July 20, 2016
By Olivia P. Tallet
Poetry is flying around Texas during July, as CantoMundo, one of the most respected Latino poetry programs in the nation, brings poets to Austin for their annual national retreat, and Houston is presenting some of the writers for live readings and performances.
This week, Houston's Tintero Projects (Inkwell Projects) presents four young CantoMundo fellows in two performances.
Thursday brings a performance by Denice Frohman, a young Newyorican now living in Philadelphia, has won not only numerous awards but also a massive social media following, with some videos of her powerful performances going viral.
That was the case with her poem "Dear Straight People," which has been viewed more than 2 million times on YouTube. Questioning the origins of hate and bullying, Frohman asks:
Did you notice that hate is alive and well in too many lunchrooms?
Taught in the silence of too many teachers?
Passed down like second-hand clothing from too many parents?
In another poem, "Accents", Frohman humorously chronicles the cultures, languages and accents in her family.
Lupe Mendez, the founder and organizer of Tintero Projects, says that each of the four poets coming to perform in Houston are outstanding writers and performers, "but to see them paired up and presenting their work is truly a blessing!"
Frohman will perform with poet Yesenia Montilla, a DominiCuban from New York.
Montilla, who published her fist collection of poetry "The Pink Box" last fall, explores identity, love, and the use of language that molds our ways of living.
In the Sunday performance, Tintero Project will present poets Malcolm Friend, from Seattle, and Raina León, from California.
With a clean and tender lyrical style, Friend plays with languages in his poems, as in the following fragment of "Clemente Dreams of Death."
The other poet presenting in Houston is Raina León, a member of the Carolina African American Writers Collective and founding editor of the international quarterly journal The Acentos Review, which is dedicated to promoting Latino arts. She is a professor at Saint Mary's College of California.
Goodbye to CantoMundo
For six years, CantoMundo has had its headquarters at the University of Texas at Austin. But that will change after this year's retreat: The program is moving to Columbia University in New York City.
"It's been a wonderful relation with the University of Texas for so many years," says Celeste Mendoza, co-founder of CantoMundo.
Columbia, she explains, hired CantoMundo's other co-founder and co-director, professor Debora Paredes, and included sponsorship of a CantoMundo chapter as part of the hiring package.
With Columbia's backing, CantoMundo will become a national touring program.
"It will be a new and exciting chapter for us," says Mendoza, who will continue in her role from Texas.
"The changes will not necessarily mean that we will be growing or better than we have been in Texas," she adds. "But it will involve an exploration of new and different opportunities for Latino poets and writers from around the country."
Another prominent Texan program for Latino writers, The Macondo Writers Workshop, just finished its annual national workshop at the Guadalupe Cultural Arts Center in San Antonio last week.
That program, founded by Sandra Cisneros (author of "The House on Mango Street") will continue having Texas as its home.
Source: Houston Chronicle