Thursday, October 19, 2017

Introductory Remarks for A Book Reading by Junot Díaz at Dartmouth College, Oct. 2013




These were the remarks I offered upon introducing Junot Díaz, who came to Dartmouth College for a reading of his book This is How You Lose Her.

(The event took place on Friday, October 18, 2013, at 5:00 p.m., Filene Auditorium)


 ¡Good afternoon y Buenas tardes to all! 
¡Bienvenidos! Welcome! 
Thank you for joining us!

My name is Keysi Montás, and I am indeed the Associate Director of Safety & Security here at Dartmouth College…  And yes, this is a book reading by Pulitzer Prize Winner Junot Díaz, but: I am also (to quote a friend form grad school) "an independent scholar," so you are in the right place!

I am thrilled to FINALLY be able to welcome to Dartmouth and to introduce to you Junot Díaz.

Long introductions are a bore, so I aim for a short one! But not as short as the one given for Senator John Spooner of Wisconsin, who also served as adviser to President Roosevelt, by a small town Mayor; for when it came time for it, he said:  “My friends, I have been asked to introduce Senator Spooner who is to make a speech.  Well, I have done so.  And NOW he will do so.”   There is plenty to say about Junot Díaz and his work, which I'll try to contextualize for you; however, I do not want to be a bore, nor as brief as that small town Mayor.

Suffice it to say that he was born in the Dominican Republic and came to the US at age 6, and was raised in New Jersey.  He is the author of the critically acclaimed Drown; The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, which won the 2008 Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Critics Circle Award; and This Is How You Lose Her (from which he will read to us today), a New York Times bestseller and National Book Award finalist.  He is the recipient of a MacArthur “Genius” Fellowship, PEN/Malamud Award, Dayton Literary Peace Prize, Guggenheim Fellowship, and PEN/O. Henry Award.  A graduate of Rutgers College, he is currently the fiction editor at Boston Review and the Rudge and Nancy Allen Professor of Writing at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

I would call Junot Díaz a transterrado, from Transtierro, a term applicable to those who live on that bridge which connects their multiple realities and identities.  Transtierro… Imagine the Atlantic, now the word transatlantic: across the Atlantic, not on one side, nor the other, but in between.  Transtierro is between tierras, lands, countries, it is a condition of today's world, resulting from what humans have done as part of surviving; that is: emigration.

Today there are millions of people, like us, who have left their homeland in search of a better life.  In the particular case of that little island where we both come from, I can name for you a certain Juan Rodríguez, whom in 1613, arrived in a Dutch ship and is now recognized as the first non-Native to settle in Manhattan.  I could name a Jean Baptist Point du Sable, whom is today recognized as Chicago's founder.  I could bring us closer to today's time and place and tell you that in 1912, a young man named Enrique Heráclito Álvarez, a native of Monte Cristi, Dominican Republic, came to our very own Dartmouth College campus to pursue an education.  I have often wondered how Enrique's journey must have been like, a 100 years ago: No airplanes, no Dartmouth Coach, no telephone, no TV, no e-mail, no internet, no Facebook!

Transtierro is a condition of today's world.  It is "modernity and technology" that has made the globe so small, and what allows for the constant connection with what, in other times, was just left behind.  Unlike emigrants of a century ago, nowadays one can remain connected, either by choice or circumstance, and lead a dual or two-dimensional existence as though one had a bifurcated umbilical cord.  It is worth noting that when a person arrives to a new culture & language, many factors play out in the process of acclimation: from their socio-economic class, age and reasons for migrating, to what they end up doing, where they end up living, how far away the homeland is and what connections exist to that homeland.  Regardless, the first years of the immigrant experience in the new language & culture are no walk in the park.  To paraphrase Ariel Dorfman: They will carry the daily necessity of struggling in two languages and surviving in an unknown culture and society "torn between the public dominant language, on the one hand, in which the police interrogate, the school principal complains about a child’s conduct, bank accounts are opened and all too often closed" and "on the other hand the private subjective set of words that keep the new comers in touch with the old homeland and with the persons they once used to be."

