Call for Submissions: Gila Symposium

Confluence of Bonita Creek and Gila River in Gila Box Riparian National Conservation Area, in Graham County, Arizona; seen from the vicinity of the Kearny campsite monument. The Gila flows toward the camera, center and left of center; Bonita Creek flows left to right, through the canyon whose far wall is visible behind trees at the right edge of the photo.

The 7th Natural History of the Gila Symposium (February 22-23, 2018) is looking for creative
works about the Gila. Poets and prose writers of all kinds are welcome to submit their work for consideration. Readers will read their work in a creative voices session during the symposium, and works will be included in the proceedings of the conference. Information about the symposium can be found here:

Creative writers should submit works for consideration along with a short bio to by 1/8/18.

Saturday Words and Music Features ALCS Poets

On the third Saturday of each month, Tranquilbuzz Coffee House, in collaboration with poet laureate Beate Sigriddaughter, hosts a Words and Music event. Aldo Leopold Charter School poets Grace Walton, Serina Floyd, Ashley Elliot, Samuel Medina, and Catalina Claussen will read from their work tomorrow, December 16, 2017. The reading will begin at 2:00pm and will be followed by an open mic for words and music. Tranquilbuzz Coffee is located at 112 W. Yankie Street on the corner of Texas and Yankie Streets in downtown Silver City.

Catalina Claussen

Francesca West at the TranquilBuzz Saturday

Everyone is invited to Words and Music on Saturday, November 18, 2:00-4:00pm at the TranquilBuzz Coffee House, 112 W. Yankie Street (corner of Texas and Yankie Streets) in Silver City. The featured poet will be Francesca West. Her reading will be followed by an open mic for words and music. The TranquilBuzz, in collaboration with poet laureate Beate Sigriddaughter, hosts Words and Music on the third Saturday of each month.

Francesca West

Award Given to JJ Amaworo Wilson’s Damnificados

JJ Amaworo Wilson’s debut novel Damnificados has won the 2017 Zora Neale Hurston/Richard Wright Legacy Award for Debut Fiction. The award “honors the best in Black literature in the United States and around the globe.” Wilson visited Washington, D.C. in late October to accept the award, where he met Congressman John Lewis. Damnificados has also won the New Mexico-Arizona Fiction Award and the Independent Publishers Fiction Award.

Read more about the Hurston/Wright award and Wilson’s reflections on the experience here:

JJ Wilson accepts the Hurston/Wright award at a ceremony in Washington, D.C.

Photo courtesy of Kea Taylor Imagine Photography.

Book Review: My Mother and I, We Talk Cat

Elise StuartJJ Amaworo Wilson recently reviewed My Mother and I, We Talk Cat by Elise Stuart, the previous poet laureate of Silver City and Grant County.

Elise Stuart’s terrific new memoir is unorthodox. As a former Poet Laureate of Silver City and Grant County, she includes poems at scattered intervals, which illustrate the events and emotions of her youth. Her tale, while sequential, glosses over some years and characters and lingers on others. For example, we barely get to know the men in her life, including the father of her children. However, there is one character who stands out like a fox in a chicken coop: the author’s mother, warts-and-all.

The apparent selfishness of the older lady sometimes beggars belief: she takes off when Stuart is ten – and returns without explanation; she expects her daughter to buy the plane ticket for her imminent move; and she leaves boxes of papers and crockery at Stuart’s house demanding that Stuart pays for their shipment. The mother comes across as a sociopath, a diva in furs who would rather be feeding her ego than her children.

And yet there is redemption for this troubled soul. By the end–of the book and of her mother’s life–Stuart has somehow managed to forgive the sins of the parent and see through the appalling behavior to reach a state of acceptance. She loves her mother “as she is” – a quite remarkable feat of generosity. It’s only at this late stage of the book that we learn about the mother’s undiagnosed mental issues. In today’s parlance, she was bi-polar. She also underwent shock therapy, a now widely discredited treatment, after which she was “never the same.”

One thing I loved about the book is the milieu: the hippie era. Communes, free love, road trips, a little psychedelia – these are nicely captured in details and anecdotes: Stuart laboriously bakes bread for the commune and watches it get gobbled up instantly. On her return from a trip to Canada, her car is torn apart by customs officials who don’t trust long-haired hippie types.

