Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Happy New Year!

Here's wishing you and all a most wonderful New Year's Eve goodbye to 2009 and a hopeful January 1st. Most of all, I hope my family is well and safe in 2010 and that those who have suffered most because of the economic downturn will find relief in the new year.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Lines & Circles Book Now Out

The book about the Lines & Circles families project is now out, and available from Amazon and Sunstone Press. Congratulations to the wonderful families who I've been privileged to work with for almost two years. Now, everyone can learn about them.

Here are links to the Amazon and Sunstone sites:


Sunstone Press:

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

As Kingfishers Catch Fire--Please Join Us!

AS KINGFISHERS CATCH FIRE: A Celebration of Poetry by Gerard Manley Hopkins
A Theaterwork Production

Saturday, December 19, 7:30pm
Sunday, December 20, 2:00pm
James A. Little Theater, Santa FE

Tickets: $15.00 general / $10.00 Students

An extraordinary evening of poetry, music and dance created in response to the powerful poems of the English poet whose embrace of the beauty of the world has left a legacy both rich and stirring.

Four dance pieces created in response to poems by Hopkins Audrey Derell, Choreographer Dancers: Julia Purvis, Sachi Royer, Annabel Purvis, Kelsey Currier, Gemma Johnson, Annisah Gianardi, Marisa Graham, Kaitlyn Horpedahl, Rhiannon Johnson, Sonja Dangler, Taylor van Camp, Malia Byrne, Alejandra Nauer, Amanda Schulhoffer, Annie Kohn

Readings of Hopkins followed by new poems, written for the occasion by New Mexico Poets: Valerie Martinez, Jenice Gharib, Donald Levering, Lindsay Ahl, David Markwardt and Joan Logghe

Vocal settings of Hopkins poems, by Benjamin Britten, Ned Rorem, Samuel Barber, Constance Cooper and others performed by an a capella Octet under the direction of Catherine Donavon. Singers: Robert Thorpe, Monica Lee, Leslie Harrington, Barbara Grassia, Julie Trujillo, Michael Alexander, Mark Onstad and Catherine Donavon

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Lines & Circles Press Release

The Lines & Circles Families Project


Beyond the Tri-Cultural Myth: Eleven Local Families Celebrate Contemporary Santa Fe

A new exhibition of art and poetry puts to rest the myth of “tri-Cultural Santa Fe.” The city’s Poet Laureate, Valerie Martínez, and eleven Santa Fe families present mixed-media works of art and poetry that celebrate the breadth of community life in the capital city. The exhibition, entitled Lines and Circles: A Celebration of Santa Fe Families, runs January 15 through March 2010 at the Arts Commission Community Gallery in downtown Santa Fe.

For over a year and a half, Valerie Martínez, Santa Fe Poet Laureate, worked closely with three and more generations of eleven Santa Fe families who created unique family works of art and poetry. The goal of the Lines and Circles project was to nurture and celebrate the Santa Fe community, deepen bonds within and between families, and generate a body of art and poetry that commemorates city life. The family works and poems reflect the family name, family history, or simply the intergenerational collaboration that happened during the project. Participating community members include the Akers Hunt Covelli, Brown, Carmona, Goler Baca, Gottlieb Shapiro Bachman, Ingram, Martínez Ridgley, Ortiz Dinkel Hasted Wilkes, Quintana Gallegos, Salazar and Strongheart families. Over 60 family members, ages 5-90, participated in the project.

The Lines and Circles project was sponsored by the City of Santa Fe Poet Laureate Program and supported by the Lannan Foundation, the Santa Fe Literary Education Endowment at the Santa Fe Community Foundation, the First National Bank of Santa Fe, Littleglobe, Inc., Sunstone Press, and the 400th Commemoration of Santa Fe. A book about the project, published by Sunstone Press, will accompany the exhibition.

Valerie Martínez, the city’s poet laureate and artistic director, says of the project: “While many tout the landscape of Santa Fe as the city’s richest asset, the truth is that the people of Santa Fe, those that are here to stay, are its gold. The Lines and Circles families expand our notion of who we are and why we call this place home. These family works of art and poetry give us a lens through which we learn much more about contemporary Santa Fe—beyond the tri-cultural myth.”

The public is invited to the opening reception of the exhibition, on January 15,

The exhibition includes short films, music, audio oral histories, mixed-media pieces, installations, a four-generation quilt, a children’s book, and more. The following day the families will discuss their art and poetry followed by a feast of traditional family recipes. The city’s ArtWorks program will also sponsor related events and activities with public school students and their families.

Martínez adds: “In addition to creating special works of art and poetry that will stay with them for generations, the participants have come together, even more meaningfully, as families. They have also met, worked with, and become friends with families they didn’t know, across the “invisible lines” that tend to divide us, as city residents. The project has worked to deepen our sense of connection and fellowship in this constantly changing city.”

