instance, Open Mic launched the afternoon, the Featured readers came next, another Open Mic, and an engaging Q&A followed.

Bloguera Xánath Caraza's reading included work from Conjuro, including the heart-thumping Yanga that had the audience dancing in their seats to the intoxicating rhythm of the Afro-Latino influenced text.

A special moment in the reading. Caraza's latest collection, Noche de Colibríes: Ekphrastic Poems, features cover art by Heriberto Luna. Caraza had not met the artist, whose studio is in the Avenue 50 complex. Luna joined the audience for Caraza's reading of Luna's poem.

Madhessian holds Luna's Tree of Life painting featuring the cosmic hummingbirds of the cover as Xánath reads the piece inspired by the painting. After, Luna tells me he enjoyed the heck out of the experience.

Southeast Los Angeles' Eric "Praxis" Contreras made his featured poet debut at La Palabra, his name had never been on a poster. Mahdessian disclosed that Contreras will soon be a household name when a feature LATimes article appears.

Contreras writes feminist poetry, sharing a powerfully constructed piece in the voice of a woman. He tells the audience his grandmother and mother are the dominant influences in his life, and he rejects the attitudes of some pendejos who don't understand nor value women.

Eric's motivations for poetry extend from the personal to the community. His home city of Bell is notorious for government corruption, but also for its dramatic absence of a cultural life.

Contreras works to fill the void by holding Alivo Open Mics in his garage. Alivio brings in a crowd of young adults and neighborhood viejitos to share their own, or hear others' poetry.

It's those crowds of gente coming to some vato's garage to do a floricanto that brings the LA Times' Ruben Vives (who broke the Bell corruption scandal story) to shadow the high school substitute teacher for the feature.

In addition to Alivio, Contreras hosts a biweekly reading at Corazón y Miel Restaurant in Bell.

Find information on the Alivo series and Corazón y Miel, via Eric's Facebook page, don't wait for the LA Times article.

If she's shy she holds it back and lets loose with a frenetic array of musical poetry that led an already exhausted audience to higher levels of energy and joyousness.

Shy But Flyy's harmonious blend of spoken word, song, and drumming provided La Palabra's house with a stirring example of poetry out loud y con ganas.

Shy But Flyy organizes poetry readings from her Long Beach area residence. La Bloga looks forward to learning and sharing more about these events at the far southeast of LA County.

Open Mic at La Palabra

A sense of community and carnalismo develops among the gente attending a La Palabra meeting. Much of this grows from the Open Mic. Open means anyone, from a trembling novice reading their stuff to an audience for the first time, or experience veterans like Jessica Ceballos and Luivette Resto, or Joe Kennedy. I'd not heard Charlie Zero, lower right, read before.

For the most part, today's readers omitted the most valued element of a reader's nonverbal communication--eye contact. It's a problem of handling the manuscript, but also of lack of confidence.

Here are Flor de Té, Angel Garcia, Karla Sanchez, and William A. Gonzalez. Two got stuck to their manuscripts while Angel and Karla had a bit of eye contact.

Rebekkah Bax read her selection from Mahdessian's Heartbreak Anthology. When a piece is quite short, the reader should allow herself a slow pace to avoid the look down look up and she's gone effect. It stymies photographers.

Karineh handled the Q&A effectively. The loquacious audience had lots of questions and the two featured readers elaborated effectively on their answers. Shy But Flyy hedged her story about her earliest writing performance. Her mother spills the beans in the lower right foto, telling how the precocious three-year old demanded an audience for her compositions. That patience worked, Ma, the kid is a wonderful performer.

Reading Your Own Stuff challenges every writer from the laureates to the rookies. See the "Reading Your Stuff Aloud" pages at Read! Raza for tips on eye contact, handling manuscripts, delivery, and memorization. Here's a link to individual portraits.

Twenty Little Helpless Souls

La Bloga friend Edward Vidaurre is one of four editors of a sadly needful collection of poems. Twenty honors the twenty treasures who were shot by a man armed with a rifle and a broken mind. The babies were six, and seven, years old.

Nothing like this should happen, ever. Yet, the December 2012 shootings in Newton CT stand in a long line of United States cultural markers outsiders can point to and say, “that is ‘American’ culture” and they mean you.

It’s a rhetorical situation that calls for poetry. That perception of who we are demands a counterstatement as loudly heard as bullets. Twenty: In Memoriam is counterstatement, fifty-five poets stepping forward in communal expression of who we are. Photography and art embellish the collection. Many of the poets, like Vidaurre, are from the Rio Grande Valley. Poets Laureate Juan Felipe Herrera and Carmen Tafolla contribute, as well as several La Bloga friends and On-line Floricanto poets, including Nancy Aidé Gonzalez, Iris de Anda, and Claudia D. Hernandez. Hernandez’ fotos are a notable bonus to the book.

In his “Introduction Writing Kindness,” Juan Felipe Herrera tells us, “These poems speak wisdom. It is hard to find it – perhaps you must fall into each other, bathe in the palms of intertwined hands ripped by shrapnel and sense the sublime there, flowering, in those wounds.”

Editor José Chapa V recalls, “When I was approached with the offer to help curate TWENTY, I had mixed feelings. We knew that on one hand, the poems would seek to commemorate and honor the victims of the tragic shooting, and that on the other they would be probing darker areas than the usual poetry anthology. I wasn’t sure how to go about it, if the work that arrived (regardless of quality) would fit such delicate criteria, and what kind of response our gesture would gather. But I decided to join the editorial team on the knowledge that such events have an impact not just on the victims and their families, not just on our nation, but on the entire human species.”

Editor Vidaurre explains a powerful feature of the collection.

Twenty-eight lives were lost. This book is dedicated to the educators that lost their lives as well. Page 20 in this anthology is left blank, purposefully: we ask that when you come across it, you say a special prayer, close it for a bit and reflect, write your thoughts, a poem, a song, or bring the book to your chest and hold it.

The book comes from McAllen, Texas and El Zarape Press. The collection presently has distribution only from Amazon, though the press promises alternative distribution in future. Use ISBN-13: 978-1494326753 or ISBN-10: 1494326752 with your local bookseller to order. Some money from sales will go to charities serving children.

Más Tequila Review Hits the Streets

That’s old newspaper talk for a new edition. Unlike the newspapers or yore, a new edition of an independent poetry journal like The Más Tequila Review doesn’t have streetcorner urchins shouting “TMTR, get yer TMTR” on every block.

Headquartered in Alburquerque, New Mexico, The Más Tequila Review is the love child of Richard Vargas and the muses of poetry. The current issue, Vargas confesses, has a new look because he accepted too many poets to fit the normal press run. Euterpe and Erato were whispering in Vargas' ears as he's featuring Jazz Poetry in the issue.

For information on ordering the $7.00 collection—I proofed this copy, the price is seven U.S. dollars--click here for the Facebook TMTR page, and here for the TMTR website.

Free La Tolteca ‘Zine

In its fifth year, La Tolteca ‘Zine sets itself up as a sassy, thoughtful resource for razacentric writing with an actitude, or make that a twist.

In 2012, La Tolteca promised its December issue would be “more exciting, original thought, images & literature to boggle your mind, put a jiggle in your wiggle & bring you closer to the gods. Strap on your seat belt or something & subscribe. It’s the only thing you’ll get this season for free + our love.” A year later, staff was telling readers, “Subscribe now! It’s free! Pass on to your high falutin’ thinker friends, poet acquaintances and barely literate family members who like the arts. There’s something for (almost) everyone, who thinks, supports the arts and occasionally still reads. Happy holidays with love from la tolteca staff.”

It’s free.

Getting there is half the fun. Click on this Facebook link to learn more about the process.

The ‘Zine marks one of those labors of love that busy people take on because they have to. As if she didn’t have her hands full writing and workshopping writers and living her life, Ana Castillo is la éminence grise of La Tolteca.

La Tolteca arrives on your desktop as a deluxe interactive graphic with the look and feel of a print magazine. There's a special bonus for gente who've joined one of Ana Castillo's workshops. Some get to work on the 'Zine, plus the 'Zine runs contests open to workshopistas.

