Monday, March 12, 2018

Breaking Bread: My Poem from The Latinx Poetry Series

On Friday, as a part of Stone Soup Stagecoach, I attended the Latinx Poetry Series at Harvard University, which has been organized by Melissa Castillo-Garsow, who is spending a very productive year in Massachusetts at the college. Carmen Bardeguez-Brown was the guest speaker, instructor and feature poet at this event, which was attended by a diverse group of participants and onlookers, myself included.

Bardeguez-Brown's workshop "Poetry like bread is for everyone/ La Poesia como el pan es para todos," focused on the bilinugal Nuyorican poets such as Tato Laviera and the double (sometimes hidden) lives they lived and clearly portrayed in their work. We got into groups and discussed the poems before we were assigned to write a poem in six minutes time. She explained that when she was an educator in the Bronx, she would assign children poems in the same amount time, and they would do it. Imparting the ability to read and write onto children is an important part of her life given comments such as these: "I don't talk about conspiracies, but you cant have a democracy if people are illiterate."

The conditions of the six minute poem was that it had to have at least two tones and include one additional language other than English. I ended up choosing English and Spanish for reasons you'll see below, combining with my usual tones of humor and self-deprecation.

I had a lot of fun writing this piece and appreciate Melissa for inviting me to be part of this night. Later, I will post information on next month's event, which includes Boston Poet Laureate Danielle Legros Georges! Melissa's series is free and open to all the public. 

Here's the poem.

¿Lo que pasó aquí?

My sister, who I would have called
bruja before hermana, gave me words
I somehow took as gospel, convinced me
to take Spanish over French,
as Spanish was muy fácil. My last name’s “eau”
made into an “o,” I was no more French
in language than Spanish. Uno or otro
I figured. No difference, go for easy C+,

which allowed me years later to be the King
of Fools in New Orleans though Mardi Gras
was off-season, not sure if it was they
who mispronounced Parenteau, or me?

Today, I say buena suerte to veteran patients 
who español solamente, their children translating
both my Englsh and Spanish, go home to my Francophile
girlfriend, serenade her as Pepé Le Pew... l'amour, de jour…
over and over, praying she teaches me which words mean love.

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