Monday, November 24, 2008

Thank You, First National Bank

On Thursday evening, November 20, I spent some time with patrons and employees of the First National Bank of Santa Fe, one of the generous sponsors of the Poet Laureate program. It was my first time, ever, to read poetry in front of one of those enormous circular doors leading to the vault. I felt rich when everyone joined me to sing "The Christmas Song"to finish the reading. Early, yes; it's not even Thanksgiving. But now I take a short hiatus from public events as I turn to holidays and family for the remaining weeks of 2008. I'd like to thank Steve Stork and the staff of First National who welcomed me warmly. Their support makes my tenure as Poet Laureate possible, and it is a great gift to be able to serve this community.

I wish all Santa Feans and their families a beautiful Thanksgiving. And I remind myself that gratitude, now matter how small or large, is a balm. I wish it for all of us.

Stay tuned for more poems, here, during the holidays. And, let it snow; let it snow, snow, snow.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

O'Keeffe Museum Writing Workshop

On Tuesday, November 18th, I was lucky enough to work with 28 women in a writing workshop entitled "Snapshots: The Art of Identity and Writing the Self." The workshop was sponsored by the Georgia O'Keeffe Museum as part of the Art & Leadership Program.

I asked the writers/participants to undertake a circuitous journey to creating a written self-portrait. We began with a list of 32 self-inventory prompts including: "For what cause or which person would you give up your life?" "I have never told anybody that___." "My last interesting dream was ____." "I have never told anybody that___." "My favorite creature is ____." Then, we read several self-portrait poems (Plath, Johnson, etc.).

Next, we wandered the current exhibition ("Georgia O'Keeffe and the Art of Identity")choosing one of many photographs of O'Keeffe and then wrote an imagined dialogue between the photographer and subject. Finally, writers addressed a letter to O'Keeffe in which they told her about themselves.

The result was a range of beautiful, fascinating, eloquent, forceful short pieces by the women-writers who took part, recited in one of the galleries of the museum in the presence of O'Keeffe paintings and photographs of her home and studio. I think O'Keeffe would have approved.

At the end of the workshop I asked the writers to type up their dialogues and self-portraits and send them to me so that I could share a few with you, here. I can't wait to receive them. Look for excerpts in future posts.

Thank you Cynthia, Betsy, Linda, Marilyn, Nance, Joan, Lyric, Mary, Kathleen, Judy, Anna, Jeanne, Barbara, Jane, Jackie, Lori, Robin, Debby, Edi, Lynn, Tash, Elaina, Victoria, Joyce, Diane, Devin, Christine, and Carrie. And thank you Jackie M. and the O'Keeffe staff.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Lines & Circles Project Update

On Sunday, November 16th, I met with families participating in the "Lines and Circles" project--the educational and community outreach project than spans my tenure as poet laureate. The project brings together three generations of Santa Families to create family "works," culminating in a exhibition in 2010. Each family work will be accompanied by a poem written by the family, by me, or by the family and me, together.

During the meeting, family members continued to brainstorm ideas for their pieces, sketching preliminary designs and generating lists of materials and assistance needs. They are also completing a family history questionnaire and generating ancestral maps.

It is a joy to watch family members of different generations share ideas, collaborate, negotiate. And it is a pleasure to see the families get to know each other.

I will keep you posted, as the months pass, and offer more details about specific family works. For now, a brief preview: a travel chest commemorating three generations of women in one family; accordion book with family stories; dinner table (in the family for many generations) with place settings for surviving family members and ancestors; a three-generation handmade quilt; a hanging "tapestry" of hand-made books of different sizes, one for each family member (including ancestors); a video installation with hand and handwriting imagery; a family history told by images of family-built houses. Exciting, yes?

It is a privilege to work with these wonderful Santa Feans.

There is still room for 1 or 2 additional families to participate in the project. If you are interested and have three generations of your family living in Santa Fe, please contact me at You do not need to be artists, nor have any particular expertise.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Recent Events

On Saturday, November 8th, I attended readings by poet Gabe Gomez (The Outer Bands) and prose writer Michelle Otero (Malinche's Daughter) organized by Francisco Aragon (Director of the Institute for Latino Studies--Notre Dame) and in support of Letras Latinas and Momotombo Press. I highly recommend these emerging writers--Gomez's poetry is an example of what's new and exciting in contemporary Latino poetry and Otero's lyric prose lies in a long and important tradition of writing that takes on socio-political and feminist issues. And check out the Institute for Latino Studies, also doing wonderful work.

