Thirty years ago today I started my publishing venture with the inauguration of my new press, MANGO. I was the original "kitchen table" press which inspired writers such as Gloria Anzaldua, Cherrie Moraga, Patricia Smith and others back east. "Freedom of the press belongs to the one who owns one," I was fond of saying. How I loved my little R2D2, my mailbox sized Multilith. I bought it from a guy who used it to make extra money printing pizza menus after cutting leads (the little wires on the back of stuffed pc boards) six hours a day with a group of women who didn't know whether or not Canada was a state in order to afford her. To afford my freedom and independence. I considered it in the tradition of one of my idols, Henry D., wandering off into the woods at Walden ("born too late/ for you to cling to..."), the publication of Walt's "Leaves of Grass", the signing of the Declaration of Independence and other such literary and spiritual ventures conducted on July 4th. Wiping off the kitchen table, opening all the windows, no matter how stubbornly painted shut, opening my doors to the world as I watched the first poems of Alberto Rios, Orlando Ramirez, Jimmy Santiago Baca, Ray Gonzalez ("I want to feel the rotting wood I walk upon..."), Wendy Rose, Bernice Zamora, Luis Omar Salinas, Ricardo Sanchez, Sandra Cisneros. . . . Tony Burciaga's pen and ink wit arise off the page in my tired hallucinations. How I loved my inky kitchen, my printing clothes with their split-fountain splotches and flowered fingerprints. How I loved the odor of chemicals, even the worst. The lilting momentos of Billie making the mockingbirds sing, the "no woman no cry" all night long to the train-chugging of that motor and cylinder proclaiming, proclaiming, world without end. Creating a mini chapbook sensation before there were even such things other than chapters from some scholarly tomes, before there were expensive contests to apply for or foetry foes to fight with, virtually. There was just a gal with her press who wasn't afraid to get dirty or lose a finger. Who didn't care how the house smelled in the morning or if the dishes were washed. Who only cared about getting it right, getting it inked up good, getting the lines straight because they were some of the best lines she had ever read. Lines that still hold up. Even if it wasn't always inked up good or the paper feed jammed up. "We're jammin'/ we're jammin'/ we're jammin'/ we're jammin'/ And I hope you like jammin' too" keeping us alert another hour, another cup of coffee, another ream, another poem. "Hard work!" declared the movement out my kitchen window. "Hard work" sang a man who wasn't doing it, who was free at at last, on stage and gettin' paid, "Hard work" kept the gauge going, the wheels on the gears throwing its luck to the pall; the ticking frets -- evident. Another Chicano manifesto, another Chicana manifest, Xicanao music all night long in the weave of words and flight. Fright, a thing of the past, Joy's horses finally let loose, loose women dancing on tables in poetry for thirty years, loose tickets hidden under sofas for just that long -- as the train advances.
Been gone to the freeway and back.
Happy Independence where ever you hold it, whomever you hold.
(Gracias Orlando Ramirez, Adrian Rocha and Jose Antonio Burciaga, for all the thereafter -- but, you knew that)
and POETRY ON!