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Split This Rock Interviews Freedom Plow Finalist Francisco Aragón
As you might recall, last week we mentioned Split This Rock’s interview with 2017 Freedom Plow recipient, Christopher Soto, on its blog, Blog This Rock. This week, Blog This Rock presents interviews with the finalists, including Francisco Aragón. Aragón contributes to the Institute for Latino Studies at Notre Dame and oversees the institute’s initiative Letras Latinas. With the Freedom Plow Award, Split This Rock applauds poets who are making a difference in this world through social justice and activism. Correspondents Simone Roberts and Tiana Trutna ask, “In what particular ways (if any) do you see poetry playing a role in social activism for the Latinx community? Are there new directions you imagine for poetry in activism?” Let’s go directly to Aragón’s response:
Within a Latino/a community context, this question can be addressed in a plethora of ways, each as vital as the next. In other words, there’s a lot of great work being done out there, starting, for example, with Freedom Plow co-finalist Christopher Soto and his work with Undocupoets and Nepantla. And, of course, the definition of “social activism” can take many shapes. In terms of my work with Letras Latinas, one aspect of it is related to the notion that the personal can be political. When you’re confronted with your community being rendered invisible to the culture-at-large, a mission as straightforward as nurturing and promoting your community’s storytellers can, in my view, be viewed as a form of activism. Another, if one works in a context like mine, is exposing one’s students to the work of your community’s poets and writers.
For four years now, every fall, I’ve had the privilege of teaching an undergraduate literature course on Latino/a poetry at Notre Dame. It’s a course for non-English majors and so I get an interesting mix of students—from business school majors to student-athletes who have had little, if any, exposure to poetry, let alone Latino/a poetry. One year, a Notre Dame offensive lineman (i.e. a football player) from Kentucky approached me at the end of the course and told me how much he enjoyed the course and how much he learned, through poetry, about a community he knew little about. Another year, a student who was a Spanish major and who was about to spend the following semester in Spain, expressed deep appreciation for being able to read, study, and analyze poetry in English by Hispanic heritage writers. Both students were non-Latino/a. And so it’s my way of seeking to break down walls and build bridges, one individual at a time.