Monday, September 18, 2017

From the Typosphere: "Bank"

Isn't just too too too tooooo much a-gurgling and churgling and over-arcing and under-the-rugging in this techno-kray-zee world? In the spirit of calming things down, this Monday I offer a wee but wicked poem, typed on ye olde 1961 Hermes 3000:




"Bank" is in my forthcoming collection, Meteor. 

P.S. New on the blogroll:

The Long Slow {typecast} Blog

The Typewriter Revolution

Welcome to the Typosphere



Monday, September 11, 2017

Cartridges and Postcards from the US-Mexico Border of Yore


Postcards from the US-Mexico border, 1916.

About a century ago, after the fall of Francisco I. Madero's government in 1913, with the ensuing struggle between the Huertistas and Carrancistas, and the chaos along the US-Mexico border (in part fomented by German agents, hoping to keep the U.S. Army otherwise occupied during WWI), the U.S. Army set up a number of camps there. On ebay, my sister found these postcards, probably sent by a soldier stationed near El Paso, dated October 26, 1916.

One of the postcards shows an address in Alliance, Ohio, a town noted for its Feline Historical Museum. Thank you, Google.

Here is another GIF, this one of some cartridges I picked up-- by invitation, I hasten to emphasize-- on private property right by the Rio Grande about 20 minutes' drive down a dirt road from Presidio, Texas. Seriously, these are cartridges from the time of the Mexican Revolution (probably from target practice); they were just lying on the ground. That is how isolated a place it still is.

Cartridge circa 1916, from near Presidio, TX

One last GIF: An overcast day on the otherwise spectacular Hot Springs Historic Trail in the Big Bend National Park. The river is the Rio Grande, the border with Mexico. At sunset the mountains turn the most otherwordly sherbet-pink. Imagine this scene with a wall through it-- your tax dollars down the hole for a perfectly pointless aesthetic and ecological atrocity. (I shall now take a deep breath.)


Hot Springs Historic Trail, Big Bend National Park
Far West Texas
(Don't watch this GIF unless you are part Viking,
it will make you seasick)

Not shown in my video: the guy hiking a few minutes ahead of me on this trail wore a T-shirt that said TEXAS GUN SAFETY TIP #1: GET ONE. Well, it ain't California. Excuse me, I need to go crunch my granola.

Much more anon.

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






Monday, September 04, 2017

What is "Writing" (Really?) / And a New Video of Yours Truly Talking About Four Exceedingly Rare Books

On his always thought-provoking blog, the author of Deep Work, Cal Newport, recently posted "Toward a Deeper Vocabulary"  on how we need more words for "writing." As a productivity expert (among other things) Newport has often been invited to "dissertation boot camps." He writes:
"Something that strikes me about these events is the extensive use of the term 'writing' to capture the variety of different mental efforts that go into producing a doctoral dissertation; e.g., 'make sure you write every day' or 'don’t get too distracted from your writing by other obligations.' The actual act of writing words on paper, of course, is necessary to finish a thesis, but it’s far from the only part of this process. The term 'writing,' in this context, is being used as a stand in for the many different cognitive efforts required to create something worthy of inclusion in the intellectual firmament of your discipline." 

I could not agree more. In writing all of my books it has been my consistent experience that "writing" is not a linear process akin to clocking in, and, say, ironing shirts. It's a complex, zizaggily circular-ish process-- to quote Newport, "involving different cognitive efforts"-- that oftentimes doesn't look like "writing."

(That said, sometimes-- sometimes-- you've just gotta velcro your posterior to the chair and bang the words into the Word doc.)

As those of you who have been following my blog have heard ad infinitum, I am at work on a book about Far West Texas. Um, that means I need to write it. But there are other tasks directly relevant to ending up with a published book, for example, reading about Far West Texas, traveling in and observing Far West Texas, taking notes, transcribing notes as dictation, reviewing photographs and videos, interviewing people, transcribing those interviews, and so on and so forth.

Right now, for example, I am finishing Andrew Torget's excellent Seeds of Empire: Cotton, Slavery, and the Transformation of the Texas Borderlands and last week, I plowed through Andrés Reséndez's also superb The Other Slavery: The Uncovered Story of Indian Enslavement in America. Pending writing for me is an essay / podcast (to be edited and incorporated into my book in-progress) about the Seminole Scouts (many of them ex-slaves) in the Indian Wars...

If I were to simply sit down and commence typing, it would be akin to trying to cook without having assembled the proper equipment and ingredients. In other words, I need to have read Torget and Reséndiz (among many other works), to have transcribed my notes, and so on and so forth.

