Monday, March 28, 2016

Monday Muse: New Texas Poet Laureate

I don't write poems to offer answers or to preach
or anything like that. I write poems because that's
the way I move through the world. . . .*
~ Laurie Ann Guerrero

The 2016 State Poet Laureate of Texas is Laurie Ann Guerrero. Guerrero, also the honorary 2014-2016 Poet Laureate of the City of San Antonio, succeeds Carmen Tafolla. (Guerrero's appointment was announced at the time Tafolla was named.)

For information about the State Poet Laureate position, see my post on Karla K. Morton, the state's 2010 Poet Laureate. (Another source is the Poet Laureate page at the Texas State Historical Association. Also see the legislative text.)

On April 11, 2016, Guerrero is scheduled to join poets Malachi Black and A. Van Jordan for a reading at Folger Shakespeare Library, Washington, D.C., as part of the program "The New Sonneteers". 

* * * * * 
. . . names, people, places, experience. This is
the palette for my art, how I stretch my eyes awake.
I want to be awake always. . . .**

Texas native Laurie Ann Guerrero is the author of A Crown for Gumecindo (Aztlan Libre Press, 2015), a collection of linked sonnets, journal entries, and meditations on the loss of her storytelling grandfather Gumecindo, and the grief she experienced; and A Tongue in the Mouth of the Dying (University of Notre Dame Press, 2013). She also has published the chapbook Babies under the Skin (Panhandler Publishing, 2007), winner of the Panhandler Chapbook Award.

Guerrero's beautifully crafted poetry encompasses her Tejana background (Native American [Comanche], Mexican, and Spanish and German) and deep sense of place. Love, women and empowerment, community, motherhood and family relationships, tradition, racial injustice, gender identity and discrimination, loss and absence, and longing number among her subjects. As she told interviewer Steve Bennett, while talking about her 2013 collection, "The tongue is sensual, it's sexual, it's voice and language and silence. I give voice to all kinds of things in my poems — sexual abuse, infanticide, suicide — so that tongue becomes so many things, mainly a disruption of silence." She is highly politically aware and unafraid to use her poems as a means to call out injustice.

Here are lines from two poems by Guerrero; they are striking for their visual richness — the sharpness and physicality of the imagery — and for depth of feeling.

In my hands, it's cold and knowing as bone.
Shrouded in plastic, I unwind its gauze,
mummy-like, rub my wrist blue against the cactus
of it buds. Were it still cradled inside
the clammy cow mouth, I should want to enchant it:[. . .]
~ from "Preparing the Tongue" in A Tongue in the Mouth of the Dying

[. . .] Tears,
like mercury in the hollow of my
belly, like water burning through a well.
I hear the slosh as if I am a child
swollen with milk. [. . .]
~ from "The Mesquite" in A Crown for Gumecindo

Poems by Guerrero have appeared or are forthcoming in such periodicals and journals as The Acentos ReviewBellevue Literary Review, Borderlands: Texas Poetry Review, Chicana/Latina Studies, Feminist Studies, Huizache,  Indiana Review, LA Review of BooksLiterary MamaLuna Luna, Naugatuck ReviewPalo Alto Review, Poetry, Seminary Ridge ReviewTexas Monthly, Texas Observer, Texas Poetry Review, Voices de la Luna, and Women's Studies Quarterly.

Guerrero's writing is found in Entre Guadalupe y Malinche: Tejanas in Literature and Art, edited by Ines Hernandez-Avila and Norma Ella Cantu (University of Texas Press; reprint, February 2016). She was one of several editors of Texas Poetry Calendar (2014), and her collection A Tongue in the Mouth of the Dying is featured in Jesse Zuba's The First Book: Twentieth -Century Poetic Careers in America (Princeton University Press, 2015).

Named to the annual Debut Poets roundup by Poets & Writers magazine (see "Ten Years of Debut Poets"), Guerrero is the recipient of the Andres Montoya Poetry Prize (University of Notre Dame Press, 2012), for A Tongue in the Moth of the Dying; an International Latino Book Award (2014), for Best Poetry Book, One Author, in English (Latino Literacy Now); and grants from Artist Foundation of San Antonio, AF Donors Award for Literary Arts (2013), and Alfredo Cisneros del Moral Foundation (2013), founded by Sandra Cisneros. She served in Fall 2014 as the Harman Writing Fellow at Baruch College. In addition, she is a Canto Mundo Fellow and Macondo Writers' Workshop member. 