Latinopia Scrolls

Six-column layout is easy-to-read. Magnifying or shrinking your browser window gives fewer or more columns.

One of my favorite Chicana Chicano media sites is Latinopia. It’s a visionary place that keeps growing.

Film maker Jesus Treviño shares his enormous video library in multiple small portions. He updates the site weekly. One week he might have José Montoya reading “El Louie,” another week he will share a few minutes from a documentary spotlight on ASCO. And each week there will be six other highlights just like those.

Latinopia shows contemporary as well as historic video. Treviño regularly captures community events—see RudyG’s reading--plus conducts interviews with a variety of people from artists like Sonia Romero or Linda Vallejo to performances by Ruben Guevara or Conjunto Aztlán. Book reviews, Serge Hernandez’ resurrected Arnie and Porfi cartoon that originated in Con Safos Magazine, and the Zombie Mex Diaries, make regular appearances.

Treviño’s staff make regular improvements and adaptations to the site. The site encourages visitors to scroll through newspaper-like columns dotted with descriptive and promotional links to features in art, literature, history, food, music, theatre, film, art, and blogs. Fotos mark divisions between stories so individual items are easily discerned. Ample white space further defines links to stories and videos.

Visit Latinopia with ample time. Once a visitor begins scrolling those columns and discovering the richness of cultura and history here, they’ll become lost in the delights of this space.

On-line Floricanto: Blackjack Poems
Pamela Murray Winters, David Taylor Nielsen

La Bloga friend Maritza Rivera invented a 21st century poetic form, the Blackjack Poem. Comprised of three lines, 7 syllables each, for a jackpot of 21 syllables, the form produces delightfully playful, often pithy, pieces.

Learn more about Blackjack poetry, submit your own, via the Blackjack Poets Facebook page.

3 Blackjacks 
By David Taylor Nielsen

When Batman kissed Superman,
A kryptonite explosion
Left Kal-El weak in the knees.

ADHD poetry:
I would explain it to you,
But I've moved on already.

Who needs a thousand foreskins?
Samson, I don't understand.
Wasn't killing them enough?

David Taylor Nielsen is a Literacy Coach and reading teacher with Montgomery County Public Schools. He is currently the host of Poetry Night Open Mic in Greenbelt, MD. He can also be found haunting other open mic poetry readings in the DC Metro Region. He has been published in Gargoyle Magazine and Three Line Poetry.

Three Blackjacks from the Pantry 
By Pamela Murray Winters


Born to be architecture:
firm mild wallboard disguised as
an expensive vegetable.

Garlic Scapes

Braid and swing from their fresh stink,
stir-fry your fantasies with
these perfumed limbs of Chthulu.


Last night I rolled in you and
inhaled your distinct attar.
Morning: the gold won’t wash off.

A native of Takoma Park, Maryland, Pamela Murray Winters now lives on the Western Shore of the Chesapeake Bay with her husband and animals, most of them poets.

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14. Free Poetry. Print Reports. On-line Floricanto.

Free Poetry on Bunker Hill
Michael Sedano

The land rises steeply up Los Angeles' Bunker Hill, a green space flanked by massive cement government buildings. The terrain makes it a walk of multiple stairs and gently sloping ramps to land on wide paved terraces and sprawling lawns. Landscaping, and the gente at today’s Grand Park Downtown Bookfest, keep my attention on the ground, then I look up. All I could see from where I stood was the Music Center at the top of the hill. I turned and looked the other way and saw City Hall tower. Then I go in search of free poetry.

Grand Park Downtown Bookfest signals Los Angeles’ ongoing support for literacy—there are never too many bookfests--and the region’s renascence of poetry as a public activity. Today, poets will both read and compose on-the-spot poems; for free, just stop and chat.

Bookfest organizer Writ Large Press occupies a large space where books and authors invite passersby into the display. Next door is a tent where anyone can type a story on a real typewriter and publish it into their own book.  I watch amused as a teenager types a line then looks up wondering how to get to a new line. “I don’t know how it works.”

Saturday’s quest begins Thursday afternoon in Highland Park, at Avenue 50 Studio where Jessica Ceballos, Los Angeles’ indefatigable poetry promoter via Poesía Para La Gente, assembles a sign-making crew.

Starting with the rawest materials, Scott Doyle, Naomi Molinar and Lucy Delgado craft “Free Poetry” and “Poema Gratis” signage for Saturday’s event.

Saturday, I spot Doyle working 826LA’s display, urging passersby to contribute to the world’s longest story. Write, post, join in. It’s the best kind of yellow journalism from the grass roots.

826LA makes effective use of its prime location to draw people to stop for long periods, to read the world’s longest story, to ask a question of the writing and tutoring center’s volunteers. Visit 826LA’s website to learn its mission  “supporting students ages 6 to 18 with their creative and expository writing skills, and to helping teachers inspire their students to write.”

Red Hen Press has another prime spot, a pair of eight foot tables at a main intersection. Billy Goldstein answers questions while author Nicelle Davis dresses like a cloud as a marketing gimmick for her book, Becoming Judas.

The Shakespeare Center Los Angeles tent occupies the corner diagonally from Red Hen. Marina Oliva explains her mission includes producing full-length plays. Assisted today by Giovanni and Noemi, they were giving away editions of Richard II. Marina explains the play is not on the bill this summer, Romeo and Juliet and Midsummer Night’s Dream are ideas. Shakespeare Center supports Veterans and proposes an interesting drama program for returning Veterans here. 

Ceballos introduces me to Victor Robert, whose wordless book encourages a kid’s storytelling unconstrained by what words the author might put on the page, or a writer’s frustration at all the words not used instead. You can learn more about the book, Brian Wonders, at the author’s website here.

I introduce myself to Roxy Morataya, who occupies a table at the ‘Zines tent. I used to think ‘Zines an internet phenomenon that got supplanted by the blog. It’s a treat seeing contemporary ‘Zines. Exhibitors have covered two eight foot tables with ‘Zines. A 3-skein clothesline sways and frees some exemplars to a whirling wind that catches printed documents in a climatologic metaphor for literary ephemera.

 ‘Zines, like other literary ephemera, come in various forms, from multi-page saddle-stitch chapbooks to documents committed to a single sheet. Roxy traded me two quarters for an accordion-folded eight page handmade book she makes from a single sheet of typing paper.

Entertainment for the familia means kids’ entertainment. My eye is attracted by the plastic shakers I spy with my little eye on a table near the stage where Story Pirates keeps kids engaged and attentive. Sadly, I’ve missed Birdie’s performance, the ebullient woman at the table tells me. On video, I catch up with Birdie’s Playhouse on Birdie’s website.

 I catch up with the free poetry signs along the grassy knoll overlooking the stage, and the picnic lawn sloping down to the stage esplanade. Poets to the left of me, poets to the right. I see Karineh Madhessian emcee of La Palabra Reading Series, and Victor Avila, a regular On-line Floricanto contributor, greeting visitors.

I spot Brandon Brown and a beaming Lucy Delgado with her poem on a vinyl album.

Visitors are delighted to talk to real poets and take in the sight of so many in one place. Poets create on typewriters, with Sharpie pen on vinyl 33 1/3  rpm records, stuff handwritten cards in rubber gloves, find poetry on random pages of pulp novel, send along a linocut postcard with a poem.

Dane F. Baylis chooses flip chart paper and chalk crayon that needs a spritz of fixative before the poet scrolls the poem for visitors like the delighted Sofia.

Grand Park Downtown Bookfest makes a friendly warm-up for the upcoming gargantuan LA Times book festival that sprawls across the nearby USC campus. The only dour note are the white-shirted County cops. All whom I ask if they’d like a poem erect a wall of hostility. An LAPD cop is an exception, laughing with me that maybe later.

Other than those sour deputies, this year’s Writ Large Press and Jessica Ceballos and crew do everything possible to have a completely enjoyable show. As word of mouth spreads, I foresee visitors to next year’s Grand Park Downtown Bookfest looking forward to another comfortable and free-spirited afternoon with books and poetry.

