Monday, December 25, 2017

Top Posts of 2017 & A-Yonder into the Foggy Wilds of 2018 (Resuming February 5, 2018)

This was the year ye olde "Madam Mayo" blog went to posting on Mondays only and, if I do say so myself, the content improved by a notch or five in crunchiness. Herewith some faves:

March 20, 2017


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November 13, 2017

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December 12, 2017


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Essays published this year, mentioned on the blog of course, include

"Dispatch from the Sister Republic or, Papelito Habla"
(Dancing Chiva, Kindle)
Kindle

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"Tulpa Max or, Notes on the Afterlife of a Resurrection"
(Catamaran Literary Review and in Spanish, Letras Libres)
a post about that:
(On the 150th Anniversary of the Execution of Maximilian von Habsburg)


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Prologue to the book by Luis Reed Torres, El Libertador sin patria
a post about that:
The Liberator Without a Country


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Review of Patrick Dearen's Bitter Waters: The Struggles of the Pecos River
a post about that:
Bitter Waters


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Not yet published but available as a PDF, also mentioned on the blog:

"The Secret Book by Francisco I. Madero, Leader of Mexico's 1910 Revolution"
an edited transcript of my presentation of my book,
Metaphysical Odyssey into the Mexican Revolution:
Francisco I. Madero and His Secret Book, Spiritist Manual,
at the Center for Big Bend Studies Conference, 2016
Sul Ross State University

a post apropos of that:
Waaaaay Out to the Big Bend of Far West Texas,
 and a Note on El Paso's Elroy Bode
December 3, 2017

and another post apropos of that:
Three Fabulous Things About Ciudad Juárez
November 20, 2017


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Translations published this year:

"The Cafe" by Rose Mary Salum in Catamaran Literary Review
a post about that:
Catamaran and Tiferet: Two Very Fine Literary Journals
February 27, 2017


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"The Apaches of Kiev" by Agustin Cadena, Tupelo Quarterly
a post about that, and more:
Spotlight on Mexican Fiction
August 7, 2017
Mexican writers in Agustín Cadena's anthology, Callejeros
Front row: 
León Cuevas, Sandra Luna, Agustín Cadena
Back row:
 Eduardo islas, Cristina Manterola, ?, ?, 
José Antonio Bautista, Silvia Cuesy


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FOR THE WRITING WORKSHOP

May 29, 2017
March 13, 2017

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September 4, 2017



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November 27, 2017

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Remembering Ann L. McLaughlin
December 18, 2017


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CYBERFLANERIE

October 23, 2017
"Typewriter Manifesto" by Richard Polt


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Five Video Poems to Watch
June 5, 2017

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Q & A

May 22, 2017

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January 2, 2017


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A-YONDER INTO THE FOGGY WILDS OF 2018

Monday posts will resume on Febrary 5, 2018. Topics vary, invariably crunchy.

In 2018 I will be finishing the book and related podcasting project on Far West Texas. My poetry collection, Meteor, won the Gival Press Poetry Prize and will be published in the fall of 2018, so as the year progresses, you can expect more posts with poetry, and perhaps also, time permitting, new video poems.

Towards further balance and consistency, I'll be posting on this schedule:
First and third Mondays of the month: New writing / news / podcasts;
Second Monday: For the writing workshop;
Fourth Monday: Cyberflanerie and/or Q & A with another writer, poet, and/or translator;
Fifth Monday, when applicable: Whatever strikes my gong. 

Because of a bunch of becauses I'll be taking off the month of January. In the meantime, my warmest good wishes to you and yours for the holidays and new year.

> Your comments are always welcome. Write to me here.






Monday, December 18, 2017

Remembering Ann L. McLaughlin

Time snaps by. It is has been two days from a year since Ann L. McLaughlin passed away. How I miss my brave, graceful, and very wise friend. Ann was a decade older than my mother but, curiously, that did not occur to me until she had passed: There was something ageless about her. She was a literary scholar and later, when I knew her, a writing teacher and an artist, a novelist of the most seriously dedicated and generous of our kind.