Lines and Circles: A Celebration of Santa Fe Families
January-March 2010
Santa Fe Arts Commission Community Gallery
Community Convention Center, Downtown Santa Fe

Opening Reception: January 15, 2010
5:30 – 7 p.m.
Free and Open to the Public

Presentation by the Families and Family Recipes Feast
Saturday, January 16, 2010
2-5 p.m.
Free and Open to the Public

For more information, contact:
Valerie Martínez, Santa Fe Poet Laureate
City of Santa Fe

Thursday, December 3, 2009

A Santa Fe Winter Poem


Who hasn’t driven north, up and over La Bajada Hill in dark December, to see the lights of Santa Fe unfurled--colcha, snowflake, electric mosaic? Hasn’t wandered the evening streets just to trace the silhouettes of walkways, houses and hotels, counting farolitos? Hasn’t driven past the Christmas tree lot on Rodeo Road just to get a whiff of fir, pine and spruce through the dashboard heating ducts? Hasn’t heard the downtown sound of cathedral bells muffled in snow wafting in wafers onto wrought iron and woolen elbows? Has not looked up from St. Michael’s Drive to the Sangres to search for the snow-covered horse’s head? And who hasn’t found a kitchen off San Ildefonso Road just to get out of the cold, down a half-dozen biscochitos, or knead the dough for sufganyot? Hasn’t sipped a free cup of homemade cocoa on Christmas Eve, a gift from residents who live along Canyon Road? Has not walked the ice-milked sidewalks of Water Street and found themselves flat on their back then pulled up by some stranger saying, “Whoa, you went down like a ton of adobe bricks!” And who hasn’t left town for the heart-bending dances at Santo Domingo then driven back to mark the little pines on the I-25 median, tinseled by some group of anonymous daredevils? Has not seen a kiva fireplace adorned with advent calendar, Menorah, bear fetish and ceramic Santa Claus? Hasn’t feasted on turkey with piñon and green chile stuffing, red chile mashed potatoes, tortillas on the side? And who hasn’t followed their grandmother lugging a wooden crèche from house to house during las posadas, the holy family looking for a place to stay, setting it down on someone’s porch then driving away? And the dry colds so cold you want to drench them, and the stars so close you want to lick them? He who hasn’t; she who has not, they who never have but are looking for a place to stay on some bone-cold Santa Fe night—-follow me; this is the place; this way is the way.

Valerie Martinez, copyright 2009
This poem will appear in And They Called It Horizon: Santa Fe Poems (Sunstone Press, 2010)

Sunday, November 29, 2009

From Chicago to New Mexico

Paul and I just spent a beautiful week in Chicago and the Chicago suburbs with his family. I love to visit there--the Christkindl German Market on Daley Plaza (drinking mulled wine, eating brats and fresh strudel) followed by the lighting of the Christmas tree with hundreds of Chicagoans. The lights along Michigan Avenue. A sumptuous Thankgiving dinner served up by Theresa and Mike Resnick. Breakfast at Max and Benny's.

Paul came to New Mexico over 24 years ago, as a freshman at UNM, and never left. And he'll never leave. He has lived in New Mexico as many years as I have, regardless of the fact that I was born and raised (to age 18) in Santa Fe. Paul is like so many others; New Mexico is home to them and they feel as fiercely devoted to this place, landscape, and people as those who have been here for generations.

This year, I am thankful for everyone who has made Santa Fe and New Mexico their home and who works hard to improve life for its families, for its elderly, and for those who protect the land and water, here, at every step.

I am also thankful for Paul, my family, my friends, and for all the amazing people who I've been able to work with in my tenure as Poet Laureate, including the Lines and Circles families. I am very lucky and very fortunate.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

A Poem


Long ago, in a class with N. Scott Momaday,
after reading his Way to Rainy Mountain,

considering a blurb on the back cover that read:
“This book nags at the White man’s conscience,”

a twenty-something woman declared,
that she would not and could not feel guilty

for terrible things her ancestors had done
that she had nothing to do with, and hated.

Michelle, a seventh generation New Mexican,
fingers tacos in a booth at Tomasita’s¸ says

"It’s hard to live this way, Hispanic, Latina,
whatever you want to call me, when I do love

our traditions, when mother’s side claims pure
Spanish blood, and knowing Oñate

and the others tore through this land hell-bent
on conversion, ownership, blood on their hands.

Was there no one like me, then, against these ways?"
And Luis, on the La Luz Trail, showing me

hoary cress, wild candytuft, Alpine clover, saying
"Which part of me is Navajo grandmother,

Chicano father, White mother? Feet to femurs,
pelvis to pecs, shoulder blades to the top of my head?

Sometimes, I don’t know where each begins and end;
they rage at each other in my veins. Someday,

I am going to write a letter to each man in me,
in me, Indian, Mexican, White, who never forgets."

Shé éí Valerie yinishyé—I know there is no way
to sever the blood ties that tether me to my ancestors,
to history. They are the same umbilical that roots me
in the land. I grieve for what my Spanish ancestors
wrought as a result of ignorance, greed, want,
and the dictates of far-off governments.
And if they also brought forms of beauty
(here, on the streets of this capital city)
I remember that there are no adequate reparations.
No. I apologize. I realize my obligation to honor
the survivors and their ways as if, one snowy afternoon,
I come upon their cave dwelling, camp, village, pueblo,
a half-woman asking for food, hearth, finished limbs,
and a heart made complete by association.

VM, forthcoming in And They
Called It Horizon
, Sunstone
Press, 2010

Monday, November 2, 2009

SAGE Magazine 20 Women Making a Difference Luncheon

Please join me and nineteen other winners of the SAGE Magazine "Twenty Women Making a Difference" Award for a luncheon this Wednesday, November 4th at 11:30 a.m. at the Sandia Resort in Albuquerque. I am honored to be part of this group of women--their accomplishments are simply wonderful.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Happy Birthday, Mom!

Today is my mother's birthday and I want to honor her for being an incredible inspiration and a wonderful and loving Mom. Happy birthday Exilda Marie Trujillo Martinez! Without her model of hard work, creativity, public and community service, and compassion, I wouldn't be who I am. Love you, Mom!