Print Start-up
Art! The Magazine In New Edition

Print continues to challenge the marketing efforts of anyone with the ganas to launch a print product. Art! The Magazine this month reaches a milestone fourth issue.

Printed on coated paper in rich colors, the visual quality alone of Art! The Magazine makes every issue a collector's item. Text content adds richness to the already dazzling graphics and layout. The current issue's story on muralist David Botello comes with luxurious close-ups. The cover story on how gente are updating the calavera look is a timeless addition to DDLM lore.

Underpriced at $6.95, the magazine has yet to hit its advertising stride. That makes each issue content-rich, but limits the ability of the publisher to reach for ever more ambitious editorial content and more pages. Click here for availability and access.

Print Media Report
Brooklyn & Boyle Hitting It Bigger

A successful commercial print publication needs a fifty percent ad hole to begin to meet publisher needs and goals. Getting there offers immense challenges to any print publication. Brooklyn & Boyle's current edition comes with a satisfying ad volume. That's encouraging to anyone who roots for community media.

With continued ad expansion, Editor-Publisher and La Bloga friend Abel Salas may have built the momentum with advertisers to expand Brooklyn & Boyle circulation and coverage. It's already a highly admired community resource with a high pass-along endorsement. People talk about what they read in Brooklyn & Boyle.

Other weeklies still hold the lion's share of SoCal advertiser dollars, but they're missing the boat. Like Art! The Magazine, Brooklyn & Boyle's readers tend to be community opinion leaders. Advertisers and marketers wisely value word of mouth because a friend's recommendation is among the more powerful motivators. Word of mouth begins with opinion leaders, Brooklyn & Boyle readers.

For gente outside Brooklyn & Boyle's circulation area, the website doesn't hide behind a paywall. Click here to visit.

On-Line Floricanto First of April 2013
Paul Aponte, Tara Evonne Trudell, Betty Sánchez, Joe Navarro, Ramón Piñero

"Grand Canyon State" by Paul Aponte
"Crossing…" by Tara Evonne Trudell
"Bracero" por Betty Sánchez
"I Understand Peace, Equality, Justice and Hope" by Joe Navarro
"i had a gun" by Ramón Piñero

by Paul Aponte

The Grand Canyon:

Majestic, riveting walls of time
Encrusted with history and life
Encrusted with aromas of water trickling on stone
& clean, fresh, crisp air.
Encrusted with colors & beauty of the cactus flowers,
wood betonies & red monkey flowers,
songs of Warblers & Western Bluebirds.
Encircled by morphic skies
watching over the flight of Falcons and Condors.
Rushing white waters like our bustling cities,
gentle trickles like restful small towns that care,
flowing strong waters, like our united people,
and restful pools like the knowing enlightened minds.
All rooted-in remnants of wondrous people
having once thrived all around this beauty,
that is in fact a Grand Canyon.

Why then?


Dining tables for giants
home of the Hopi & their history,
unique religion & philosophy.
Lakes, streams, waterfalls,
pine forests, complex formations,
greenery of plenty opening to
shockingly monumental red towers & mountains.
Plain old deserts shamed
by sudden resplendence
of curvaceous flowing low hills
painted by ancient god-artists
with colors that bring tears
at the inconceivable, shocking beauty.

Why then?

This painted desert,
this splendorous beauty,
protecting an “ancient planet”
a separate universe
a forest of reminders
petrified to tell
with hues of all kinds
reminding us


Guests, with a future likely shorter
than the wisdom of this petrified forest.

Why then?

The state of mind
poisoned we find
by fear, neglect, and pure disdain
of our humanity.

It has festered.

We see it in the horrific stench
of pundit’s turd words
of formulaic "News people"
reporting on nothing
to incite extremes
of the regurgitation by otherwise fine people
Slowly decomposing before our eyes.

The grand canyon growing wider
between the living and the dead.

One …
unwilling …
to let the true light in.

Spin, spin, spin.
Foghorn blowing in your face.

Now I realize
our true divine evolutionary path can be stunted and
we only get one chance.

Tiny Alice
in Wonderland
walking in a Grand Canyon
of beautiful flowers
of beautiful “people”,
So she thought.

“We don't want weeds in our bed!
… Move along, move along!” they said.
Flowers creating hatred, divisiveness, a grand canyon,
for no loving reason.

Spin, spin, spin.
Foghorn blowing in your face.

We yearn for the simple life
for simple thinking,
but something is stinking.
Because de-evolution is not the solution.
Respecting WWE reactions
without sanctions,
Hating jobless and homeless,
thereby providing less
is just a mess, non-sense
Screaming at hard working people
merely for being within sight
is not right.

Borders made by hoarders.

Spin, spin, spin.
Foghorn blowing in your face.

They keep trying to obfuscate,
The enlightened must keep trying to eliminate …
this grand canyon state.

The Grand Canyon
Towering sculptures of time, history, and life.
At the bottom
the tears of its true owners

moving fast away
applauded by those
In this grand canyon state.

by Tara Evonne Trudell

the mojave desert
I dreamed
my people
moving through
heat waves
and hunger pains
mothers fathers
willing life
dying to cross
a line
drawn in sand
drones hovering in air
dangerous spy tactics
always monitoring
the calculation
in military moves
real life
hunger war games
forcing survival
the extreme NAFTA
and CIA manipulation
the taking of land
the killing of people
corrupt government
holding private meetings
with drug lords
in slick suits
making up
hard core
to act on
with militarized force
feeding masses
misled lies
laced with hate
turning one side
the other
with neither side
existing at all
every day life
selling American
dreaming material
priced by elite thugs
and prison profiteers
in slick suits
making up laws
in corrupt politics
the buddying up
of corporations
filling systems
making a business
out of brown people
handcuffing butterflies
taking away
the freedom
to migrate
caught by ICE
profiling parents
the leaving
left alone
in terrified children
separating families
creating impossible reuniting
the written word
in small print
USA court documents
the taking away
of Mexico
in parental rights
when accusations fly
calling names out
USA labels
of being brown
in a country
too far
to care
when not close
to home
American comfort
family circles tight
the choice
to be unaware
what’s really going down
south of the border
the human race
running away
when excluding
their own
mechanical hummingbird
droning on
the keeping
of government control
gleaming profit
in big brother eye
the elite
banking on profits
of brown people
to survive.

c/s tara evonne trudell 3 de marzo 2014

por Betty Sánchez

Dedicada con todo mi amor y respeto
A mi abuelo paterno
José Sánchez Olivares, bracero

Viajaste al país vecino
Buscando una alternativa
A tu realidad
Una vida mejor
Dejaste tu tierra
Tu tata y tus chiquillos
Prometiendo volver
Con los bolsillos llenos

Jornalero migrante
Tu contrato jamás estipuló
El maltrato y abuso
Del cual serías objeto
Se te humillaba al llegar
Al exponer tu desnudez
Y despojarte de toda dignidad
fumigándote con DDT
Para desinfectarte de sueños
Y aniquilar tus deseos
De progreso

El patrón y el capataz
Se limpiaban el trasero
Con el convenio del bracero
Para ellos no eras
Trabajador de temporada
Sino un implemento agrícola
Mano de obra barata
Sin garantías laborales
Ni acceso a los servicios
Mas elementales

Mientras los nacionales
Aumentaban su producción bélica
Tú trabajaste incansable
De alba a crepúsculo
Reparando líneas ferroviarias
Piscando  capullos de algodón
Que recogías en sacos de lona
En los que se perdían
Tu pasado y futuro
Dejándote un presente
Pasajero y anónimo

Cosechabas hortalizas ajenas
Mientras tu parcela
Se marchitaba por el abandono
Y cambiaba de dueño
Impulsabas la economía
De un gobierno
Que nunca reconoció
Tu aporte a la nación
Ni te incluyó
En su historia

En barracas eras confinado
Literas militares
Con colchones mugrientos
Y porosos
Resguardaban el sudor
Y la angustia acumulados
En meses teñidos
De infortunio
Tu alimento
Se preparaba
En tambos grasientos e insalubres
Un puñado de frijoles o fideos
Insípidos y aguados
Sustentaban tus días
Repetidos de cansancio
Y miseria
Los baños de agua fría
No enjuagaban la fatiga
Almacenada en tus huesos
Desgastados y tristes
Tus labios agrietados
Pronunciaban en
Murmullos nocturnos
Oraciones que siempre
Se detenían
En el “venga a nosotros tu Reino;
Hágase tu voluntad
En la tierra como en el cielo”

Como letra escarlata
Llevabas en el pecho
La palabra extranjero
Sinónimo de inferioridad
Que te endosaba
Y vejación desmedidas

El rey del norte
Explotó tus derechos
El rey del sur
Te despojó de tus ahorros
Arduamente adquiridos

Hoy solo eres
Un recuerdo empolvado
En algunos libros
Que se hojean de prisa

Yo te rindo tributo
Porque gracias
A tu abnegación
Y duro esfuerzo
Tus hijos obtuvieron
Una educación
Que les concedió
Los privilegios
Que a ti se te negaron

¡Que vivan los braceros
Sus hijos y sus viudas!

