An Early Critical Introduction




If humans are united by the common skin of body, language, and memory, as suggested by the striking power of the songs and hand-shaped objects of pre-writing, "pre-historic" antiquity, then the urge to memorialize that shared skin underlies, at least in part, the pieces in STANDARDS. Like the ethnopoetics of many emerging writers who are devoted to naming themselves and their cultures from within, the contributors to this issue give vivid representation to their particular imaginations through the grit y grito of their social, material experiences.

The voices recorded here tell the intercultural reality of this exploration as both a vehicle for and an energy of creative self-definition. And because their images of self and culture are artistically imagined and inscribed with the force of authentic, bloodpulsing experience, they speak to me. So inscribed, each artist's body, idiom, and memory reaches mine. They tell of racial politics and the con/fusion of hatred and compassion; of prayers for "nuestros niños" and "nuestra cultura" (Velez, see Essays/Interviews); of the simple beauty of a "Modern Day Seminarian" (Bejesky, see Poetry), and of the (sexual) politics of Chicana identity (Manzanares, see Performance/Mixed Media).

Through poem, prose, play, picture, and mixed media, the contributors capture an epiphanic moment in their worlds, when something--feeling, event, idea, act--crashes through daily routine to spark awareness. Sometimes that awareness is the angry indignation and resistance that playwright Arthur Miller says initiates the prospect of tragic affirmation (for example, the poems "El Paso County Jail," and "Taking"). Sometimes it is, as Alice Walker suggests, the irreducible power of love to teach connections, as in the poems and short fiction "Scene Through the Rear-view Mirror," "Where Am I" (Poetry) and "Rice" (Fiction). Or it is the unspeakable agony of lonely yearning (for example, Bolton, Rodriguez) that brings this awareness to author and reader.

Importantly, these artists--all students who clearly have much to teach others--disclose a strong recognition of the politics of identity and multiculturalism. In a variety of forms and figures, they show the awareness of self, in relation to state and society, and in relation to communities defined by gender, race, class, or sexuality (for example, the mixed-media collaboration "Dick Slave," and the poetry of Mindy Tobin and Wambdi Awica Wa'stewin). I found especially effective treatments of ideology crafted in image and text by Ken Riley, Toni Long, Jana Sequoya, and Curt Williams (see Contents by Author/Title).

Each contributor joins the unbroken line of artists and critical thinkers of centuries past, of many cultures, who are also intent on revealing and preserving "what is absent, what is missing" (in Lucy Lippard's phrase) in their (sub)versions of the present moment--the one that matters.



"STANDARDS: An Early Critical Introduction" © 1991, 1995 by Cordelia Candelaria





Original Graphic Images © 1995 by Canéla A. Jaramillo



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