Friday, April 28, 2006

Chez Robert Giron & Agustin Cadena's El vino y la hiel

Robert Giron (pictured left), poet, translator, teacher, and publisher of Gival Press, has just made the blogosphere a much more civilized place. Click here to visit his blog, Chez Robert Giron. This just in: Agustin Cadena, one of Mexico's finest literary writers and poets, is now blogging from Hungary! His Spanish language blog is El vino y la hiel, and he's just posted something very interesting about Salvador Elizondo. More about Agustin Cadena soon... I'll be back blogging on Monday May 1st.

Thursday, April 27, 2006

Bruno Estañol

Here is a writer who will transform your understanding of Mexico. Eduardo Jiménez's translation of Bruno Estañol's short story "Fata Morgana" appears in my anthology, Mexico: A Traveler's Literary Companion. Would that all good Mexican writers had a translator as fine, as hardworking, and as dedicated as Eduardo Jiménez. And would that all translators could work with such languidly elegant and original writing as that of Bruno Estañol. Fortunately for us English language readers, Bruno Estañol: The Collected Fiction, translated from the Spanish and with a preface by Eduardo Jiménez, has just been published by Floricanto Press. Here's the jacket text:
The narratives collected in this volume are mainly set in the State of Tabasco, during the turbulent time period running from the Mexican Revolution to the late 1950’s. In one sense we’re dealing with a dreamy, genteel, picturesque — though somewhat atavistic — world, in which the paddlewheel steamboat remains the preferred means of long-distance transportation, in which the townswomen wear ruffled organdy or tulle dresses while daintily promenading, parasols in hand, around the town square; where couples, young and old, dance on Sunday afternoons to the elegant melodies of pasodobles, danzones, tangos or boleros; and where the finest merchandise, ranging from the mundane to the exotic, arrives daily to the various commercial ports along the Tabascan coast, having been shipped there from the metropolises of New Orleans and Havana. On the other hand, it may also be a horrific, hostile and harsh world, where fierce tropical storms arise without warning, claiming the lives and fortunes of unsuspecting townspeople; where the jungle and the wild creatures within it habitually menace the fragile and vulnerable human civilizations erected in their midst; where frontier-style administration of law and order continuously makes a mockery of justice; and where the more talented and gifted individuals often find themselves molested or marginalized, trapped in a life of boredom, monotony, indolence and ennui. Occasionally, the author takes us to places outside the realm of tropical Mexico, staging some of his stories in New England, Germany, England, India, Palestine and Paris; yet he always remains faithful to his penchant for exposing both the beautiful and the sinister sides of humanity, while concurrently manifesting a keen sense of humor. Estañol’s skeptical, ironical and slightly philosophical brand of humor resonates with the work of such fellow Latin American writers as Juan José Arreola, Jorge Luis Borges, and Ernesto Sábato.

Tonight! Poetry of Foreign Places

I'm giving a poetry reading. Here's the announcement:
In conjunction with the Poesis series, please join us on Thursday, 27 April 2006 from 7 – 9 pm at Greenberry's Coffee in Arlington, Va. for the Part 1 reading of Poetry of Foreign Places (real or imagined). An open mic will follow the reading. Featured in this reading are: Karren Alenier, Claudia Gary-Annis, Simki Ghebremichael, David Gewanter, Mary Ann Larkin, Anne Harding Woodworth, C.M. Mayo, and Katherine Young. Greenberry's Coffee, 1737 Wilson Boulevard, Arlington, Va. Tel. 703 465 7823 Between Rosslyn and Courthouse Metros)