I met Ann in, I think it was 1999, when, having just moved to the area, I read from my short story collection at the Writer's Center, in Bethesda MD, just outside Washington DC; as a founding faculty and board member, Ann did me the honor of so welcomingly introducing me to that audience. Shortly thereafter, thanks to a good word from poet and Gargoyle editor and publisher extraordinaire, Richard Peabody, I joined a writing critique group. A crackerjack writing group it was! At various points it included Kate Blackwell, Susan CollKathleen Currie, Katharine DavisSolveig Eggerz, E.J. LevyCarolyn ParkhurstLeslie Pietrzyk, Amy Stolls, Paula Whyman, and Mary Kay Zuravleff, among others-- and always, always Ann.


Recently reprinted by Bacon Press Books
When I joined the writing group, Ann was known for her loosely autobiographical novels Sunset at Rosalie, The Balancing Pole, and Lightning in July. Of the latter, set in Boston polio epidemic of the 1950s, Publisher's Weekly lauds her "straightforward narration [that] transforms the events of a prolonged hospital stay into a richly textured tale."

Novelist Andrew I. Dayton says it best:
"So deeply tragic. So tremendously sweet. Ann McLaughlin has captured humanity at its bravest. Artistic, accomplished Hally Blessing is stricken with polio in the prime of her youth, only weeks before the first polio vaccine. Within mere hours, Hally progreses from the elation of her first major venue as a young flautist to the despair of being diagnosed with polio. Ovecoming the deep challenges of fear and disfigurement, Hally struggles to find the inner resources which eventually enable her triumph. The scenes, the characters (even the minor characters) are all vividly portrayed. This work is a victory for the human spirit." 
At that time, Ann was out and about promoting Maiden Voyage, a coming-of-age novel set in the 1920s on a newspaper magnate's yacht. From Mimi Godfrey's review in the Women's National Book Association newsletter:
"McLaughlin is a clear-eyed and observant writer, and her evocation of 1920s Washington and the exotic ports of Julia's trip-- Madeira, Alexandria, Sicily, Greece, Zanzibar, Singapore, the South Pacific-- is fascinating. But McLaughlin is more interested in charting Julia's mind and heart, offering a kind of artist-novel of her development as a journalist and fledgling photographer. Julia wrestles with questions that were as vital today as they were in 1924: What is more important for a woman, a satisfying career or marriage and a family? Do the demands of a woman's work matter as much as a man's? Julia's answers to these questions are, even more than the itinerary, what give this engaging novel its lasting satisfaction."

For our writing group, Ann brought in draft after draft of chapters from The House on Q Street, her novel set in Washington during World War II. After The House on Q Street came A Trial in Summer, set in Depression-era San Francisco.

And although no longer in the writing group, for I'd returned to live in Mexico City, I had a chance to read drafts from Leaving Bayberry House and the proofs for Amy & George. I was honored to contribute a blurb for the latter, which takes the reader to 1930s Cambridge, Massachusetts:
"Once again, with charm and heart, McLaughlin brings to life a tumultuous period of U.S. history as she probes and delves into a father-daughter relationship that is sometimes a seesaw, sometimes a dance. This is a wise novel."

Novelist Susan Richards Shreve adds her praise:

"George is dean of the Harvard Law School and Amy is his young, sensitive daughter. McLaughlin's skill at portraying the quiet dangers of family life which culminate in an act of violence is tempered by a generosity of spirit and disarming honesty."

As a member of her writing group I had a direct window into the effort it took to write these books. I was, and remain, in awe of Ann's discipline. No matter what, and there were whats aplenty, Ann could sit herself down in the chair every day, fire up the laptop, and do the work. She had a truly rare dedication to craftsmanship, faith in her vision, and, at the same time, the willingness and sheer grit to rewrite, and rewrite again, and again, and again and, Lordy! as her characters often said, again.

And then whenever one of her books was published-- this is especially hard for shy creatures such as writers, and no easy feat for one with health challenges-- Ann would get herself out there, she sent the postcards, kept up with the torrents of emails, and with smiling aplomb, did the many rounds of readings and signings for her books. Her book signings at Washington DC's Politics & Prose-- one of the last and most prestigious of the great independent bookstores-- were always packed, every chair taken, fans standing in the aisles.

Among the many events for her novel A Trial in Summer was a party at my apartment. Somehow, my memory of that conflates with another party, for Mary Kay Zuravleff's The Bowl is Already Broken, when Ann's husband Charlie, an esteemed historian, was still alive. He was in a motorized scooter, but he had such joie de vivre, that scooter might have been a whim of a contraption for floating out of Oz. The picture I hold most vividly in my mind is of Charlie parked in the middle of that broad room, beaming, surrounded by so many, many of his and Ann's adoring friends.

