The language of hope - Page 2

With its current poet laureate, SF's literary scene is enjoying a poesía en español renaissance

|
(7)
Active voice: A new anthology collects recent work by SF's first Latino poet laureate.
COURTESY OF CITY LIGHTS

But poesía en español is hardly a new phenomenon in San Francisco. By 1959, the beatniks were already looking to the south when Chilean poet Gonzalo Rojas visited City Lights Bookstore to invite several of them to the First Encounter of Writers of the Americas at the Universidad de Concepción. In 1966, Pablo Neruda's UC Berkeley reading packed the house, with prominent poets and writers (including Lawrence Ferlinghetti, Mario Vargas Llosa, Allen Ginsberg, and Fernando Alegría) in attendance. That night, many ended up at Alegría's home, and it was a meeting of two different languages with one common denominator: poetry. It was also a historic gathering "of profoundly different movements, the counterculture of the Beats a contrast to the aspirations of Western acclaim of the Latin Americans," writes author Deborah Cohn, who details the many points of intersection between Latinos and Beat poets since the 1950s in her 2012 book The Latin American Literary Boom and US Nationalism During the Cold War.

And what about those purists alarmed by the Spanglish? "It is ridiculous! Both languages are enriching themselves from each other," insists Alarcón. Adds Argueta, "Sometimes newcomers are bothered; they see it as an insult. You can call it bilingualism or Chicanismo, but for me it doesn't denigrate the language — it embellishes the language."

Late Sacramento laureate Montoya, one of California's most celebrated poets, mixed English and Spanish with ease. In 1969, he wrote El Louie; along with Corky Gonzales' 1967 I'm Joaquin, it became one of Chicano poetry's most famous works. Maximizing the natural rhythms of the languages, words intertwine in a ravishing dance. The poet crosses back and forth between English and his mother tongue, emerging with the language of California.

Which brings us to San Francisco, 2014: el poeta de las corbatas brillantes, the poet of the glittering ties, and the first Latino appointed as the city's Poet Laureate, Alejandro Murguía. As part of its San Francisco Poet Laureate series, City Lights has just published Stray Poems, a collection of bilingual poems written on napkins, matchboxes, parking tickets and wrinkled pieces of paper over the past 12 years. He'll celebrate its release at a reading next week, appropriately enough at the very bookstore where Rojas first met the Beats. *

ALEJANDRO MURGUÍA

Feb. 5, 7pm, free

City Lights Bookstore

261 Columbus, SF

www.citylights.com

 

Comments

It's Black History Month, not Latino History Month.

Posted by Chromefields on Feb. 04, 2014 @ 12:16 pm

I'm confused about the implied racism here.

Posted by Guest on Feb. 04, 2014 @ 12:41 pm

October is White History Month. Jewish History Month is May, but is shared with Gay History Month. Asian History Month is July.

Posted by Chromefields on Feb. 04, 2014 @ 1:26 pm

To paraphrase my parents when I'd ask on Mothers Day and Fathers Day when was Children's Day: Every month is White History Month. When the playing ground is equal, maybe there won't be a need for minorities' history months. Until then...

Posted by Guest on Feb. 04, 2014 @ 3:14 pm

That just sounds like a conveniently trite rationalization for reverse racism.

Posted by Guest on Feb. 04, 2014 @ 3:34 pm

Thanks for that hommie.

Posted by Guest on Feb. 10, 2014 @ 1:49 pm

This is a resourceful article/website. Thanks

Posted by Guest on Feb. 10, 2014 @ 1:50 pm

Post new comment

The content of this field is kept private and will not be shown publicly.

Related articles

  • In the cut

    Poet Randall Mann's breakthrough 'Straight Razor' slices into gay life now

  • The Performant: Cracks in the pavement

  • 'Maximus' through Flarf

    Updated Norton Anthology of Postmodern American Poetry updates updates updates