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The OCHO book series, a print companion to MiPOesias, presents an assemblage of writing curated by various guest editors. This series has become one of the most dynamic and conscientious publishing models active today as every issue gives us a different perspective on the diversity of contemporary poetry.
OCHO #15, guest edited by Francisco Aragón, contains poetry by 15 Latino/a writers who haven’t yet published first books. This issue can be read as expanding the borders of Aragón’s recent anthology The Wind Shifts: New Latino Writing (U of Arizona Press, 2007), in which he gathered 25 Latino/a poets who had only one book in print and were under 40 years old at the time. In the preface to The Wind Shifts, Aragón expressed how he hoped the anthology would be “but the first gesture.” OCHO #15 is but another gesture. In the Introduction, Aragón writes:
[o]n the heels of editing The Wind Shifts: New Latino Poetry, I wanted to seek out voices beyond this University of Arizona Press anthology, as well as poets who hadn’t published with Momotombo Press, nor those slated to appear in Canto Cosas, the poetry book series I’m editing for Bilingual Press. In short, I wanted to move beyond pre-established comfort zones, but at the same time test my hypothesis that there’s overlooked terrain where new Latino poetry is concerned, even among those of us with a stated interest in Latino literature. I decided, therefore, that I’d try and gather poets without a book. (5)
Although this issue stands alone on its own merits, I highly recommend reading OCHO #15 together with The Wind Shifts — two required texts for anyone interested in new Latino/a poetry.
There’s so much talk about “Numbers Trouble” in contemporary publishing that it seems no one can mention a journal, anthology, or press without counting the male to female ratio. I have no problem with this because I do hope this public scrutiny will increase the conscientiousness of editors. Unlike many editors, Aragón isn’t afraid to be counted: of the 25 poets in The Wind Shifts, 12 are women and 13 are men; of the 15 poets in OCHO #15, 8 are women and 7 are men.
In The Wind Shifts, Aragón argues that the new Latino/a poetry has widened the subject matter and aesthetics of the “principal lineage” of Latino poetry, which emerged from social, political, and familial concerns through narrative and lyric forms. I would argue that the same is true for the poets in OCHO #15 to varying degrees. While many of the poets illustrate the power of narratives about family and society, other poets express the vibrant possibilities of experimental narration. While some poets explore the depths of imagery, other poets explode the edges and angles of any given image. While some poets write in perfectly pitched English, others compose in Spanish or a weaving of both languages.
OCHO #15, along with The Wind Shifts, is an essential prism of new Latino/a poetry. What’s particulary exciting about OCHO #15 is that all these writers may soon have first books! Poets included: Lisa Alvarado, Oscar Bermeo, Xochiquetzal Candelaria, Diana Marie Delgado, Jose B. Gonzalez, Octavio R. Gonzalez, Raina J. Leon, Elena minor, John Murillo, Kristin Naca, Emily Pérez, Ruben Quesada, Peter Ramos, Carmen Gimenez Smith, and Rich Villar.
Craig Santos Perez is the co-founder of Achiote Press and author of several chapbooks, including constellations gathered along the ecliptic (Shadowbox Press, 2007), all with ocean views (Overhere Press, 2007), and preterrain (Corollary Press). His book from unincorporated territory is forthcoming from Tinfish in 2008. His poetry, essays, fiction, reviews, and translations have appeared (or are forthcoming) in New American Writing, Pleiades, The Denver Quarterly, Jacket, Sentence, and Rain Taxi, among others.