The main story–the neglectful mother and her sensitive-soul child who grows up to be an artist–is familiar yet still compelling. What makes it memorable here is the narrator’s vulnerability. We see the little girl struggling to break free of her cocoon and then, somehow, miraculously, while the world is looking the other way, she emerges like a butterfly. It’s a tale, beautifully told, of grace and forgiveness.

JJ Amaworo Wilson

Words and Music October 21

You are invited to the next Words and Music event at the Tranquilbuzz Coffee House on Saturday, October 21, 2:00 p.m.

Featured authors on October 21, 2017 are Bonnie Buckley Maldonado and Heather Steinmann. Poet Bonnie Buckley Maldonado was Silver City’s first ever poet laureate and is a life-long educator. Heather Steinmann is a poet and short story writer and professor of English at WNMU. Open mic for words and music follows their presentation. 

Bonnie Buckley Maldonado     Heather Steinmann

Thank you

The Festival steering committee wishes to extend their heartfelt thanks to everyone who made the 2017 Southwest Festival of the Written Word possible. Thank you to the speakers for your time, effort, and incredible insights!

Thank you to our major sponsors the New Mexico Humanities Council, Western New Mexico University, the McCune Charitable Foundation, New Mexico Arts and Cultural Districts (Silver City Arts and Cultural District), Town of Silver City (Lodger’s Tax), James Edd Hughs of Edward Jones, the Grant County Community Foundation, the Western Institute of Lifelong Learning, the Town and Country Garden Club, the Silver City Daily Press, Silver City Radio, and the Friends of the Silver City Public Library.

Thank you to all of the businesses, organizations, and individuals who sponsored Festival sessions, donated, and purchased advertising space in the Festival program.

Thank you to all of our volunteers, who make the event run smoothly.

We are fortunate to be part of such a supportive, creative, and enthusiastic community.

Panelists interact with the audience on Saturday, September 30, 2017.

Reflections on the Festival by JJ Amaworo Wilson

Wilson has permitted us to share his thoughts on this year’s Festival, originally posted on his blog here.


The Southwest Festival of the Written Word took place September 29-October 1 in Silver City, New Mexico. The strangest thing about it is just how quickly it flies by. We spend two years inviting authors, writing grants, finding sponsors, locating venues, designing posters, organizing food and lodging, producing promotional material, handing out fliers, finding and instructing volunteers, and sweating the small stuff. And then in the blink of an eye or rather a blur of talks, laughter, and socializing, it’s done.

The biggest joy of the festival, for me, is the intimacy. Silver City is a small town. How often do we get to hang out with American Book Award winners, Pulitzer Prize finalists, and Tony Award winning playwrights? The festival is designed so that we can not only listen to these folk, but also converse with them. The invited authors invariably pick up on the vibe and happily chat to every waif and stray that attends their session.

The authors are a mixture of locals and luminaries from all over the Southwest. Our biggest name regular is undoubtedly Mark Medoff, author of “Children of a Lesser God.” There are no successful theater and film directors who are not, in their own way, fearsome, but Medoff and his wife Stephanie are entirely approachable and charming.

This year, our keynote was given by the novelist and biographer Stella Pope Duarte. Her talk was both funny and moving – a crie de coeur to remember your roots and to live (and write) your life to the full. Other highlights, from the sessions I managed to attend, were the talks and interviews with the young novelists Adrienne Celt, Julie Iromuanya, Matt Bell, and Tim Z. Hernandez. I also enjoyed “I, Custer,” Neal Adelman’s one-woman play, directed by Medoff and starring the brilliant Marissa Bond. Although I didn’t manage to catch their readings, by all accounts our bilingual poets, Andrea Cote and Jesús J. Barquet, were a hit.

There was also the perennially popular session on song lyrics, this year with Melanie Zipin, Charlie Alfero, Andrew Dahl-Bredine and Jack Crocker. They pulled out guitars and serenaded us, with the one exception: Charlie used some kind of new-fangled Bluetooth amplifier thing-y and played a recording. The pre-historic Luddites like me looked on in admiration.

