Monday, August 21, 2017

METEOR Wins the Gival Press Poetry Award



Delighted and honored to announce that my poetry collection, Meteor, has won the Gival Press Poetry Award and will be published in 2018.

Founding editor of Gival Press, Robert L. Giron, is an amigo from my days in Washington DC, and a fellow El Pasoan, so I am especially delighted that he will be my publisher. I am even more honored, however, to know that Robert did not select Meteor for the prize; for Gival Press he runs a blindly judged contest (no names on the manuscripts), the winner chosen from a pool of finalists by the winner of the previous year's Gival Press Poetry Award. So Meteor was chosen by someone I have not yet had the privilege of meeting: Linwood D. Rumney. His book is the haunting Abandoned Earth.

Rains of karmic lotus petals upon you, dear Linwood D. Rumney!

> Visit my poetry page.

> Poems in Meteor now online include
Man High (originally published in BorderSenses)
UFO, 1990 (originally published in Gargoyle)
In the Garden of Lope de Vega (originally published in the anthology edited by Robert L. Giron, Poetic Voices without Borders)
Stay West

Meteor takes its title from the poem that was originally published waaaaaaa-hey-hey-yyyy back in 1996 in the anthology American Poets Say Goodbye to the 20th Century, edited by Andrei Codrescu and Laura Rosenthal, and again in Ryan Van Cleave and Virgil Suarez's anthology Red, White and Blues: Poets on the Promise of America, 2004.

P.S. Hell yeah, I am still at work on the Far West Texas book. Stay tuned for the upcoming Marfa Mondays Podcasts. I invite you to listen in anytime to the 20 podcasts that have been posted to date.

> Your comments are always welcome. Write to me here.




Monday, August 14, 2017

What's Happening in Mexico City: Bridges Not Walls!

www.bridgesforunderstanding.com


Did you know that there are some 1.5 million U.S. citizens living in Mexico? Many of them, including myself, have been here for decades and have binational families, and we are profoundly aware of the importance of maintaining good relations between the US and Mexico.

Here is some excellent news in this direction.

Last week, thanks to the digital wizardry of Helena von Nagy, the website of Bridges for Understanding went live from Mexico City. Anyone and everyone who cares about US-Mexico relations, please check out this grassroots effort in the American community here to help promote better understanding, and so better relations, between the US and Mexico. Their mission is:

To contribute to the preservation of US-Mexican relations based on an exchange of ideas, personal narratives, and advocacy.

Mary O'Keefe and sons
The founding members / leadership team are Monica French, Mary O'Keefe, Nancy Westfal de Garrulo, Sam Stone, Jan Silverman, Helena von Nagy, and Lisa Milton. Check out their bios, they are impressive bunch!

Here's what they say about who they are:

Bridges for Understanding (B4U) is a grassroots, non-partisan, membership and advocacy organization comprised of primarily U.S. citizens and bi-nationals living in Mexico and elsewhere working side by side with their Mexican neighbors.
Founded in January 2017,  B4U strives to promote the shared principles of freedom and economic prosperity that bind the two nations. We seek to combat the deterioration of bilateral relationsand its impact on human rights, commerce and economic stability on both sides of the border.

Many U.S. and Mexican academic and nonprofit institutions are networking with Bridges for Understanding, among them, the American Benevolent Society, CIDE, Global Jewish Advocacy, New Comienzos, Rotary International, the Wilson Center, and many more. 

I am proud to report that that my blog post is the first for the B4U cultural blog: "A Visit to the Casa de la Primera Imprenta de América in Mexico City."

READ THE FIRST B4U CULTURAL BLOG POST
"A Visit to the Casa de la Primera Imprenta de América in Mexico City."

So check out Bridgesforunderstanding.com, surf around in there, and if you like what you see, become a member, sign up for the listserv, tweet, FB, whatever you can do to help build bridges.

P.S. You will find Bridges for Understanding on Twitter @Bridges4underst

> Your comments are always welcome. Write to me here.






