Since I first turned in that paper to Professor Alexander early in 2012, the anthology has grown in leaps and bounds. The number of writers has doubled to include three generations of Afro-Latin@ poets. The youngest poet is 21 and what this anthology demonstrates is a growing tradition of Latin@ poetry that is incredibly dynamic and diverse. For example, while the project originally was based in Nuyorican Poetry Movement (which is still very present, of course), I was pleased to receive work from Afro-Latin@ poets from all parts of the country, poets whose africanidad came from diverse heritages of middle passage, migration and intermarriage. As a Mexicana, I was especially thrilled to see a strong crop of Afro-Mexicana's identifying with their black roots, something which has not and is not encouraged in Mexican culture. I was also thrilled to see so many fierce Afro-Latina writers - the book is equally male, female.
And so while I was overwhelmed with the generosity of the poets and strength of the community (specially shout out to Bonafide Rojas and Shaggy Flores for their advice and support!), I struggled to find a title worthy of this work. What I learned while putting together this work, was that while I could present the work of 40 spectacular Afro-Latin@ poets, what I could not and would not do was attempt to define Afro-Latin@ Poetry. The diversity of heritages, experiences, and poetic styles, themes and influences reaches all of América and beyond. And so to find a title to encompass the vastness of this work had me at a standstill.
Finally, last night as I was finishing the deadline I settled on ¡Manteca!: An Anthology of Afro-Latin@ Poets.
In 1947, Dizzy Gillepse, Chano Pozo and Gil Fuller collaborated on the song "Manteca." "Manteca" would not only become one of Gillespie's most famous recordings but it is one of the foundations of Afro-Cuban Jazz. As such, "Manteca" not only represents the significance of African American and Latino collaborations, but the beginnings of what can be thought of as a distinct Afro-Latin@ sound in the US that can be traced through boogaloo to salsa to hip hop. Perhaps, it should not be surprising that many of the first generation of Afro-Latin@ poets within these pages such as Pedro Pietri, Louis Reyes Rivera, Miguel Algarín, Sandra María Esteves, and Lorenzo Thomas were born within a few years of this song. Although Afro-Latin@s have a much longer history in the United States than just "Manteca," it represents for the first time a period in which Afro-Latin@s had their own recognizable sound and music. And so when, for example, the great Louis Reyes Rivera passed in 2012, that second generation of Afro-Lati@o poets he mentored such as Tony Medina and Shaggy Flores honored him with that same sentido. As Medina wrote then, and I echo to the other poets whom have passed and to whom this volume is dedicated, "I can hear you know shouting out at us from the Spirit World—MANTECA!!!!!!!!!!" Thus this title, like the anthology, represents spirit and history but also an Afro-Latin@ soul that is not really describable. It is felt distinctly and differently by each poet and in each page.
Next as mentioned above, I have decided to distinguish in the title the difference between Afro-Latin@ poetry and Afro-Latin@ poets, following the example of Countee Cullen. In the introduction to Caroling Dusk: An Anthology of Verse by Negro Poets, he details: “I have called this collection an anthology of verse by Negro poets rather than an anthology of Negro verse, since this latter designation would be more confusing than accurate.... the attempt to corral the outbursts of the ebony muse into some definite mold to which all poetry by Negroes will conform seems altogether futile and aside from the facts." Additionally, as the idea for a collection of Afro-Latin@ poetry necessarily comes out of the tradition of anthologies in Latin America as well as in the United States, this distinction helps clarify the different meanings of “black poetry” outside the US, where poetic expressions about black life has been described with a variety of terms, such as poesía negra (black poetry), negrista poetry (blackist poetry), poesía afrocubana (Afro-Cuban poetry), poesía mulata (mulatto poetry), poesía afroantillana (Afro-Antillean poetry) and may refer to the subject matter, supposed style and/or (but not necessarily) race/ ancestry of the author.
A lot of work and thought has gone into developing this anthology - much more than I ever thought. I don't how or why I thought as a first or second or third (and now fourth) year graduate student I could accomplish this feat. Perhaps it was that naiveté about anthologizing and publishing that pushed me through painstaking hours of emails, spreadsheets, proposals and follow-ups. However, the outpouring of support and poetic generosity encouraged me when I doubted this would ever get done.
I hope you like it!