A few years after I had returned to live Mexico City, it seemed there might be a chance on the horizon to come back to DC and so, under the wing of Ann's encouragement and endorsement, I joined the board of the Writer's Center. That turned out to be a short-lived commitment on my part, alas, but what I remember so warmly-- what magical moments!-- was sitting at the table in her kitchen in Chevy Chase, petting her cat pretty Booska, while just the two of us talked writing and teaching writing and what we could do for that beloved literary oasis.

At the Writer's Center Ann's workshops were legendary. Novelist Frank S. Joseph told me, "Ann was the best writing instructor I ever had." Year after year Ann gave her students her all plus ten. I knew, from our many conversations, how much they meant to her. In most people's minds "Washington DC" does not conjure images of literary community, but the fact is, the Writer's Center is one of the largest literary centers in the United States, and the capital and surrounding area, deep into Maryland, Virginia and even Delaware, is filled with writers who, at some point, took one, two, or several of Ann's workshops.

Even in her last months, her health failing, whilst in and out of hospitals, Ann kept on writing. She finished her ninth novel, The Triangle, and reviewed the page proofs. Her publisher, John Daniel, describes it thus:
"The Triangle returns to Boston's 1955 polio epidemic, and combines the theme of coping with disability with that of struggle in the father-daughter friction and frustrated love. The author seems to have written the satisfying resolution to the two overlapping conflicts in her fictive life. This powerful novel is a satisfying finale of a brilliant career."
Ann McLaughlin died at home on December 20, 2016.

I am but one of a multitude of people who can say that Ann enriched my life, both as a person and as an artist, immeasurably. Yet how fleeting the time I had with her, after all. Why did I not take one of her workshops? Why did I not ask Ann more about her friend and correspondent, John Updike, or about Janet Lewis, author of The Wife of Martin Guerre, whom she knew from her years in California? And I regret immensely that we did not talk more, in the most writerly vein, as we so easily might have, about the novels of Virginia Woolf, which she surely knew by heart, every one.

I will miss Ann for the rest of my life. Her novels, a treasure of a consolation, will always have a special place here by my desk in my writing room, and in my heart.

Ann L. McLaughlin and C.M. Mayo,
Washington DC, 2007
Photo by Alice Jean Mansell

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Died at her home in Chevy Chase, MD on Tuesday, December 20, 2016 after a brief respiratory illness.
The daughter of James M. Landis and Stella McGehee Landis, she was born in 1928 and grew up in Cambridge, MA. She graduated from Radcliffe College in 1952 and received a PhD in literature from American University in 1978. Mrs. McLaughlin began teaching several courses every year at the Writers' Center in Bethesda when it was founded in 1976 and continued teaching until the last year of her life; she also served on the board there. She had fellowships at the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts, Yaddo, and the Studios of Key West.
Ann was the author of eight novels, all published by John Daniel and Co., and recently finished correcting the final proofs on her ninth, to be published in 2017. Her readers were particularly drawn to her portraits of girls and young women coming of age, often in Depression-era America. She wrote with feeling of the intricacy of relationships those between sisters and particularly those between daughters and their difficult, if brilliant fathers. Her long and happy marriage to Charles C. McLaughlin, professor of history and editor of the Frederick Law Olmsted Papers, ended with his death in 2005.
She overcame many challenges, including polio, which she and her husband both contracted during the 1955 epidemic in Boston, which principally affected her speech and swallowing for the rest of her life. But her temperament was remarkably buoyant in the face of adversity and she will be remembered as one of the strongest and kindest of women. She will be missed by generations of students, her family and a wide community of friends and colleagues who were inspired by her gallant, bright spirit, her humor, her gentle wisdom, and her warmth.
She is survived by her sister, Ellen McKee; children, John C. McLaughlin and Ellen M. McLaughlin; and two grandchildren, Rachel and Aaron McLaughlin.
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> Your comments are always welcome. Write to me here.