        For individuals, like Junot Díaz, the condition of transtierro is shaped not by choice, but by the circumstance of their upbringing which creates the need to live in two dimensions, to pledge loyalty to two cultures and two nations, to use one language to speak to teachers and friends and to create (WRITE), and another to talk to aunts and uncles, making them exist on that bridge, where one aquí es de allá, y allá es de aquí (here one is from there and there one is from here).  Junot Díaz grew up with the English language in his mouth and the home country of his parents in his heart, in his blood, in the color of his skin, in his hair, in his pride and in his subconscious.  And all of that, inevitably, comes out in his literary production.

You will find the wrenching pain of the immigrant experience and the building of that ambivalent duality in Junot's stories such as "Otra vida, otra vez" and "Invierno"; in stories like "Nilda", "Flaca" and "Alma" one can find the struggles of coming of age, trying to fit in, find a self-identity and survive in the face of adversity and poverty.  In "The Sun, the Moon, the Stars " and in "The Cheater's Guide to Love"" we find that journey back "home" [in quotes] where the character brings a critical eye armed with what he knows from the adopted culture, in an attempt to understand who he is in the context of where he is and where he comes from.


Junot's stories could be and are, in essence, the stories of any transterrado, any immigrant from Colombia or from Cambodia. But the reason why Junot Díaz's stories have made it to the forefront of today's literary world is because of how well he tells them and how unique his narrative voice is.  He tells them so well that he got a Pulitzer Prize.  He tells them so well, that the MacArthur Foundation declared him (and Forrest Gump would be jealous) a "God Damn genius!"  But he, himself, will tell you that he is probably no genius, that he is more like Junior, his nerdy main character.

And now: ¡Es para mí un orgullo sumo el poder presentarles a mi co-trasterrado y hermano, Junot Díaz!

Friday, August 18, 2017

Pinceladas sobre Pedro Páramo


La "espacialización" como técnica narrativa básica de Pedro Páramo: ¿cómo es y cómo figura en la relación texto/lector?


         La literatura ha seguido un orden lógico ligado a constantes universales tales como el tiempo y su propiedad cronológica; la física y su propiedad de acción y reacción, o causa y efecto; la matemática y su propiedad de asociaciones ascendentes o descendentes o de más y menos; etc. Basada en estas propiedades de la lógica universal, la literatura (y en este caso específico la narrativa) había montado su concierto para enlazar las partes de un relato, de manera que obedezcan a ese orden universal que presenta todas las piezas de un acontecimiento, de una manera que apele al lector como algo natural o familiar; es decir, en términos descifrables y coherentes, en una estructura que guíe al lector en la conformación de una unidad narrativa.

         En Pedro Páramo, Juan Rulfo deserta de ese orden lógico y nos presenta una obra que para el que la lea con ojos ordinales no parecerá más que un desconcierto. Bien parece ser que Rulfo abandona el orden lógico narrativo precedente y se arma de una técnica diferente; una especie de inspiración fantástica, algo que substituye el sentido común por una irracionalidad mágica. Leemos la obra y sabemos que el método es otro; pero, sin duda alguna, el relato se organiza de una forma u otra. Una vez finalizada la lectura sabemos de qué se trata, de qué va la cosa, pero no sin antes haber sido sujetos de un trabajo que, como lectores, hemos realizado en substitución de la narración, para armar el concierto coherente del aparente desconcierto que presenta el relato.

         Rulfo ha substituido el orden lógico y el sentido común de la narrativa precedente por una técnica narrativa basada en el espacio o en lo espacial y en substitución de la cronología o el orden y "sentido común", la coherencia y la lógica. En otras palabras, la unidad de medida, si se me permite así decirlo, la constituye el espacio y no el tiempo; el tiempo parece desaparecer, ya que Rulfo no lo utiliza como referente primordial sino secundario. Lo que importa de un hecho es el espacio en donde se manifiestan sus acciones; el tiempo es sólo una pauta ausente, marcada por la simultaneidad o yuxtaposición de los hechos. Podemos decir que lo que nos guía en la reconstrucción del relato no es el cuándo suceden los hechos, sino el dónde se manifiestan.