Not that I have not done quite a bit of the writing already, I mean, there are words on paper, there are bits and pieces, an introduction, some sections... Like I said, the process is zigzaggily circular.

I oftentimes compare "writing," in its broadest mushiest sense, to cooking. And chefs will understand me when I say, you have got to master mis-en-place.

YE OLDE "MIS"

What is mis-en-place? In plain English, you don't want to start the whipped cream for what might be a chocolate cake when your countertops, stovetop, and sink are cluttered with pots and spoons and dishes and splotches from the mushroom croquettes. Or whatever it is you were making. You need to start clean; then assemble your utensils and equipment; then assemble your ingredients; then wash, cut, chop; then cook.

So to follow the analogy of writing as cooking: reading and researching could be compared to assembling utensils and equipment; taking notes, transcribing, and filing could be compared to washing, cutting and chopping... and typing, say, to putting the skillet onto the burner... that is to say, actually, finally, cooking.

Back to starting clean. In 2014 I published Metaphysical Odyssey into the Mexican Revolution: Francisco I. Madero and His Secret Book, Spiritist Manual (a book that was, in a way, a digression, however, the Mexican Revolution will appear in Far West Texas book, as you might guess, if you've ever seen a map of the Texas-Mexico border). This week, I wanted to be working on the Far West Texas book, but two long-pending tasks for that Mexican Revolution book were nagging at me. These were to

(1) Finish the editing on the transcript of my 2016 talk at the Center for Big Bend Studies Conference about the book (this is for an academic readership,  extensively footnoted, and includes new material about another edition of Madero's book)  

(2) Finish a short video to share some images and information about four exceedingly rare books in my personal library, which for scholars of the Mexican Revolution, and especially anyone studying Francisco I. Madero, would be vital to see.


So that is what I did the past few days--I read Torget, I finished editing the transcript of my talk and posted the PDF (which you are welcome to download here), and, whew, I just uploaded that video I have been meaning to make since 2014(!)

C.M. MAYO TALKS ABOUT HER BOOK AND 
FOUR EXCEEDINGLY RARE BOOKS




Was this procrastination? No, gentle reader, it was good old fashioned mis-en-place. Stay tuned for the podcast on the Seminole Scouts in Far West Texas. (Listen in anytime to the other 20 podcasts posted to date here.)

Back to the question of the writing process. How do you know when what you're doing is a legitimate task towards finishing a book (or thesis or story or essay), and when it's procrastination? To my writing workshop students, I say, you need to decide that for yourself. As for me, I rely on intuition and common sense (which sometimes contradict each other), and then, no drama, I just decide. Yes, once in a while (usually when I did not heed my intuition), I look back and think, hmm, maybe thus-and-such could be done differently next time. And whatever, it's fine. I don't ruminate about woulda coulda shoudas (that would be procrastination!), I just get to the day's work, as best as I can.

> For more about the writing (and publishing) process, check out my talk of yore for the Writer's Center, "The Arc of Writerly Action."

> See also "Thirty Deadly Effective Ways to Free Up Bits, Drips & Gimungously Vast Swaths of Time for Writing."

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






Monday, August 28, 2017

Haiku in the Guadalupe Mountains of Far West Texas

McKittrick Canyon, Guadalupe Mountains National Park
Photo: C.M. Mayo
CLICK HERE TO VIEW A HIGH RES IMAGE
ON MY WEBSITE
(This will give you a much better idea of the
extraordinary quality of this letterpress printing
by Matthew Kelsey)
As those of you who follow this blog well know, I am at work on a book about Far West Texas and, as part of this work, back in May of this year, I was the artist-in-residence at the Guadalupe Mountains National Park. About an hour and half drive east of El Paso, the Guadalupe Mountains are little visited, especially outside of holidays and weekends in the fall and spring seasons. Although I was there for the crush of Memorial Day weekend, it wasn't much of a crush; for the rest of my stay I often had trails all to myself-- except for the rattlesnakes. I happened upon two rattlesnakes in my two weeks, one curled up in the middle of the trail; the other darted out right in front of me, rattling loudly, from the brush. It's not Disneyland out there.

I'll be writing about the Guadalupe Mountains at length, but here I'd like to share a photo of my official donation to the park. All artists-in-residence give a workshop, and donate a work or art-- in my case, it will be a framed letterpress broadsheet of seven haiku, "In the Guadalupe Mountains."