Sunday, April 23, 2006

News From Juan Villoro

From Mexico City, where he seems to be scribbling at 299 kilometers a minute, Juan Villoro writes that he's published a new book, Safari accidental. It's a collection of his essays, including profiles of Mick Jagger, Yoko Ono, the Zapatistas, Salman Rushdie, Bono, Martin Amis, and places including Berlín, Tijuana, Havanna, and Disney World. At this very moment he is launching two more books: Funerales preventivos (political fables with cartoons by Rogelio Naranjo) and Dios es redondo, about his passion for soccer. Plus, every Friday he has a column in the editorial pages of Mexico City's main newspaper, Reforma. By the way, it's my translation of his hilarious punk-rocker story that appears in Mexico: A Traveler's Literary Companion. "One-Way Street" is the title, after the punk rock band, but originally the story appeared as "1975" (same title as the Spanish) in Tameme. The first issue of Tameme also features his work-- "Stop the Labyrinth!" (translated by Amy Schildhouse Greenberg), an excerpt from Palmeras de la brisa rapida, his lyrical memoir of Yucatan. You can read a bit more about him, and his essay "Escape from Disney World" (translated by T.G. Huntington) on Words without Borders. Madam Mayo's verdict: Juan Villoro is not only one of Mexico's most prolific writers, but one of its most perceptive, lyrical, and humorous. Translators, please take note.

Back to blogging on April 27th.

Saturday, April 22, 2006

Sound Body, Sound Mind: Music for Healing with Andrew Weil, MD

What a wonderful CD this is-- Dr Andrew Weil's meditation and collection of music based on themes from Mozart, Mahler, Brahms, and Bach, combined with healing sound frequencies. Joshua Leeds, author of Sonic Alchemy: Conversations with Leading Sound Practioners, is one of the producers, and Anna Wise, one of the world's leading authorities on neurofeedback and training for high-performance and meditative states, designed the healing frequencies. I'll be posting more about her work in the coming weeks.

Because I Don't Have Wings

Wendi Kaufman, author of an article in the new Washingtonian about who's reading what in Washington, asked me what book had I read recently that I would recommend? My whole-hearted answer was Because I Don't Have Wings. It's about Mexican immigrants, and it's brilliant, original, and astonishingly intimate. (By the way, Garrison is not only a terrific writer, he's also a terrific literary translator. His translation of Michoacano writer Raul Mejia's "Banquets" appears in Mexico: A Traveler's Literary Companion.)

The Daily 5 Minute Writing Exercise Goes to McDonald's

Ever since October 1st I have been posting a daily 5 minute writing exercise on my website, It began as a nudge for my writing workshop students, and also for myself. Why five minutes? Read all about it here. Today's exercise (4/22), an especially fun one, is courtesy of novelist Leslie Pietrzyk. Thanks Leslie!

Friday, April 21, 2006

Gone to the Blogs: Nation Editor Katrina vanden Heuvel's Hit List

There's such a churning Niagara of blogs out there -- I've been keeping an eye out for lists that might serve as a kind of filter. I spotted this list in Tom Engelhardt's 4/21/06 interview with Katrina vanden Heuvel, editor of the Nation. (Read the whole enchilada here.) Engehardt asked vanden Heuvel what she read every day. She said:
"I begin the day by reading from three to five papers. By then I'm already so agitated… [She laughs.] Anyway, I start with the Washington Post, then I do the New York Times, then parts of the Financial Times or the Wall Street Journal, USA Today, the Los Angeles Times, and the Guardian. Then I look at the Web. I'll read Tompaine, Commondreams, Romenesko, Tomdispatch, Juan Cole, Alternet, the Huffington Post, James Wolcott's blog, Jay Rosen's PressThink, sometimes Josh Marshall's Talking Points Memo or the Daily Kos... Then I'll write a blog entry, or a short riff for our new magazine blog, the Notion, or something for the Guardian's new blog, Comment Is Free..."

Not very literary. Oh well. Madam Mayo is also quite agitated by the current political situation, but rather than join the political Clogosphere (to borrow a term from my amiga J.R.) she is channeling it into her novel, which is based on a true story in Mexico in 1865-1867. Tres triste. Today, which was March 5, 1866, under attack by insurgents on the highway, one of Madam Mayo's characters got the back of his skull shot off.

I think I'd better stop refering to myself in the third person. This is very wierd.

