Latino writers between a feather and a hard place

When the Bronx Council on the Arts announced a season of writing workshops, some Hispanic writers complained about the absence of Latino bookstores, publishing houses and cultural spaces to present their work to the public.

Author Carlos Aguasaco, a professor at City College, said that although the workshops offered by the Bronx Council on the Arts are well-received by the cultural community, “what Latino writers who write in Spanish need the most, in New York and in other areas of the United States, is media coverage and distribution.

“Literary works are published, but we don’t have access to distribution networks for books,” said Aguasaco, the author of Conversando con el Ángel (Talking with the Angel), a collection of poems. “There are no longer Latino bookstores around and we have lost access to public libraries where our books can be available to the public.”

Aguasaco said that the large publishing companies located in Spain and Latin America “are continuing to place their authors’ books in our libraries, but as taxpayers and residents of the area, we don’t have an institution or organization to help us facilitate circulation.”

Aguasaco, who heads the Internet website for poetry, Arte Poética, and edits the poetry magazine El Barco Ebrio, indicated that, moreover, Latino writers who write in Spanish don’t have a forum for book reviews like that of The New York Times, “which writes reviews of published works in a professional manner.”

Argentinean writer and journalist Mónica Flores Correa, whose book of short stories, Agosto (August) was recently published, believes that there should be a stronger presence of Latino writers in New York’s bookstores and libraries.

“And there should be a greater push for our presence in the English-language press, which tends to put us in ghettos and ignores us as universal writers,” said Flores Correa.

But these complaints don’t mean that the writing workshops aren’t needed. The free class “10 things we should avoid when we start to write a novel” presented by the Bronx Writers Center, part of the Bronx Council on the Arts, will be offered between Nov. 18 of this year and Sept. 21, 2012.

The writer and professor Osiris Vallejo, author of the book of short stories Cicatriz (Scar) said that workshops and literary gatherings are important for a writer’s education, and he praised the season of workshops offered by the Bronx Council on the Arts.

“Besides the academic aspect, participating in workshops and literary gatherings allows writers to be exposed to other writers’ works, and also to hear other writers’ opinions of their own work,” said Vallejo, who heads the website www.ensayista.com. “What these organizations that manage funding should do is create permanent literary centers and workshops, so that writers can communicate with each other more regularly,” he added.

Dominican poet Osiris Mosquea, co-founder and director of Trazarte, a now-defunct literary gathering, said that one of the reasons she had to discontinue Trazarte was the lack of space for cultural events in the community.

“The doors for cultural events have been closing in Upper Manhattan, and we are an example,” said Mosquea, author of the collection of poems Raga del tiempo (The raga of time). Mosquea also mentioned the need for local publishing houses that publish and distribute the works of Latino writers who write in Spanish.

Dr. Jorge Piña, founder of the Metapoesía Movement in the Dominican Republic, said that one of the reasons he started the organization Culturarte was the lack of spaces to circulate books by Hispanic authors in New York.

“In order to have cultural events in New York, you need a space,” said Piña. “The New York State Council on the Arts and the city’s Department of Cultural Affairs have the funding to promote literature, theater, and build artistic establishments, but we need a space for which to use the funding,” he added.

To view the full list of workshops and to obtain further information call (718) 931-9500 x21, or visit the website www.bronxarts.org.

 

Previously on Voices of NY: New York Book Fair held in early October to promote, in particular, Spanish-language literature. (Queens Latino, 11/7)

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