Recent and Upcoming Readings and Events

November 5, 2009
Authors' Panel: "Creative Voices" at the National Hispanic Leadership Institute, 2-4 p.m. Valerie, Teresa Bevin, Alisa Valdez Rodriquez, Juana Bordas and Dr. Emma Sepulveda, UNM. For more infomration, contact Rosalee Montoya-Read (505) 897-8785
November 4, 2004
Valerie was recently awarded a SAGE Magazine/Albuquerque Journal Award for "Twenty Women Making A Difference." Luncheon to celebrate all twenty award winners, 1:30-1:30, Sandia Resort
October 30, 2009
Reading: Dia de los Muertos Commemoration, National Hispanic Cultural Center Plaza Mayor
October 29, 2009
Mayor's Awards for Excellence in the Arts, 6:30-9:30 p.m. Santa Fe Convention Center
October 22, 2009
Santa Fe High School, Julie Hasted’s English Class and the SFHS Poetry Club. Reading, Writing, and Spoken Word Activities with students.
October 16 & 17, 2009
The Santa Fe Book Arts Group (BAG): Celebration of the Book. Southside Library. Exhibition of Art Books (made by members of BAG), bookmaking and poetry activities with members of BAG and Poet Laureate Valerie
September 26, 2009
Reading: The 2009 National Book Festival, NEA Pavilion, Washington, DC. Other NEA writers/readers included Kay Ryan, U.S. Poet Laureate; Jane Hirshfield, Ed Hirsch, Ana Menendez, Ayar Zafisi, and Tim O’Brien.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Celebration of the Book, Thursday through Saturday, This Week

Hello All--Please join us this Thursday, Friday, and Saturday at the Southside Library (6599 Jaguar Drive) for three days of "Celebration of the Book." School groups will arrive at the library from 10-3 on Thursday and Friday and families and children are invited to the library on Saturday from 10-4 for reading, book-making activities, pop-up card-making, poetry, spoken word, and more. I will lead poetry writing and reciting activities all day on Friday and on Saturday for families and their children. All are invited and there is no charge to participate. Come and celebrate books with us! Valerie

Saturday, September 19, 2009

The Lines & Circles Families Project

Many of you have asked for more information about the Lines & Circles Families project and the January exhibition, so here it is!

Project/Artistic Director: Valerie Martínez, Poet Laureate
A project of the City of Santa Fe Poet Laureate Program/Santa Fe Arts Commission

Opening Reception: Friday, January 15, 2010, 5:30 p.m., free and open to the public. Presentation by Families and Food, Saturday, January 16, free and open to the public.

This project has brought together three generations of eleven Santa Fe families, each to envision and then create a unique family work of art. The works reflect the family name, family history, or simply the intergenerational collaboration that happens during the project. Each work will be accompanied by an original poem authored by each family, by the Poet Laureate with the family, or by the Poet Laureate on the family’s behalf. The finished pieces will constitute an exhibit entitled Lines & Circles: A Celebration of Santa Fe Families to be presented to the city on Friday, January 15, 2010. Over the course of the project, families have also generated family histories, migration maps, lists of family traditions, heirlooms, recipes, old and contemporary photos, and other information that will be featured in a book about the project to be published by Sunstone Press, also in January 2010.

The goal of the Lines and Circles project is to nurture and celebrate the Santa Fe community, encourage positive relationships within and between families, nurture meaningful community dialogue, and generate a body of art and poetry that commemorates city life.

The Lines and Circles families include the Akers Hunt Covelli Family, the Carmona Family, the Goler Baca Family, the Ingram Family, the Jones Brown Family, the Martínez Ridgley Family, the Quintana Gallegos Family, the Ortiz Dinkel Hasted Family, the Salazar Family, the Shapiro Bachman Family, and the Strongheart Family.

About the project, by Poet Laureate Valerie Martínez:

"The families in the Lines and Circles Project are a testament not only to the history of Santa Fe but the promise of days to come. The future, of course, rests upon the beautiful, complex, rich and contentious past of this place, the capital city of New Mexico. All places worth living in, I believe, are complicated. So are their people. While many tout the landscape of Santa Fe as the city’s richest asset, the truth is that the people of Santa Fe, those that are here to stay, are its gold. They know its past and present and they cut, carve, and burnish its future. Their family lines extend into the past (of this place and others) and the circles they trace, day to day in this city, fashion the shimmering design that is the lifeblood of our community... The project has affected all involved. The families will tell you that in addition to creating and preserving an important family work that will stay with them for generations, they have come together, even more meaningfully, as families. We/they also have met, worked with, and become friends with families they didn’t know, across the “invisible lines” that sometimes tend to separate us, as city residents. Together, we have also journeyed into the past, revisiting our own stories, learning the stories of others, telling the collective story of Santa Fe.”

Lines and Circles is supported by the City of Santa Fe, the Lannan Foundation, the Santa Fe Literary Education Endowment at the Santa Fe Community Foundation, the First National Bank of Santa Fe, and Littleglobe, Inc.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Del Sol Quartet, 7:30 Thursday, September 16, Lensic

Nothing to do tomorrow night? The Lensic Performing Arts Center and Littleglobe, in association with SITE Santa Fe and the Center for Contemporary Arts, present the return of the Del Sol String Quartet, one of the most adventurous and accomplished musical ensembles in the country, in concert on Thursday, September 17 at 7:30 p.m. at The Lensic.