Dispatch From Palo Alto, California: First Yellow Rose of the Season

Pabu Mayo, my pug Picadou's big amigo, is the Tibetan spaniel to whom my sister, Alice, belongs. Being a typical Tibetan spaniel, Pabu is shy. Here he hides from the first yellow rose of the season. (For more pix of Pabu, click here.) My sister Alice, by the way, has some curious theories about the Mackintosh clan, and that we may be distant kin to Graham Mackintosh, the intrepid Baja California adventurer and author. (We are big fans of his books, most especially Nearer My Dog to Thee: A Summer in Baja's Sky Island.) Alice assures me that she will be sending some dispatches on this subject in the coming days. Pabu may be advising her. But he's not saying.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Gone to the LitBlogs: Beltway's List of Litblogs of DC and Environs

Kim Roberts, poet and editor of of Beltway, the wonderful on-line poetry journal, alerts Madam Mayo to the Beltway Resource Bank of Area Litblogs. Some of these are extraordinary. I was especially impressed by Baltimore writer Lizzie Skurnick's Old Hag-- a peculiar name for a really beautiful litblog. A good one, if like yours jam-packed with a gaba-zaba-bazillion nuggets 'o info, is Arts and Letters Daily. More peronal and laid back is DC poet E. Ethelbert Miller's E-Notes. There are Wendi Kaufman's The Happy Booker, Deborah Ager's 32 Poems, and my own (yay!) Madam Mayo (hey, click on that link and see what happens...) Some of the names are, shall we say, unusual: Home Schooled by a Cackling Jackal.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

The Happy Booker Goes South of the Border-- Top Five Mexican Music Selections by Yours Truly

"If I Only Had an iPod..." This is DC area writer Wendi Kaufman's regular feature on her long-time and widely read litblog, The Happy Booker. And hey, c'est moi-- engaging in shameless promotional efforts apropos of the release of my own audio CD, "The Essential Francisco Sosa or, Picadou's Mexico City." (Yep, what I'm doing here is quoting The Happy Booker quoting myself. If this ain't blogging, what is?)

Yo quiero Mexican music! It isn't all "para bailar la bamba" and the Jumping Bean song. I prefer certain categories. For instance, La Voz; Suave (Cool); Joyas (Jewels); Fresa (literally, "strawberry"-- the closest translation would be "princess"), and this uncategorizable phenomenon that everybody except the clinically depressed wants to raise their hands and clap to --- and dance to -- and shout out to! I am talking about Juanga. I love Juanga. Little grannies love Juanga. Hairdressers love Juanga. You, too, will love Juanga. "Viva Mexico!" sings Juanga.

Here are my top five, by category:

Lila Downs: "Tengo Miedo de Quererte." Lila Downs has a voice that could float an elephant.

Santana:"Twisted." Carlos Santana's music is like a slithering snake crossed with a flock of birds crossed with a great big chocolate ice-cream birthday cake.

Mecano: Descanso Dominical, "Laika" The disco ode to Laika the space dog. Acually, this group is Spanish. Ni modo. Wierdly mystical.

Chanticleer: Mexican Baroque: Music From New Spain, "Ignacio de Jerúsalem: Mass in D Major" Carved gilded roses of sound.

Juan Gabriel: Viva Mexico. Fiesta to the max. Think Paul McCartney x Elton John x Englebert Humperdink x Salma Hayek. But he doesn't look anything at all like Salma Hayek.

Sombreros off to la Booker Feliz!

Poetic Voices Without Borders

At the Arlington (Virginia) Arts Center last night I was privileged to read with poets Grace Cavalieri, Rei Berroa, and Jacqueline Jules as part of the celebration of Robert Giron's beautiful award-winning anthology, Poetic Voices Without Borders. The event was sponsored by the DC chapter of the Womens National Book Association. I read my poem, "In the Garden of Lope de Vega" and another poem -- not in this anthology-- "Man High". Over the years, I've been to more poetry readings than I could count -- never has any had such a gracious and charming moderator as Grace Cavalieri. Thanks to all of you guys.

At the Moment, Madam Mayo Is Peeved by Playaway (But No Doubt the Moment Will Pass)

Stop the Clutter! Revisiting the Playaway (see my last post). Well, now I don't know where to put the dang thing. It may be small, but it's ugly (a vile yellowish-green) and it has this messy tangle of cords (the earbuds, the lanyard). If I were to put it in a box, or the back of a drawer, I wouldn't see it, and then I would forget about it, and that would be $40 down the drain because by the time I would come upon it again, no doubt the pre-installed battery would be dead. So I put it in a plastic sandwich baggy. A nasty little package.