The first haiku from "In the Guadalupe Mountains" by C.M. Mayo

This letterpress printing was done by Matthew Kelsey of Saratoga, California. Poets and others with something special to have printed, I warmly recommend Matt Kelsey, he is a master craftsman and a pleasure to work with.

The seventh haiku from "In the Guadalupe Mountains" by C.M. Mayo

> Visit my poetry page here. I'll be posting the haiku there.

P.S. Last fall one of the artists-in-residence  in the Guadalupe Mountains National Park was one of my very favorite painters, Mary Baxter of Marfa, Texas. Listen in to my interview with her here. Check out her landscapes, many of the Guadalupe Mountains, here.

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




Monday, August 21, 2017

METEOR Wins the Gival Press Poetry Award



Delighted and honored to announce that my poetry collection, Meteor, has won the Gival Press Poetry Award and will be published in 2018.

Founding editor of Gival Press, Robert L. Giron, is an amigo from my days in Washington DC, and a fellow El Pasoan, so I am especially delighted that he will be my publisher. I am even more honored, however, to know that Robert did not select Meteor for the prize; for Gival Press he runs a blindly judged contest (no names on the manuscripts), the winner chosen from a pool of finalists by the winner of the previous year's Gival Press Poetry Award. So Meteor was chosen by someone I have not yet had the privilege of meeting: Linwood D. Rumney. His book is the haunting Abandoned Earth.

Rains of karmic lotus petals upon you, dear Linwood D. Rumney!

> Visit my poetry page.

> Poems in Meteor now online include
Man High (originally published in BorderSenses)
UFO, 1990 (originally published in Gargoyle)
In the Garden of Lope de Vega (originally published in the anthology edited by Robert L. Giron, Poetic Voices without Borders)
Stay West (as messily typed on my 1961 Hermes 3000)

Meteor takes its title from the poem that was originally published waaaaaaa-hey-hey-yyyy back in 1996 in the anthology American Poets Say Goodbye to the 20th Century, edited by Andrei Codrescu and Laura Rosenthal, and again in Ryan Van Cleave and Virgil Suarez's anthology Red, White and Blues: Poets on the Promise of America, 2004.

P.S. Hell yeah, I am still at work on the Far West Texas book. Stay tuned for the upcoming Marfa Mondays Podcasts. I invite you to listen in anytime to the 20 podcasts that have been posted to date.

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




Monday, August 14, 2017

What's Happening in Mexico City: Bridges Not Walls!

www.bridgesforunderstanding.com


Did you know that there are some 1.5 million U.S. citizens living in Mexico? Many of them, including myself, have been here for decades and have binational families, and we are profoundly aware of the importance of maintaining good relations between the US and Mexico.

Here is some excellent news in this direction.

Last week, thanks to the digital wizardry of Helena von Nagy, the website of Bridges for Understanding went live from Mexico City. Anyone and everyone who cares about US-Mexico relations, please check out this grassroots effort in the American community here to help promote better understanding, and so better relations, between the US and Mexico. Their mission is:

To contribute to the preservation of US-Mexican relations based on an exchange of ideas, personal narratives, and advocacy.

Mary O'Keefe and sons
The founding members / leadership team are Monica French, Mary O'Keefe, Nancy Westfal de Garrulo, Sam Stone, Jan Silverman, Helena von Nagy, and Lisa Milton. Check out their bios, they are impressive bunch!

Here's what they say about who they are:

Bridges for Understanding (B4U) is a grassroots, non-partisan, membership and advocacy organization comprised of primarily U.S. citizens and bi-nationals living in Mexico and elsewhere working side by side with their Mexican neighbors.
Founded in January 2017,  B4U strives to promote the shared principles of freedom and economic prosperity that bind the two nations. We seek to combat the deterioration of bilateral relationsand its impact on human rights, commerce and economic stability on both sides of the border.

Many U.S. and Mexican academic and nonprofit institutions are networking with Bridges for Understanding, among them, the American Benevolent Society, CIDE, Global Jewish Advocacy, New Comienzos, Rotary International, the Wilson Center, and many more. 

I am proud to report that that my blog post is the first for the B4U cultural blog: "A Visit to the Casa de la Primera Imprenta de América in Mexico City."

READ THE FIRST B4U CULTURAL BLOG POST
"A Visit to the Casa de la Primera Imprenta de América in Mexico City."

So check out Bridgesforunderstanding.com, surf around in there, and if you like what you see, become a member, sign up for the listserv, tweet, FB, whatever you can do to help build bridges.