To book-lovers and lovers of the written word in our little corner of New Mexico, we’ll see you again in 2019.

–JJ Amaworo Wilson


Elise Stuart

Elise Stuart. Photo by Bruce Bloy.


Jesus J. Barquet

Jesús J. Barquet. Photo by Bruce Bloy.


Nathaniel Siquieiros (left) moderates the Three Wise Men panel: Paul Andrew Hutton, Dick Gerdes, Mark Medoff. Photo credit: Bruce Bloy


Mark Medoff

Mark Medoff. Photo by Bruce Bloy.


Elise Stuart (left) moderates Three Wise Women: Stella Pope Duarte, Sharman Apt Russell, Marisela Duarte. Photo credit: Bruce Bloy


Stella Pope Duarte delivers the keynote address. Photo credit: Bruce Bloy


Virus Theater presents a staged version of Melanie Zipin’s writing. Photo credit: Bruce Bloy

Book Review: Venturous Journeys by Jesus J. Barquet

cover of Los Viajes Venturosos
Jesus J. Barquet

Jesus J. Barquet
Photo by Carlos Gallo

Jesus J. Barquet will give an English-Spanish reading and discussion of his book of poetry Venturous Journeys / Los viajes venturosos (Madrid: Verbum, 2015) at the Southwest Festival of the Written Word on Friday, September 29, 2017 at 3:30pm at the Seedboat Gallery. He will also participate in a panel on setting up your own publishing imprint on Saturday, September 30 at 1:30pm at the Silver City Public Library.

Roberta Brown reviewed Venturous Journeys:

        Last November while visiting my mother in Miami, I awakened one morning to learn that Fidel Castro had died. The day exploded in celebration, and we joined in, sipping 2 for 1 Cuba Libres and conversing with friends throughout the day. That night, backyards swelled with acapella song. Nobody cared how loud things got in this typically quiet neighborhood on that night. I lay awake in the early morning listening to the singing coming from the house next door knowing that, although a Miami native, I would never truly understand what Castro’s death symbolized for my hometown’s Cuban exile community.

         Like the events of that day, Jesús J. Barquet’s Venturous Journeys brings an exile’s awareness to the non-exile reader, and though elegiac at times, Venturous Journeys is more than an elegy for a lost homeland, speaking to readers both inside and outside of the Cuban diaspora. Born in Havana in 1953, Jesús J. Barquet arrived in the U.S. as part of the Mariel boatlift in 1980. Since 1991, Barquet has been a professor at New Mexico State University in Las Cruces, and has published many poetry collections. Venturous Journeys, his latest, follows one exile’s path from Cuba to the U.S. and then west through New Orleans and Texas, ending ultimately in New Mexico, in a route mirroring that of the poet himself. The poems marking this geographical trip traverse universal journeys of love, loss, nostalgia for home, as well as hope amidst the strangeness of new places.

          Barquet quotes the stirring last stanza of Tennyson’s Ulysses for the book’s epigram, whose lines begin, “Come, my friends, / ‘Tis not too late to seek a newer world.” In Tennyson’s poem, the wily Ulysses who fought to return to his beloved Ithaca from which he had been exiled now finds himself unsuited to life there, and proposes to leave again for an uncertain future. Barquet’s collection likewise explores both the pull of home and the ways in which distance alters the exile’s relationship with home. In something of an exile’s paradox, the poem Echo observes: “When we were there / the question was to leave: / Now that we are not there / the answer is to return.” To what though will the exile return, and after all these decades, will it be a place he recognizes? Will he have changed as much as the place has changed in his absence, making each of them an odd fit for the other, as happened with Ulysses, Barquet’s poems seem to ask.

          Barquet also invokes historical figures in his poems of exile. The first poem in the collection entitled Song of the Banished opens with a reference to Columbus who carries “all his luggage in his eyes” and finds himself “Banished, senile, with /no legs where to grow.” In reminding readers that Columbus, whose exploits forced the exile of millions, ended up an exile himself, Barquet asserts the intention to explore the exile experience from surprising vantage points.