Monday, August 07, 2017

Spotlight on Mexican Fiction: "The Apaches of Kiev" by Agustín Cadena in Tupelo Quarterly, and Much More


Delighted to announce that my translation of the short story by Agustín Cadena, "The Apaches of Kiev," appears in the very fine U.S. literary journal, Tupelo Quarterly. It's a story at once dark and deliciously wry. It caught my attention because, well, everything Cadena writes catches my attention-- he is one of my favorite writers in Mexico, or anywhere-- and he happens to be living in Hungary, so the Eastern Europe angle is no surprise. In all, Cadena's is a unique and powerful voice in contemporary fiction, and I hope you'll have a read.

THE APACHES OF KIEV
BY AGUSTIN CADENA
(Originally published in Spanish on Agustín Cadena's blog, El vino y la hiel
Translated by C.M. Mayo
The story about the body they found in the Botanic Garden came out in the newspapers and on television. The Kiev police identified it immediately: Dmitri Belov, reporter and political analyst known for his scathing criticism of President Poroshenko’s administration. Presumably it was a suicide, but until they could confirm this verdict, the police had been ordered to put all resources to work.
Among the underemployed— peddlers and prostitutes— who roamed the Botanical Garden, very few were aware of this. So how was anyone else to find out? They didn’t have televisions and they didn’t spend their money on newspapers. Understandably, those who knew about the body avoided that area. They knew there would have been a commotion, and especially if the body belonged to someone important. The police would go around searching for possible witnesses to interrogate, and by the way, shake them down on other charges. It wouldn’t do any good to explain to the police what they already knew: that every week all of these underemployed people paid a bribe to be left in peace. 
Ignorant of everything, three men of approximately 40 years of age, exotic-looking, dressed like Apaches in a Western movie, appeared after 11 in the morning. They were Ernesto Ortega, Gonzalo Acevedo and Milton Guzmán: Mexican, Salvadorean and Venezuelan, respectively. The three of them dressed identically: a headdress of white feathers that went from their heads down to their waists, jacket and trousers of coffee-colored leather with fringe on the sleeves and the back, moccasins, and ritual battle makeup. They carried assorted musical instruments and they took turns playing Andean music: “El cóndor pasa,” “Pájaro Chogüi,” “Moliendo café,” etc. They knew the music did not go with the costumes nor the costumes with their ethnicities, but this strange combination was what worked for them commercially. Americaphilia was at its height in Kiev, and passersby were happy to give money to these “North American Indians” who played the music “of their people.” Perhaps the happy notes of “La flor de la canela” led the Ukrainians to imagine the beauty of life in teepees, among the buffalo, wild horses, mountain lions, and bald-headed eagles. The fact is, in addition to playing and signing, the “Apaches” also sold their CDs of this same music, displayed on a cloth spread on the ground. [... CONTINUE READING


P.S. My amiga the poet and writer Patricia Dubrava also translates Cadena. Check out some of her excellent translations at Mexico City Lit.


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This past Saturday I had the good fortune to be able to attend Cadena's book presentation in one of my favorite Mexico City bookstores, the FCE Rosario Castellanos in Condesa. (Here is where I interviewed Michael Schuessler about his biography of Pita Amor, among other works.) Cadena was presenting a novel for young readers, La casa de los tres perros (The House of the Three Dogs) and along for the ride came a group of Mexican writers who have stories in his latest anthology, Callejeros, cuentos urbanos de mundos soñados (My rough translation of that might be, Street People: Stories of Urban Dreamworlds). Happily for me, this also meant a chance to visit with my friend the Mexican novelist and historian Silvia Cuesy. Here we are with Agustín Cadena:


C.M. Mayo, Agustín Cadena, Silvia Cuesy
at the Rosario Castellanos FCE Bookstore, Mexico City

Agustín Cadena's anthology of short fiction, Callejeros
and novel for young readers, La Casa de los tres perros

Mexican writers in Agustín Cadena's anthology, Callejeros
Front row:
León Cuevas, Sandra Luna, Agustín Cadena
Back row:
 Eduardo islas, Cristina Manterola, ?, ?,
José Antonio Bautista, Silvia Cuesy