Monday, April 17, 2006

Playaway, $40 for 12 Hours

"Beyond the Book" is the title of a panel I'm proposing for next year's Associated Writing Programs conference in Atlanta. I had thought of of audio CDs, chapbooks, broadsheets, vidlit, blogs-- but not this. Imagine a stack of, say, seven credit cards. Not a big package; easy to palm. The fat end is the width of your thumbnail, the thin end half that. It weighs almost nothing. Behold Simon and Schuster's self-playing audio book: a wee machine with batteries already installed, with ear buds, a lanyard for wearing it round your neck, and one -- and forever only one -- recording: in this case, 12 hours of Khaled Hosseini reading his novel, The Kite Runner. I found it at Washington DC's Dulles airport, right by the cash register, ka-ching. Read all about it at

Thursday, April 06, 2006

Madam Mayo Is On the Road to Fez

Yep, I'm in Morocco. En route I'll be reading Ruth Knafo Setton's novel, The Road to Fez. She's a very interesting and powerful writer who has also spent time in Mexico. Read an interview with her here.

Please check back with this blog on April 18th. I'll have news about some of the writers and translators in my new anthology Mexico: A Traveler's Literary Companion, information about my upcoming Revision Workshop at the Writers Center, and -- I would imagine -- something to "blog" about Morocco. Last time I was there was in 1983, to take a writing workshop with Paul Bowles in Tangier. Bowles was the author of some sublime short stories and several novels including The Sheltering Sky. But alas, I learned more from reading his work than from him personally. That's another blog post. Maybe.

Helipilot's Eye-Popping Pix of Mexico City

Check out these photos of Mexico City by a helicopter pilot. Total eye candy. This one is of a tianguis (weekly market) in Neza. His webpage has a slide show in both Spanish and English.

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Viva Consuelo Hernandez!

I'm in Washington DC right now, where the Spanish language literary scene has been growing like a beanstalk in summer. Anyone around here who writes in Spanish ought to get plugged to Para Eso La Palabra. Their next big event features Colombian poet and American University Spanish Professor Consuelo Hernandez, who will be presenting her new book, Poemas de escombros y cenizas / Poems From Debris and Ashes (English translation by Maureen Contreni). It's this Friday April 7th at 6:30 p.m., Folger Shakespeare Library, 301 East Capitol Street, SE, Washington, D.C., 2003, $5 admission. To learn more about the Washington DC Spanish language literary scene, check out my article, "Viva La Vida Literaria!"

Monday, April 03, 2006

A Trio of Mexican Writers: Araceli Ardon, Ricardo Elizondo Elizondo, and Monica Lavin

Araceli Ardon's "It Is Nothing of Mine" and Monica Lavin's "Day and Night", both wonderful short stories translated by Yours Truly, have been posted for your reading pleasure on the National Public Radio website, along with Geoff Hargreave's splendid translation of Ricardo Elizondo Elizondo's masterpiece, "The Green Bottle."The National Public Radio website also has the audio of my interview about Mexico: A Traveler's Literary Companion and the art of literary translation. Araceli Ardon's story is set in Queretaro, the colonial city where she is Director of the Museo de Arte. Monica Lavin, whose story is set in Acapatzingo, near Cuernavaca, is one of Mexico's best-known and prolific literary writers. Ricardo Elizondo Elizondo, a widely-lauded novelist, lives in Monterrey, where he is a professor at the ITESM.

Madam Mayo's Felicitous Synchronicity

So, this pops up in my e-mail box:
"Madam, Have You Ever Really Been Happy?"
by Meg Noble Peterson

Wednesday, April 5 at 6:30 pm at Candida's World of Books. Meg Noble Peterson, approaching 60 and recently divorced, set out to circle the globe with nothing more than a backpack. She rode on dilapidated buses through Egypt and Zimbabwe, squeezed into trains in India, viewed a sunrise from the summit of Mt. Moses in Sinai and a cremation on the banks of the Ganges. Event is free and open to the public. 1541 14th Street, NW Washington DC tel. (202) 667-4811

P.S. I will be presenting Mexico: A Traveler's Literary Companion, at Candida's World of Books on June 15th.

Under the Direction of Rodolfo Morales

Exploring Colonial Mexico is a superb resource for anyone interested in Mexican history, art and architecture. This just in from publisher Richard Perry: "For our April page we feature the colorful folk baroque church of Santa Ana Zegache, recently restored and repainted under the direction of Rodolfo Morales, the late, great Oaxacan artist."