         Una visible característica de esa espacialización la constituye el hecho de que se rompe con el relato que consta de una visión o de un punto de vista singular, puesto que no hay un personaje o un narrador principal que nos guíe de la mano, presentando los hechos a través de sus ojos, sino que como lo dijo el mismo Rulfo, el protagonista no es un personaje central y singular (uno), sino que es una multitud de personajes (el pueblo). Al repetirse una historia, como la muerte de Miguel Páramo, desde distintas perspectivas, se substituye el factor tiempo, o el cuándo, por el factor espacio o el dónde; por ejemplo: a Pedro Páramo que le vienen a contar; Eduviges a quien visita el muerto; el padre Rentería que presiente el hecho, etc. De esta forma se aprecia cómo un hecho singular se relativiza al ser contado por más de un personaje, y cómo se reconstruye en hechos diversos los cuales obligan al lector a crear su propia perspectiva, versión o "witness account" del hecho, la cual obtiene después de haber leído todas las versiones dadas. Este ejemplo de la muerte de Miguel Páramo, nos sirve para ilustrar cómo ninguna de las visiones del hecho se dan desde un testigo visual y presente en el acto, eliminando así el cuándo o el a qué hora (el tiempo), sino desde personas que estaban simultáneamente en lugares distintos (espacios). Estos relatos sucesivos del mismo hecho, esparcidos por la obra, nos presentan una visión estereoscópica para que seamos los lectores quienes, en nuestro momento y ocupando otro espacio (extratextual), los que reconstruyamos el relato didáctico del hecho, basándonos en las directrices dadas por la repetición o recuento; así quedamos preparados para armar la estructura espacial que nos da el dibujo o cuadro completo y final: el relato, la historia, la unidad.

         Esta obra de Rulfo se arma o más bien se presenta desarmada y con un riego de acontecimientos esparcidos por todo el texto, y es en el momento en que el texto (en su totalidad) se conjuga con el lector, donde (y no digamos cuando) se produce la armadura o estructura completa del relato. Es ahí donde se nos arman las piezas y podemos panorámicamente ver el cuadro completo que nos presenta el texto.

Rulfo, Juan. Pedro Páramo. Fondo de Cultura Económica. 2da Ed. (Colección Popular: 058), México 1981.


Este ensayo parece en las pp. 67-69, de:
Ínfimas apreciaciones literarias (Desde Cervantes hasta Perlongher en vuelo de pájaro)
Premio de Ensayo Letras de Ultramar 2015
Editora Nacional, Santo Domingo, 2016.





Monday, July 17, 2017

Keiselim A. Montás and the Art of the Haiku

March 3, 2017

NHPR's The Bookshelf: with Peter Biello
 Keiselim Montás and the Art of the Haiku


"The Bookshelf from NHPR is New Hampshire Public Radio's series on authors and books with ties to the Granite State. All Things Considered host Peter Biello features authors, covers literary events and publishing trends, and gets recommendations from each guest on what books listeners might want to add to their own bookshelves. If you have an author or book you think we should profile on The Bookshelf, send us an email. The address is books@nhpr.org.

This week, The Bookshelf features poet Keiselim Montás of Lebanon, New Hampshire. When you’re talking about form poetry, the rules for the Japanese haiku are pretty simple. In a traditional haiku, you’ve got seventeen syllables—a line of five, a line of seven, and then a line of five. Usually the haiku hones in on details of the natural world and does so with a light touch. In his new book, Like Water, Montás offers us Japanese haiku he wrote in his native Spanish that have now been translated into English. Scroll down to read his top five reading recommendations and the transcript of his conversation with NHPR's Peter Biello."


For the entire interview visit the New Hampshire Public Radio Website: http://nhpr.org/post/bookshelf-keiselim-mont-s-and-art-haiku#stream/0


Friday, May 5, 2017

Poetics of Poetry - Poetry of Poetics: Introducing José Kozer & Enrique Martínez Celaya

The Montgomery Fellows Program at Dartmouth College
May 2, 2017
Sanborn, The Wren Room

Poetics of Poetry - Poetry of Poetics

Introducing José Kozer



 & 
Enrique Martínez Celaya



Good afternoon!  ¡Buenas tardes! Welcome all! ¡Bienvenidos sean todos! My name is Keysi Montás, and I am the Associate Director of Safety & Security here at Dartmouth College: I am indeed the Associate Director of Safety & Security, but I am also what a friend from grad school would call “an independent scholar”.

