Marcelo Hernandez Castillo and Rosa A. Martinez ||| Monday, Jan 23 @ 7:30 pm ||| SPC 1719 25th

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Marcelo Hernandez Castillo was born in Zacatecas, Mexico, and crossed the border through Tijuana at the age of five with his family. He is a Canto Mundo fellow and the first undocumented student to graduate from the University of Michigan’s MFA program. He teaches summers as the resident artist at the Atlantic Center for the Arts in Florida and is a lecturer at Sacramento State University. He was a finalist for the New England Review Emerging Writer Award and his manuscript was a finalist for the Alice James Book Prize and the National Poetry Series. His work has been adapted into opera through collaboration with the composer Reinaldo Moya. His poems and essays can be found in PBS News Hour, Fusion TV, Ploughshares, Indiana Review, New England Review, The Paris American, Gulf Coast and Southern Humanities Review among others. He helped initiate the Undocupoets campaign which successfully eliminated citizenship requirements from all major first poetry book prizes in the country for which he received the “Writers for Writers Award” from Poets & Writers Magazine.

My work aims to investigate the ideas of separation, Latino Masculinity, the narrative kidnapping, exile, deportation, immigrant experience, death, and sexuality. I want to actively work against fetishizing the border narrative, and broaden the image of the immigrant experience. I want to inquire into the psychology behind the effects of separation due to deportation, and how this violence accrues over time. I am currently working on a book of essays which aims to broaden our understanding of fear, of violence, and the measures we are willing to take to reunite our families. I am trying to interrogate the effects of moving in a raced and gendered body; one that eschews specific identities and classifications. Ultimately, I want to challenge the idea of Latinx machismo.


La Virgen

it’s not that she appeared
it’s that she was there

the entire time
our childhood hung

at the end of a stick
holy mother coil of strings

I want this to be our secret
I want to slide my finger

over her shawl and peel
her off the wall

and take her home
I could build an altar

let her black hair grow
through the walls

let it enter my mouth
and bless me from the inside

But in her coming to being
separated from her loss

she is already
going away

    Rosa A. Martinez is currently working on a collection of short stories,
    titled The bittersweet of it all. She completed her Ph.D. in English at UC
    Berkeley, where she also co-curated The Holloway Series in Poetry &
    Mixed Blood Project. During her final year, she joined the Literature
    Section at MIT as a Visiting Scholar, where she finalized a book
    manuscript, entitled Extravagant Passing: Spanish Masquerade in the
    American Literary Imagination, and also participated and read for
    Pleasures of Poetry. She has published book reviews in JLS, in addition
    to co-editing a special volume, and also currently has an essay
    forthcoming in MELUS. She is currently an Assistant Professor in the
    English Department at Sacramento State.


Words themselves are often made extravagant and without warning to the listener. “A straight
soup party?” she uttered, yet in a truly deplorable little accent. Her voice carried a playfulness
that both confounded and went unfounded in a kitchen full of suburbanites. Another woman – of
about forty and twice the age of the comedian – caught the words in the air and batted at them
with a smirk and sure sign of unease that came from elsewhere, from beyond there.

“What do you mean by that?” was the response by this woman who was less-gold laced. A
closeted-dyke, for sure, whose bright face and fat body somehow remained hidden behind the
small crowd.

But the lover, of the soon to be persecuted, remained mute. Her hand gripping the wooden
spoon more tightly and as she continued stirring the salmon stew – the spoon softly drumming
against the inside of the large pot – the small dyke turned off the faucet and marched her way
through the crowd. She – her words – had already cut sharply through the merriment and
laughter that only moments before lingered in the air. Now, all that endured her tone was the
brave smell of salmon catching noses. Gleefulness would suffer a slow death. But the lover, no
longer stirring, no longer drumming, switched tasks, becoming the executioner: the blade of a
knife suddenly began decapitating baby carrots and the noise of loud claps against hardwood
began penetrating all ears. All eyes offered a hostile glare in the direction of the stranger who, of
course, was not one of them.

The stranger stood still and silent, shocked even. Her nose tracking the strong scent of salmon
that became a more torturing smell due to the sour odor from the unfinished blue wallpaper. She
could only think of one response: “Itz dah shues.” She coughed up nothing more, and as the
woman came out of the crowd and stood in front of her, the stranger nodded her head and
wondered how the hell this lesbian could parade herself in bland flannel and Frye boots – de
rigueur for Pete’s sake – and miss the queerest of references.

Agador Spartacus!

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