In addition to performing key compositions from their central repertoire, the San Francisco-based quartet will showcase works by composer and collaborator Chris Jonas, recipient of this year's United States Artists Fellowship. Chris and I are colleagues at Littleglobe, Inc.

Video and live music from Chris's work in progress, GARDEN, will also be shown as a highlight of the evening. A collaboration between the Del Sol String Quartet and Chris Jonas, GARDEN is a music-driven intermedia performance/installation that uses live music and projected video in performance to explore metaphoric and psychological realms of night.

Tickets are $12-$30 / students ½ price with ID

This will be a wonderful show if you can make it.

Friday, September 4, 2009

VIVA Event, Lines & Circles Families

Join the city of Santa Fe, this weekend (September 5-6), for the opening of the 400 year commemoration of city history. A huge event at Fort Marcy Field, there will be a food pavilion (with chef's demonstrating and serving indigenous and traditional foods of Santa Fe), a kid's pavilion (with all sorts of activities for children), a cultural traditions pavilion, commemorating the history and traditions of the city, concerts and performances, and more.

Eight of eleven Lines and Circles families (see description of the project below) will be there to talk about the generations of their family in Santa Fe and demonstrate their family work of art in progress. Participants are the Akers Hunt Covelli, Carmona, Goler Baca, Martinez Ridgley, Ortiz Dinkel Hasted, Quintana Gallegos, Salazar and Shapiro Bachman families.

The ceremony opening the 400 year commemoration is Sunday afternoon at 4 p.m. The event is free and open to the public.

I'll be there; look for me near the Lines and Circles booths. Hope to see you there, too.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Mark Your Calendars--January 15, 2010

The opening reception for the Lines and Circles: A Celebration of Santa Fe Families project will be Friday, January 15, 2010 at the Santa Fe Arts Commission Community Gallery at the Convention Center in downtown Santa Fe. Mark your calendars for this exhibition--eleven works of art created by three generations of Santa Fe Families. The exhibition is the culmination of a year and a half of artistic collaboration. A book/catalogue will appear with the opening of the show. The exhibition (Friday) and day of presentations and traditional family foods (Saturday) are free and open to the public.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Reading at the National Book Festival, September 26, 2009

I am lucky enough to be reading at the National Book Festival on the Washington DC mall on September 26, 2009 in the wonderful company of U.S. Poet Laureate Kay Ryan, Jane Hirshfield, Tim O'Brien, Azar Nafisi, Ralph Eubanks, and others who will read as part of the NEA Poetry and Prose Pavilion. If you happen to be in DC on that weekend, please join us. For more information, go to

A new Santa Fe poem, for you. This one was written to accompany a mixed-media work, created by three generations of the Martinez Salazar Ridgley family (my own), consisting of mailboxes which hold letters from living family members to our ancestors who've passed. This and 10 other works will premiere at the Lines & Circles Family exhibition on January 15, 2010 at the Community Gallery at the Santa Fe Convention Center.

Letters to Wherever You Are

We write: Dear Diego, Dear Kate,
Dear Matiana, Dear Orrin,

as if paper and ink travel the air
between now and then, here
and wherever you are.

What we did not say, couldn’t,
wished we’d said, now have to—

I want you to know, remember,
it’s clear now, everything you said

flutters across the page.

We imagine a place, a moment,
when these appear in your hands
like strange birds, delicate,
weathered from the trip.

They open their small mouths.

Devotion lasts, and it is sung
in the voices of those of us
who are left behind,
making peace with the incomplete,
inarticulate, half-said.
The past is past and still
we write, fold, send, believe

they arrive in the place
between now and the day
their zig-zag flight mimics
the one we’ll take
when we too disappear.

Once, a nestling fell
from the rafters of the porch
and lay like a missive
on our front step. Its feathers
spread to reveal the thinnest
layer of bird-skin, pulsing
with tiny veins. Too small

to fly, we put it back in the nest,
up high, with five siblings
who knocked it out again.

Once, it opened its mouth as if
to feed, and what came out
was half breath, half sound,
from some world that wished
to take it back and did, later
that day, when its shivering

stilled. We felt culpable.
We had touched it, sullied
the world it fell out of.

These letters feel safe, reach
out to you who we’ve loved
from this tenuous distance—

draw the flight line between us—

honor the fact that we are still
here with our earthly language

written, folded, sent to you
in ink, on paper, on the wind,

wing-like, into the nest of your palms.

Valerie Martinez, copyright 2009

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Ignatius Mabasa, Zimbabwean Poet, in Santa Fe on July 30th

Please join us for a reading by Zimbabwean poet, Ignatius Mabasa, on July 30th at 6 p.m. at the Shelby Street Gallery, downtown Santa Fe. I'll be introducing Ignatius and you will spend a lovely hour hearing his poetry. There should also be a lively discussion afterward; I have many questions for Ignatius myself, about poetry in southern Africa, about life in Zimbabwe, etc.

The gallery will be open at 5 p.m. if you'd like to arrive early and have some refreshments, grab a good seat. Hope to see you there.

Shelby Street Gallery
222 Shelby St.
Santa Fe, NM


Sorry for the hiatus, here. I spent a week in Taos teaching at the Taos Summer Writers Conference (7/12-7/18) and the past week has been a flurry of activity in anticipation of the Wednesday 7/29 vote by the city of Santa Fe councilors on whether the city will acquire the land where the College of Santa Fe now resides. More on that below.

