Poetry News

CantoMundo Gathering July 7-10 in Austin

By Harriet Staff

Latino poets collective CantoMundo, out of Austin, TX, is preparing for its second annual gathering this weekend, reports The Austin Chronicle. Founded partly by writer and UT-Austin professor Deborah Paredez out of concern for aesthetics, social engagement, and the role of poetry in everyday life for Latinos, the group now has over 30 members, and is modeled after poetry collectives like Cave Canem and Kundiman (African-American and Asian-American organizations, respectively). The article explains:

The literal translation of CantoMundo is "song world," evocative of the musicality of poetry. It's also an indirect nod to Flor y Canto ("flower and song"), the reference to poetry and literature in ancient Mexican cultures as well as to the Flor y Canto gatherings that occurred in concert with Chicano activism during the civil rights movement....Cave Canem co-founder Toi Derricotte was the featured speaker at last year's inaugural CantoMundo, held at the National Hispanic Cultural Center of New Mexico, where she outlined the history of her group and inspired CantoMundo to make its own path.

But it's not all talk. Master poets lead generative and craft workshops for members and participate in public readings. This year's master poets include award-winning writers Benjamin Sáenz and Naomi Ayala. (Previously announced speaker Judith Ortíz Cofer had to bow out due to a family emergency). Sáenz is a former Wallace Stegner Fellow and a Lannan Poetry Fellow whose first collection of poetry, Calendar of Dust (1992), won an American Book Award. The D.C.-based Ayala is the author of two books of poetry, Wild Animals on the Moon and This Side of Early, with a third book of poems, Calling Home: Praise Songs and Incantations, forthcoming from Bilingual Review Press.

"CantoMundo emerges from a tradition of wanting to claim a rightful place for the work created by literary artists of color, within American letters: in this case, Latinos and Latinas who want to write poetry," said Francisco Aragón by email. A 2010 CantoMundo fellow, Aragón is also director of Letras Latinas, the literary program of the Institute for Latino Studies at the University of Notre Dame. "In the Latino Literary community, poetry's time has finally arrived," he added, pointing out that CantoMundo member Eduardo C. Corral recently won the Yale Series of Younger Poets prize, while J. Michael Martínez was the 2009 recipient of the Walt Whitman Award. "Think about that: In the last two years, two of America's most prestigious first book awards have gone to CantoMundo Fellows!" Aragón wrote.

More about the featured readings for this week can be found here.

Originally Published: July 5th, 2011