Later that evening, I did a short reading at the 25th anniversary gala of the Santa Fe Institute. SFI is a research and education center that promotes multidisciplinary collaborations in the physical, biological, computational, and social sciences with an emphasis on complex systems. I read "science" poetry by Edgar Allen Poe, e.e. cummings, Walt Whitman, Emily Dickinson, A.R. Ammons, Maria Melendez, Joy Harjo, and others. SFI chose the theme of the "road less traveled" for the gala, so I finished the reading with Frost's poem (with the same phrase). I made the point that good poetry is (like SFI) multidisciplinary and complex, emphasizing the coming together of what may seem like "unrelated" ideas and disciplines. I sometimes joke with my students that they need not take any classes but poetry--with poetry they study philosophy, pop culture, psychology, nature, love, death, politics, etc., all at once.

This morning at the Southside Library, I met with 200 grade school students, grades 4-6, with ArtWorks. Artworks (a wonderful Santa Fe-based program) brings community resources together to integrate arts education in elementary classrooms. Poet-Teachers Joan Logghe and Tim McLaughlin had spent the last few weeks working with the young students, sharing some of my poetry and guiding them to write their own. I read and discussed my poems, answered student questions, and got the kids to recite parts of my poems with me. They were terrific, and so is ArtWorks.

These three events remind me of why I love Santa Fe--so much going on, all the time.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Excerpt from Barack Obama's Acceptance Speech, Nov. 4, '08

"So let us summon a new spirit of patriotism; of service and responsibility where each of us resolves to pitch in and work harder and look after not only ourselves, but each other. Let us remember that if this financial crisis taught us anything, it’s that we cannot have a thriving Wall Street while Main Street suffers -– in this country, we rise or fall as one nation; as one people.

Let us resist the temptation to fall back on the same partisanship and pettiness and immaturity that has poisoned our politics for so long. Let us remember that it was a man from this state who first carried the banner of the Republican Party to the White House –- a party founded on the values of self-reliance, individual liberty, and national unity.

Those are values we all share, and while the Democratic Party has won a great victory tonight, we do so with a measure of humility and determination to heal the divides that have held back our progress. As Lincoln said to a nation far more divided than ours, “We are not enemies, but friends…though passion may have strained it must not break our bonds of affection.” And to those Americans whose support I have yet to earn -– I may not have won your vote, but I hear your voices, I need your help, and I will be your president too.

And to all those watching tonight from beyond our shores, from parliaments and palaces to those who are huddled around radios in the forgotten corners of our world –- our stories are singular, but our destiny is shared, and a new dawn of American leadership is at hand.

To those who would tear this world down –- we will defeat you.

To those who seek peace and security -– we support you. And to all those who have wondered if America’s beacon still burns as bright –- tonight we proved once more that the true strength of our nation comes not from our the might of our arms or the scale of our wealth, but from the enduring power of our ideals: democracy, liberty, opportunity, and unyielding hope.

For that is the true genius of America -– that America can change. Our union can be perfected. "

Monday, November 3, 2008

Voting, Polling Places, and Community

Hello All--If you haven't, already, please take the time to vote tomorrow. Standing in long lines can be tedious, even unbearable, but it's also a chance to talk to neighbors and strangers. Long lines to the polls give us a snapshot of our fellow Santa Feans, our community, our city (no matter the party differences). I am often struck by the value of striking up a conversation with someone I don't know and may never see again. Notice what you end up talking about. Notice where your lives intersect. There's a chance for something remarkable (I mean it) there.

Recent and Upcoming Events (or, What A Poet Laureate Does)

Tuesday, 11/18/08
Writing Workshop: The Art of Self-Image (accompanying the exhibition of Georgia O’Keeffe and the Camera; The Art of Identity), Arts & Leadership Program, Georgia O’Keeffe
Museum, 7-9 p.m.

Second Meeting of the Lines and Circles Families (Poet Laureate Community Outreach Project)

Reading/Discussion with ARTworks kids, grades 4-6, 10-11:30 a.m., Southside Library

Letras Latinas Salon, hosted by Francisco Aragon (Director of the Institute for Latino/a Studies, Notre Dame), Santa Fe Art Institute (SFAI), 4 p.m.

Reading: Santa Fe Institute “The Road Less Traveled” Gala Event, 7 p.m. (SFI)

Presentation and Reading: "The Poet in the World: Poetry, Community, and Place," Breakfast with O’Keeffe, 8:30 a.m., Georgia O’Keeffe Museum

Reading: Mayor’s Awards for Excellence in the Arts, Community Convention Center, 6:30 p.m.