First, I want to say that it was my extreme pleasure to work with three wonderful poets in Taos--Raquel Flowers Rivera, Tina Carlson, and Dorothy Brooks--who brought their poetry manuscripts and worked very hard, all week, getting them ready to submit for publication. I am hoping to see all three mss. in print soon.

And, I do want to stand in favor of the city deal to acquire the land where the College of Santa Fe now stands. The deal will NOT COST RESIDENTS OF SANTA FE ANYTHING, no increase in taxes, no money out of residents' pockets. The deal with Laureate, Inc. (which will take over the administration of College of Santa Fe, thereby saving the college) means that Laureate will pay for the college's outstanding bond debt through its lease of the land from the city of SF. And, best of all, the city acquires the land and can lease it out (to Laureate and others) to generate revenue. It's a win-win deal for the city.

This said, I also spent many hours with Laureate last week, assuring myself (so I can assure you) that they are committed to the Santa Fe community, connecting the "new" College of Santa Fe with local residents, and providing access to education for local and regional post-secondary students. The college will still be pricey (no more than it was before, about 24K a year), still on par with high-quality liberal arts colleges, but scholarships will be available and Laureate is looking at offering in-state students a special fee for tuition. No, it won't be as inexpensive as our state institutions, but the new CSF will be a premiere, international institution for the arts and won't be like any NM state college/university.

I want Santa Feans to know that I asked Laureate many straightforward and hard questions in order to be assured that it's the right thing for the College of Santa Fe, its students, staff, alumnae, and for the community. I believe it is. Please urge your city councilors to vote FOR this deal.

Monday, June 29, 2009

One More Poem


How we know them without seeing:

I am looking down, fingers tight at the weed root,
pulling. The sting of the June sun migrates,
shoulder to shoulder and then, as if laying down
their white palms, a chill starts, each bead of sweat
refrigerates, and I tilt nearly to earth. And I dream

of that summer, of blonde best friend Elizabeth
from Massachusetts who stood at the window
of our little Santa Fe rental spouting ohs, crooning
their multitudinous shapes: battleship, behemoth,
woman giving birth, chess pieces marching across
the western sky. Or the shadow that crawls across

the book I read for hours then sleep to, then wake
in fear, knowing a spider is crawling over my hand
but no, just the shadow of a cloud I don’t have to
turn to, relieved. Or I am standing in the kitchen

and evening descends in the middle of the day
like a whale-bird, an unexpected lunar eclipse
till it moves on and the sun cocks its head
toward the world again. And I don’t have to see,

and it is enough to watch them in the mind--fat,
white, mansion-like, cut-out against the wide
New Mexico blue, tumbling over the Sangres

in the summer afternoons, in droves, like they have
for millions of years and will, sometimes with rain,
sometimes swift, sometimes just floating pure
pleasure into the sightless hearts of children.

Valerie Martinez
copyright 2009

Friday, May 29, 2009

Another Santa Fe Poem

for Andrea Martínez

The old one, buttoned up, wind hard at his back.
The old one, pushed forward on his staff.

I wake up

from some fog, bent sun,
hypnotic drone of the car engine

to the Easter pilgrims, everywhere, on the shoulder.
Still a week out, on foot, a hundred miles
from the Santuario de Chimayo.

Because you are gone, my sister, the pilgrimage—

this one, each spring,
the Haj, even the pagan
cure-for-cancer pledge run

unlocks it.

What is my church, Old Man with a staff?
How do you know yours? Believe?

Because I cannot, six months after your death,
feel you near me, I want to join the severest ones,
on their bloody knees.

Theirs is a certainty, yes, and I have gone the other way.

The rain starts, here, on the interstate.
The man, now far behind, is pelted with raindrops,

honed by wind.

He walks on.

I do not know where you are, for sure, though I am given
certain definite options, by those who do:

absolutely nothing.

I have chosen, instead, the hush and no
of unknowingness
and the images I give it—

black hole, mountain fog,
windstorm, river mud.

Things we can’t see through.

Your way, Old Man, sings of some old
certainty, deep in the belly.
I remember it, recognize it again
from our childhood days, Sweet Sister.

It is sharp, sacrificial, the vertiginous certitude
of these teenagers, old couples, men
with their spare boots slung over their backs.

They are dizzying, yes. Their beauty,
this clarity--it slays me.

Valerie Martinez
copyright 2009

Sunday, May 24, 2009

National Latino/a Writers Conference

Hello All--

The days and weeks fly by. Thursday through Saturday of last week I was lucky enough to be on the faculty of the National Latino Writers Conference in Albuquerque. I led workshops on "The Art of Identity: Writing the Self" and "Writing the Unpredictable Poem" as well as worked with several writers in individual conferences. This is a small, intimate conference which allowed for much individual time with participants, one of the weekend's best features. They limit participants to 50, keeping the conference small and intensive. Thanks to everyone at the NHCC--organizers and staff--for a really good three days.

Coming up, the Taos Summer Writers Conference in July. This is another smaller, intimate conference. It is wonderfully friendly, rigorous while being very friendly, with a terrific "bookstore." If you've got time to travel in July, check it out online.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Hoping to Publish Your Manuscript of Poetry?

