Noted writers discuss Latino and Latina poetry at Vanderbilt symposium

(Arte Público Press)

Vanderbilt University’s Program in Latino and Latina Studies will host its inaugural symposium, “Looking Out, Looking In: Latina/o Poetry,” Thursday, Feb. 13, at the Bishop Joseph Johnson Black Cultural Center.

The symposium will feature two poets, Blas Falconer and Gabriela Jáuregui, and two critics, Nicolás Kanellos and Gustavo Pérez Firmat, who will read from and discuss their work. All four writers are included in the book Looking Out, Looking In: An Anthology of Latino Poetry, edited by Gertrude Conaway Vanderbilt Professor of Spanish William Luis, director of the Program in Latino and Latina Studies.

The morning session will be from 10 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. and the afternoon session is scheduled from 2:30 to 4:30 p.m. Books by the four panelists can be purchased immediately after both sessions at the Bishop Joseph Johnson Black Cultural Center.

The symposium concludes with a 5 p.m. screening of the documentary El Barrio Tours at Sarratt Cinema. The film examines the effects of gentrification on Puerto Rican neighborhoods in East Harlem. El Barrio Tours won Best Documentary Short at the 2012 Puerto Rico International Film Festival and was an official selection at the People’s Film Fest 2013, the San Diego Latino Film Festival 2012 and the 2012 Barrio Film Fest. A discussion with filmmaker Andrew Padilla follows the screening, which is co-sponsored by the International Lens program.

Falconer is the author of The Foundling Wheel and A Question of Gravity and Light. He and Associate Professor of English Lorraine López, associate director of the Program in Latino and Latina Studies, co-edited the anthology The Other Latin@: Writing Against a Singular Identity. Falconer’s awards include a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship, the Maureen Egen Writers Exchange Award from Poets & Writers, a Tennessee Individual Artist grant, the New Delta Review Eyster Prize for Poetry and the Barthelme Fellowship. Falconer earned his doctorate in creative writing and literature from the University of Houston after receiving an M.F.A. from the University of Maryland.

Jáuregui, the author of Controlled Decay, earned a doctorate in comparative literature from the University of Southern California; an M.F.A in Creative Writing from the University of California, Riverside; and a master’s in comparative literature from the University of California, Irvine. Her critical and creative work has been published in journals and anthologies in the United States, Mexico and Europe. She is a founding member of the sur+ publishing collective in Mexico.

Kanellos, the Brown Foundation Professor of Hispanic Studies at the University of Houston, is director of Arte Público Press, the nation’s oldest Hispanic publishing house, and Recovering the U.S. Hispanic Heritage of the United States, a national research program. Kanellos’ latest book, Hispanic Immigrant Literature: El Sueño del Retorno, won the PEN Southwest Award for Non-Fiction. Other honors include the Denali Press Award of the American Library Association, the American Book Award–Publisher/Editor Category, and the Hispanic Heritage Award for Literature presented by the White House. Kanellos, elected to the Spanish American Royal Academy of Literature, Arts and Science, earned his doctorate in Spanish and Portuguese at the University of Texas, where he also received a master’s in romance languages.

Pérez Firmat’s books include Bilingual Blues, The Havana Habit and Next Year in Cuba. His book Life on the Hyphen, a study of Cuban American culture, was awarded the Eugene M. Kayden University Press National Book Award. He has been awarded fellowships from the John Simon Guggenheim Foundation, the National Endowment for the Humanities, the American Council of Learned Societies and the Mellon Foundation. Pérez Firmat, who currently teaches at Columbia University, earned his doctorate in comparative literature at the University of Michigan after receiving a master’s at the University of Miami. He is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.

The Program in Latino and Latina Studies at Vanderbilt, launched earlier this academic year, is a multidisciplinary program that considers the presence of Latinas/os and Hispanics as an integral part of U.S. culture and history. The program seeks to understand the contributions of Latinas/os and how they represent a central pillar for intellectual reflection and cultural production in this nation.

For more information on the symposium, visit the Program in Latino and Latina Studies.