Thursday, August 14, 2008

Diversity, Understanding, and Reconciliation in Santa Fe

Diversity, Understanding, & Reconciliation in Santa Fe
Valerie Martínez, Santa Fe Poet Laureate

Yesterday, as I drove to the College of Santa Fe, I realized that I almost always take the same route from home to office, so much so that my head leans left and right, forward and back, and so habitually that the path must be ingrained into muscles of my body. On the way, I see the same daily bicyclers and morning runners, the same train tracks, the same horizon of townhouses on Zia Road. At work my days are routine, for the most part, and I interact with many of the same people each day.

Last spring, I did things differently. Each Friday and Saturday, I traveled to Cuba, Torreon, and Ojo Encino, New Mexico to collaborate with public school students and a large group of community residents. Twice a week, eight artists from Santa Fe and Albuquerque (part of a Littleglobe, Inc. team) traveled to the Cuba area to partner with “ordinary people” to create art. To get there, I crossed several county lines and drove through some of New Mexico’s most magnificent landscapes—lizard-shaped earth formations in red and brown, pale-beige mesas, the unfolding llano. In the process, I crossed all sorts of invisible lines, too.

Cuba is a town of 9,000 with a largely Hispanic/Norteño population. Even so, Cuba High School, where we worked on Friday mornings, is about 80% Navajo, serving the outlying areas—Torreon, Counselor, Ojo Encino—and their largely Navajo populations. On Saturdays, we gathered with 45 people across the geographical, socio-economic, ethnic, and generational lines that usually divide us. There were children ages 6-11, high school students, 20-30-somethings, and others aged 40-80. We were/are White, Navajo, Hispanic/Norteño, Pueblo, Irish, Black, Japanese-American, and Mixed-Blood/Mestizo. Most have lived in the area for their entire lives. Many moved to the area many years ago. At the beginning of the project, few knew each other well.

It’s safe to say that every one of us, in this gathering, had taken a risk to be together. And it was intimidating, sometimes. I felt the force of history upon me, both pride in my Spanish

ancestry and the historical reality of Spanish oppression and violence. I felt embarrassed, sometimes, when I answered a Spanish-speaking native in my half-fluent Spanglish. I was afraid to offend the Navajo elders in the group, not knowing enough about Navajo etiquette. I made mistakes.

But, with time, fellowship did happen. We sat next to each other, ate together, sang, painted, wrote, laughed. After a couple of months, we began to have conversations about some of the historical and contemporary tensions and issues that divide us. After several months, we began to understand each other. It wasn’t something we could rush; we had to give each other time.

Back home in Santa Fe, I see that we, too, are struggling with the invisible lines of language, culture, socio-economics, ethnicity, and history that separate us. We grow increasingly diverse and, often, increasingly separate. We sometimes feel like strangers to each other, in our own home town. At the least, we feel isolated; at the most, hostile.

Because of this, and because Santa Feans often talk to me about their desire to bring our community together, we are going to have to take some risks. We need to step off the beaten path, walk across invisible lines, and spend some time with people we don’t know. It will be intimidating. We will make mistakes. It will take time. But I believe this is the first step in moving our complex, deeply-layered, and diverse city toward fellowship, understanding, and reconciliation. Si se puede.

This essay first appeared in Spanish in La Voz de Nuevo Mexico.

Poet Laureate Community Outreach Project


A Project of the City of Santa Fe Poet Laureate Program
Valerie Martínez, Poet Laureate 2008-2010

Description of Project:

This project will gather three generations of 10-15 individual Santa Fe families to compose/create a unique family “work” (story, short film, photograph, woodwork, quilt, sculpture, pottery, recording, etc.). The families will represent the rich diversity of the Santa Fe community--ethnically, socio-economically, historically, etc. The families will work inter-generationally, with the Poet Laureate and (periodically), in company with each other. The works may reflect the family name, family history, or simply the inter-generational collaboration that happens during the project. In some cases, assistance for the families may come from local artists (documentarians, filmmakers, artists, etc.) as necessary. Each work will also be accompanied by a poem. The poem may be collaboratively written--authored by the family members and Poet Laureate--or the Poet Laureate may compose the poem for the family, depending on the family’s wishes. The finished pieces will constitute an exhibit entitled “Lines & Circles: A Celebration of Santa Fe Families” to be presented to the city, other New Mexico communities, and (possibly) other U.S. cities. The title “Lines & Circles” refers to the idea of family lines as well as the circular nature of communities working together.


To actively engage the Poet Laureate with her community in the collaborative creation of art and poetry of significance to Santa Fe
To raise awareness of the power of poetry and the spoken word to build and celebrate community
To encourage positive relationships within families and between families
To foster a sense of shared community
To encourage meaningful and creative dialogue
To reflect the rich family life and community of Santa Fe
To generate a body of art and poetry that commemorates the life of Santa Fe


March 2008-March 2010

Tentative Timeline:

March-July 2008 Call for participation by Santa Fe families—ads in newspapers, flyers
in schools, libraries, community centers, and elsewhere.
March-October 2008 Poet Laureate & Arts Commission arrange for a local museum, gallery, or public arts space to host the exhibition and schedule meeting venues
July 2008 Deadline for “application” by families
July/August 2008 First meeting of Santa Fe families with poet laureate & Arts Commission
representatives. Introductions, presentation of project and schedule,
discussion, socializing.
August-Sept. ’08 Poet Laureate and Arts Commission work with families on ideas
November 2008 Family ideas due, along with a list of needs and materials assessments
Oct. ’08-Feb. ’09 Poet Laureate and Arts Commission gather materials, volunteers, resources, and work with families.
March 2009 Second families meeting and working session
April-August 2009 Families continue work on project and meet, individually, with Poet Laureate
September 2009 Third families meeting to share works-in-progress
December 15, 2009 Deadline for completed projects, including poems
Jan.-Feb. 2009 Creation/Construction of Exhibit
February/March ‘09 Public Exhibition

