Monday, April 13, 2009

Alejandro Murguia

Alejendro Murgia is a master storyteller. An invited speaker at May´s Lunada, Murgia hid out in a far corner of the galeria until he was called onstage.

He walked to the front carrying stacks of papers and a thick book, then put them down, saying, "But I´m not going to do that; I'm going to see what's in the jukebox," meaning, see what bubbles up in his memory.

He kept his audience completely enchanted and engaged throughout his performance by staying unpredictable--following a war story with love poetry, singing verses or adding a percusive beat to his poetry. It shouldn't be suprising how easily Murguia captivated his audience--from teaching Raza studies at SF State, he has a committed following, and the audience was filled with many of his students. Murguia has a rich history from which to draw from as well. California born and Mexico City raised, the chicano writer helped define the begining of the Chicano movement in the 1970s. He volunteered during the Nicaraguan Revolution in 1979 and was a founder and original director of the Mission Cultural Center for Latino Arts. Through it all, he has been writing, so you see, when he says, lets see what's in the jukebox, there's a lot there to be pulled up.

Murguia began by recounting the time he spent two days hiking to Che Guevara's camp and of the huge fogata he and his friends had the night the he saw Che's desk, a moment that inspired the first poem he shared with us, "There is no Santo on my alter." In a deep, rough voice, Murguia told his poem as if in conversation with Guevara himself, says that Guevara was "right about love and revolution/ and wrong about everything else." The power of Murguia's spoken poetry is that he doesn't recite; he tells it fresh, as if the poem at that instant of telling, welled up from some deep spring within him. With "Tango Roto," Murguia added percusive beats in, using his heels, clicking his tongue, blending the sounds into his lyrical tale to give it dimension.

Recently, Murguia re-encountered Mexican postcards from the 1920s, and is working on two new works, The Violent Lense: Photo Postcards of the Mexican Revolution and A Little Bit of Mexico: A Story Told in Postcards. He brought some postcards with him to La Galeria and shared them with us, and how postcards hold a bit of history.

At times he threw the minibooks (two inch squares containing a single poem each) out into the audience and finished off with a reading from one of them, "16th and Valencia:"

I saw Jack Michelie reciting Skinny Dynamite
on the corner of 16th / Valencia
and he was angry
and the next day he was dead on the last BART train to Concord
and maybe that´s why he was angry
I met Harold Norse shuffling around in a beaten world
his pockets stuffed with poems only hipsters read
It´s a cesspool out here he sighed
before retreating to hi room in the Albion Hotel
where angels honeycomb the walls with dreams
and the rent is paid with angry poems
I heard Oscar Zeta Acosta´s brown buffalo footsteps
pounding the Valencia Corridor
and he was shouting poetry at the sick junkies
nodding with their wasted whores
in the lobby of the Hotel Royan ¨The Mission´s finest¨
and even the furniture was angry
I joined the waiters at the bus stop
the waitresses the norteños trios the flowers sellers
the blind guitarist wailing boleros at a purple sky
the shirtless vagrant vagabond ranting at a parking meter
the spray paint visionary setting fire to the word
and I knew this was the last call
We were tired of livign from the scraps of others
We were tired of dying for our own chunk of nothing
And I saw this barrio as a Freight train
a crazy Mexican bus careening out of control
a mutiny aboard a battleship
and every porthole filled with angrer
And we were going to stay angry
And we were not leavign
Not ever leaving
El corazon del corazon de La Mision
El Camino Real ends here
-Alejandro Murguia

No comments:

Post a Comment