Sunday, February 21, 2010

Where Are Our Migrant Farmworker Poets,
Our Dissidents?

The New York Times declared misty-eyed:
Bei Dao [was] sent to the countryside, where he spent 11 years working as a blacksmith and a concrete mixer, experiences that gave him a feel for multiple aspects of Chinese life. (American fiction and poetry could use more former blacksmiths and concrete mixers among its ranks. Albeit without the forced labor.)

When ignorance shows its white face, it hurts. We have many dissidents, farmworker, former blacksmiths, dry-wall builders, migrant workers, day laborers, queer, straight, imprisoned and formerly imprisoned, criminal, on welfare, whose families were impoverished or killed because of the demand for equality and/or the return of stolen lands and resources, decimista/improvisers of traditions. We have our dissidents, but the problem is they're not white, they usually don't speak Spanish or prefer to write or speak in English (although we all do) and are also translated compentently into English.

Farmworkers poets, Chicano, Mexicans in the U.S., abound. Indigenous poets, our original dissidents, have yet to be truly and profoundly recognized.

There's Alurista, a Chicano poet who saved America from monolingualist starvations. And legions after and before him.

Ana Castillo womanist novelist and poet.

Cherrie Moraga, a visionary poet, playwright and essayist, who weaves us all into a fabric of freedom and liberation.

Raul R. Salinas, who passed away recently, a "criminal," an inmate who became a writer, poet and political activist in federal prisons and was put on parole, literally, exiled to the U.S. Northwest after a group of intellectuals and educators led by trailblazer Tomas Ybarra and others demanded his freedom, recognizing his writing work. Salinas work was first published by Hellcoal Press while still in prison. Raul retrieved and helped make sense of the Indigenous connection among and between Chicanos and other Indigenous people.

John Trudell, Indigenous political rights activist and community leader, who paid a severe price for keeping our country aware of the contemporary and historical roots of land theft, forced removal and disappearance of entire Indigenous peoples and their languages, community and cultures, destroying but not erasing the memory and practices of sustainable human-natural world relations. And with him and us,

Leonard Peltier, sentenced to the absurd two-life sentences, the longest held U.S. political prisoner, who has become a great painter and thinker-writer, redeems us all when he wrote his memoirs, My Life Is My Sun Dance.

So, New York Times, we have plenty of blacksmiths, concrete-mixers, migrant farmworker, Indigenous free and imprisoned poets, our dissidents who speak for us, dream and collaborate with us for a different U.S. where poets are teachers -- not impoverished, not unpublished, not lost to our memory and histories. We may or may not ever be recognized. Yes we want readers and audiences, television broadcasts and evening talk programs, but to get these we have to change the country, the culture of possession and dispossesion and one for cooperation, collective and individual dreaming, freedom of speech with printing presses and www's.

A country is only as mighty and visionary as her dissidents and not from the weaponry, the generals, the armies and her presidents.

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