By David López
When I first heard of the passing of Francisco X. Alarcón in January 2016, I sat to gather my thoughts. I was as shocked as anyone else who admired him and his work, but I could not grapple with the idea that the Chicanx literary world had lost a legend. A great soul who helped revolutionize the writing movimiento with other greats such as Gloria E. Anzaldúa, Lorna Dee Cervantes, our current United States Poet Laureate, Juan Felipe Herrera…and the list goes on! Alarcón, un maestro, in more ways than one, who gifted the world not only his words, but his emotions through his art.
Alarcón wrote resounding poems such as from “Of Dark Love, Prayer,” and “'Mexican' is Not a Noun” all part of his repertoire of inspiring and evocative poetry. An openly gay writer whose work wakes the senses and that reminds us that the power of palabra is therapy, ideas, and resistance. He was/is a writer who I look to for guidance and comfort. As a queer writer of color, I aspire to have even a fragment of the impact that Alarcón has left on this earth and in my daily work as a librarian I honor writers who are deserving of eternal recognition, the unsung heroes who challenge our thoughts, but warm them beyond belief.
In 2009, when I was working as a school librarian in SanTana, I incorporated Alarcón’s poetry books for children, Laughing Tomatoes, Iguanas in the Snow, From the Bellybutton of the Moon, Angels Ride Bicycles, and Poems to Dream Together into our school’s collection in order to introduce my dual immersion students to someone I didn’t even learn about until I was in an MFA program in 2008. I got the kids to enthusiastically call out and reach for his books when I read one of his poems. Their smiles made me smile and I always knew Alarcón’s words meant something, for everyone, across generations.
In 2010, my poetry was accepted by Kórima Press for their forthcoming Joto: An Anthology of Queer Xicano & Chicano Poetry (If you know anything about when this is set to publish, let me know!) and I was ecstatic to discover that I would be a featured poet in the same pages as Francisco X. Alarcón. To know that I was on my journey as a writer and to be in the company of greatness was a huge confidence boost.
Immediately following Arizona’s SB 1070 in 2010, it was through Alarcón that I discovered Poets Responding to SB 1070, a Facebook page calling for poems as an action against the targeting of immigrants and racial profiling. Through the submission process, I experienced hundreds of voices retaliating through written word and I familiarized myself with other poets such as Odilia Galván Rodríguez, Abel Salas, Sara Browning, and Edward Vidaurre, all who joined Alarcón on the quest for justice. It was Alarcón’s poem “Para Los Nueve del Capitolio/ For the Capitol Nine” that ignited this call against intolerance.
Poets Responding to SB 1070 became an international movimiento that soon began to symbolize the human experience and unearthed beautiful stories from poets pushing back on injustice. From this incredible effort came Poetry of Resistance: Voices for Social Justice ,an anthology which includes over eighty writers in their response to SB 1070 and addressing a wide variety of themes, including racial profiling, xenophobia, cultural misunderstanding, violence against refugees, and shared identity among others. Co-edited by Francisco X. Alarcón and Odilia Galván Rodríguez, with a forward by Juan Felipe Herrera, Poetry of Resistance is an anthology representative of the current socio-political unrest in this country.
The anthology, one of Alarcón’s last works, was published after his death. Due to his untimely transition, Poetry of Resistance now signifies a pinnacle in Alarcóns viaje poético. The anthology is a testament to a lifetime of ground-breaking writing that is even more necessary now, than ever before.
One of the greatest regrets in my life and in my career as a writer/librarian is that I never met Francisco X. Alarcón. We exchanged communication electronically, but I never experienced his readings or from his wisdom face to face. I never got to thank him for being a pillar, not on in the writer’s community, but in this complex world we navigate as queer folks of color.
On October 27th SanTana will have the pleasure of welcoming Odilia Galván Rodríguez and Javier Pinzón for a special workshop and reading, “Poetry of Resistance: A Tribute to Francisco X. Alarcón,” at Grand Central Art Center. Galván Rodríguez is a poet, writer, editor, social justice activist, and author of six volumes of poetry and Pinzón is a poet and Alarcón’s partner of over 25 years. Both writers will be accompanied by a Flor y Canto hosted by local poets Iuri M. Lara, Jesus Cortez, Marilynn Montaño, and yours truly. This tribute to the anthology and the life and work Alarcón is hosted by LibroMobile and Sarah Rafael García, artist-in-residence at Grand Central Art Center.
To be a part of “Poetry of Resistance: A Tribute to Francisco X. Alarcón” is a humbling opportunity to pay homage to someone who has inspired me to write about my own struggles seeking identity, voz, and place in this world. I also look forward to sharing the space with two souls who were so intimately connected to Alarcón as well as my peers and fellow writers who have all been molded by our community. Francisco, in this moment, in our own way, I feel we will finally meet and with this we all thank you.
Poetry of Resistance: A Tribute to Francisco X. Alarcón
Thursday, October 27, 2016
6:30pm-7:30pm / Poetry Workshop
7:30pm-8:30pm / Reading & Signing
Grand Central Art Center
125 N. Broadway
Santa Ana, CA 92701
David López is a community writer and award-winning librarian from Santa Ana. He is the co-creator/editor of The Brillantina Project, a forthcoming poetry anthology in response to the tragedy at Pulse Nightclub in Orlando, FL. His work has appeared in Brooklyn & Boyle, The Orange County Register, and La Bloga among others.