Santa Fe Opera Big Read Event, with elders at the Bear Canyon Retirement Community, Albuquerque, 12 noon

First Meeting of the Lines and Circle Families

Reading and Book-Signing: New Mexico Women Authors’ Book Festival, Museum Hill, Santa Fe, 2 p.m.

Reading & Writing Workshop: International Conference on Creative Tourism, Santa Fe

Reading: Phitya Series, Center for Contemporary Arts (CCA), 7:30 p.m.

Panel Presentation: "Integrating Poetry Into Life," STIR: A Festival of Words, Harwood
Arts Center, Albuquerque

Reading: Grand Opening of the new Santa Fe Railyard Complex, 1-3:30 p.m.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Poem Read at the Mayor's Awards Dinner


Late autumn blows leaves into women’s hair. On the plaza,
Lydia feeds the pigeons—iridescent feathers gone blue
in the tangerine sun. It is afternoon and adobe,
crush of pueblo-style hotel rooms against a sky
that holds them steady. Her skirt is wound in ribbons,
gathered in ruffles, wind-flipped velvet, black and silver.

Merrymakers tumble from the doors of La Fonda, blue
windbreakers and cowboy hats. Spun from adobe,
they rush by Lydia like a tornado. A glance at the sky
stuns them, for a moment, then they’re a ribbon
of raucous laughter. Sunlight descends in silver,
travels the metal rain gutters, trimming the plaza

in a membrane of liquid light. Like the gold (not adobe)
the Spaniards thought they saw, coffers as wide as sky
over Seven Cities. Lydia pulls on her coat, pushes on ribbon,
remembers there’s jewelry to be sold, turquoise and silver
flashing like eye-lets along the streets of the plaza.
These days, under the shade of the portal, there’s the blue

of lapis and sapphire, too. All the colors of sky
remind Lydia of dawn, on the mesa, digging. Ribbons
of pale blue embedded in rock and aching for silver.
Now the stone-cold cuff on her wrist jolts her back to the plaza,
the bracelets for show and sell, cupped in the pale blue
of a tourist’s cashmere gloves. Not unlike adobe

cast into bricks and walls, hugging windows ribboned
in Virgin Mary ultramarine. Bells swing and ring the silver-
toned song of the cathedral. It’s a late Mass, the nave a plaza
of bowed heads. Where Lydia prays, the vault is a blue
arc from mountain to mesa, over the endless adobean
earth. Lydia knows it as the one, limitless sky

that cradles everyone from above--the caricaturist, silver-
haired, at his booth, the Mexican girls skipping in the plaza,
the santero wrapping up Saint Agnes in crisp blue
tissue paper. It’s October. The day feels old as adobe,
new as the drugstore’s cursive neon sign (sky-
high and glowing), fluid as the clouds’ unruly ribbons.

My hair is silver, thinks Lydia, the veins in my hands are large
and blue; my legs are earth-bound adobe. This plaza floats
on time’s swirling ribbons. I’m swaddled; I’m half-swallowed in sky.

V. Martinez, copyright 2008

Mayor's Awards for Excellence in the Arts

I was lucky enough to attend the Mayor's Recognition Awards for Excellence in the Arts last Thursday night, October 30, 2008. Congratulations to the following individuals and organizations for their enormous commitment to the city of Santa Fe and its residents:

The Santa Fe Symphony Orchestra and Chorus
Nicolas Steven Flores--Melissa Engestrom Youth Artist
Arlen Asher
Judith Espinar
Juliet Myers

And thanks to the City of Santa Fe Arts Commission and its staff for a wonderful event. In the next post, please see the poem I read at the awards dinner. Thanks for asking.


Friends, forgive the long hiatus, here, since the death of my older sister, Andrea, on September 28th. I haven't been able to write anything for a long time.

My family and I would like to thank the Santa Fe community for its incredible support, kindness, and generosity during this ordeal. It has been overwhelming, and demonstrates the compassion and strength that defines real community. We are nothing without each other.

The Lines and Circles Family Project is moving forward, with a second family meeting on November 16. During this meeting, families will begin to visualize (and even draw) their family pieces and we will compose lists of needs--equipment and materials, supporting artists, etc.--to help families create their pieces in 2009. The exhibition is set for March 2010, at the end of my tenure as Poet Laureate. I am honored to work with these families and looking forward to our years of work, together.