If you have a manuscript of poetry you are hoping to publish, please join me for a poetry master class at the Taos Summer Writers Conference in July. For more information, go to:

Here's a description of the week-long workshop:

Poetry – Valerie Martínez . This weeklong master class is an intensive workshop for advanced poets with a book-length manuscript. During the week, we’ll undertake the exciting and challenging process of readying the manuscript for possible publication. To do this, the class (limited to six poets) will focus on holistic issues: the overall concerns of the collections, the general quality of the work, the arrangement and progression of poems, beginnings and endings, etc. As a group, we’ll also address the strongest and weakest poems in the collection, providing guidance for major and minor changes. And, if necessary, we’ll undertake creative exercises that allow each poet to see her/his manuscript with a fresh perspective. The class will include workshop sessions and individual conferences. Manuscripts must be no more than 60 pages, single-spaced. Participants are strongly encouraged to bring five additional poems that can serve as additions or replacements. Hard copies of manuscripts must be mailed to Valerie and other participants ahead of time, postmarked on or before June 12, 2009.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Recent Readings, Events, and Appearances

I've been keeping a fairly busy schedule, so far, this late winter/early spring, especially in support of high school poets and poetry programs, in celebration of Women & Creativity Month, and promoting further dialogue about important movements in contemporary American poetry.

  • 4/18/09 : Arts Alliance Bravos Award Dinner in support of the NHCC’s Voces Youth Program, serving New Mexico high school students, 6 p.m., Albuquerque.
  • 4/16/09: Poetry Jam 2009, celebrating New Mexico CultureNet's Poets in the Schools (PITS) program
  • 4/4/09: Spoken Word National High School Qualifying Competition (Judge). Santa Fe Indian School. 7 p.m.
  • 3/27/09: Ekphrastic Performance (with Maureen Seaton, Valerie Martinez, and Jasmine Cuffee) in response to sheri crider’s installation: Capitalism: Fueled by Envy and Greed. SCA Contemporary Art, Albuquerque, 7 p.m. Women & Creativity Month, 2009.
  • 3/22/09: Meeting of the Lines and Circles Project Families. 2 p.m. O’Shaughnessy Performing Space, College of Santa Fe
  • 3/15/09: SALVE: Women on War and Warriorship—Spoken Word & Music performance based on interviews with women war veterans, in celebration of Women and Creativity Month, 2009. Littleglobe. New Mexico Veterans War Memorial, Albuquerque, 2 p.m.
  • 3/14/09: SALVE: Women on War and Warriorship—Spoken Word & Music performance based on interviews with women war veterans, in celebration of Women & Creativity Month, 2009. Littleglobe. O’Shaughnessy Performance Space, College of Santa Fe.
  • 3/3/09: Dear Eve, Lilith, and Emily… Reading with Dana Levin, Valerie Martínez and Robin Romm in celebration of Women & Creativity Month. 12:30 p.m., College of Santa Fe.
  • 2/14/09: Panel--Associated Writing Programs Annual Conference, Chicago: “Women Poets on Mentorship: Efforts and Affections”'
  • 2/14/09: 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, and Michelle Holland
  • 2/8/09: Poetry Out Loud National Recitation Contest—New Mexico State High School Competition Finals, 2009 (judge), 1 p.m., St. Francis Auditorium

Monday, April 13, 2009

Please Join Us for Poetry Jam 2009

This Thursday, please join us a for celebration of youth poetry and New Mexico poetry sponsored by New Mexico CultureNet, which promotes poetry in the schools (PITS), one of the rare non-profit sponsored school poetry programs in New Mexico. Many young poets and New Mexico poets, music, and entertainment. It's great fun and a way to show support for poetry programs in our public schools.

Event: New Mexico CultureNet presents Poetry Jam ’09: "a celebration of poetry and culture"
What: Readings and Performances
Host: New Mexico Culturenet
Day/Time: Thursday, April 16, 2009 at 7:00 p.m.
Where: Lensic Performing Arts Center - Santa Fe
$5 for Teachers and Students, $10 for other adults

Monday, April 6, 2009

Quartocentenario Celebration of Santa Fe

The end of March 2009 marks the beginning of a two-year commemoration of 400 years of the city of Santa Fe, originally established by the Spanish as the "villa" of Santa Fe. Of course, as we now know, with the discovery of indigenous artifacts beneath the old Sweeney Center and in the renovation of the Palace of the Governors, Santa Fe was home to indigenous peoples before it was declared a villa by the Spanish. So, commemorations and anniversaries are complicated. How do we now celebrate "400 years"? As 400 years of Spanish and then U.S. occupancy/residency/occupation IN ADDITION to occupancy by native peoples? With my own Hispanic and native ancestry, I discover, in this discussion, the inadequacy of language to keep from overvaluing or undervaluing one or the other of "Santa Fe's" peoples. Tomorrow morning, I'll meetwith Stephen Lentz from the New Mexico Office of Archaelogical Studies to learn the latest about those indigenous artifacts, "under" the contemporary city of Santa Fe and will report back here. For now, I want to acknowledge our 400th celebration (the city has invited President Obama to quartocentenario event in September) while engaging us in a dialogue about the complicated history of our beautiful city. Nothing good is ever simple; Santa Fe and its history is rich and messy. Most things worth something are.

Monday, March 23, 2009

You Are Invited

Friends and Visitors—

If you’re free this week, Wednesday or Friday evening, you are invited to the following special events.

1. The College of Santa Fe in partnership with the National Hispanic Cultural Center (Women & Creativity 2009) and Recursos de Santa Fe present Valerie Martínez, Santa Fe Poet Laureate, reading her new book-length poem, Each and Her, on Wednesday, March 25, 2009 at 7 p.m. at the Southwest Literary Center/Recursos on 826 Camino de Monte Rey, Santa Fe. The reading is free and open to the public.