Table of contents, Callejeros



Back cover, Callejeros


Cadena, right in white hat, presenting his novel for young readers.
La casa de los tres perros,
in the FCE Rosario Castellanos bookstore in Mexico City
August 5, 2017


Watch the video for Kickstarter with Mayte Romo of Editorial Elementum, publisher of Callejeros:

Click here to watch the video

Putting on my armchair-sociologist sombrero now: Aside from its high quality (both its literary content and as an object), what is especially interesting about Callejeros is that the editor lives abroad and the publisher is based in a provincial town-- Pachuca, in the state of Hidalgo. Mexican literary culture and publishing has long been overwhelmingly concentrated in Mexico City, but with the digital revolution it seems this is opening up quickly. I talked a bit about this in my talk for a 2015 American Literary Translators Association panel I chaired:



P.S. I mention both this wondrous Mexico City FCE bookstore and Cadena in my longform essay now available on Kindle, "Dispatch from the Sister Republic or, Papelito Habla," an overview of the Mexican literary landscape and the power of the book.

And for those who follow this blog, yes, I remain at work on the book about Far West Texas. Stay tuned for the next podcasts. My latest writing on the subject includes a review of Patrick Dearen's Bitter Waters: The Struggles of the Pecos River.

> Your comments are always welcome. Write to me here.






Monday, July 31, 2017

Some Old Friends Spark Joy (Whilst Kondo-ing My Library)

Elvis approves
I moved. And of course, this involved oodles of Kondo-ing.

For those who missed the phenomenon of Japanese tidying expert Marie Kondo: She says the way to do it is to pick up each object and ask yourself, does this spark joy? If so, keep it (even if it's a raggedy T-shirt), and if not (even if it's a brand new suede sofa that cost a heap), thank it, then chuck it--or donate it or sell it, or whatever, but get it out of your space. Many organizers and sundry pundits have dismissed Kondo-ing as "woo woo." Too bad for them because, by Jove, by whatever Shinto spirit you want to name, or the god Pan, or Elvis Presley, it works.

My personal and working library is at last in good order, and I am delighted to share with you, dear and thoughtful reader, just a few of the many old friends that sparked much joy:



See this post that mentions the luminous Sara Mansfield Taber: 


Both of these books made my annual top 10 book read lists.



I often quote from Rupert Isaacson's The Healing Land in my literary travel writing workshops.


Taking the advice in Neil Fiore's The Now Habit enabled me to finish my novel.

David Allen's GTD saves the bacon every time.

Back in 2010 Regina Leeds contributed a guest-blog:



I have a sizable collection of books about books. Books for me are heaven.
I wrote a bit about book history in my recent longform Kindle,



Sophy Burnham is best known for her works on angels, 
but she has a sizable body of outstanding work of literary essay / sociology. 
Her The Landed Gentry was especially helpful for me for understanding 
some of the characters in one of my books.
Doormen by Peter Bearman... that merits a post...


Drujienna's Harp was one of my very favorite novels 
when I was first starting to read novels.
As for The Golden Key, pictured right, 
my copy was left for some days by an open window in the rain 
back in 1960-something, but I have saved it and I always shall.


> Your comments are always welcome. Write to me here.






Monday, July 24, 2017

Roopa Pai Decodes the Bhagavad Gita, the Holy Book that Predates Organized Religion

The other day a Mexican Spiritist author sent me some questions about how Spiritism influenced Francisco I. Madero as the leader of Mexico's 1910 Revolution and as president of Mexico (1911-1913)-- so the topic has once again been on my mind. Of course, as those of you have read my book about Madero's secret book of 1911, and/or who been following this blog well know, Madero's Spiritist Manual is more than a rehash of ye olde Kardecian Spiritism: Madero stirs in sprinkles and cupfuls of all sorts of esoteric ideas from other authors and occult tradition. Also reflected in his Spiritist Manual is Madero's avid interest in the Hindu Holy Book of 700 verses in 18 chapters known as the Bhagavad Gita.

> See my post on Madero's commentary on the Gita.

And there, in the Bhagavad Gita, is where I believe we can find the answer to another more frequently asked question, how did a Spiritist, supposedly devoted to brotherly love and peace, pick up arms and fight a revolution?