          Another historical figure permanently altered by exile, Alvar Núñez Cabeza De Vaca makes an appearance in Barquet’s book as well, providing a clever bookend to the Columbus reference at the start of Venturous Journeys. Following a shipwreck and forced exile, De Vaca shifted away from his identification as a conqueror, and wrote movingly about peoples he had previously misunderstood. Barquet entitles this portion of his collection Shipwrecks, inviting readers to consider their own personal transformative shipwrecks as De Vaca and Barquet himself have done. In Did I, the speaker asks: “Did I make it / or shipwreck,” the answer seeming to be both at once.

cover of Los Viajes Venturosos/Venturous Journeys         As life is a journey whose steps can be retraced only through the mind, Barquet reminds us that we all are exiles from our pasts when in the poem Impossible Return as one example he writes, “Not even dogs will recognize you,” and “Doorknockers will have forgotten your fingerprints.” In Ubi Sum (Where Am I), the speaker of the poem recounts “the patio where [he] played, the games where [he] forgot, the pillow where [he] learned to chat with all things.” Thoughts of home turn naturally from the world of things to family as in Barquet’s poem The House, whose speaker recalls “mother / with her sweet, sad kitchen smell / refrying a burning and soothing taste / for us.” The loss of place and distance of time combine to form a familiar lament that few but Barquet capture so well in words.

          Politicians often focus on what they perceive is given to the exile who immigrates. Barquet’s poetry reminds readers what the exile gives up in emigrating. Exile is a disorienting state of being endemic to everyone on life’s epic journey—and Jesús J. Barquet’s Venturous Journeys captures in verse the nuance of exile in ways no reader will want to miss.


Jesús J. Barquet (Havana, 1953) arrived in the US in 1980, via the Mariel Boatlift. He is a Professor Emeritus of NMSU, and the founder and Editor Chief of La Mirada publishing house since 2014. Barquet won the “Letras de Oro Prize” for his Consagración de La Habana (1991); and the “Lourdes Casal Prize” for his Escrituras poéticas de una nación (1998). He was 2nd Prize Winner of “Chicano-Latino Poetry” for his Un no rompido sueño (1994). Among his books of poetry are Sin decir el mar, Sagradas herejías, JJ/CC, Sin fecha de extinción, Los viajes venturosos /Venturous Journeys, and the compilation Cuerpos del delirio.

Cheese, Wine, and Words

Wine decanter, one glass of white wine and one glass of red wine, board holding a variety of cheeses, one pile of crackers, grapes in the backgroundYou are invited to show your support for the upcoming Southwest Festival of the Written Word, better known to most of us as SWFWW.

On Sunday, September 24, 3:00 to 4:30 in the afternoon, at the Church of Harmony on 7th and Virginia Streets, in beautiful and unique Silver City, those of us who believe in the importance of Southwestern writers and writing will gather to trade gossip and stories, to drink some good wine or fine coffee/tea, to nibble on some great cheese and to listen to some outstanding Silver City poets.

Help us make it very clear that the following three beliefs are critical to our lives and happiness:

1. A Silver City festival celebrating writing emits good vibes about our special town

2. A festival in which talented authors talk about their books and about writing sends out an essential message: GREAT WORDS MAKE GREAT CULTURE , and

3. A successful book festival (that is, the Southwest Festival of the Written Word) must cost nary a cent for entrance, so as to attract the inquisitive high school student, the retiree getting by and making do on Social Security, the busy working person who delights in quiet time that comes with reading and/or writing, and all of us who just love words.

Please join us and discover that there are lots of folks in Silver City and environs who appreciate words well put together. Join us to thank a handful of dedicated people who put together the Festival so that we can all welcome over 30 prose writers and poets and playwrights to downtown Silver City. Join us to make clear your support for SWFWW, for the ideals that it furthers, and for a community that appreciates good writing.

We’re suggesting a $20 contribution, but your presence is as important as the money. Give what you can. Please bring friends and those who think that the world will be a better place when there is better writing abounding.

So that we can determine the amount of delicacies we must order, please send an RSVP right now to tomdeplata1 [at] gmail [dot] com.

Thank you and we hope to see you at our event.

-Tom and Consuelo Hester

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