May 4, 2012

The Jotos Are Coming!

Last year Lorenzo Herrera y Lozano asked me to contribute to a queer Latino anthology of poetry he was editing.

I was honored. Frankly, I didn't even think he knew who I was. I knew of him because I attended the AWP conference in Denver. As part of a panel, he read one of his poems and all I could think was, "Damn, I wish I had written that."

I wanted to go up to him after the session and introduce myself but ... what was I gonna say?

"I liked your poem. It was good" or "You sure talk pretty."

So when I got his Facebook message last May asking me to contribute to the Joto anthology, I was like "Hey! It's that guy from that panel."

Then I thought, "Oh, he meant to send this to the other Miguel Morales." You see, at the conference, there was another guy named Miguel Morales and he read a poem at an off-site event that was well attended.

The more I thought about it the more I kinda convinced myself that he really did mean to send me the invitation to contribute. Then I started to think of what I could send him and, well, I didn't have anything. That really surprised me because I was sure I had poems about being a gay Latino -- but I didn't.

I took a day or so to figure out what I wanted to say and then worked through the thoughts and images that lived in the back of my mind. I emailed the poems ASAP to Lorenzo because he was on a tight deadline. For some reason, I sent him an email a few days later asking if he received the poems. I didn't want to be pushy but something told me to email him to make sure he go them.

He didn't.

So he asked me to send them again and I did.

He didn't get them.

Again, he asked me to resend.

This happened 4 or 5 times. I started to think maybe this wasn't meant to be. Even though it was past the posted deadline for submissions, Lorenzo was patient and persistent. He emailed me when he finally received the poems to say he liked 2 or 3 of them. I think I sent 5 poems but obviously they weren't all winners.

The months passed and the contributors waited for the anthology to publish. We knew it would be soon. I added the credit to my bio which caused a few people to ask when it would be published. I'd say, "It'll be soon. I'm just as excited about it as you are." They'd smile and agree.

Last month a special collections librarian tracked me down at my job in the library at Johnson County Community College to ask me when the anthology would publish. She wanted to add it to their collection.

A few days later, Lorenzo sent the contributors an update:

"... I must reiterate how honored and moved I continue to be by the trust each of you has shown toward me. Editing the Joto anthology has been a beautiful, transformative and inspiring journey.

The morning I issued the call for submissions, I naively expected that, after some hustling of my own, I would be able to pull together a modest collection of a dozen poets. I was happily surprised when, a mere 20 days into the submission window, I had already received more than triple the anticipated responses.

I'm proud to share that the Joto anthology is comprised of eight chapters, containing over 200 poems from 60 brilliant poets. After reading nearly 700 poems, narrowing down a smaller/more manageable number, working with some on editing and informal workshopping, and surfacing themes from the body of work, I am very happy with the product that has become Joto: An Anthology of Queer Xicano & Chicano Poetry. I hope you will enjoy it as well ... My hope is that this will happen some time in the early fall."

So there you have it. The jotos are coming.