The Bhagavad Gita is about war. It is also about the afterlife and life itself, down to some very earthy, very granular levels. Because I have since moved on to work on another, very different book-- a travel memoir about Far West Texas (in which Madero makes a cameo appearance, of course, because the 1910 Revolution started at the border)-- I have not been able to go into the detail about the Bhagavad Gita that the subject warrants. So I was very pleased to find and be able to link to this TEDx talk by Roopa Pai about the Gita, "India's book of answers." Pai calls the Gita "a shining moral compass for guidance"; "a primer on the art of civilized debate"; "a killer app for contentment"; "the ultimate equal rights manifesto"; "the original monograph on free trade"; "the original tree huggers handbook"; "the Indian book on baby names"; and "a mathematical treatment on the mobius strip called karma."

Roopa Pai's is the best short introduction I have yet found to the Gita, and I highly recommend it.





P.S. In addition to the link to Roopa Pai's talk on the Gita, you will find many more resources for researchers on the webpage for my book, Metaphysical Odyssey into the Mexican Revolution: Francisco I. Madero and His Secret Book, Spiritist Manual.

> Resources for Researchers (films and videos)




Monday, July 10, 2017

My Great Great Great Uncle, De Witt Clinton Boutelle, Painter of the Hudson River School

Untitled (Hudson River Landscape with Indian) 1848
De Witt Clinton Boutelle
Chrysler Museum of Art
Apart from trying to finish my book on Far West Texas and the overdue prologue for a friend's most unusual and outstanding book and moving house (half the books now in boxes, my train of thoughts surely must be bubble-wrapped into one or three of them) and see about querying publishers for various projects and translations, and trying also (also!) to not fall too woefully behind with email (... am trying to take my own advice...), this week I got wrapped up with some thunderous family news... precisely, of the existence of De Witt Clinton Boutelle (1820 - 1884), a great great great uncle who was, lo and behold, a remarkably talented painter of the Hudson River School. My sister, thanks to Google, found his grave. And from there it was all open sesame.

> More about the Hudson River Landscape with Indian of 1848 in the Chrysler Museum.

> Here is De Witt Clinton Boutelle's "Indian Surveying a Landscape" 1855, in the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. (I note that it was purchased from a private collection in Springfield MA.)

> And here is Boutelle's 1873 portrait of Asa Packer.

> And a bunch more of Boutelle's landscapes at artnet.

> Even more at https://americangallery19th.wordpress.com/category/boutelle-dewitt-c/ .

> And a note on Boutelle's "Catskills Mountain House" of 1845.


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> Your comments are always welcome. Write to me here.




Monday, June 26, 2017

"Dispatch from the Sister Republic or, Papelito Habla" A Longform Essay About the Mexican Literary Landscape and the Power of the Book

Get this essay about the Mexican literary landscape
 and the power of the book in KINDLE
My extra-crunchy long essay on the Mexican literary landscape and the power of the book is now available in Kindle.

Featured on the cover are my writing assistants, Uliberto Quetzalpugtl (aka Uls) and Washingtoniana Quetzalpugalotl (aka La Wash), both thinking profound thoughts... probably about the neighbor's cat. (As for books, they go for the corners.)

If you have been following my blog (in which case, bless you), you might be wondering, what in Timbuktu does this long essay on the Mexican literary landscape have to do with my current work in-progress on Far West Texas? Plenty, actually, starting with Cabeza de Vaca's gobsmackingly bizarre Informe. 

One of the several reasons I wrote this essay was to get my mind around the literary nuns of the baroque period in Mexico, the prime and cherished example is Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz. Another literary nun not mentioned in this essay, but who will appear in my book on Far West Texas, is María de Agreda, the Blue Lady. Much more about María de Agreda and her exterioridades anon.

Above all, I wrote "Dispatch from the Sister Republic or, Papelito Habla" for U.S. friends and colleagues who want to get past the heavily-retailed clichés about Mexico. This essay is at once my love letter to Mexico and a distillation of all that I have come to understand after 30 years of living here and over two decades of writing about Mexico and translating Mexican literature. I sincerely hope it will invite you to consider our southern neighbor in new ways and so, consider our own republic in new ways as well.

Read some excerpts from "Dispatch from the Sister Republic":

Lord Kingsborough's Antiquities of Mexico

What the Muse Sent Me About the Tenth Muse, Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz

> A Visit to the Casa de la Primera Imprenta de América, Mexico City

>> Get "Dispatch from the Sister Republic or, Papelito Habla" in in Kindle here.<<



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Kindle edition

Also in the Kindle store you will find my memoir of yore, Miraculous Air: Journey of a Thousand Miles through Baja California, the Other Mexico. Available as always in Kindle from Dancing Chiva, it will be for free in the Kindle storeyes, freefor two days later this month, July 22 and 23. So, I invite you to note those free days in your calendar, or shell out the clams. Or not. Or whatever. I invite you to read more about this book, reviews, and excerpts here. (The original hardcover was published by the University of Utah Press and the still in-print paperback is available from Milkweed Editions and all the usual online and independent booksellers.)



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> Your comments are always very welcome. Write to me here.





Recent and Current Reading: Cather, Bogard, Kunstler, Padilla, Abbey

The Professor's House
by Willa Cather
In one of the strangest, most elegant and powerful novels I have ever read, Cather combs apart the strands of the very DNA of North America.


by Paul Bogard
If you still want to vacation in Las Vegas after reading this...

by James Howard Kunstler
For those who have not yet drunk the Kool-Aid of Geewhizdomerie. Kunstler, maestro of colorful metaphors and hilarious diction drops, is always a wicked pleasure to read. 

The Daring Flight of My Pen: Cultural Politics and Gaspar Pérez de Villagrá's Historia de la Nueva México, 1610
By Genaro M. Padilla
At once a brilliant work of scholarship and a powerful personal essay, The Daring Flight of My Pen is vital reading for anyone anywhere who would attempt to understand North American history. 

Edited By James R. Hepworth and Gregory McNamee
One cannot go far into reading about the American West without encountering Edward Abbey and, in particular, his iconic Desert Solitaire. This eclectic collection of essays and interviews is like an adventure in the fun house of Edward Abbey's mind.

For those of you who follow this blog: As you might guess from this reading list I am at work on the book about Far West Texas. Stay tuned for podcast #21; I really am going to post it soon. In the meantime, I welcome you to listen in to the other 20 podcasts here.

> Your comments are always welcome. Write to me here.










Monday, June 19, 2017

Tulpa Max or, Notes on the Afterlife of a Resurrection (On the 150th Anniversary of the Execution of Maximilian von Habsburg)

Letras Libres, one of Mexico's finest magazines, has a special section in this month's issue which includes, I am delighted to report, my own essay on Maximilian von Habsbug, "Tulpa Max. La vida después de una resurrección".  ("Tulpa Max or, The Afterlife of a Resurrection.") 

It's a riff on writing historical fiction-- and my novel, The Last Prince of the Mexican Empire (Unbridled Books, 2009), which was beautifully translated by Mexican writer Agustín Cadena as El último principe del Imperio mexicano (Random House Mondadori-Grijalbo, 2010). I am hoping my Spanish has continued some progress up the steep hill toward matching my English: I dared to translate this essay for Letras Libres myself.

The novel, by the way, is not about Maximilian per se, but rather the little half-American prince, Agustín de Iturbide y Green, whom Maximilian brought into his court (true story), much to the child's parents' consternation.

The English version of this essay is forthcoming in the summer issue of Catamaran Literary Review, and once that's out I will be sure to post it here.

> Read the essay online here.

For the occasion, a few links about Maximilian:

> On Seeing as an Artist or, Five Techniques for a Journey to Einfühlung

> Podcast of the book's presentation at the Library of Congress

> A Conversation with M.M. McAllen About Her Book, Maximilian and Carlota

> Q & A with Mexican historian Alan Rojas Orzechowski About Santiago Rebull, Maximilian's Court Painter-- Later Diego River's Professor

> Oodles more at my novel's webpage, on the Maximilian and Carlota Blog, and the research page Maximilian von Mexiko


> Your comments are always most welcome. Write to me here.