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In the Grove Release Party: A Special Issue Devoted to the late poet, Andres Montoya (Poetry Reading).
Lee Herrick met the late poet, Andrés Montoya soon after he moved to Fresno in 1997. Herrick and Montoya would meet at a coffee shop in Tower District to workshop poems and talk about poetry and politics. They shared a mutual love and respect for Milosz.
Herrick was the founder and editor of In the Grove, which published Montoya's title poem, “the ice-worker sings.” This poem included in his book, the ice-worker sings and other poems won the American Book Award posthumously and continues to be the subject of great respect among many poets across the country.
On Thursday, April 10, Herrick along with many other poets from around the Valley and across the country are joining together to celebrate the life and work of the late poet, Andrés Montoya. The next issue of In the Grove (guest edited by Daniel Chacón, acclaimed author of and the shadows took him and the short story collection, Chicano Chicanery) is a special tribute to Montoya which features many pieces from writers whom he influenced directly or indirectly. It also features Montoya's unpublished poem, “Páketelas.”
I had the privilege to interview the local poet, Lee Herrick about the upcoming sure to be breathtaking next issue of In the Grove, and about the release party.
First off, could you give me a brief time line of the history and background of In the Grove, and how you became the editor and publisher of the magazine? Could you also tell me about the importance in choosing to make a regional magazine, which only publishes California writers?
In the Grove's first issue was in 1996. I was a graduate student in Composition and Rhetoric at California State University, Stanislaus, where I studied Aristotle and the classical rhetoricians. Around the time I founded In the Grove, I was starting to write poetry more seriously and noticed a lack of regional literary magazines. I started it by myself, quite frankly. I initially was going to name it Calamus, which is a Whitman reference, but I decided on its current name because it refers to a beautiful area of trees on the Stanislaus campus where I would meet with friends. We'd say, “I'll meet you in the grove.”
I have decided over the years to fund it myself (up front, and then I often break even through donations, subscriptions, and shelf sales) mainly out of stubbornness to remain independent. I am hesitant to attach it to the college because I am concerned about having to potentially battle over content. I have had a very tempting offer recently to have it fully funded dependent upon the formation of a board of directors. I would like to write more grants and so forth, but it comes down to a matter of time and energy, which often are consumed by my own writing, teaching, family, and travel. Unfortunately, our publication schedule is sporadic and we are sometimes late notifying writers of the status of their submissions. But with the last few issues, and especially this homage to Andrés, I realize the magazine has (or can potentially have) a very large audience, and so I am considering options for expansion. It would be nice to have it paid for, that's for sure.
It is both difficult and easy to keep it California based. One challenge is when a writer such as Nick Carbo or Martin Espada or Denise Duhamel (all of whom we have published, thanks to the hard work of our past managing editor) comes through Fresno (for the Summer Arts Festival, in their cases) and we have the opportunity to publish them, even though they are not California residents, per se. So, we bend the rules sometimes, but I hope it is for the benefit of the magazine and its readers. On the other hand, I am most proud of the local writers we publish—some of the more well-known writers like Borofka, Hales (Corrinne and John both), Inada, Dominguez, Turner, etc.) and especially younger poets such as Medrano, Baca, and writers like this. The wealth of writers we have not even tapped into yet makes it a relatively easy and worthwhile decision to stay local. I am also very proud that we published the title poem in Andrés Montoya's book. I don't know how long that will last, though.
I understand that the next issue of In the Grove, due out April 10th is a special issue dedicated to the late poet, Andrés Montoya. Could you tell me about the making of this issue, as in what made you and/or others decide to make this tribute issue, and why at this particular time?
Daniel Chacón, a writer with whom your readers might be familiar (he was a Visiting Lecturer in the MFA Program at Fresno State recently, author of Chicano Chicanery and and the shadows took him) approached me about the project, and I was thrilled. Dan is a very good friend of mine, and he was Andrés' closest friend. Andrés was the first poet I met when I moved to Fresno in 1997. So it was a very easy decision to make. This is also a benefit of staying fiercely independent—I can take on projects like this (or decline them) whenever I want to.
The timing of the issue serves two main purposes, in my mind: first, it is a wonderful opportunity to remember and honor one of poetry's treasures, the poetry of Andrés Montoya. Second, it will hopefully raise visibility and perhaps anticipation of the publication of Andrés' second book called Universe, Breath and All, which Dan has edited and which will hopefully be published soon. I don't know what press will publish it, but whoever lands it will be very fortunate.
Daniel Chacón is the guest editor of this next issue. Could you also speak about the content of this issue, and the selection process of the pieces, and how or why they are important to this issue?
