State of Chicano Literature 2012 with Lorna Dee Cervantes, Alejandro Murguía & Juan Felipe Herrera

This Sunday September 9th, three preeminent figures in the Chicano literary revolution, Lorna Dee Cervantes, San Francisco Poet Laureate Alejandro Murguía, and California State Poet Laureate Juan Felipe Herrera, unite for a poetry reading and in-depth discussion of contemporary issues. This panel will focus on the crisis in ethnic studies, funding in education and the arts, and the unique challenges faced in the publishing world by writers of color. From 1:00-4:00 pm at the Main SF Public Library in the the Koret Auditorium.

Last month, San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee named Alejandro Murguía the city’s sixth poet laureate. “I am thrilled to announce Alejandro  urguía as the new San Francisco poet laureate, a position that exemplifies San Francisco’s rich literary history and tradition,” Lee said at the kickoff for the third International Poetry Festival in Kerouac Alley behind City Lights.

Alejandro Murguía was born in California, but raised in Mexico City. His experiences as an international volunteer in the Nicaraguan Insurrection of 1979 are recounted in his second collection of short stories Southern Front (American Book Award,1991). He lives in San Francisco, where he teaches Latin American literature at San Francisco State University. In May 2002, City Lights published his collection of stories This War Called Love.

From Mexico City to San Francisco’s Mission District, nothing comes easy-in life or in love. This War Called Love is an unstereotypical view of a world as treacherous as it is tender, as hilarious as it is heartbreaking. Authentic and honest, these nine stories focus on today’s Latino men, their strength and vulnerability, their fears and deepest desires.

In May of this year, at age 63, the son of migrant farmworkers, Juan Felipe Herrera was named California’s first Latino poet laureate. Herrera was initiated into the Word by the fire-speakers of the early Chicano Movimiento and by heavy exposure to various poetry, jazz, and blues performance streams. He is the Tomás Rivera Endowed Chair in the Department of Creative Writing at the University of California – Riverside. His published works include Border-Crosser with a Lamborghini Dream, Mayan Drifter: Chicano Poet in the Lowlands of the Americas, and Thunderweavers / Tejedoras de Rayos.

For his collection of verse spanning over three decades, published by City Lights, 187 Reasons Mexicanos Can’t Cross the Border, Juan Felipe Herrera was awarded the 2008 PEN West award for outstanding poetry. Herrera’s writings are charged with theatrical and athletic energies. A hybrid collection of texts written and performed on the road, gathered from more than thirty-five years of work in various genres, these “undocuments” are the record of an epic journey across many different borders: boundaries of nations, state lines, city limits, edges of farmland, crossings and mixtures of languages and literary forms.

From Mexico City to San Francisco, from Central America to central California, Herrera remembers everything and gives back to his native places and to the family, friends and compañeros of his Mexican/American/Chicano odyssey a scrapbook, a logbook, a journal, a multiform confession of proud hybridity and indigenous optimism. A sustained manifesto of resistance and affirmation, these rants, manifestos, newspaper cut-ups, bits of street theatre, anti-lectures, love poems and riffs tell the story of what it’s like to live outlaw and brown in the United States.

Lorna Dee Cervantes is an award-winning Chicana, Native American (Chumash), feminist, activist poet who is considered one of the major Chicana poets of the past 40 years. She has been described as “probably the best Chicana poet active today.” At City Lights bookstore, we carry her book Ciento, 100 100-Word Poems, her first collection since the celebrated DRIVE: The First Quartet.

Flavored by the author’s Chicana and Native American roots, this poetry collection explores eroticism and sensuality while keeping to the confines of 100 words. Simultaneously intelligent and humorous, this book investigates the themes of passion and desire as it conveys intense political ideas and reactions.

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