P.S. You will find Bridges for Understanding on Twitter @Bridges4underst

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






Monday, August 07, 2017

Spotlight on Mexican Fiction: "The Apaches of Kiev" by Agustín Cadena in Tupelo Quarterly, and Much More


Delighted to announce that my translation of the short story by Agustín Cadena, "The Apaches of Kiev," appears in the very fine U.S. literary journal, Tupelo Quarterly. It's a story at once dark and deliciously wry. It caught my attention because, well, everything Cadena writes catches my attention-- he is one of my favorite writers in Mexico, or anywhere-- and he happens to be living in Hungary, so the Eastern Europe angle is no surprise. In all, Cadena's is a unique and powerful voice in contemporary fiction, and I hope you'll have a read.

THE APACHES OF KIEV
BY AGUSTIN CADENA
(Originally published in Spanish on Agustín Cadena's blog, El vino y la hiel
Translated by C.M. Mayo
The story about the body they found in the Botanic Garden came out in the newspapers and on television. The Kiev police identified it immediately: Dmitri Belov, reporter and political analyst known for his scathing criticism of President Poroshenko’s administration. Presumably it was a suicide, but until they could confirm this verdict, the police had been ordered to put all resources to work.
Among the underemployed— peddlers and prostitutes— who roamed the Botanical Garden, very few were aware of this. So how was anyone else to find out? They didn’t have televisions and they didn’t spend their money on newspapers. Understandably, those who knew about the body avoided that area. They knew there would have been a commotion, and especially if the body belonged to someone important. The police would go around searching for possible witnesses to interrogate, and by the way, shake them down on other charges. It wouldn’t do any good to explain to the police what they already knew: that every week all of these underemployed people paid a bribe to be left in peace. 
Ignorant of everything, three men of approximately 40 years of age, exotic-looking, dressed like Apaches in a Western movie, appeared after 11 in the morning. They were Ernesto Ortega, Gonzalo Acevedo and Milton Guzmán: Mexican, Salvadorean and Venezuelan, respectively. The three of them dressed identically: a headdress of white feathers that went from their heads down to their waists, jacket and trousers of coffee-colored leather with fringe on the sleeves and the back, moccasins, and ritual battle makeup. They carried assorted musical instruments and they took turns playing Andean music: “El cóndor pasa,” “Pájaro Chogüi,” “Moliendo café,” etc. They knew the music did not go with the costumes nor the costumes with their ethnicities, but this strange combination was what worked for them commercially. Americaphilia was at its height in Kiev, and passersby were happy to give money to these “North American Indians” who played the music “of their people.” Perhaps the happy notes of “La flor de la canela” led the Ukrainians to imagine the beauty of life in teepees, among the buffalo, wild horses, mountain lions, and bald-headed eagles. The fact is, in addition to playing and signing, the “Apaches” also sold their CDs of this same music, displayed on a cloth spread on the ground. [... CONTINUE READING


P.S. My amiga the poet and writer Patricia Dubrava also translates Cadena. Check out some of her excellent translations at Mexico City Lit.


# # #

This past Saturday I had the good fortune to be able to attend Cadena's book presentation in one of my favorite Mexico City bookstores, the FCE Rosario Castellanos in Condesa. (Here is where I interviewed Michael Schuessler about his biography of Pita Amor, among other works.) Cadena was presenting a novel for young readers, La casa de los tres perros (The House of the Three Dogs) and along for the ride came a group of Mexican writers who have stories in his latest anthology, Callejeros, cuentos urbanos de mundos soñados (My rough translation of that might be, Street People: Stories of Urban Dreamworlds). Happily for me, this also meant a chance to visit with my friend the Mexican novelist and historian Silvia Cuesy. Here we are with Agustín Cadena:


C.M. Mayo, Agustín Cadena, Silvia Cuesy
at the Rosario Castellanos FCE Bookstore, Mexico City

Agustín Cadena's anthology of short fiction, Callejeros
and novel for young readers, La Casa de los tres perros

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

Table of contents, Callejeros



Back cover, Callejeros


Cadena, right in white hat, presenting his novel for young readers.
La casa de los tres perros,
in the FCE Rosario Castellanos bookstore in Mexico City
August 5, 2017


Watch the video for Kickstarter with Mayte Romo of Editorial Elementum, publisher of Callejeros:

Click here to watch the video

Putting on my armchair-sociologist sombrero now: Aside from its high quality (both its literary content and as an object), what is especially interesting about Callejeros is that the editor lives abroad and the publisher is based in a provincial town-- Pachuca, in the state of Hidalgo. Mexican literary culture and publishing has long been overwhelmingly concentrated in Mexico City, but with the digital revolution it seems this is opening up quickly. I talked a bit about this in my talk for a 2015 American Literary Translators Association panel I chaired:



P.S. I mention both this wondrous Mexico City FCE bookstore and Cadena in my longform essay now available on Kindle, "Dispatch from the Sister Republic or, Papelito Habla," an overview of the Mexican literary landscape and the power of the book.