Monday, December 11, 2017

Top 12+ Books Read in 2017


This has been a year of extra-intensive reading, the bulk of it for my book in-progress on Far West Texas. Specifically, I've had some catching up to do on the oil industry and New Mexico history (impossible to grok Far West Texas without those subjects). I say this every year but truly, this may have been my richest year of reading yet. I feel so lucky to have encountered these works; each and every one of these authors has my sincere admiration and immense gratitude.

Indiebound
1. The Professor's House 
by Willa Cather
A deeply weird and profoundly American novel. I had been meaning to read The Professor's House for years, and I finally did-- and by uncannily felicitous happenstance, just after visiting Acoma, Chaco Canyon, and Mesa Verde. (P.S. Whoever calls this book flawed I call a puddinghead.)

> Recommended: "The New York World of Willa Cather" at the Society Library, New York City.


2. The Extraordinary Voyage of Pytheas the Greek
by Barry Cunliffe
A brilliant book that evokes the ghost of a lost book and the world it came out of so unfathomably long ago. This is one I look forward to savoring again.

3. Tie:

Seeds of Empire: Cotton, Slavery, and the Transformation of the Texas Borderlands, 1800-1850
by Andrew J. Torget

The Other Slavery: The Uncovered Story of Indian Slavery in America 
by Andrés Resendiz

I have been reading intensively about Texas, and that includes its fraught ethnic relations, for the past several years, yet with these two books about slavery-- both recent and major scholarly contributions-- by golly, the whole thang just gelled. For U.S. readers I recommend reading first Torget; then, without delay, Resendiz.
> Also recommended: Podcast interview with Andrew J. Torget by Liz Covart
> Also recommended: Podcast interview with Andres Resendiz by Liz Covart


4. Tie:

The Daring Flight of My Pen: Cultural Politics and Gaspar Pérez de Villagrá's Historia de la Nueva Mexico, 1610
by Genaro M. Padilla
It astonishes me that so few Americans or Mexicans have ever heard of the epic poem Historia de la Nueva Mexico-- and that would include Yours Truly, until I found The Daring Flight of My Pen. Padilla's book about Pérez de Villagrá's book rearranged all the furniture in the way I think about the U.S., about the Southwest, and about Mexico-- and waxed the floor and put in new curtains, too.


The Last Conquistador: Juan de Oñate and the Settling of the Far Southwest
by Marc Simmons

I recommend reading these two books together, first Simmons; then, without fail, Padilla.


5. The Eastern Establishment and the Western Experience:
The West of Frederic Remington, Theodore Roosevelt, and Owen Wister 
by G. Edward White
This is an oldie, originally published in 1968 out of a PhD dissertation from Yale University's American Studies. It may be little known, but it shouldn't be. I'll be referencing it in my own work.

6. The End of Night: Searching for Natural Darkness in an Age of Light
by Paul Bogard
Beautifully written, fully researched, verily eye-opening.

7. Shrinking the Technosphere
by Dmitri Orlov
This book has an important and urgent message, but it also comes with a gamelan orchestra of super-freaky esoteric undertones. In other words, to appreciate the clanging in there, you have to be ready to appreciate it. Not for the pleasantly numbed of Smombiedom.

8. Resist Much, Obey Little: Remembering Edward Abbey
Edited by James R. Hepworth and Gregory McNamee
Its impossible to go far into reading about the American West without encountering Edward Abbey and his works, and in particular his iconic Desert SolitaireResist Much, Obey Little, an eclectic collection of essays and interviews, is at once a festschrift and an adventure in the funhouse of Abbey's mind.

9. Big Batch re: The Oil Patch
Having crunched through a library's worth of reading on the oil industry, herewith a selection of some of the more worthy tomes:

The Prize: The Epic Quest for Oil, Money, and Power
by Daniel Yergin
This one won the Pulitzer Prize when it came out more than two decades ago, and most deservedly. It rewired my thinking about World War II, among many other episodes in the last century.

Drilling Down: The Gulf Oil Debacle and Our Energy Dilemma
by Joseph A. Tainter and Tadeusz W. Patzek
Some years back I had the privilege of being helicoptered out to a working oil platform. It was an unsettling and briskly sobering experience, and I suspect that it primed me to especially appreciate this book.
> Also recommended: Texas Observer interview with Tad Patzek

The Long Emergency: Surviving the End of Oil, Climate Change, and Other Converging Catastrophes of the Twenty-First Century
by James Howard Kunstler
So majestically and sometimes hilariously dismal! (I remain a faithful reader of Kunstler's unspeakably-titled blog.)