La lucha continúa…

Betty Sánchez 10 de Febrero de 2014

I Understand Peace, Equality, Justice and Hope
by Joe Navarro

I understand peace, equality,
Justice and hope
Paz, igualidad, justicia
Y esperanza, even though
They sometimes remain
Elusive, the same as
Catching clouds and rainbows
The ideals are etched in
My vocabulario, en dos idiomas
I think of them in English
And español in hopes that
Two languages can cross
The threshold of oppression
I stopped dreaming in
Abstract lofty ideals that
No one can achieve without
Struggle, without un movimiento
This is what I learned that from an
Inspiration that roared from
The mind and lips of
A gentle man who stood
Unwaiveringly, face to face
With with the anti-human
Racial construct that declared
Itself superior to all on la Tierra
I was one of those chavalitos
Who listened to the spiritual discourse
For humanity against the dangers
Of racial, ethnic and international
Domination through violence,
Brutality and subjugation
I listen to the revolutionary cry to
Value la gente, human beings
Over commodities and a denunciation
Of crass materialism and racism
I listened to a giant, rich of corazón
A humble man who loved toda la gente
But despised the haters and dominators
A man who was a powerful orator
Who spoke out, even against
The threats of the most powerful
Nation on Earth, I learned from
The wise man, The Reverend Dr.
Martin Luther King, Jr who lived and died
Awakening the humanity of
People who were tired of living
Under the heels of others
Then fear and loathing traveled
From the barrel of a gun into
His physical existence on la Tierra
Yet he arose again as winged
Consciousness, a free spirit that
Traveled far and wide into the
Hearts and minds of those
Who would listen and learn
Someone, like me

~Joe Navarro ©Copyright 2013

i had a gun
by Ramón Piñero

i had to shoot him
yer honor,
he unrespected me
i thought he had a gun
it was dark
it was loud
they were black
they were very black
listening to that
rap music they all like

i had a gun
they unrespected me
i had to shoot
they were black
so very black
and i had a gun

they were so black
and that booming bass
i could do nothing else
i had a gun
they did not
they unrespected me
with their music filled
joy; unaware that
i had a gun

i had a gun
i had to shoot him
i had to stop any
future thuggery
they were black
so very black

i had a gun

© Copyright 2014 All RightsReserved

The Poets
Paul Aponte, Tara Evonne Trudell, Betty Sánchez, Joe Navarro, Ramón Piñero

Paul Aponte is a Chicano poet born in SanJo, Califaztlan, and now a proud citizen of Sacramento.  He lived in Tucson, Arizona for 9 years where his two kids and his appreciation of the desert and its native people were born .  Paul, a member of "Escritores del Nuevo Sol", writes poetry in Spanish, English, and Spanglish, and enjoys breaking writing rules to communicate a truth in expression that can be seen in his writings.

My website:

Tara Evonne Trudell, a mother of four, is full-time student at NMHU working on her BFA in Media Arts with an emphasis in film, audio, and
photography. It is through this expression of art, combined with her passion for poetry that she is able to express fearlessness of spirit for her
family, people, community, social awareness, and most importantly her love of earth.

Betty Sánchez. Madre orgullosa de siete hijos y cinco hermosos nietos. En la actualidad resido en el condado de Sutter en el cual trabajo como Directora de centro del programa Migrante de Head Start.
Soy miembro activo del grupo literario, Escritores del Nuevo Sol desde  Marzo del 2004.  Contribuí en la antología poética Voces del Nuevo Sol y participé en el Festival Flor y Canto. Ser finalista en el primer concurso de poesía en español organizado por el Colectivo Verso Activo, me dio la oportunidad de dar a conocer más ampliamente mi pasión por la poesía y por extensión ser invitada a colaborar en eventos como Noche de Voces Xicanas, Honrando a Facundo Cabral, y Poesía Revuelta. Es un privilegio contribuir en la página Poetas Respondiendo al SB 1070 y por supuesto en La Bloga.

Joe Navarro is a teacher, creative writer, poet, a husband, father and grandfather, and has been an advocate for social justice and social change in labor, community, immigration, anti-U.S. intervention, education, anti-war and human rights issues.

Ramon Piñero. "Ex Bay Area poet living in the buckle of the Bible Belt, aka Florida. Where good little boys and girls grow up to be republicans who vote against their own interest. Father of three and Grandfather to six of the coolest kids ever.
Nuff said...

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15. Writing Opportunity – Looking for Submissions


This illustration, “Down the Rabbit Hole” was sent in by Diana Ting Delosh. Dianna says she contracted the art bug at the age of two when she consumed her first box of crayons. Ever since that day, she has been happily doodling away. Currently she is an illustrater/writer. More of her art may be seen at: http://dianadelosh.com and she blogs at http://dtdelosh.blogspot.com

The Center for Educational Testing and Evaluation is a research center at the University of Kansas that administers the Kansas Assessment Program on behalf of the Kansas Department of Education and is currently looking for writers to submit quality poetry and prose to be considered for use on state assessments.

CETE is accepting poetry, fiction, and nonfiction texts for use on reading assessments for grades 3 – 12. Buys exclusive assessment rights and non-exclusive other rights. Pays $250 upon acceptance. Previously published work is acceptable, but author must hold the copyright and must include prior publication information when submitting.


Informational texts should be between 500 and 1,500 words

Our greatest need is for lower grade informational texts that are compelling to the intended age group. Overall, we look for texts that exemplify quality writing and engaging subject matter. We are not currently accepting texts about animals.


We accept free verse, lyrical, and narrative poems. Writers may submit up to 10 poems per submission. Please submit all poems in one document and include publication details for any poems that have been previously published.

Narrative Fiction:

Narrative Fiction should be between 500 and 1500 words:

Our greatest need is for higher level (high school) narrative texts that contain testable literary elements such as strong character development, themes, and symbols. We also welcome narrative texts intended for younger grades. Overall, we look for texts that exemplify quality writing and an engaging storyline. While we seek narratives with tension and plot, submissions do not necessarily need to contain a complete story arc.

All submissions in all three above categories must be appropriate for testing. Submissions that include inappropriate language or references to drugs, sex, alcohol, gambling, holidays, religion, or violence will not be considered. 

More details are available on our submissions site: https://cete.submittable.com/submit. 

If you have questions, please email Becky Mandelbaum Passage Writing Coordinator at cetesubmissions@ku.edu. 

Please do not contact other KU or CETE departments.

Talk tomorrow,


Filed under: children writing, opportunity, Places to sumit, Poems, publishers Tagged: Kansas Department of Education, publication opportunity, The Center for Educational Testing and Evaluation, University of Kansas

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16. Poetry Friday: “A Poem!” from Etched In Clay

andrea chengAndrea Cheng is the author of several critically-acclaimed books for young readers. Her most Guest bloggerrecent novel, Etched in Clay, tells the story in verse of Dave the Potter, an enslaved man, poet, and master craftsperson whose jars (many of which are inscribed with his poetry and writings) are among the most sought-after pieces of Edgefield pottery. Etched in Clay recently won the Lee Bennett Hopkins Poetry Award.

April is National Poetry Month, so we asked author Andrea Cheng to share one of her favorite poems from Etched in Clay:


Etched in Clay, p. 65

A Poem!

Dave, July 12, 1834

The summer’s so hot,

it’s like we’re living

in the furnace.

The clay doesn’t like it either,

getting hard on me

too quick.

I better hurry now,

before the sun’s too low to see.

What words will I scrawl

across the shoulder

of this jar?

I hear Lydia’s voice in my head.

Be careful, Dave.

Those words in clay

can get you killed.

But I will die of silence

if I keep my words inside me

any longer.

Doctor Landrum used to say

it’s best to write a poem a day,

for it calms the body

and the soul

to shape those words.

 etched in clay jar

This jar is a beauty,

big and wide,

fourteen gallons

I know it will hold.

I have the words now,

and my stick is sharp.

I write:

put every bit all between

surely this jar will hold 14.

Andrea Cheng: There are three poems in Etched in Clay which speak directly about the act of writing.  In the first one, “Tell the World,”  (EIC p. 38) Dave writes in clay for the first time.  Using a sharp stick, he carves the date, April 18, into a brick; he is announcing to the world that on this day, “a man started practicing/his letters.”  In the poem called “Words and Verses,” (EIC p. 52) Dave thinks about writing down one of the poems that has been swirling around in his head as he works on the potter’s wheel.  Finally, in “A Poem!” (EIC  p. 67) Dave actually carves a couplet into one of his jars.  His words are practical and ordinary; he simply comments on the size of the jar.  But he is no longer silent.

Further Reading:

Andrea Cheng on Writing Biography in Verse

An interview with Andrea Cheng about Etched in Clay in School Library Journal

A look at how Andrea Cheng made the woodcut illustrations for Etched in Clay

Filed under: guest blogger, Holidays, Musings & Ponderings Tagged: Andrea Cheng, dave the potter, david drake, Etched in Clay, National Poetry Month, poems, poetry, poetry Friday, pottery, slavery

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17. App of the Week: FridgePoems by Color Monkey

Title: FridgePoems by Color Monkey
Platform: iOS
Cost: Free (for basic vocabulary set)

It’s National Poetry Month, and there’s no easier way to promote the creation of verse poetry than setting up a public access tablet with this fun app.


When you launch the app, you get a “working” space with a handful of words, but you can zoom out to see more. Dragging the word boxes with your fingertips allows you to reorder things to create your verse.

Writers are not strictly limited to the words on screen. You can draw for new words or invest in themed WordPacks ($1 each for hipster tragic, redneck, hip hop, etc. or $3 for all of them). The provision of verb endings and plurals can add some variety as well.

You can save your poem to your camera roll, which inserts the App’s watermark, or share it using integrated social settings.
photo (6)

My students have been enjoying that special thrill that comes from creating something meaningful from a limited set of words and word endings. They only thing that could be better? Book- and technology-themed wordpacks!

For more app recommendations visit the YALSA App of the Week Archive. If you have an app you think we should review, let us know!

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18. Top five hip hop references in poetry

By David Caplan

Hip hop has influenced a generation of poets coming to prominence, poets I call “The Inheritors of Hip Hop.” Signaling how the music serves as a shared experience and inspiration, they  mention performers and songs as well as anecdotes from the genre’s development and the artists’ lives, while epigraphs and titles quote songs. The influence of hip hop can be heard in the work of many poets including (but certainly not limited to): Kevin Coval, Erica Dawson, LaTasha N. Nevada Diggs, Matthew Dickman, Major Jackson, Terrance Hayes, Dorothea Lasky, John Murillo, Eugene Ostashevsky, D.A. Powell, Roger Reeves, and Michael Robbins.


In no particular order, here are my five favorite hip hop references in poetry:

(1)   Kevin Young, “Expecting”
To capture the experience of first hearing his child’s heartbeat during a sonogram exam, Young develops a wildly inventive simile followed by metaphors borrowed from hip hop:

And there
it is: faint, an echo, faster and further

away than mother’s, all beat box
and fuzzy feedback. You are like hearing
hip-hop for the first time–power

hijacked from the lamppost–all promise.
You couldn’t sound better, break-
dancer, my favorite song bumping

from a passing car. You’ve snuck
into the club underage and stayed!

(2)   Rowan Ricardo Phillips, “Mappa Mundi
Describing his hometown of the Bronx, Phillips combines Wu Tang Clan’s Raekwon’s verse in “Triumph,” “Aiyyo, that’s amazing gun-in-your-mouth talk,” and Samuel Coleridge’s “Frost at Midnight,” “the redbreast sit and sing”:

Whether red birds sit and sing from rooftops

Or rappers cypher deep into the night,
The gun-in-your-mouth talk of a ransomed
God, nature is a lapse in city life.

(3)   Harryette Mullen, “Dim Lady”
Hip hop is nearly everywhere in Mullen’s earlier collection, Muse and Drudge, but my single favorite reference in her work to hip hop appears in “Dim Lady,” collected in Sleeping with the Dictionary. The prose poem rewrites and updates Shakespeare’s Sonnet 130. In the place of Shakespeare’s lines,

“I love to hear her speak, yet well I know / That music hath a far more pleasing sound,”

Mullen offers,

“I love to hear her rap, yet I’m aware that Muzak has a hipper beat.” 

(The poem’s ending always makes me laugh, “And yet, by gosh, my scrumptious Twinkie has as much sex appeal for me as any lanky model or platinum movie idol who’s hyped beyond belief.”

(4)   A. Van Jordan, “R&B
A subgenre of poems about hip hop criticizes the music. A rare exception to the ignorance such work typically show (see, for instance, Tony Hoagland’s “Rap Music”), “R & B” offers a well-informed, thoughtful critique. “Listen long enough to the radio, and you’ll think / maybe C. Dolores Tucker was right,” the poem opens and an endnote reminds readers of Tucker’s significant contributions to the black civil rights movement.

(5)   Michael Cirelli, “Dead Ass”
“I am not afraid of dope lyrics,” Michael Cirelli writes in “Dead Ass.” Several poems in Lobster with Ol’ Dirty Bastard retell moments from hip hop history. To describe teens grooving to the music, “Dead Ass” borrows from Oakland slang, “hyphy,” meaning “crazy” in a good sense, “hyphy / music makes their bodies dip up and down / like oil drills.” (My favorite line in the book, though, describes eighties pop, not hip hop, “We danced incestuously to Michael and Janet that night.”)

Bonus Tracks

(6)   Adrien Matejka, “Wheels of Steel
“I got me two songs instead of eyes,” the poem opens then swaggering quotes five songs in twenty-seven lines.

(7)   Marcus Wicker, “Love Letter to Flavor Flav” tries to make sense of Public Enemy’s most puzzling member:

How you’ve lived saying nothing
save the same words each day
is a kind of freedom or beauty.
Please, tell me I’m not lying to us.

David Caplan is Charles M. Weis Chair in English and Associate Director of Creative Writing at Ohio Wesleyan University. He is the author of Rhyme’s Challenge: Hip Hop, Poetry, and Contemporary Rhyming Culture. His previous books include Questions of Possibility: Contemporary Poetry and Poetic Form and the poetry collection In the World He Created According to His Will.

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Image credit: turntable spinning. Photo by Tengilorg, 2005. CC-BY-3.0 via Wikimedia Commons

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19. St. Patrick's Day Shenanigans

Are you all ready for a St. Patrick's Day celebration this weekend?

Try your luck at this Leprechaun puzzle.

Or if you'd like to discover how to write a Limerick, check out this information and write an example on a shamrock, no less.

And of course, there are always fun Irish stories to read. In A POT OF GOLD by Kathleen Krull, you'll be sure to find plenty of entertaining shenanigans.

Thanks to illustrator, Kit Grady, for this lovely fairy picture. She's the awesome illustrator for two of my Pet Grammar Parade books, DOGGIE DAY CAMP and HAMSTER HOLIDAYS.