And for those who follow this blog, yes, I remain at work on the book about Far West Texas. Stay tuned for the next podcasts. My latest writing on the subject includes a review of Patrick Dearen's Bitter Waters: The Struggles of the Pecos River.

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






Monday, July 31, 2017

Some Old Friends Spark Joy (Whilst Kondo-ing My Library)

Elvis approves
I moved. And of course, this involved oodles of Kondo-ing.

For those who missed the phenomenon of Japanese tidying expert Marie Kondo: She says the way to do it is to pick up each object and ask yourself, does this spark joy? If so, keep it (even if it's a raggedy T-shirt), and if not (even if it's a brand new suede sofa that cost a heap), thank it, then chuck it--or donate it or sell it, or whatever, but get it out of your space. Many organizers and sundry pundits have dismissed Kondo-ing as "woo woo." Too bad for them because, by Jove, by whatever Shinto spirit you want to name, or the god Pan, or Elvis Presley, it works.

My personal and working library is at last in good order, and I am delighted to share with you, dear and thoughtful reader, just a few of the many old friends that sparked much joy:



See this post that mentions the luminous Sara Mansfield Taber: 


Both of these books made my annual top 10 book read lists.



I often quote from Rupert Isaacson's The Healing Land in my literary travel writing workshops.


Taking the advice in Neil Fiore's The Now Habit enabled me to finish my novel.

David Allen's GTD saves the bacon every time.

Back in 2010 Regina Leeds contributed a guest-blog:



I have a sizable collection of books about books. Books for me are heaven.
I wrote a bit about book history in my recent longform Kindle,



Sophy Burnham is best known for her works on angels, 
but she has a sizable body of outstanding work of literary essay / sociology. 
Her The Landed Gentry was especially helpful for me for understanding 
some of the characters in one of my books.
Doormen by Peter Bearman... that merits a post...


Drujienna's Harp was one of my very favorite novels 
when I was first starting to read novels.
As for The Golden Key, pictured right, 
my copy was left for some days by an open window in the rain 
back in 1960-something, but I have saved it and I always shall.


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






Monday, July 24, 2017

Roopa Pai Decodes the Bhagavad Gita, the Holy Book that Predates Organized Religion

The other day a Mexican Spiritist author sent me some questions about how Spiritism influenced Francisco I. Madero as the leader of Mexico's 1910 Revolution and as president of Mexico (1911-1913)-- so the topic has once again been on my mind. Of course, as those of you have read my book about Madero's secret book of 1911, and/or who been following this blog well know, Madero's Spiritist Manual is more than a rehash of ye olde Kardecian Spiritism: Madero stirs in sprinkles and cupfuls of all sorts of esoteric ideas from other authors and occult tradition. Also reflected in his Spiritist Manual is Madero's avid interest in the Hindu Holy Book of 700 verses in 18 chapters known as the Bhagavad Gita.

> See my post on Madero's commentary on the Gita.

And there, in the Bhagavad Gita, is where I believe we can find the answer to another more frequently asked question, how did a Spiritist, supposedly devoted to brotherly love and peace, pick up arms and fight a revolution?

The Bhagavad Gita is about war. It is also about the afterlife and life itself, down to some very earthy, very granular levels. Because I have since moved on to work on another, very different book-- a travel memoir about Far West Texas (in which Madero makes a cameo appearance, of course, because the 1910 Revolution started at the border)-- I have not been able to go into the detail about the Bhagavad Gita that the subject warrants. So I was very pleased to find and be able to link to this TEDx talk by Roopa Pai about the Gita, "India's book of answers." Pai calls the Gita "a shining moral compass for guidance"; "a primer on the art of civilized debate"; "a killer app for contentment"; "the ultimate equal rights manifesto"; "the original monograph on free trade"; "the original tree huggers handbook"; "the Indian book on baby names"; and "a mathematical treatment on the mobius strip called karma."

Roopa Pai's is the best short introduction I have yet found to the Gita, and I highly recommend it.





P.S. In addition to the link to Roopa Pai's talk on the Gita, you will find many more resources for researchers on the webpage for my book, Metaphysical Odyssey into the Mexican Revolution: Francisco I. Madero and His Secret Book, Spiritist Manual.

> Resources for Researchers (films and videos)