Poet Laureate Readings and Events

Valerie Martínez, 2008-2010


3/10/08 Santa Fe City Counselors and Judges Swearing-In Ceremony, Lensic Theater
4/2/08 Panel: “Sibling Rivalries: Spoken and Written Word Poetry and the Literary
Tug of War,” College of Santa Fe
4/5/08 Poem-Palooza 2008 (a celebration of poetry in all its forms) Greer Garson
Theater, 7 p.m., Santa Fe
5/6/08 School Visit, English Classes: Monte del Sol Charter School, Santa Fe
5/14/08 Reader and Brief Talk, Mentorship Program: Monte del Sol Charter School, College of Santa Fe
6/16/08 Poetry & Jazz, Counter Culture Café, 7:30 p.m. (with the SW Jazz Orchestra)
6/21/08 Interview: OnWord, Talk Radio, with Alaina Alexander, Los Angeles, 3:30 p.m.
7/9/08 “Metamorphosis: Bookmaking and Poetry,” A Workshop for Teens, Southside Library
8/30/08 Noon: Women’s Focus Radio Program, KUNM
Evening: Fundraiser for the Poet Laureate Program, hosted by Sallie Bingham
9/2/08 Celebration for the Poet Laureate and the 20th Anniversary of the College of
Santa Fe Creative Writing Program
9/13/08 Grand Opening of the New Railyard Complex, Santa Fe, 1-3:30 p.m.
9/14/08 STIR: A Festival of Words, workshop “Integrating Poetry Into Life,” Harwood
Arts Center, Albuquerque
9/15/08 American Cancer Societies Cancer Action Network (CAN) Bus Event
9/23/08 Santa Fe Opera Big Read Event, North 4th Arts Center (Albuquerque), 7 p.m.
9/25/08 Center for Contemporary Arts (CCA)—Santa Fe, Reading, 7 p.m.
9/27/08 Workshop: International Conference on Creative Tourism, Santa Fe
10/2/08 Meeting of the Lines and Circle Families
11/3/08 Breakfast with O’Keeffe, 8:30 a.m., Georgia O’Keeffe Museum
11/18/08 Workshop: Georgia O’Keeffe and the Art of the Self-Image, 7-9 p.m.
Georgia O’Keeffe Museum
2/13/09 Panel Moderator: Associated Writing Programs Annual
Conference, Chicago: “Sibling Rivalries: Spoken & Written Word Poetry and the
Literary Tug-of-War,” with Jon Davis, Danny Solis, Jill Battson, Michelle Holland,
and Gabe Gomez
2/14/09 Panel: Associated Writing Programs Annual Conference, Chicago: “Women
Poets on Mentorship: Efforts and Affections”

Please re-visit this site for updates to the above list of events and readings.

Valerie Martinez Named Santa Fe Poet Laureate

News Flash

Valerie Martinez Named Santa Fe Poet Laureate for 2008-2010

The City of Santa Fe Arts Commission has named poet, playwright, essayist, teacher and community artist Valerie Martinez as the City of Santa Fe’s new Poet Laureate.

Valerie Martínez’s first book of poetry, Absence, Luminescent, won the Larry Levis Prize and a Greenwall Grant from the Academy of American Poets. Her second book, World to World was published by the University of Arizona Press in 2004. Martinez’s poetry, translations, and essays have appeared in numerous literary journals and magazines as well as many anthologies of contemporary poetry.

Martinez is the city’s second Poet Laureate, taking the reigns from Poet Laureate Arthur Sze whose term is now complete. Not wasting any time, Martinez’s first public appearance as Poet Laureate was at the Inauguration Ceremony for newly elected City officials on March 10, 2008.

The Poet Laureate program of the Santa Fe Arts Commission, established in 2005, strives to promote a meaningful poetic presence as part of the diverse cultural fabric of the city. This is an honorary position given to a person who has established a presence in the world of poetry, has demonstrated a commitment to and passion for poetry, and embraces the opportunity to engage in civic discourse.

The objectives of Santa Fe’s Poet Laureate Program are to:

• Enhance the presence of literary arts in Santa Fe. • Create a focal point for the expression of Santa Fe’s culture through the literary arts. • Contribute to the continued growth of the individual Poet Laureate. • Raise awareness of the power of poetry and the spoken word. • Provide a forum for cross pollination of art forms. • Celebrate the spirit of the people and the special qualities of our city. • Create a unique program that will become a model for other cities. • Create, over a period of time, a body of work that commemorates the life of our city.
Funding for the Poet Laureate Program has been established through the Santa Fe Literary Education Fund, an endowment at the Santa Fe Community Foundation.


Martínez has a B.A. in English from Vassar College and an M.F.A. in Poetry from The University of Arizona. She has taught at the University of Arizona, Ursinus College, New Mexico Highlands University, University of New Mexico, and in the rural schools of Swaziland. Martinez is currently Associate Professor of English and Creative Writing and Director of Interdisciplinary Studies at the College of Santa Fe.

Her books include Absence, Luminescent; World to World; A Flock of Scarlet Doves; and Reinventing the Enemy's Language.

An excerpt from Martínez's new work, “Each and Her” (a book-length poem) is forthcoming in The American Poetry Review (APR), Mandorla, and JUNTA: Contemporary Avant-Garde Poetry by Latino/a Writers. Her essay about Joy Harjo (along with poems by Harjo and Martínez) currently appears in the anthology “Women Poets on Mentorship: Efforts and Affections” (University of Iowa Press, 2007).

For more information about the work of Valerie Martinez, please visit her Website: