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Sin Fronteras Journal now accepting submissions

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Sin Fronteras/Writers Without Borders Journal is an annual journal published in Southern New Mexico by Sin Fronteras/Writers Without Borders, a non-profit organization whose mission is to encourage a community of writers, develop an audience for those writers, and give voice to those whose voices may not be heard.  Issue #16 has just been published; the cover art is by Helen Stork.

 

 

 

Sin Fronteras is now accepting poems, short stories, essays or short plays for issue # 17.  Submissions must be unpublished but are not limited to writers of the Southwest, and “borders” can be interpreted broadly.  Send 3-5 poems or one short prose piece to:

Sin Fronteras/Writers Without Borders
c/o DAAC
PO Box 1721
Las Cruces, NM  88004

Deadline is June 30, 2012

Copies of Issue No. 16 are available from the address above for $8 plus $2 postage; prior issues are available for $5 each plus $2 postage.

Dick Thomas and Ellen Roberts Young are co-editors of the Journal.  Other readers include Joan Glickler, Duncan Hayse and Michelle Holland.  Michael Mandel is manager of the organization, which also sponsors open readings at Palacio Bar in Mesilla, New Mexico, on the third Tuesday of the month. You can also find Sin Fronteras/Writers Without Borders on Facebook.

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Juxtaposition and more of Levi Romero

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I have a long-enduring fondness for the word “Juxtaposition.”  In an early poem using that title, now justifiably forgotten, I wrote “things touch at their edges.”  Where things touch, they affect each other; that’s juxtaposition, whether in nature or in art.  In this entry I juxtapose a piece of my work with a little more of Levi Romero’s work

Levi Romero’s book, Poetry of Remembrance, focuses, as I discussed previously, on stories and the past, but he includes other more current facets of his life: as teacher and leader of workshops and as an architect – an architect who cannot expect to be welcomed into a home he has designed.  In a poem he titles “Juxtaposition” he describes a visit to one such building as it was being built:

may I help you?
I am asked by the realtor
standing at the door,
thinking that I may be the guy
who mixed the mud and pushed the wheelbarrow . . .

I once was asked by a home magazine journalist
if I felt insulted by such incidents
well, no, I said, my mind mixing for an answer
a good batch of cement is never accidental

Romero has learned to live with  kindness but close attention on the edge of a culture where others assert that he does not belong.

This “outtake” from my own recent writing uses the term to describe juxtaposition in nature:

Chance
juxtaposing gypsum
deposits, playa, crystals, wind,
forms rolling dunes of white
sand in a brown desert.

in the Tularosa Basin of New Mexico, gypsum washed down from bands in the mountain collects in Lucero Lake, then crystallizes as the lake goes dry, is worn away by wind, and blows into the dunes of White Sands National Monument. 

When I think anthropomorphically about God (and sometimes I do, knowing that all language about God is metaphoric) I picture an artist putting different elements of nature together to see what will happen.  The result may be wild or wonderful―and totally impractical.

What a powerful word!  “Juxtaposition” has taken me from society through poetry to nature and theology.  This may explain why I can’t seem to categorize my posts.

One New Mexico Poet

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Levi Romero is the New Mexico Centennial Poet.  This means he is making a lot of presentations.  One of them was at NMSU in Las Cruces recently.  He read from his collection, <i>A Poetry of Remembrance: New and Rejected Works</i>.

A poet who is willing to subtitle a collection “New and Rejected Works” certainly gets my attention.  It turns out this subtitle is also the title for a poem, which is placed as part of a section on lowriding, the passion of the young men Romero grew up with in Northern New Mexico.  Many of the poems describe the world of Romero’s youth, others focus on family and on community that hasn’t disappeared but is at risk.  The second and last poems in the book describe Romero’s visits to his mother in a nursing home; both are about telling stories, listening to stories and passing them on.

Some of the poems are in Spanish, and some mingle Spanish and English.  My bit of Spanish could get many of the pieces, but not the whole poems.  In his presentation Romero explained that he uses the mixed dialect of his northern New Mexico region.

August and fall seem to predominate in these poems, suggesting all that is passing or has passed as Romero moves into his own elder years.  He is well aware of the unreliability of stories also, as indicated in this section from “Most Skin Hits Road”:

our own histories
who we are
where we come from

could be reinvented
in the next sentence uttered
the next clever line spoken
the next interjection of humor and
sincere display of pleasantries
masking over the face of a new persona

and further answers to all possible questions
made more believable
than the reality of our own true selves
our leaking faucets, ragged lawns
oil stained driveways, two nights of dinner dishes . . .

Romero makes the reader welcome in his story-filled, ambiguous and basically cheerful world.  I recommend this book as an introduction both to an unusual subculture and to a writer who accepts and honors the layers of complexity in contemporary life.

Poems describing more of the many cultures and landscapes of New Mexico can be found at http://200newmexicopoems.wordpress.com/

What do freethinkers celebrate?

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There seem to be a shortage of atheist/freethought holidays. A recent blog comment suggested that there is nothing between April Fool’s Day and Be a Pirate Day in September. 

While the word “holiday” has unfortunate origins, now largely ignored, I do think atheists, agnostics and freethinkers should find occasions to celebrate during the year.  One hundred years ago, gatherings were held on January 29, Thomas Paine’s birthday.  I don’t know how many still honor this occasion.

