Author of The Last Prince of the Mexican Empire, etc.

C.M. Mayo < For Writers < Resources <

¡Viva La Vida Literaria!
By C.M. Mayo
Resources in the Washington DC Area
for Spanish Language Writers & Translators

An abbreviated version of this article was published in
 The Writers' Center Writers' Carousel, Nov-Dec 2004 as "Found in Translation"

Washington is rich indeed. On a single day this past September, I had a choice of three outstanding Spanish language literary events: Ilán Stavans presenting his book on "Spanglish" at the Library of Congress Hispanic Division; a centennial celebration of the poetry of Pablo Neruda at American University; and a reading of a new Spanish language novel at the Instituto de México. Washington's Spanish literary scene is, as McLean, Virginia-based poet Luis Alberto Ambroggio says, "vibrant, and it's growing." Many of the premier Spanish language literary venues are in embassies and universities. The Library of Congress's Hispanic Division, and university and public libraries have long been sources of books and magazines in Spanish, and many offer book presentations, lectures, and readings. But in just the last few years, there has been an explosion of independent readings series, institutions, groups, and even bookstores specializing in Spanish and literary translation from Spanish. Here is a sampling of some of the best and most active in the area.


Jiménez-Porter Writers' House
Named in honor of novelist and short story writer Katherine Anne Porter and Nobel Prize-winning Spanish poet Juan Ramón Jiménez, the Jiménez-Porter House is the University of Maryland's center for the study of creative writing across cultures and languages. Its reading series has included Forrest Gander, a poet and translator of Mexican poetry, and Mónica de la Torre, a Mexican poet and co-editor of the anthology Reversible Monuments: Contemporary Poetry. This November 11 at 7 p.m. Lee Gutkind and C.M. Mayo will present the "Mexican Voices" special issue of Creative Nonfiction. All events are free and open to the public. 0111 Dorchester Hall, Building 064, University of Maryland, College Park, MD. For more information call (301) 405-0675 or visit http://www.writershouse.umd.edu

Iberoamerican Cultural Foundation
Founded by Alexandria, Virginia-based Argentinian poet and Spanish professor Gladys Ilauregui, the Iberoamerican Cultural Foundation plans to offer a fall calendar of tertulias, which she describes as "a forum for Spanish writers in the area to present their work and get in touch with the public." Recent events have included a talk by Spanish language poet Nela Rio about the 15th century poet Leonor de Ovando, and a conference on literary translation with Margaret Sayers Peden, Jen Hofer, and Michael Miller, among others. For more information, contact Gladys Ilarregui at gladys@udel.edu

Instituto de México (Mexican Cultural Institute)
Housed in a historic mansion featuring stunning murals, this cultural arm of the Mexican Embassy offers both Spanish and English-language book presentations, readings, panel discussions, movies, concerts, painting exhibits and more, all focusing on Mexico and/or Mexican artists and writers. Recent events have included the bilingual presentation and reading of Tameme, the bilingual journal; a bilingual poetry reading with Mexican poets José Emilio Pacheco, Pura López Colomé, and Tedi López Mills. Fall events will include the presentation of Creative Nonfiction's special issue, "Mexican Voices." Events are free and open to the public. Note: parking is available. 2829 16th St NW, Washington DC 2009. For more information and to request a free subscription to the calendar of events, call (202) 232-8674 ext. 8 http://portal.sre.gob.mx/imw/

*Fun fact: One of the murals includes a portrait of novelist Carlos Fuentes as a child wearing overalls. It was painted when his father was ambassador to the U.S. Look for it as you come up the grand staircase.