For our program today, I want to start by thanking and acknowledging a number of people who have made this event possible:
-Prof. Raúl Bueno Chávez, form the Spanish Department and Prof. Lisa Baldez from the Latin American, Latino and Caribbean Studies Program for sponsoring José Kozer’s candidacy to the Montgomery Fellows Program. Thank you both!
-Prof. Klaus Milich, Director of the Montgomery Fellows Program, and Ellen Henderson, Program Coordinator.  Thank you!
-I want to thank Danielle Hussey, Josué Ruiz, Dennise Hernández, Jay Raju and Judith Hertog who will be reading the English versions of some of the poems which will be read today.
-And, finally, I want to thank each and every one of you, for being here with us!

Let me begin by providing a brief biography of our poets Enrique Martínez Celaya and José Kozer; then I will say a few words to mark the occasion, followed by a few words and poetic reading by Enrique; a reading in Spanish by José, with accompanying translations by our guest readers, and then, hopefully, we will have time for a brief Q&A session.


Enrique Martínez Celaya: (Palos, Cuba, 1964) at age seven his family relocated to Madrid, Spain, and a few years later to Puerto Rico. He initiated his formal training as an apprentice to a painter at the age of 12. In 1986 he received a BS in Applied Physics and a minor in Electrical Engineering from Cornell University; in 1988 he received an MS with a specialization in Quantum Electronics from the University of California, Berkeley. While a graduate student, he conducted part of his research at Brookhaven National Laboratory where he also painted the Long Island landscape. He completed all course work for the Ph.D. and a significant part of his dissertation before abandoning physics for art in 1990. In 1994 he attended the Skowhegan School of Painting & Sculpture and in the same year he earned a MFA with the department's highest distinction from the University of California, Santa Barbara.

Martínez Celaya is an artist and author who during the early part of his career worked as a scientist. His work has been exhibited and collected by major institutions around the world and he is the author of books and papers in art, poetry, philosophy, and physics. He is a Montgomery Fellow who was in residence in the summer of 2014, and is currently the Roth Family Distinguished Visiting Scholar here at Dartmouth College. He has been named the Provost Professor of Humanities and Arts at the University of Southern California.

Having developed a practice influenced by and in dialog with literature and philosophy, Martínez Celaya has created projects and exhibitions from St. Petersburg and Berlin to Miami and New York. His work is included in the permanent collections of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art in Los Angeles, the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York, the Moderna Museet in Stockholm, and the Phillips Collection in Washington D.C., among others.
Please give Enrique a warm round of applause!!

José Kozer: (Havana, Cuba, 1940) the son of Jewish parents who migrated to Cuba from Poland (father) and Czechoslovakia (mother). He studied law at the University of Havana, left Cuba in 1960, and moved to the Village in New York City. He attended New York University and received a BA in 1965, and later received an MA and a Ph.D. from Queens College of the City University of New York, where, for 32 years and until his retirement in 1997, he was a Prof. of Spanish and Latin American Literature, specializing in Poetry and that is where I first met him in 1989.

He is a prolific writer, and for the past twenty years has been publishing an average of three books a year, with over eighty-five (85) books of poetry to date, published throughout the world, to include a most recent volume published in Brazil (Dec. 2016) of his Complete Works 1966-2015, containing 10,250 poems. He is a leading voice within the Neo-Barroco (or Neobaroque) movement. His poetry has been partially translated into English, Portuguese, French, Hebrew, Greek, German and Italian. His poems, journals and essays have been published journals and magazines in North and South America and Europe.

Kozer has translated prose and poetry from English to Spanish, with six published translated books of authors such as Nathaniel Hawthorne, Lafcadio Hearn, Ryūnosuke Akutagawa, Delmore Schwartz, Natsume Soski, Saito Mokichi and the medieval monk poet Saigyo.
In 2002 he made a historic visit to his native Cuba for the 2002 International Book Fair (first time a living Cuban writer in exile gets officially published in Cuba). In 2013, he was recognized with one of the most important literary prizes awarded in the Spanish speaking world: The Premio Iberoamericano de Poesía Pablo Neruda.

