Unwoven by Erika Garza-Johnson

Erika Garza-Johnson’s debut, Unwoven, is a collection of poetry that refuses to be labeled. It is an anthology that explores the author’s identity and plays with a variety of genres. At times, it is autobiographical, contemporary,a saga, or a narrative. At others, it is an observation, a mystery, a drama, or a reflection. But most of all, it is a collection of love poems.

I have known my comadre, Erika, for almost a decade. We’ve traveled together all over the valley and central Texas for poetry readings and workshops. I’ve heard her voice deliver those punches in her work up close and know the shifting of her borders are obvious with her spoken word. Erika has one of the greatest stage presences I’ve encountered because she does not shy away from the intentions of her poetry.

After reading Unwoven, I can honestly say her words vaporize from the page and into one’s perceptive consciousness. So honest and with the lenguaje that is typical of a South Texas community. The rhythm a pattern of words that make it simple for others to comprehend our Tex-Mex slang.

From writing about ‘Heridas Abiertas’ to ‘Pinche Princesses’, my comadre reveals her love. For her family, her community, her culture, her experiences. Sometimes it is not so obvious. Sometimes, her love is coraje. Sometimes, her love gives you the finger.

In all possible explorations of her work, one cannot mistake how she has unwoven her world to share it with her audience.

Comfort Food: Cafe con Canela

If I think back to comfort food, one of the first things that comes to mind is a cafecito calientito. Even better? With canela.

It’s really the easiest thing to prepare – just boil a cinnamon stick in a water and use that same water to prepare your coffee as usual (coffee pot or a la Keurig style).  Drinking this special brew reminds me of my trips to Durango with apa and welo, how it is called cafe de olla in some places and was sweetened with piloncillo. I’m not sure why I haven’t tried using piloncillo, now that I think about it.

I’ve been told that cinnamon tea is good for stress and headaches, so I’m sure this is an added bonus to the comfort part. Funny thing is, all my memories of drinking coffee in Mexico are with the spicy taste of canela. And the pan dulce!

Pan dulce is a delicacy that translates into a tradition in my family.

Visitors stopping by? Panecito run. Novela finale? Panecito run. Domingo? Panecito run. It’s cold outside? Panecito run. Funeral bound? Panecito run.

Thinking about it, maybe this post should have included the pan dulce as comfort food too. Only because it is. And us from the valley, we’re vicious when it comes to critiquing our sweet bread. For one, it MUST be fresh. And there MUST be an assortment, because Lord knows all of us have different tastes. Even our grocery stores (cough *HEB*) carry an assortment of panecito.

I’ve seen a variety of panaderías popping up all over the Sharyland area. My goal? To have a critique of every single one!!!

Beautiful Scars by Edward Vidaurre

I first met Edward Vidaurre a few years ago at a Rio Grande Valley International Poetry Festival – I believe it was the Poetry Pachanga at the Narciso Martinez Cultural Arts Center in San Benito, TX. Every year that I’ve attended VIPF, it’s always a great opportunity to meet new poets and listen to a diversity of voices. I remember how Edward’s presence was inspiring. His poetry unique because although we have claimed him as a valle poet, his memories of an upbringing in East Los Angeles add a twist of flavor to his verses and allows for us to discover some semblances to life in South Texas that are not quite the same at all instances.

From being an acquaintance to becoming a poetry compadre I am truly inspired by, Edward’s passion in sharing his writing supersedes the idea of simply promoting his work when invited to read at events. Edward shows up to events with the intent of inspiring others to collect their own experiences into writing. A proof of this is the periodical Pasta, Poetry and Vino events he hosts to promote other poets and to open a space for the literary community.

As you can probably imagine, when his latest poetry collection “Beautiful Scars: Elegiac Beat Poems” was released, I was first in line to grab a copy. One can always count on having a great time when reading my compadre’s stuff. I know it’s a rule to not judge a book by its cover, but Edward’s book…well, the cover is enough to have made me grab a copy anyways! The photographs included in between poems offered an extra glimpse into Edward’s world and incorporated a story of their own.

evidaurreOne look at the table of contents and I knew I’d read the book in one take. I mean, who wouldn’t want to read a book about his “greñuda”? As a daddy’s girl, I was able to relate to the bond the author has with his Bella, and embraced the language of amor eterno flowing from those verses. Perhaps not visible to the naked eye, but his corazón bled between the empty spaces on those pages dedicated to his daughter.

I feel this was the most beautiful scar he shared with me as I read his book. Sometimes, loving is just too much!

Visit Edward’s Blog Here: http://edwardvidaurre.blogspot.com/
Purchase a Copy of His Book Here: Beautiful Scars

You Know What I’m Sayin’? by Daniel García Ordaz

What would a poetry pachanga be without the Valle’s own Poet Mariachi? He is, after all, a force of language and literature in our community. His play with words and music taught me to be comfortable with our cultural imagery in my own work, and his work has introduced hundreds of students how powerful our own identities can be.

As pochos, we are not used to finding our own voices and colors define themselves in the literature we are asked to read in school. But his work is sure finding its way into the hands of librarians and educators that are more than happy to share his unique style of rhyming and emphasizing the patterns of our language.

Daniel García Ordaz approaches his audiences by sharing a universal approach to the written word. He writes about what he knows – of belonging to immigrant roots, pertaining to an American dream, of legacies and family, accents and superstitions.

Maybe you’ll even run into a mariachi song in his book, You Know What I’m Sayin’?.

2015-17 McAllen Poet Laureate

McAllen Poet Laureate Announcement
McAllen Poet Laureate Announcement

So this happened…let me tell you why it means so much to me.

My abuelito (Eduardo Suarez, Sr.) passed away three years ago & he had so much pride in belonging to this community. Shortly before he died I asked him why he would choose to make McAllen his home – he had lived in so many other parts of this country, after all. After the Mexican Revolution, abuelo came to the United States as part of the Bracero Program. Why would he come back to McAllen after seeing the beautiful mountains of Washington, the wildflowers of Idaho, or the seasons in Michigan?

Abuelo stared back at me as if that were the most ludicrous question possible – to him, there was nothing more beautiful.

He explained that when he first crossed to the U.S. by bus, McAllen was the first city he saw. It was perfect. All the citrus trees, tejanos with sombreros, paved streets that went on for miles. He promised himself that one day, he’d have a home here. Abuelito worked for many decades building up a reputation as an honest man with a word of gold, saving up money, moving around the valley each time he and his family came back from working las labores.

Then one day, his dream came true – he bought a home in McAllen. His children grew up here, going to school here – his grandchildren belonging to this community. This was his pride. And I can see it now, why he loved this city. It is a place many can call home, whether born here or not because we are a raza demanding of ties and we love adopting others to become valleyites. Familia. This is what my home represents.

(Read MPL’s announcement here!)