In this day and age when so many people, myself included, are cut off from the worlds from which their families came, we should celebrate all those who have kept and are keeping those ties alive. That being said, I am always a little uneasy about these annual month-long heritage commemorations, or more precisely, the lists of notables they tend to spawn. It’s just that these lists tend to marginalize those they mean to honor. By putting Pablo Neruda or Federico Garcia Lorca or Octavio Paz on a list of Greatest Hispanic Poets, it is as if they are de facto disqualified from being on the plain-old Greatest Poets list, and that, I think, is an issue worth pondering.
No one can doubt that all poets’ work is deeply informed by their culture, giving it its unmistakable and unique flavor, but if you read even a small sampling of the poets below, you will notice a vast range of poetic styles, strategies and obsessions. One reason for this, of course, is that the term Hispanic is one very big umbrella--it covers poets from Spain as well as Tierra del Fuego, East L.A as well as Cuba--as if they come from one monolithic culture, when really the term encompasses many cultures--each one unique because of its particular landscape, history and the other cultures that it has rubbed up against.
So with all that in mind, I give you a partial list of Harris County Public Library’s collection of materials by and about Hispanic poets, and encourage you to celebrate their heritage, and your own, whatever it may be, every day--proudly and loudly, but read these poets because they are just great poets.
The Cambridge Companion to Modern Latin American Culture / Edited by John King
The Chicano/Latino Literary Prize: An Anthology of Prize-winning Fiction, Poetry and Drama / Edited by Stephanie Fetta
Cool Salsa: Bilingual Poems on Growing Up Latino in the United States / Edited by Lori M. Carlson
These Are Not Sweet Girls: Latin American Women Poets / Edited by Marjorie Agosin
Twentieth-Century Latin American Poetry: A Bilingual Anthology / Edited by Stephen Tapscott
Eyes to See Otherwise / Homero Aridjis
Selected Poems / Jorge Luis Borges
Collected Poems / Federico Garcia Lorca
100 Love Sonnets / Pablo Neruda
The Collected Poems of Octavio Paz / Edited and translated by Eliot Weinberger
Selected Odes of Pablo Neruda / Translated by Margaret Sayers Peden
The Poems of St. John of the Cross / Translated by Ken Krabbenhoft
Looking for the Gulf Motel / Richard Blanco
The Wind Shifts: New Latino Poetry / edited by Francisco Aragón
Touching the Fire: Fifteen Poets of Today's Latino Renaissance / edited by Ray González
Movie (DVD and VHS):
For All of Us, One Today: An Inaugural's Poet's Journey / Richard Blanco