Dan could speak to this more authoritatively, of course, but as he mentions in his introduction to the issue, he directly solicited the large majority of the contributors. I gave him carte blanche, essentially, and he has done an amazing job. He also put out calls for submissions on many poetry listservs and websites, so we made every effort to reach a wide audience. But mostly, Dan crafted an issue centered on Andrés' teachers (Hales, Levine, Hongo, Herrera), his friends in writing (Hernandez, Yarbrough, Porras, Boyd, Guajardo etc.), his family (his brother Maceo, Malaquias, José) and a generation of writers that his work influenced (Huerta, Luna, Espinoza, Baca, Medrano, Bermeo, Perez, González, Kenneth Chacón). When you see the issue, you'll notice there are no author bios, but each writer gets his or her own title page with the city they write from listed under their name. I liked Dan's choice here—to illustrate Andrés' far-reaching influence (New York City, Oakland, El Paso, Los Angeles, Modesto) and to let the words speak for themselves.
In my opinion, this issue is an amazing tribute---a range of voices that collectively paint a more complete vision of Montoya than we have ever seen---the poems that reference him; the prose pieces that recall conversations with him (by Yarbrough, for example); personal recollections in prose from graduate school friends and from his brother, in which Andrés gives advice about dating; Dan's introduction; and a remarkable essay, written specifically for this issue, by Rigoberto González (who never met Andrés but admired him immensely) from the National Book Critics Circle Board, in which he gives a thorough perspective on Latino/a poetry and the importance of Andrés book within it. He asserts that the ice workers sings and other poems should be seen as the most important book of poems of its generation, within the Latino/a poetry community. As you might guess, I agree with him.
I hope this explains a bit about how each piece contributes to the issue. I love every page of it, and we (Dan and I) hope Andrés would be proud of it. Lastly, I truly hope his family will be proud of it.
I know that Andrés has influenced many writers and people directly and indirectly, and continues to do so. What is your personal connection to Andrés Montoya, and what does this issue mean to you?
I met Andrés soon after I moved to Fresno in 1997. We would workshop our poems and talk about poetry and politics. We shared an admiration for Milosz. I had just finished reading A Year of the Hunter and so we would talk about poetry and exile. I also introduced him to the woman who would become his fiancé.
I am grateful to be in a position to be a part of bringing this issue to life. I am grateful to have known Andrés. I am grateful to know Dan and Sasha. It means that In the Grove will bring “Pákatelas,” the new unpublished Montoya poem, to life—and this is a tremendous honor.
The release party in honor of this issue is to be held April 10th at Arte Americas. There is quite a line up of writers who are reading at this event. Could you tell me about some of the writers and why they've chosen to read?
Rigoberto González is flying in from New York City. He's the author of many books---an important writer in the poetry community and a tireless voice for new writers everywhere. There are poets driving up from Los Angeles and down from the Bay Area. Among them are Oscar Bermeo, author of the chapbook Anywhere Avenue; UC Berkeley doctoral candidates Javier Huerta, author of Some Clarifications and Other Poems and Craig Santos Perez, author of several chapbooks and co-founder of Achiote Press. Optimism One from Modesto is reading—he was the poetry editor in the late 90's who has written about how “the ice worker sings” struck him as he was reading through the submissions; a host of fantastic local poets are reading---Mike Medrano, Marisol Baca, James Espinoza---as well as poets such as David Dominguez, author of Work Done Rightand Tim Z. Hernandez, author of Skin Tax. I am also glad that Connie Hales will be there, because I know how much she influenced Andrés. I hope Juan Felipe Herrera and Steve Yarbrough will be there, but I am not sure at this moment. You have to come to the reading. There are sure to be some surprises. Francisco Aragón of Letras Latinas at the University of Notre Dame cannot attend but has sent a copy of his book for the raffle. It will be a lot of fun.
With this many wonderful writers coming together to read, the event is sure to be powerful. What are you hoping members of the community will gain from attending this reading and also from reading this particular issue in general?
I hope people will have a good time. Dan says it will be “a party with some poetry mixed in.” I hope they will discover or re-discover the power of Montoya's poems. I hope they will enjoy each other's company (there is an after-party ). I hope they will buy books (contributors will have copies of their books for sale, and there will be a raffle with autographed books to help raise money to pay for the issue). I hope, mostly, that they will think about poetry, what it means or can mean for an individual or a community, and how Andrés Montoya's poems contribute to that meaning.
The reading will be on Thursday, April 10 at 6 pm inside the Artes Americas Art Gallery, located on 1630 Van Ness, Fresno, CA. For more information visit, http://inthegrove.net.