Each and Her is a book-length, collage poem that addresses (among other things) the murders of over four hundred women in Juarez, Mexico since 1993. At the same time, the poem engages with works of contemporary Mexican poets, photographers, and painters; American theologians; Latin American and Chicano writers; Martinez’s memories of traveling to Juarez as a young girl, as well as facts about the maquiladora industry and the cultivation of roses. It is a wide-ranging poem which has, as its central impulse, a reckoning with femicide in its relation to memory, geography, economics, literature, and religion. Sections of the manuscript recently appeared in the American Poetry Review, Mandorla, and Breach Press and will appear in the anthology JUNTA: Contemporary Writing of the Latino/a Avant-Garde (University of Notre Dame Press, 2010). University of Arizona Press will publish Each and Her in 2010.

Martínez is the author of three books of poetry, one book of translations (of Uruguay’s Delmira Agustini), and Reinventing the Enemy’s Language, the most comprehensive anthology of contemporary native women’s writing to date. She is on the faculty of the Dept. of Creative Writing & Literature at the College of Santa Fe and Santa Fe Poet Laureate for 2008-2010.

Contact Recursos/SW Literary Center at: 505-982-9301. To get there, turn south on Camino de Monte Sol which is off St. Francis Drive between St. Michael's and Alta Vista.

2. SCA Contemporary Art, in partnership with the National Hispanic Cultural Center (Women & Creativity Month, 2009), will present an Ekphrastic performance entitled “Capitalism: Fueled by Envy and Greed” on Friday, March 27, 2009 at 8:00 p.m. at SCA Contemporary Art, 524 Haines NW, in Albuquerque. The performance, by poets and spoken word artists Valerie Martínez, Maureen Seaton, and Jasmine Cuffee, is a response to sheri crider’s installation, of the same name, which includes a scale replica of a section of a 1946 Albuquerque home constructed with materials (destined for landfills) culled from local construction sites. The performance is free and open to the public.

Ekphrasis is the dramatic representation of a visual work of art and describes a long tradition of poets responding to art and architecture. The word comes from the Greek ek and phrasis, 'out' and 'speak' respectively--to proclaim or call an inanimate object by name. Crider’s “Capitalism: Fueled by Envy and Greed” examines issues of affluence, land usage, waste, and consumption in relation to our notions of “house” and “home.” Large Gouache paintings depict dramatic alterations of the landscape as a result of residential construction. “Footprint 1946,” the largest piece in the exhibition, is a section of a house frame constructed with materials and household items (some commercial, some very personal) that crider has salvaged from Albuquerque construction sites and sign shops over the last two years.

Valerie Martínez is the current Santa Fe Poet Laureate, on the faculty of College of Santa Fe, and Co-Artistic Director of Littleglobe, Inc., an artist-run non-profit that collaborates with communities on art and community dialogue projects. Maureen Seaton is the author of thirteen books, both solo and collaborative, including Sex Talks to Girls (a memoir) and Cave of the Yellow Volkwagen (poetry). Jasmine Cuffee is co- founder of the “Duke City Youth Poetry Collective,” a member of the award-winning 2004 Albuquerque poetry slam team and 2007-2008 Individual City Slam Champion.

SCA is dedicated to facilitating space for experimental, innovative and contemporary art, presenting exhibitions by emerging and established, local, national and international artists working with large scale sculpture, painting, print, drawing, photography, installation, sound and video art.

For more information, contact SCA Contemporary Art at (505) 228-3749

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

The College of Santa Fe, and More

Hello, and sorry for the hiatus. So much to report about and comment on--it's been a very tumultuous month. Of course, in the forefront of my mind is the impending closing of the College of Santa Fe, where I have been a full time faculty member since 2003. As you may know, the college has declared a financial emergency and faculty and staff received letters telling us that the college will close on May 15th. In addition, staff members have been reduced to 3/4 time at 3/4 salary. Faculty members' salaries have been cut anywhere from 12% to 70%, perhaps more. In the meantime, Representative Luciano Varela has introduced House Bill 577 in the New Mexico Legislature which would approve state acquisition of the college. Though the bill has made it through the House and is winding its way through Senate Committees, there is no guarantee, in this economic climate, that the Senate will approve it.

These are hard times on campus, with student, faculty, and staff morale low. Each student must plan a new future, and graduating seniors have one enormous cloud hanging over their commencement. Even so, the CSF community (including some amazing groups of students) have organized very, very effectively to lobby for the bill at the legislature. We receive email and text message alerts; the college provides van service to the Roundhouse from campus; hundreds of email messages, letters and phone calls have been send to legislators.

Below is one of the versions of the letter I have sent to legislators, with which I'll end this entry. If you'd like to support the CSF effort, please contact your New Mexico legislators to urge them to save CSF for all the reasons I explain below. Thank you.

March 5, 2009

Dear Members of the Senate Education Committee:

I write to urge you to argue passionately for state acquisition of the College of Santa Fe. My parents are alumnae (1956 and 1972) of the college and I am Associate Prof. of English & Creative Writing at CSF. In addition, I am currently the Poet Laureate of the city of Santa Fe and CSF has enthusiastically supported my work as the city’s poet.

This is my sixth year on the faculty of the College of Santa Fe. My department, the Creative Writing and Literature Program, is consistently ranked as one of the top three undergraduate writing programs in the U.S. Often, we are ranked first because of our rigorous paradigm and the successful performance of our graduating majors in the working and writing worlds. Our department is also distinctive because of our faculty—five award-winning, nationally recognized writers who are actively publishing. This is rare for an undergraduate creative writing program.