Guerrero was inaugural (2014) Poet-in-Residence at Palo Alto College, San Antonio, where she conducted creative writing workshops, took part in public readings and discussions, and represented the college as its "ambassador". She is the Literary Arts Director/Writer-in-Residence at Guadalupe Cultural Arts Center.


Photo Credit: Aztlan Libre Press

All Poetry Excerpts © Laurie Ann Guerrero

* Quoted from Steve Bennett Brief at My San Antonio (See link below.)

** Quoted from Guerrero's "28 Contemplations" at The Best American Poetry Blog (See link below.)

Laurie Ann Guerrero Poetry Online: "Brownies of the Southwest: Troop 704" and "Last Meal: Breakfast Tacos, San Antonio, Tejas", Both at Poetry Foundation; "A Meal for the Tribe", "Roosters: Homecoming", and "Early Words for My Son", All at The Poetry Center at Smith College; "Preparing the Tongue", "Cocooning", and "My Mother Will Take a Lover", All at Acentos Review; "Babies under the House" and "Ode to el Cabrito", Both at Voices de la Luna (pdf; p. 5); "My Mother Woke a Rooster" at LA Bloga; "Like Jesus" at Seminary Ridge Review (Autumn 2013; pdf; see page 104)

Guerrero's poem "Babies under the Skin" can be found in Wingbeats II: Exercises and Practice in Poetry (Dos Gatos Press, 2014), edited by Scott Wiggerman and David Meischen.

Also see the excerpts (pdf) from A Tongue in the Mouth of the Dying at Notre Dame Press.

Read Guerrero's "Stealing the Crown: Sonnet as Vessel: Plan for Building" (Part 1), "Sonnet as Sustenance" (Part 2), "Sonnet as Resting Place" (Part 3), and "Sonnet as Reconciliation" (Part 4), The Best American Poetry Blog, 2015.

Read Guerrero's "28 Contemplations between San Antonio and Washington, D.C.", The Best American Poetry Blog, August 31, 2015.

Guerrero's article "Birthing the Warrior: Poetry as Illumination" can be found in Women's Studies Quarterly (read an excerpt).

Laurie Ann Guerrero on FaceBookTwitter, and Tumblr

James  Courtney, "Getting to Know Texas Poet Laureate Laurie Ann Guerrero", San Antonio Current, October 28, 2015

David Martin Davies, "Texas Matters: Laurie Ann Guerrero, San Antonio's Poet Laureate, Talks About Her Struggle", KSTX San Antonio, May 22, 2015 (Audio Available)

My San Antonio, "Poetry Helps Laurie Ann Guerrero Deal with Grief", May 5, 2015

Lauren Moriarty, "Lasting Impressions: Laurie Ann Guerrero | Poet Laureate Uses Words to Impact Community", San Antonio Magazine, August 2014

Steve Bennett, "Guerrero's Poetry Starts 'in the Gut'", My San Antonio, May 30, 2014

Xelena Gonzalez, "Letras Latinas Exclusive: Laurie Ann Guerrero", Letras Latinas Blog, March 27, 2014

Virgil Blanc, "Poet Guerrero Discusses Inspiration", Yale Daily, March 6, 2013 ("What keeps me writing is the inspiration I've had from living in my body, for so many years, . . .")

Writing on the Air, Interview, March 7, 2015 (Audio Available)

Kathi Stafford, "The Journey: An Interview with Laurie Ann Guerrero", Poets' Quarterly, September 1, 2012

Review, "Laurie Ann Guerrero's 'A Tongue in the Mouth of the Dying'", Indiana Review, November 2014

ALP Page for A Crown for Gumecindo (A video is on the page.)

University of Notre Dame, "Notre Dame Announces Winners of Two National Literary Prizes", May 29, 2012

UNDPress Page for A Tongue in the Mouth of the Dying (An excerpt is available to download. Also see the video.)

Video, TEDxSanAntonio, "What I Learned from My City" (2014)

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