Deborah Ager Champions The Epistle of Our Age

Blogging has tempted me for over a year now, and always I have resisted. Blogging seemed to me a dangerous use of my writing time-- and, with so may blogs out there, as one poet said to me, dripping with disdain for the whole of the blogosphere, who can possibly be reading them? Well, a year gone by, I have been reading blogs-- and I often revisit the good ones. For example, poet Deborah Ager's "32 Poems," the blog named after the fine poetry journal she edits. In one recent post, she answers the question, Is Writing A Blog Despicable? Just one of the many nudges I got to start this one. Gracias, Deborah.

Sunday, April 02, 2006

Madam Mayo Questions Daniel Olivas

Daniel Olivas is a writer and blogger @ La Bloga, another blog that inspired me to do my own. So, I asked him:

What are the top three items on your reading pile?
#1 Spilling the Beans in Chicanolandia: Conversations with Writers and Artists by Frederick Luis Aldama
#2 Happy Hour at Casa Dracula by Marta Acosta (Advance Reader's Copy).
#3 Triumph of Our Communities: Four Decades of Mexican American Art by Gary D. Keller and Amy Phillips.

What are you reading right now (and would you recommend it)?
I'm about a third through an ARC of Lyn Miller-Lachman's debut novel, Dirt Cheap (Curbstone Press, June 2006). I highly recommend it. It's billed as a eco-thriller but it's so much more. The characters are well-drawn and it's difficult to put down. Ms. Miller-Lachman is editor of the Multicultural Review as well as editor of the anthology, Once Upon a Cuento.

For news, what do you read?
The Los Angeles Times; Time Magazine; Jewish Journal; Daily Journal (legal newspaper for my day job); Tu Ciudad magazine.

Is blogging addictive?
If you think that Oreos are addictive, yes.

What do you know about blogging now that you didn't when you started La Bloga?
The ripple affect is amazing! Not only do our posts get picked by other blogs, but folks write to us with news and comments (I share blogging duties on La Bloga with four other literature lovers, thank God!).

Uh oh.

Madam Mayo's Little Dog Name Poem (To the Tin Whistle & Gamelan)

Tater, Tot, Louie, Boomer, Bridget, Bijou, Elpis, Roxy, Leader, Lucy, Lola, Coco, Chloe, and of course--- drum-rolllll--- Picadou.

This here is Gordo.

Saturday, April 01, 2006

Madam Mayo Contemplates the Wall at the U.S.-Mexico Border, Near Tijuana

Wall building in the news. This is my photo taken at the western edge of the U.S.- Mexico border. Copyright C.M. Mayo and all that. Note how the metal wall slices into the waves like a knife. Read more about the border and Tijuana: A Touch of Evil

Mexico: A Traveler's Literary Companion

Here is the lovely cover (cover painting by Mexican artist Elena Climent). This is not a guidebook, but a collection of Mexican fiction and literary prose--- including Carlos Fuentes, Angeles Mastretta, Laura Esquivel, Rosario Castellanos, Carlos Monsivais, Ricardo Elizondo Elizondo, Ilan Stavans, and many more. I'm the editor and I translated several of the pieces, but there are many other translators who contributed beautiful work for this volume, among them, Geoff Hargreaves, Daniel Shapiro, Mark Schafer, Amy Schildhouse Greenberg, Harry Morales, and many others. Click here to read more.

A Book That Has Rung the Gong for Madam Mayo

Joshua Leed's Sonic Alchemy: Conversations With Leading Sound Practitioners. It's all music, after all--- down to the vibrations of the atoms. His website is Right now I'm listening to the CD "Music for Motivation" with the Arcangelos Chamber Ensemble. The idea is, the so-many beats per minute give you some serious pep. I think this works well for work on the Internet-- but not so much for creative writing. I'll be posting more about sound and creativity in the coming weeks.

Madam Mayo Directs You to ALTALK

This is my post on ALTALK--- National Public Radio Saturday April 1st: John Ydstie interviewed me for National Public Radio about Mexico: A Traveler's Literary Companion. The interview will be edited, so I don't yet know what will and will not make it on, but we did talk quite a bit about literary translation. It is scheduled to air on Saturday April 1st, and will also be posted on