My father and mother, both graduates of CSF, devoted a total of 55 years as teachers in the Santa Fe Public Schools. They were accomplished teachers and coaches for SFPS and are currently engaged in a wide range of community service programs. In their footsteps, I have also undertaken a career in teaching and also (as Poet Laureate and Artistic Director of the non-profit Littleglobe, Inc.) have dedicated myself to art and public service.

The seeds for our careers and lives were either sparked, supported and/or nurtured by the College of Santa Fe, its staff, administration and faculty. And there are hundreds of us (as you know) who have been thus influenced by the college.

I know the acquisition may seem like a matter of money in a dire economic climate. But it is much more. The state has a unique opportunity to acquire a college campus in the middle of the city of Santa Fe—no small matter if only considering the real estate. Much more importantly, the state has the opportunity to create and promote a state educational institution with distinct possibilities for being a nationally ranked arts and liberal arts school. When the economic crisis passes, this will have seemed like an incredibly visionary and wise decision.


Valerie Martínez
Associate Prof. of English & Creative Writing, CSF
Santa Fe Poet Laureate

Monday, February 16, 2009

Lines & Circles Project

To your left, see a photo of the Quintana/Gallegos family working on their family piece for the Lines and Circles project. The exhibition of family "works," created by three generations of 13 Santa Fe families, will premiere in Santa Fe in early 2010. The Quintana/Gallegos family is finishing a quilt begun by their (now passed) mother, grandmother, and great grandmother.

AWP Conference in Chicago

Hello All--

Just returned from the AWP (Associated Writing Programs) Conference in Chicago where I moderated the Sibling Rivalries Panel (see description in last blog). The room was packed, with a standing room only crowd. My fellow panelists: Danny Solis, Jill Battson, and Jasmine Cuffee, were terrific and we were able to begin a very crucial dialogue about the situation of contemporary American poetry and the tensions between the academic/literary and spoken word/slam communities. Panelists and audience members talked about issues of inclusiveness, exclusiveness, rigor, audience, race, and socio-economics , pushing the discussion past the usual platititudes. Clearly, the popularity of the session and the brimming discussion (we had to cut people off at the end, having run out of time) signals the necessity of engaging in this important dialogue further. Many audience members asked us to return, next year, to continue the discussion. Thanks to Danny, Jill, and Jasmine for a great session.

Also, the animated version of my poem, "Bowl," premiered at the conference, with the other animated poems in the second series of Poetry Everwhere (PBS/UWM/Poetry Foundation). Check it out on YouTube!

Monday, January 26, 2009

Literary, Spoken Word, Slam and Public Poetry

I have been thinking a lot, these days, about literary, spoken word, slam and public poetry. Next month, in Chicago, I'm chairing a panel at the Associated Writing Programs (AWP) conference. Its title is "Sibling Rivalries: Written and Spoken Word Poetry and the Literary Tug-of-War." I share the panel with Danny Solis, Thomas Sayers Ellis, Jill Battson, Shelle Sanchez, and Jasmine Cuffee. As writers and teachers, we represent a broad range of poetry and poetics and will talk about whether the seemingly deep divides between American poetry "camps" are real, imagined, necessary, divisive, etc. This issue is important to me because, as a teacher (and as Poet Laureate), I work with adults, college students, high school students, middle schools students, and younger writers. I have known dozens of high school students drawn to poetry because of spoken word/slam groups and projects. I have met quieter "non-performing" high school poets who feel alienated by the "popularity" of slam poetry. I have met literary poets who embrace the best of the spoken word/slam movement. I have talked to literary poets who have nothing but disdain for spoken word/slam poetry.

This presents a dilemma as I feel responsible to every writer I encounter/teach; I want to bring each to a deeper love for poetry any way I can. This means that I must embrace the range of American poetries as much as possible. I have a simple policy, then--to remind myself that no kind of poetry is exclusively good or bad. There is some pretty bad haiku out there. Ditto for slam poetry. Ditto for "literary" and experimental poetry. On the other hand, I've read, heard, or experienced wonderful, meaningful poetry of every kind, And I believe that good writers can come from any one of these "movements" or camps.

It's true--there are standards for different kinds of poetry that belong to that "style." I accept the fact that slam poetry must be "a performance." And, it should be good. This doesn't apply, really, to a literary reading (though good readers are appreciated). But I do hold both kinds of poetry to the same, higher standard (here's where my bias shows)--both kinds of poems must be exciting on the level of language and both kinds of poems must be layered and thematically complex. That's all.

Stay tuned for thoughts on public poetry and occasional poetry (like inauguration poems)--an issue I'm navigating right now as Santa Fe Poet Laureate.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009



The child removes the brass plate,
the harness around her ears.
The play is done. Her part,
scribbles on index cards, scattered
on the wooden, back stage floor.
Round makeup mirrors
with their white bulbs,
halo after halo, blowing out.

Circlet of gold, thousand-petaled
lotus at the head, light rounding
the dark curls of the sage
who rolls her lips and tongue
into the trees.

Despite the sheet, the plastic amulet,
she did feel something surge up
playing Aura of Rome—
through femur, belly and skull.
Will she know? Whether legend,
earth aspiring, tug of sun—
these magnets of heaven.

Valerie Martinez, from World to World, University of Arizona Press, 2004.