Robert Ingersoll, the most successful freethought lecturer of the nineteenth century, was immediately raised to “sainthood” beside Thomas Paine upon his death in 1899.  No miracles were needed.  January 29 was often celebrated as a “Paine-Ingersoll” event. 

Ingersoll declared himself to be agnostic, but he was in fact a humanist before the word came into popular usage.  The following quotation is typical:

“Reason, Observation, and Experience―the Holy Trinity of Science―have taught us that happiness is the only good, that the time to be happy is now, and the way to be happy is to make others so.”
(From “On the Gods”)

Why not honor Ingersoll on his own birthday, August 11?  Perhaps in those pre-airconditioning days of the early twentieth century August was an off time to hold a celebration.  Now, I think, an August “holiday” would be a good idea.

Another option would be to establish “Atheist Family Day” on July 17.  When Ingersoll died on that date in 1899 his wife and daughters took immediate action to preventthe  fraudulent claims of deathbed conversion which plagued every freethinking hero.  Ingersoll’s family was united in supporting the cause of freethought.

If these options don’t appeal to you, perhaps you have other ideas about what and when freethinkers should hold celebrations.

And the Greeks . . .

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I was introduced to Thomas Lynch through an interview in <i>Writers Chronicle</i>.  He writes essays and fiction but says, “I wouldn’t write sentences or paragraphs that were worthy if I weren’t also writing poetry.”  That led me to find his book, <i>Walking Papers</i>, and I was hooked by the opening lines of the opening poem:

What sort of morning was Euclid having
when he first considered parallel lines?
(“Euclid”)

I have always been partial to Greeks because of my studies in Greek and Archaeology, but I have been fond of Euclid since I was in the equivalent of seventh grade in an English School.  There geometry was taught as a series of theorems and their proofs.  One of the first was “When two straight lines cross, the opposite angles are equal.”

It was rote learning, but I loved it.  I believed this was the way Euclid himself had presented his ideas.  I remember the small paperback book clearly, while I’ve forgotten entirely the geometry text I used when I came to the subject again as a sophomore in high school.

Lynch says little more about Greeks, but in this first poem, Euclid takes a place along with Lynch’s contemporaries, each working out their understanding of the world, and they go together well.

 

Ascent Goes Public

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Let this bold blooming yucca in my neighbor’s yard stand for the achievement of the five southwestern women poets as we presented our work in our book Ascent to the public today at our local library.

Some of us have been writing for decades, others only recently, but for all of us this is work of our maturity.  Three years of critiquing each others’ work had not blurred the difference in the way we see our world.

I shared this observation on the environment where I now live:

A jackrabbit feeds on
freeze-dried prickly pear,
bolts a my approach,
happy in his speed, doing
what he’s made for.

Susan Gomez describes a dust storm in “Fury”:

Our small car listed
as we navigated the wind
with its airborne sediment. . . .

Air and silt, violent, howled into the night.

Teral Katahara closely observes another part of our landscape:

I stop to see Sandia and pungent Jalapeno
chile plants
sitting in the neighbor’s field. . . . .

Sun shines through
translucent red skins
splotched with warm gold.

The other poets chose to share pieces about their past.  Lucille Tully recalls Chicago in “State Street 1957”:

Now in the quiet of the late night
I walk alone except for the one

staggering drunk who does his dance
while I smile, do mine, to stay clear of his

Still, as strange, silent companions
we share this concrete way.

Polly Evans, eldest and in many ways wisest of the group, encompasses a lifetime in “Hide and Seek,” beginning with basement and closet. Then

The apple tree was easy . . .
I hid in the foliage.
The big dog knew I was there;
I watched the cats,
and the kids coming home.

After a stanza about hiding in early marriage, the poem concludes:

The night you died
there was no place to hide.

Ascent is a truly self-published book, available only from the authors.  See the Books page and use the Contact page for more information.

Mystery and Courage

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H.D.’s Trilogy, a book of three long poems written in the 1940s, begins with a vivid portrayal of the stress of the bombing of London and the longing for respite.  Woven in with this world are Greek and Egyptian deities and an awareness of those who distrust poets (herself and her companions) because of their lack of “usefulness.”

In the second section what the rest of us think of as “real” takes second place to angels and a Lady who is both Astarte and Mary and who also appears with a book, as if she were patroness of poets.  She is goddess portrayed in many ways through the ages:

We see her hand in her lap,
smoothing the apple-green

or the apple-russet silk;
we see her hand at her throat,

fingering a talisman
brought by a crusader from Jerusalem;

In part III the focus shifts again, for here two Biblical stories dominate, the woman with the alabaster jar, and Kaspar, the Wise Man who brought myrrh to the Christ Child.  H.D. intertwines them so that the two figures are contemporary.  In this, H.D. shows the courage to follow where the poem leads her, though it could well be offensive to those detractors she mentions earlier.  She describes the encounter of the woman and Kaspar.

As he stooped for the scarf, he saw this,
and as he straightened, in that half-second,

he saw the fleck of light
like a flaw in the third jewel

to his right, in the second circlet,
a grain, a flaw, or a speck of light

and in that point or shadow,
was the whole secret of the mystery;

The final sections bring conclusion to the whole series, yet leave mystery intact: the mystery of deities and creativity, of courage and hope, of Good Friday and Easter.

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