Inter-American Development Bank Cultural Center
In the past the IDB Cultural Center has presented Carlos Fuentes, Mario Vargas Llosa, José Saramago, and Ariel Dorfman, among many other outstanding writers from the Americas. Program Coordinator Anne Vena notes that "one of the most important and interesting resources we have to offer is in our web pages: The published remarks in Spanish of over 44 speakers who have been presented in the series since 1993." Events are free and open to the public. 1300 New York Ave NW, Washington DC 20577 (Located one block from Metro Center, 13th Street exit.) For more information call (202) 623-3558 or visit http://www.iadb.org/cultural/eventlist.html

Library of Congress Hispanic Division
Literary lectures and readings by Spanish language writers and poets are often scheduled. Thomas Jefferson Building, 10 First St SE, Washington DC. For more information call (202) 707-5400 or visit http://www.loc.gov/rr/hispanic/events.html

The Martin Luther King Jr Memorial Library and the Mt Pleasant Neighborhood Library (DC Public Libraries)
A new series of bilingual (Spanish-English) book discussions featuring local Latino authors at the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial Library, and at the Mt. Pleasant Neighborhood Library (see below, "Punto Viva") from October 19 through December 14, 2004. The series, "Exploring Latino Authors" features 13 book authors and poets from the Washington metropolitan area, and book displays highlighting more than 200 books written by Latino authors who live in the United States. The Exploring Latino Author series is funded by a grant from the D.C. Public Library Foundation. All events are free and open to the public.
November 3, 2004, at 6:30 p.m. at the Martin Luther King Jr Memorial Library: Poets Luis Alberto Ambroggio from Argentina, Naomi Ayala from Puerto Rico, Rei Berroa from the Dominican Republic, Robert L. Girón, from the United States, Consuelo Hernßndez from Colombia, and Gladys Ilarregui from Argentina, will read their poems in a program moderated by Mario Marcel from Argentina. This is a bilingual program, in English Spanish.
November 16, 2004, at 6:30 p.m., at the Mt. Pleasant Neighborhood Library: Ecuadorian writer Carlos Chiriboga, author of Memorias de Quito en el siglo XX, and Argentinean writer Julio César Mosches, author of M. y el angel. This program is in Spanish with an English language interpretation.
November 17, 2004, at 6:30 p.m., at the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial Library: American writer Patrick Sanchez, will discuss his book The Way It Is. This program is in English with Spanish language interpretation.
December 14, 2004, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., at the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial Library: Young People's Poetry Marathon in Spanish. (See "Teatro de la Luna" listing, below)
In addition to the books listed above, the public is also welcome to read more than 200 fiction books by Latino writers living in the United States. The books in English are on display in the Popular Library Division at the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial Library, and the books in Spanish are on view at the Mt. Pleasant Neighborhood Library.
All D.C. Public Library programs are free and open to the public. Martin Luther King Jr Memorial Library, 901 G Street, N.W., Washington, D.C. 20001. For more information, call (202) 727-1183.

Mt. Pleasant Nieghborhood Public Library (see "Punto Vivo," listing below)

Para eso la Palabra (Paraíso la Palabra)
"For this, the Word," or "Paradise of the Word" which in Spanish sound the same, is a collective that promotes the work of Spanish speaking artists, musicians, writers, poets and also Latino visual artists in the DC area. Para eso la Palabra holds an event on the second or third Friday of every other month. Be sure to check the web site for updates. Past participants have included poets Alberto Avedaño, Quique Avilés, Naomi Ayala, Rei Berroa, Milagros Terán, and writers Grego Pineda and Mario Bencastro. For more informationvisit http://www.pelp.org

Punto Vivo" at the Mt. Pleasant Public Library

The first Tuesday of every month (except July and August) Punto Vivo (a play on the term "dead center"), serves as a gathering place for literature, music, and workshops, as well as literary readings in English and in Spanish, as well as some bilingual readings.16th and Lamont Streets, Washington DC. For more information call the library at (202) 671-0200