Happy St. Patrick's Day!

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20. More Clivia Haibun

Last week I posted a Haibun focused on my Clivia plants. Haibun is a Japanese haiku form made famous by Basho's 17c. book A Narrow Road to Deep North, a travel journal filled with haiku. Haibun combined prose writing with poetry; it is haiku wrapped in story. I'd like to continue the story of our Clivia plants in another haibun this week and share what happened at the Longwood Gardens Clivia show

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21. Text Message Found Poem

I had to clear out the text messages in my cell phone this week. I found a poem there! You know how disjointed a text conversations can be, and reading it over you are going backward in time? There is something about the layers of meaning and the unique undercurrents in a conversation between familiars. There is no body language like f2f but there is a flavor, a vibe. It calls to the heart.

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22. National Poetry Month 2013

  Happy April Happy Spring Happy Poetry Month!! In years past I have used this space to post daily haiku and photos all through April. This year I am not going to use the blog to do it. I feel the need to change things up and be more mobile. I want to use my iPod touch to take photos and post haiku on Twitter. I am finding several hashtags in use today, the first day of National Poetry

2 Comments on National Poetry Month 2013, last added: 4/3/2013
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23. Haiku on Instagram for National Poetry Month 2013

Here is a collection of my Instagram photos, updated daily. I am afraid you will have to click on the photo to go to Instagram to read the haiku. Unless I find a photo editor that works on my iPod and figure out how to put the haiku directly onto the image, that is. Anyone help with that? If you are using Instagram and know how to do it can you share? <!-- SnapWidget -->

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24. Purposes for Poetry: Ten Ways to Use Poetry in Your Instruction

Often when I mention poetry during a workshop, at least one teacher laments, "I would love to do more poetry with students, but there's so much else to teach in my curriculum!" What I try to encourage (and I'm often helped big time by the workshop participants) is for this teacher to consider using poetry within her curriculum, as an integral part of her language, reading, and writing lessons, rather than as an add-on. In other words, I ask her to find a purpose for poetry.

Now, before you poetry purists flame me and cry out, "Poetry is in itself worth reading!" let me explain that I agree with you. I fondly recall organizing poetry picnics in third grade, where we would spread sheets and blankets on the field adjacent to the school playground and share favorite poems as we munched on morning snacks. So yes, I believe in poetry for its own sake.

But at the same time, I'm a realist. Many of us find it increasingly difficult to allocate the time to read poetry for its own sake; we would, in fact, like to discuss it beyond the month of April without needing an excuse or (shudder) a learning objective.

So increasingly it seems that while teachers can name lots of good reasons for using poetry with children at an early age, they still wonder how they can continue to integrate poetry in later grade levels. I offer a few suggestions below. And even if you can't get through my ten reasons, do take the time to explore the recommended sites and resources appearing at the close of this post. I could in no way do justice to all the fantastic poetry books that are available, so I encourage you to share your favorite title in the comments section below.

1. Activate Prior Knowledge

Students are most receptive to new learning when they can connect it to what they already know. Poetry provides a quick and fun way to do this.

Recommended Texts:
  • The Year Comes Round: Haiku Through the Seasons by Sid Farrar and illustrated by Ilse Plume presents students with vignettes of each season in the signature haiku 5-7-5 syllable, three line form, focusing upon nature with a surprising perspective. Each month is represented by its own poem, and students can write their own after determining what makes a poem a haiku. Students can also unearth the literary devices employed by Farrar such as personification, metaphor, alliteration, and simile. A sample from the book:
Lawns call a truce with
mowers and slip beneath their
white blankets to sleep.
  • Guyku: A Year of Haiku for Boys by Bob Raczka and illustrated by Peter H. Reynolds stays true
    to the form and function of haiku, with each poem offering a funny twist in the final line. Apart from pure enjoyment, this book shows students (especially some of your hard to motivate boys) that poetry can be simple and straight forward and even fun. in "why I wrote Guyku," Raczka says, "When I was a boy, I didn't even know what a haiku was. But I did spend a lot of time outside with my friends. Nature was our playground, and we made the most of it - catching bugs, climbing trees, skipping stones, throwing snowballs. Now...I realize that haiku is a wonderful form of poetry for guys like us. Why? Because a haiku is an observation of nature, and nature is a place where guys love to be." A sample from the book:
If this puddle could
talk, I think it would tell me
to splash my sister.
    2. Establish Theme

    Teaching with a theme and its accompanying guiding questions isn't new to most of us, and the majority of teachers maintain a ready repertoire of methods to establish themes for classroom novels or other literature units (see some ideas and a huge list of Universal Themes in my How to Teach a Novel Handout). The perfect poem, however, can lead to a wonderful writing reflection or discussion that allows students to construct the theme and essential questions for themselves.

    Recommended Sites and Texts for Theme:
    • The Children's Poetry Archive groups poems by themes, and my class always enjoys reflecting upon poems about death since, after all, every novel we read seems to be about death! Many poems on this site are read aloud by their authors, and my students especially love hearing The Carrion Crow read aloud.
    • A common theme in upper elementary and middle school novels is Change. Encourage an in-depth study of Change using Paul Janeczko's examination of Nothing Gold Can Stay in his new Heinemann title Reading Poetry in the Middle Grades. This highly recommended book features 20 thought-provoking poems from contemporary writers, with extensive lesson plans which help students to better understand each poem, and to apply it to other texts and their own experiences.
    • Students can compose and publish their own poems using the Theme Poems interactive from ReadWriteThink.
    3. Explore Language

    If you're anything like me, you struggle to teach students grammar in way that is motivational or memorable. How many of us can recall learning our parts of speech and verb forms in deadly dull exercise books? While drill and example books might have a place in instruction, I'd recommend some verse to liven up the process of language learning.

    Recommended Texts and Sites:
    • If you're seeking to help students learn parts of speech, check out the Language Adventures series
      from Gibbs Smith. These highly engaging and hilarious books focus on discrete parts of speech through the incorporation of rhyme and humor, and later editions contain learning activities, definitions, and reproducibles related to the book's topics. Answer keys and additional activities can be accessed at author Rick Walton's website. There Rick offers some wonderful language learning activities (your lesson plan for next week might just be waiting for you there), as well as an amazing assortment of ideas for using his picture books (over fifty in print!).
    • At The Poem Farm, Amy Ludwig VanDerwater shares wonderful original poems and teaching ideas. One of my favorites is Getting Dressed, a wonderful poem featuring personification. In addition to the many poems she shares on the site, you can have her work for your very own in her newly published collection of poems titled The Forest Has a Song. In addition to the resources at Amy Ludwig VanDerwater's site, you can also download a Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Poetry Activity Kit, featuring ideas for "Getting Dressed" as well as several other poems from HMH titles.
    • Alphabest: The Zany, Zanier, Zaniest Book about Comparatives and Superlatives probably isn't a poetry book, since each page contains just three words (such as Fuzzy, Fuzzier, Fuzziest) but it reads like poetry, and helps kids understand how adjectives can be changed to compare two or more things. Author Helaine Becker sets the scene in a busy amusement park, and illustrator Dave Whamond delivers the goods with his spirited and wacky illustrations. Students can likewise choose a single adjective, and create images to illustrate its comparative and superlative forms. 
      From Alphabest: The Zany, Zanier, Zaniest Book
    • Looking for poems with onomatopoeia? Check out Noisy Poems for a Busy Day by Robert Heidbreder and Lori Joy Smith. Short and fun, and easily replicated by students. Collect all your students' poems and create your own Busy Day anthology!
    • Finally, check out this Figurative Language lesson on personification and alliteration from TeachersFirst.
    4. Focus on Facts

    Creating poetry is a wonderful way for students to share information they learned through class or independent study. What's fantastic about poetry is that it can bring life to otherwise dry and lifeless facts!

    I can recall assigning fourth grade students to create poems for mathematical operations, and as a class creating couplets describing the most important names, places, events, and dates for the American Revolution. Students are incredibly receptive to these challenges! So after checking out some of the examples below, be sure to devise your own lessons to have students write informational poems in class as well.