The Blood of the Earth: As Essay on Magic and Peak Oil
John Michael Greer
Reading Greer is akin to spooning up Swiss chocolate pudding: page after page of smoothly yumsie schoggi. Yes, even if it's got crunchy stuff about oil and-- keep your crash helmets on!-- magic.

When Trucks Stop Running: Energy and the Future of Transportation
by Alice Friedemann 
This is another one I will be referencing at length when I write about I-10 and I-20, the heavily-trafficked interstate highways that cross the Trans-Pecos.

10. Tie:

Amado Muro and Me: A Tale of Honesty and Deception
by Robert Seltzer

El Paso Days
by Elroy Bode
More about Bode in this post.


11. Bitter Waters: The Struggles of the Pecos River
by Patrick Dearen
> Read my review about this book for Literal magazine.

12. Books: A Memoir
by Larry McMurtry

13. Abandoned Earth: Poems
Linwood D. Rumney


P.S. My amigas novelists and esayists Kathleen Alcalá and Leslie Pietrzyk offer lists of their top reads for 2017 here and here.

 UPDATE:  Poet Joseph Hutchison offers his list on his blog, The Perpetual Bird, here.  I was so delighted and touched to see two chapbooks I had published some years ago, the extraordinary collection of poetry, Ghosts of the Palace of Blue Tiles by Jorge Fernández Granados, translated by John Oliver Simon (Tameme, 2008), and my translation of the short story by Agustín Cadena, An Avocado from Michoacán (Tameme, 2007). Gracias, Joseph, your mentions are an honor.

FURTHER UPDATE: My amiga poet, essayist and literary translator Patricia Dubrava offers her list of top reads on her blog, Holding the Light, here.

> Your comments are always welcome. Write to me here.







Sunday, December 03, 2017

Waaaay Out to the Big Bend of Far West Texas, and a Note on El Paso's Elroy Bode

[ Dr. Cecilia Autrique at the Center for Big Bend Studies Conference,
Sul Ross State University, Alpine, Texas, November 2017
Her paper is
"American Protestants, Civil Society Organizations, and
Temperance on the US-Mexico Border, 1920-1930" ]
Earlier this month I traveled the loooooooong way out from Mexico City via Houston and then via El Paso to Alpine, TX-- (that latter stretch through the Far West Texas desert, spectacular though it be, not for the caffeine-deprived)-- to participate in the annual Center for Big Bend Studies (CBBS) conference at Sul Ross State University.

I've been working on this book about Far West Texas, which includes the Big Bend, for an age & an eon, so last year, when I was invited to present at the 2016 CBBS conference, I was honored but flummoxed. My book hadn't-- and still hasn't-- been published and, anyway, it's not a scholarly work but, as I have begun describing it, a lyrical and personal portrait of place. No, no, what they wanted was for me to talk about my book published in 2014, Metaphysical Odyssey into the Mexican Revolution: Francisco I. Madero and His Secret Book, Spiritist Manual. I was flummoxed again, for that book about the book by the leader of Mexico's 1910 Revolution has zip to do with the Big Bend!

Well, it turned out that anything and everything about the Mexican Revolution is game for the CBBS conference, which is multidisciplinary and covers subjects relevant not only to the Big Bend but the surrounding regions, which include the Texas Panhandle, New Mexico, and northern Mexico's states of Chihuahua and Coahuila.

So last year at CBBS I presented Metaphysical Odyssey into the Mexican Revolution, and I came away mightily impressed-- so much so that I decided to present again this year and I recruited my amiga, Mexican historian Cecilia Autrique, to present her outstanding paper, "American Protestants, Civil Society Organizations, and Temperance on the US-Mexico Border, 1920-1930." (This paper stems from her PhD thesis at the UNAM in Mexico City, which I hope will be published as a book in both Spanish and English, for it provides vital historical context for any discussion of the current US-Mexico border and narcotrafficking issues.)

This year I presented my paper on "John Bigelow, Jr: Officer in the Tenth Cavalry, Military Intellectual, and Nexus Between West and East"-- much of which material will appear in my book in-progress, World Waiting for a Dream: A Turn in Far West Texas.

Look for the paper on my website shortly; in the meantime, for those interested, my blog posts about Bigelow are here and here, and the post about his brother, author, world-traveler, life-long friend to Kaiser Wilhelm II, and pioneer magazine publisher Poultney Bigelow, is here. And the selected bibliography on John Bigelow, Jr. and the Bigelow family, and related subjects, which I handed out at the conference, is here.

Bigelow's relevance to the Big Bend is direct: he was stationed there more than once, scouted all around the region, and indeed, he is an officer already well known to any and all who would study the Indian Wars and the Buffalo Soldiers. I trust I have been able to add new dimensions and insights to his importance for this region, and the West as a whole.


HIGHLIGHTS

One of the downsides of a bustling conference (indeed, a downside to just about everything nifty in the human experience) is that it is impossible to be in two places at the same time! It can also be a challenge to fit fascinating and vital conversations, such as they pop up, into the precise times allotted for coffee breaks and lunch. Alas, there were talks I am tremendously sorry to have missed or to have had to slink into half way through.

Just a few-- a very few-- of the highlights for me:

Felix Almaraz channeling a Franciscan missionary (and in costume!)

Lonn Taylor's talk about J.J. Kilpatrick of Candelaria, Texas (right on the Rio Grande) during the Mexican Revolution
This is a movie! (Or has it been made already? If not, por dios, ¿porqué no?)
> Check out Lonn Taylor's always fascinating "Rambling Boy" column for the Big Bend Sentinel, and my podcast interview with him, "Under Sleeping Lion: Lonn Taylor in Fort Davis"

Once again, Al González of Chiricuahua Books busted my shoe budget for the year. I took home a biography of Jack Hays and two very rare books by cowboys about Marfa, Texas.

Ayyy, and gigazoodles of postcards!

Steve Black
Who gave a super crunchy keynote
about Eagle Nest Canyon
A keynote speech by lead archaeologist Steve Black about Eagle Nest Canyon at Langtry, Texas
> One of the most jaw-dropping canyons in Texas. Check out my mini-video of the entrance of Eagle Nest Canyon from a visit a couple of years ago here.

(Perchance you wonder, did we see the Marfa Lights? Not this time. But I have indeed seen them and on four different occasions.)


AND A NOTE ON EL PASO'S ELROY BODE

As you might imagine, flying from Mexico City to El Paso via Houston, and back, apart from being a sardine-y experience, was the perfect opportunity to get some reading done.

I have belatedly discovered Elroy Bode!* Doubly belatedly, for Bode passed away only months ago. (See his obituary in the El Paso Times.)

*Pronounced Bo-dee.
I devoured Bode's El Paso Days and got started on In a Special Light. As the blurbs on his books attest, Bode is much-admired and even beloved by many Texan writers and readers of a literary bent, but he remains obscure, not only outside the region but, as my visit to El Paso's Barnes & Noble attests, even in his home town. (Nope, the Barnes & Noble did not have in-store even one copy of Elroy Bode's -- "who? Brady?"-- several books. But for, like, totally sure, they did have, for the man in front of me in the customer service line, Exploding Kittens.)

Poet Naomi Shihab Nye says:
"Elroy Bode is one of the most essential writers the state of Texas has ever been lucky enough to call its own. In a voice that is at once deeply descriptive and eloquently minimalist, he illuminates our corners, dim memories, streets, fields, prairies, hills, hours, and the hardest of days. His no-frills frankness and steady attentiveness have always had a radiant, carifying power."

As I read I tagged so many of Bode's lines but perhaps the best, most representative of all is this one, from "Earth-Life" in the collection of his poetic essays, In a Special Light:

"I need the El Paso countryside. I need to hear the call of redwing blackbirds from salt cedars along an Upper Valley canal. I need to stand in a pecan grove and feel the breeze that moves through it-- a breeze that reminds me of other breezes in other trees in other, almost forgotten times. I need to see stretched of plowed land where, in the distance, humans are reduced in scale and become of no greater importance to the eye than a rooster in a yard, a tractor in a field."

After the CBBS conference I spent an afternoon in the El Paso Public Library's Border Heritage archive where I looked up Elroy Bode and Amado Duro. More about those two caballeros literarios anon.

> Your comments are always welcome. Write to me here.