Been meaning to post this for awhile and just now getting around to it. Last month, a group of fellow South Texas hybrid writer/educator/activists and I collaborated on a poetry panel for this year’s Tejas Foco of the National Association of Chicana and Chicano Studies, held at Texas Lutheran University in Seguín, Tejas.
The impetus for the panel – and for doing it as an “alternative session,” presenting poetry instead of scholarly papers – was in fact to raise questions about where (or whether) poetic forms of analysis and action might comfortably reside alongside traditional forms of scholarship and organizing.
In our panel proposal, for instance, we wrote:
When his son was killed by cartel violence, Mexican poet Javier Sicilia renounced poetry—and yet, as Rubén Martínez writes, poetics remains integral to the Movimiento por la Paz con Justicia y Dignidad now led by Sicilia, who believes that poets have the moral responsibility to tell the stories of crises. As alternative session featuring the creative writing of four hybrid writer/educator/activists, this panel similarly invokes the vital work performed by a tradition of Chicanx poetics in imagining and realizing strategies of resistance on multiple scales—to the hypervisible violence of border wall-building, gentrification, and climate change as well as to the intimate erasures of Chicana mothering practice and domestic violence. Following Sicilia, our session considers the distinctive work that poetic forms of analysis can offer our communities in times of multiple crises—the work of “visibilizando víctimas,” documenting histories that would be otherwise lost in plain sight, as well as contemporary realities that would otherwise go unconsidered.
Also, not until after I presented did I realize that I was unconsciously and kinesthetically quoting in my performance of “No Poems Allowed” from Carmen Tafolla’s performance of her poem “Both Sides of the Border,” from This River Here. Like “Both Sides,” “No Poems Allowed” staggers text on either side of the page to indicate relationships of both division and connection, irreducibility and intimate intertwining (in this case between ways of knowing–poetry and numbers, writing and organizing, theory and action). I want to acknowledge and reference Tafolla’s influence here, with great love and respect.