Teatro de la Luna's "Poetry Marathon" La Pluma y la Palabra / The Pen and the Word
Founded in 1991, the Teatro de Luna's mission is to provide the Washington area with permanent access to theater from a Latin American perspective and, more generally, promote Hispanic culture and foster cross-cultural understanding between the Spanish- and English-speaking communities of the region. Performances are in Spanish with live English dubbing. Teatro de la Luna, which means "moon theater," offers several distinct programs, including the annual poetry marathon dedicated to promoting local Hispanic poets, literature and the spoken word. So many poets have participated that, in 2000, a separate young people's poetry marathon in Spanish was created for students from kindergarten through highschool. The next children's poetry marathon will be December 14, 2004 at the Martin Luther King Library from 10-2 p.m. The next adults' marathon will be April 2, 2005 at the Rosslyn Spectrum and will feature poets Luis Alberto Ambroggio, Rei Berroa, Consuelo Hernández, and Orlando Rossardi. For information on how to participate, see "calls for submissions" below.
Main stage and offices: 3700 S. Four Mile Run Dr., Arlington VA 22206. For more information call (202)-882-6227 and (703) 548-3092 or visit www.teatrodelaluna.org


Translators without Borders @ Borders
Open to translators of any language. Meetings feature speakers and include open discussion. Speakers have covered topics as diverse as the translation of movie subtitles and the translation of limericks. This group is also actively involved with the annual Translation Month bilingual poetry reading at the Martin Luther King Library. Meets once monthly 6:30 - 8 p.m.
Borders Bookstore, lower level, 18th and L Streets NW, Washington DC. For more information e-mail Sonya Simek sss-translations@erols.com or Lily Liu at LilyLiu99@aol.com or call Mary Ann Brownlow, Borders Community Outreach Coordinator at (202) 466-2152.

American Translators Association
This national organization catering to professional translators is based in Alexandria, Virginia. Among many other benefits, members receive The ATA Chronicle, which includes articles of interest for literary translators. The ATA also has a "Literary Division" and publishes Beacons, a journal of literary translation. 225 Reinekers Lane, Suite 590, Alexandria VA 22314. For more information call (703) 683-6100 or e-mail ata@atanet.org or visit http://www.atanet.org

Q & A with Robert L. Giron, Publisher, Gival Press, and editor of Poetic Voices Without Borders, an anthology of poems in English, French, and Spanish, forthcoming Spring 2005.

C. M. Mayo: What have you published in Spanish translation?

Robert Giron:
We have published Dreams and Other Ailments / Suenos y otros achaques by Teresa Bevin (short stories about the Hispanic experience in the USA) which won the Bronze 2001 ForeWord Magazine's Book of the Year Award for Translation and was a finalist in the 2002 Independent Publisher Book Award for Multicultural Fiction. We have also published Canciones para una sola cuerda / Songs for a Single String by the late Jesus Gardea with my translations, which was a finalist in the 2003 Violet Crown Book Award sponsored by Barnes and Noble and the Texas Writers' League. And also Dead Time / Tiempo muerto by Carlos Rubio, a novel, which won the Silver 2003 ForeWord Magazine's Book of the Year Award for Translation and was a finalist in the 2004 Independent Publisher Book Award for Multicultural Fiction.

C.M.. Why are you interested in publishing Spanish language work?

Aside from being American, ethnically I have more Spanish ancestry than any other, though I'm quite a cultural mix. Having Mexican roots, of course, grounded me in the Spanish language as I heard it spoken and being fluent in Spanish also facilitates my interest. As the saying goes, the Spanish fire runs through my veins and trying to maintain the languageis enhanced through the publications since as an English professor, I confess, that I don't get many opportunities to practice my Spanish; but that can also be said about my French interests. So in short, one of the goals of Gival Press is to encourage the use of Spanish.

C.M.: Do you have any advice for Spanish language writers?

For writers who speak only Spanish, it is crucial to learn English if they plan on developing their writing career in the USA. This is helpful to interact with editors/publishers, etc. and to hold interviews and/or readings, though readings can be conducted in Spanish only. For writers who write in English but who want to break into the Spanish market, it would be wise to learn Spanish, if not to interact in this market personally but to at least develop a sense of the market, though because of the variety of cultures (from the USA to Central American to Chile) it can be a bit overwhelming. We have to remind ourselves that there are several Spanish dialects as there are several English dialects.

Note: This article was published in late 2004. Robert Giron's trilingual anthology Poetic Voices Without Borders has since been published to broad acclaim.