About a year ago, one of the earliest signs for working artists that we were living in a changed world was the almost wholesale cancellation of San Antonio’s usually overflowing calendar of National Poetry Month events. One of the few exceptions was URBAN-15’s Mega Corazón, a marathon broadcast of South Texas spoken word that survived by virtue of its already-online format.
Still, even Mega Corazón had to scramble to figure out how to film readings without bringing poets physically into URBAN-15’s online broadcast studio, and the solution it came up with was to have poets record themselves reading and then stitch these recordings together into a pastiche of nonstop poesis. While rougher around the edges, these little poetry home videos—shot from living rooms and on cell phones—in many ways had a poignancy and intimacy unmatched by the more polished production of previous years.
They plopped the Alamodome down right smack between the highway and the train tracks, so every couple hours the soundscape shatters, the massive horn of a slow moving rail convoy blasting the air apart. I briefly lived in the neighborhood just south of here, on the access road of the highway, and I must have gotten used to the trains like they say you do, because I don’t remember ever losing sleep as they passed.
It’s definitely annoying if you’re mid-conversation, but mostly we don’t small talk with the people rolling by inside their cars. Mostly it’s business. Asking for ID and checking their names off a list, or inspecting their paperwork to make sure every yellow highlighted section has been filled in. Most everyone is masked, but more than a few are unmasked, absentmindedly or perhaps defiantly in the wake of the governor’s repeal of the mask mandate. I’m double-masked and standing outside in wind as wild as Gulf Coast beaches, so I’m not too concerned about it—but if I could do it again I think I’d ask those unmasked to cover their faces before I checked them in.
A few weeks ago, I saw my grown baby officially leave the nest and venture out into the wide world to chart its own course and never call home. For those who missed the online release event hosted by FlowerSong Press, it lives on in perpetuity, here, with special thanks to Jo Reyes-Boitel for running tech for the event and preserving the recording:
On Friday, March 5 at 6pm CST, join FlowerSong Press in celebrating the official release of Luz at Midnight! As y’all know, Luz tells a climate change story unique to South Texas—belly of the beast for boom-and-bust extraction—challenging regional histories of environmental injustice while weaving a universal story of love and longing. Arts writer Nicholas Frank recently wrote in The San Antonio Report that the novel has proved “eerily prescient” in its depiction of the rolling blackouts that have recently rocked the state.
Launch will happen online via Zoom: click HERE to attend.
ALSO! RAFFLE ALERT! Cuz it’s fun: between February 20 and the end of the reading, if you purchase a copy of Luz from FlowerSong, we’ll enter your name into a drawing for a chance to win prizes! Books can be purchased HERE. To learn more about the book and view the trailer, visit https://mcortez.net/luz/
Here are the deets in superconcentrated visual form, with thanks to Jo Reyes-Boitel and the FlowerSong familia:
In the past week, a couple of the environmental subplots in my book (Luz at Midnight) have leaped from page to real life here in South Texas. And I’ve been stuck inside, even more deeply inside than I have been for the past year’s pandemic–the four of us confined not just to the house but to one room of the house to maximize the power of three space heaters—with nothing else to do than to reflect on the weirdness of it all. It’s kinda freaky, until I remember that I crafted those subplots based on what I imagined to be the most plausible scenarios for climate disruption in this part of the planet, based on historical patterns to date. So it makes sense. But then it quickly goes back to being freaky.
The first and most obvious, of course, is the polar vortex that has dipped down into Texas to knock us flat on our unaccustomed asses for a week, tripping rolling blackouts across the state. Here’s a passage from one of the early chapters of the book, when I’m setting up the widest stakes of the climate change subplot:
One of the givens of small press publication is that most of the book marketing stuff you do yourself (and, from what I’ve observed of the press side, production is largely a DIY hustle as well). Once I got past several months of extreme overwhelm, I’ve actually found this kind of fun, in the way most DIY stuff is. Years spent working at various nonprofits have taught me a number of skills I never knew I was acquiring at the time (graphic design, press releases, website maintenance, social media stuff, and more recently media production), all of which have come in handy.
Like, for instance, did you know that YouTube has a function where you can set an uploaded video to premiere at a certain day/time? I did not. I’ve had a YT account for like 15 yrs and have pretty much used it only for making wacky playlists (“Music to Poop To“) and writing short stories in response to Bette Midler videos. Only the other day did it occur to me that it’s a sort of an artistic medium in its own right, or at least a medium for sharing artistic stuff. But then, the idea that you might actually want other people to look at artistic stuff you did occurred to me only very recently as well.
So. Here is the book trailer I produced with Greg, who has a natural knack for the audio/visual. You can’t watch it now–it premieres Sunday, January 3 at 4pm CST. YouTube says to tell you that you can click on the little bell icon to get a reminder just before it airs.
This morning my 13-year-old woke up at 6am to make me a pot of tea, because for weeks we’ve been obsessed with The Crown and drooling especially over all those silver Victorian tea sets, their tall shining kettles with swan neck spouts flanked by stiff-lipped creamers and stout sugar bowls. Just imagine the delicious tea that must be inside! I waaaaaaaaant it, we wail.
I’d already spent all night fighting panic because the toddler promptly puked the bed last night just after he went down–most likely the result of spicy homemade ginger ale followed by the overstimulation of chaotic Christmas Eve family Zoom, everyone talking at once–and I have a lifelong phobia of vomiting. So I stayed up half the night in a state of hypervigilance, fighting sleep by watching The Crown in the toddler’s bed, a little crib mattress tucked into the corner of the room. Finally, around 1, I let go and let Xanax, only to wake at 6am to the sound of the teenager banging and rumbling around in the kitchen.
Despite my medicated stupor, I got up and stumbled into the kitchen. What’re you doing?
This Saturday, November 14, I’ll be reading in support of Davíd Zamora Casas’s exuberant, beautiful, heartbreaking Dia de los Muertos exhibit (click here to take the 3-D tour). I’ll be reading from Luz but also from cat stories, pandemic poetry (everybody’s got some), and election incantations. Would love to see you there. Click below on the image to RSVP and access the Zoom link:
Excited to read from Luz at Midnight at this event, a community conversation on what just climate/COVID recovery looks like. I wrote Luz based on my deep involvement over the years in environmental justice struggles in San Antonio, and one particular springboard for the story was the tendency of local powers-that-be to imagine they can address problems like climate change in a purely technological way, swapping out dirty fuels for cleaner tech without addressing its underlying political/economic logics. The book’s political backdrop presents a not-so-distant and very imaginable future in which the necessity of a rapid transition away from fossil fuels launches a new mining boom for the rare earth minerals that will be required to produce all those solar panels and wind turbine strong magnets and electric car batteries–and thus looks a lot like the old world we’re trying to leave behind, with wildcatters and mancamps popping up all over everyone’s watersheds as startups extract and excrete and sleep around with all the city people.
This is the first time I’ll be reading primarily to the folks I’m writing about in the book, so I’m nervous but also excited. I think I picked the right passages.
I’ll be reading at 3:30pm CST but stick around for the rest of the conversation too, which is vital and critical. City people will be speaking, but schedule also features radical and visionary thinker-activists on climate/food/energy justice and regenerative economy, as well as poets and musicians.