    Recommended Texts:
    • In Golden Domes and Silver Lanterns: A Muslim Book of Colors, Hena Khan introduces young readers to the world of Islam by describing its colors and traditions in simple rhymes.
      Each poem serves as a definition, and the terms introduced are explained in greater detail in the book's end. Mehrdokht Amini's gorgeous bright and intricate illustrations make this book itself a treasure, perfect for reading with groups or sharing on a parent's lap. A sample from the book:

      Gold is the dome of the mosque, 
      big and grand.
      Beside it two towering
      minarets stand. 
    • Animology: Animal Analogies, written by Marianne Berkes and illustrated by Cathy Morrison, introduces students to word relationships (also known as analogies) through the simplest of rhymes. Bold, full spread pictures show realistic depictions of the animals in their natural settings. Like all Sylvan Dell books, this one includes the "For Creative Minds" follow-up activities in the back of book, which can also be accessed at the publisher's site, along with an e-book preview, a video trailer, a 48 page teaching guide, and other resources.
    • Hey Diddle Diddle: A Food Chain Tale is another Sylvan Dell title featuring a wealth of support materials for classroom instruction (see the menu bar to the right on this page). In catchy rhyme, author Pam Kapchinske describes the the animals and complex relationships which make up a food web, the circle of life, and more specifically the ecosystem on a pond and forest habitat. Sherry Rogers' images capture each animal playing its part in this ongoing natural cycle.
    5. Set a Scene

    Before launching a science, social studies, or math unit, I often used poetry to set the scene. The poems I chose from myriad books would spark discussion, curiosity, and prior knowledge, ultimately building excitement and anticipation for the new unit. If only all textbooks were nearly as engaging!

    Recommended Texts:
    • Water Sings Blue, written by Kate Coombs and illustrated by Meilo So, provides the denizens of the deep with their own voices, priming student curiosity about life in the ocean. One of my favorites is the poem "Old Driftwood," wherein this artifact is described as a "gnarled sailor"..."telling of mermaids/ and whales thi-i-i-s big/ to all the attentive/ astonished twigs." Another sample from the book:

      Sea Urchin
      The sea urchin fell in  love with a fork.
      With a tremble of purple spines,
      she told her mother, "He's tall, not a ball,
      but just look at his wonderful tines!
      • Dark Emperor and Other Poems of the Night is a perfect poetry/informational text companion to Poppy or any other novel that takes place in the forest.
        Each of Joyce Sidman's wonderful poems about the nocturnal world of the woods is accompanied by a fact-filled sidebar, exploring the creatures described in the poems and in Rick Allen's beautiful relief print illustrations. The title poem in part reads: 
        "Perched missile, almost invisible, you preen silent feathers, swivel your sleek satellite dish of a head." This small excerpt gives you an idea of the book's sophisticated verse! The author cleverly formatted the poem "Dark Emperor" in the shape of an owl, and if your students are interested in creating concrete poetry like this, you might find that shape templates are a good way to get started. And if you're not familiar with Avi's novel Poppy, be sure to check it out! Boys find it easy to root for this strong female character because "she is, after all, a mouse."
      6. Inspire Writing

      If you're seeking ways to get students writing, poetry is an effective vehicle to transport them to success. Take the opportunity to preview Poetry Mentor Texts online at the Stenhouse site; you'll be amazed at the simple steps to sophisticated writing using the lesson ideas presented there. In addition to Poetry Mentor Texts inspiring students to write their own verse, this book will also provide you with ideas for using poetry as a creative response format for other disciplines as well:

      Poetry shouldn't be just a part of the language arts curriculum. It offers another way to communicate and demonstrate our understanding of a concept in content areas. It is a method for deepening comprehension and developing a level of empathy and knowledge that can be applied to real-world situations. Poetry can be used to informally assess science and math. It can help students link content areas.

      Additional Recommended Texts and Sites:
      • Students can extend or rewrite or revisit favorite or famous poems. In Casey Back at Bat, sports writer Dan Gutman revisits the classic American poem (the picture book version illustrated by Max Payne is one of my favorites). Choose similar narrative poems, and challenge students to extend them, revise them, or "answer them" with poems of their own.
      • In an earlier post, I discussed writing "Valentines for Vermin" using Vulture Verses: Love Poems for the Unloved as a mentor text. The book closes with a request: "So many cards to write! So many animal friends! I may need some help. Do you know someone who is misunderstood? Will you help me write friendship notes, too?" Such a fantastic suggestion! Working in pairs or teams, students can research basic facts about other unloved animals that "scuttle, slither, buzz, and sting." A really fun and stress free way to get students writing creatively, with results which they'll be eager to share with others.
      • If you're seeking inspirations for students to write poetry in a number of forms,
        you'll be amazed and delighted to read Fly with Poetry: An ABC of Poetry or Leap Into Poetry: More ABCs of Poetry.
        First, it's amazing that author/illustrator Avis Harley has found enough poem forms to write and illustrate not just one but two ABC collections, and second, she's done it by focusing solely on the topic of insects! So she not only presents and explains the poetry forms in detail, but these mentor texts teach students wonderful facts about dozens of creatures that crawl, climb, and fly as well. Extensions using other animal species are possible, although I can see these form poems being applied to almost any subject area.
      • Students love the idea of fractured fairy tales, so a book like Monster Goose by Judy Sierra is certain to be hit. The author's creepy and comedic new versions of classic childhood rhymes will inspire your students to want to create the same.
        After sharing a few poems such as Humpty Dumpty (below), provide students with a collection of unrevised rhymes, and see where their imaginations can take them. See, too, if their accompanying illustrations can be as entertaining as those of Jack E. Davis, illustrator extraordinaire of Bedhead fame. Davis not only captures a key moment of each poem, but also cleverly establishes and then breaks the borders of each illustration, creating an off-the-page effect.

      • Humpty Dumpty
        Humpty Dumpty swam in the sea
        Humpty's sunscreen was SPF-3.
        Because he was so lightly oiled,
        Dear Humpty ended up hard-boiled. 

      7. See New Perspectives

      One of poetry's transcendent powers is its ability to refocus, if not totally transform, our point of view. It's far too simple for students (and teachers!) to lose themselves in their egocentric viewpoints, and fail to consider issues from another perspective. Poetry open students' eyes to new ways of seeing.

      Recommended Texts:
      • Make Magic! Do Good! by Dallas Clayton is a quirky and crazy collection of verses that collectively encourage readers to see the best in themselves, in others, and in every situation.
        From Make Magic! Do Good!
        So much of modern day communication relies upon snark and sarcasm, it's refreshing to find poems that are open and honest and encouraging, while at the same time remaining zany and random, which kids also appreciate. I also think that the way the book cover turns into a poster is a pretty cool twist!
      • Perspective, or point of view, plays a huge role in history and its interpretation. Although not entirely accurate in historic detail, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow's The Midnight Ride of Paul Revere remains a classic of American Literature. Check out this previous post where I discuss several picture versions of the text, and the unique perspective supplied by each. 
      • In Daniel Kirk's Dogs Rule! and his later Cat Power!, the author/illustrator profiles some of the furriest and funniest heroes of each species. See my Words and Images in Perfect Harmony post for more details, as well as teaching suggestions.
      • The National Geographic's Book of Animal Poetry is wonderful in that it often features multiple poems for a single animal.
        The zebra and the pig, for instance, are both celebrated by four different poets. Examining the poems, students can discuss what facts and features each poet chose to discuss. In what ways are their poems alike? Different? Older students can even attempt to identify the poem form used by each writer. After reading some of the examples in this book from both classic and contemporary writers, students can then try their own hand at describing animals both foreign and familiar. Such poems are an excellent addition to those animal reports and presentations which many teachers already include in their curriculum.
      8. Ignite Curiosity

      Much has been said in educational texts about inquiry learning. From my own experiences, however, I find that students are naturally inquisitive, and there's not much more we need to do but focus their natural curiosity. Poetry can do this!