It is my distinct honor to welcome José Kozer to Dartmouth College as a Montgomery Fellow.
                                                                        

Here we have two individuals, who are stand-alone figures in in today’s artistic world, who have come together under the rubric of “Poetics of Politics - Politics of Poetics.” One is a poet, for whom poetry alone has been art and artistic tool; the other is a painter, a philosopher and a poet, for whom poetry has been the artistic tool with which, at times, he has been best able to theorize of the bridge between philosophy and painting.

In Politics, Aristotle said:

“Hence it is evident that the state is a creation of nature, and that man is by nature a political animal. And he who by nature and not by mere accident is without a state, is either above humanity, or below it; . . . he may be compared to a bird which flies alone.”

In an interview in February of this year, at Biola University, Enrique said: “Art is a terrible way to do politics.” And in an interview in January, 2011, at Middlebury College, José said: “No tengo una poética de la política, yo estoy comprometido con el acto de la escritura” meaning: “I don’t have a poetic of politics, I am committed to the act of writing.”

Aristotle has been telling us that we are “political animals” and that is because, as socials beings, we organize under states that are political. At times, we can be political actors within the state, or the state can act its politics upon us; hence, by choice or circumstance, we can’t but be political animals.

Here is Enrique Martínez Celaya and here is José Kozer, both born in Cuba, both exiled, but immigrants. Most importantly, and thus the reason they are here with us today, they are titans of the arts. Are they birds who fly alone (as Aristotle might have put it) for not being political actors within the state and for proclaiming alliance to poetry, to art, and not to politics?  I beg to differ, and instead I submit to you that they are living proof that Poetry can do just fine without politics, but politics cannot do without poetry; else, as it is becoming increasingly evident in today’s world, we risk disaster!


Thank you.


Friday, February 10, 2017

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Like Water (A Haiku Collection)



¡Nueva publicación!

Con fecha de publicación del 6 de enero, 2017, sale al merado mi primer libro en inglés. Se trata de la traducción de Como el agua, mi colección de haikus.


Like Water
(A Haiku Collection)




Like Water is a collection of haiku (traditional style) originally written in Spanish and now translated into English. The book is divided into four sections: Water (水), Nature (自然), Life (人生) and Writing (書). It has forty-nine haiku accompanied by full color photographs, illustrations by Andy Castillo (www.andycastillo.com); and Japanese calligraphy (Shodo) by Elena "Hikari", as well as a translated haiku (written in beautiful Japanese calligraphy) by Akiko Harimoto "Soja" from Shodo Creativo www.shodocreativo.com



El libro ya está disponible en el portal del Élitro Editorial del Proyecto Zompopos

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Poema en inglés publicado en: Multilingual Anthology: The Americas Poetry Festival of New York 2016


The shittiest apples in the world, which are pretty darn great!


Those who have apples would know that I have the shittiest apples in the world;
but for those who have none,
my apples might look pretty good.
And since I never had apples before,
for I grew up amongst guava, mango and avocado trees,
these apples I have now are not bad at all.

This morning around 10, the grass was wet,
the leaves were falling,
the trees were yellowish, some even red.
Between a fine rain and a light mist,
bucket in hand, in my mud boots up to the knees,
I walked around and under my apple trees.

The leaves were wet and poured on me.
And my apples really don’t look that great;
but, for someone who has no apples, my apples,
these apples might just be the best!

I don’t care that they are bitter,
that some even might have no taste.
I have picked them, I have washed them,
and I keep them for their smell: on my desk, at the office;
on my writing table, at home;
on the night stand, by my bed;
and all over my books, between shelves.
My apples, I keep them all over the place.

I know, I have been told: I have the shittiest apples in the world.
But,
this morning I picked my own apples,
and for one who never had any before,
my apples are pretty darn great!

  
11:18 a.m.
October 3, 2009
Lebanon, NH