      Recommended Texts:
      • A Strange Place to Call Home, written by Marilyn Singer and illustrated by Caldecott Medalist Ed Young, is an intriguing exploration into diverse and unique habitats of the world.
        In the preface, the author explains: "
        Extreme environments such as deserts, glaciers, salt lakes, and pools of oil may not seem appealing, yet in these places, there is often less competition and more safety from predators. So over time, a variety of animals have adapted to these challenging conditions. This collection of poems celebrates some of these great adapters and the risky places where they live." End notes give further explanation of each animal and its adaptations to its specialized niche, along with notes about the poetry forms employed for each piece. Below is a sample poem, written in sonnet form:
      mountain goats 

      Atop a rocky peak, the air is pure, 

          but the wind blows fierce and the climb is steep. 
      Each step must be confident and so sure, 
          there's little need to look before you leap. 
      The ice, the snow, the winter's biting cold 
          require a cozy, insulated coat. 
      What animal lives here, hardy and bold? 
          Behold this king of cliffs, the mountain goat! 
      Feasting in springtime on grass that is lush, 
          avoiding in summer the sun's blazing rays. 
      Browsing in autumn on stubborn dry brush, 
          learning to deal with the year's hardest days. 
      Living where enemies cannot intrude, 
          it succeeds indeed at this altitude.
      • World Rat Day by...wait for it...J. Patrick Lewis is a fun collection of unusual but authentic holidays, celebrated here in verse. Where else could you learn about Cow Appreciation Day, Limerick Day, or Chocolate-Covered Anything Day? Students will enjoy researching these and other wacky holidays, and even inventing their own to commemorate people, places, and events that are important to them. (See a video trailer here at the Candlewick Press site).

      9. Provide Pleasure

      Okay, so you may think I cheated on this one. After all, I'm supposed to be giving you purposes for using poetry. But if we can't convince our students that one of reading's purest functions is pleasure, then I don't think we've really done our job.

      So many poems and books of poems exist to fill this classification that I won't even begin to list them all here. So if you have a favorite poem or book you read with students for pleasure, please share it in the comments section below!

      Recommended Texts:
      • A Dog is a Dog by Stephen Shaskan is an incredibly simple, yet funny and clever book about a dog who may not be a dog at all, but perhaps instead a cat...or is it a squid?...or a moose?
        This crazy dog sheds one disguise after another, and who knows what he'll be next? It's short, fun, and you'd better be prepared to read it more than once, although its simplicity, meter, and rhyme make it easily accessible to independent beginning readers. Also be sure to check out the cool stuff on the author's site.
      • Do you have older students who are obsessed with zombies? The Zombie Haiku site offers a unique twist on this traditional poetry form, with submissions from famous contemporary authors, as well as poetry "fakes" by greats of the past.

      10. Capture Character

      Most of us have assigned biography reports, only later to be disappointed when some students fail to capture the greatness of the men and women they studied. What's awesome about biographical poems is that they encapsulate the essence of what makes a person's life memorable and meaningful.

      Recommended Texts:
      • When Thunder Comes: Poems for Civil Rights Leaders by Children's Poet Laureate J. Patrick Lewis features a satisfying mix of heroes and heroines from the world-wide struggle for human rights.
        Familiar names such as Jackie Robinson,  Harvey Milk, and Mohandas Gandhi share the pages with new discoveries such as Sylvia Mendez (Mexican-American-Purto Rican civil rights leader), Muhammad Yunus (Bangladeshi banker), and Dennis Banks (Cofounder of the American Indian Movement and Anishinabe political activist). Several artists collaborate to illustrate the poems, which can also lead to a discussion of what each artist chose to represent the whole of a person's life in a single image. For more teaching ideas integrating these poems with informational writing, see the related post at Two Writing Teachers blog.
      • Another collection of biographical poems, also be J. Patrick Lewis, is Freedom Like Sunlight: Praisesongs for Black Americans. These poems are notable in that they capture the content of each person's character, rather then the rote facts of his or her life. John Thompson's realistically rendered illustrations help to make this title a standout.
      • Use the The Explorers' Graveyard lesson plan for sharing facts and findings when reading biographies. Again, the aim here is to get to what's worth knowing about this famous person.If you're looking for a funnier take of epitaphs, I recommend Once Upon a Tomb: Gravely Humorous Verses by J. Patrick Lewis (yes, him again!), and illustrated by Simon Bartram. The hilarious and revealing tombstone tidings capture in the most clever way the humor of many professions. Take this one, for instance, written for a Book Editor:

        Miss Spellings
        Exclamation points
        Were myriad!!!
        She live on the margin.
        And died. 
      Recommended Online Tools for Writing Poetry:
      • My top pick is Instant Poetry Forms, which allows students to enter prompted words and verses in order to form (you guessed it!) instant poetry. Some of the forms are purely creative and student-centered, while others allow students to enter researched information (such as data on an early explorer) to create nonfiction verse. An excellent way to encourage your poetry-phobic students (usually the boys!). Each prompt generator includes an example of a finished poem in that style, so students can get a good idea of how the finished poem might sound.
      • Rhyme Brain isn't just another rhyming site; instead, it has three functions: rhyme creator, alliteration creator, and portmanteau creator. The results for the latter two tools are pretty impressive, and lend themselves to some real playfulness with language.
      • Poetry Splatter is a decent site for reluctant or struggling writers. Students are offered limited words to complete template poems. The results are fairly closed ended, but this might be a good place to start for those students who struggle to generate poems wholly on their own.
      • At the PBS NewsHour Extra Poetry site, students can write poems based on current events using the poetry forms and examples found there.
      • At WriteRhymes, it's as easy as "As you write, hold the alt key and click on a word to find a rhyme for it..." That's it. You can Copy, Save, or Print from the site.

      Additional Recommended Resources for Poetry Month:
      • Stenhouse Publishing has compiled a wonderful collection of poetry lesson plans and teaching ideas from about a dozen of their best-selling professional resources.
        Check out the Poetry Sampler, available as a pdf download directly from the publisher.
      • ReadWriteThink is a go-to resource if you're seeking poetry lesson plans complete with interactive or printable components. From the search page, you can narrow down the 285 results by grade level, resource type, or popularity.
      • If needed, here's an extensive glossary of poetry terms. I wish each term was accompanied by an example, but a good place to start regardless. If you can't find a term there, then you can likely find it in this Glossary of Poetic Terms.
      • Bruce Lansky books and teaching ideas at Poetry Teachers. Sixteen poetry categories, fun ways to get students writing, and poetry theater (poems to download in read-aloud theater versions).
      • The Children's Poetry Archive is a wonderful collection of poems selected just for children, and read by their creators.
      • For older students (middle school and up), The Virtualit Interactive Poetry Tutorial features three study poems, as well as extensive online aids including Elements of Poetry (understanding language), Cultural Contexts (social, political, and economic currents) and Critical Approaches (literary criticism).
      • Tweenverse is a fun collection of poems by Richard Thomas. No activities included here, but you'll several of these to be perfect as mentor texts for helping students write verse to reflect on their own experiences. See Summer Camp Souvenirs or Brother Trouble for a quick idea of what you'll find there.
      • The Poets.org Educator Site provides teaching tips, popular poems to share, curriculum units and lesson plans, and suggestions for Poetry Month.
      • Poetry for Tough Guys features poems written by Steven Micciche, mostly aimed at guys. Don't worry; it's still kid appropriate! Perhaps a good stop for reluctant boys to gain entry into verse.

      13 Comments on Purposes for Poetry: Ten Ways to Use Poetry in Your Instruction, last added: 4/8/2013
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      25. Poem in Your Pocket Day 2013

      Today is that rollicking good time day when you are encouraged to carry a poem and share it with friends, family, strangers - pass it around like a smile! It started in NYC several years ago and now is celebrated all over. Go to poets.org for ideas of how to celebrate and poems you can print to carry or share. At my library I am postings and passing out some of my favorites by Langston

      8 Comments on Poem in Your Pocket Day 2013, last added: 4/26/2013
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