VoiceCatcher is excited to “Join Our Voices for Social Justice” with our first-ever nationwide writing contest. In a time when Charlottesville is current news, writers have an even stronger obligation to create, resist, and come together in respect and in all our diversity to open more space for dialogue and understanding.
If you identify as female, and your poetry, fiction, or nonfiction grapples with issues of divided communities, privilege, racial inequalities, or disparity, we want to hear from you. Let’s join our voices in tribute to the victims of Charlottesville, and those around the nation, who fight and struggle every day.
The contest runs from September 4th to October 8th, 2017, and it is open to all female-identified writers within the United States. There is a $5.00 submission fee for entry, with half of the proceeds to be donated to the Southern Poverty Law Center.
Please submit no more than 2,500 words for prose or no more than five poems for poetry entries. The guest judge will determine the winner, who will receive a $50.00 prize and publication in the fall issue of VoiceCatcher. (Please see the full submission guidelines for more information.)
Meet Diana Garcia – Contest Guest Judge
A native of California’s San Joaquin Valley, poet and writer Diana Garcia was born in a farm labor camp owned by the California Packing Corporation. Formerly a single mother on welfare, she earned both her BA and MFA in creative writing from San Diego State University. Until her retirement, she was on the creative writing faculty and co-director of the Creative Writing and Social Action Program at California State University Monterey Bay. Her poetry collection, When Living Was a Labor Camp, won an American Book Award. She, along with Frances Payne Adler and Debra Busman, co-edited the anthology Fire and Ink: An Anthology of Social Action Writing.
In 2009 she was invited to be a featured poet for the Smithsonian’s National Museum of History Poetics of Labor “Bittersweet Harvest: Cosecha Amarga, Cosecha Dulce” exhibit in Washington, D.C. In March 2016 she, along with then-U.S. Poet Laureate Juan Felipe Herrera and Santa Clara County Poet Laureate Arlene Biala headlined “Poets Unite: UFW 50th Anniversary and Dolores Huerta” at the Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery.
A former judge for the Connecticut Commission of the Arts’ poetry competition, she taught for California Poets in the School, co-founded the Border Voices Project in San Diego, and founded the Central Connecticut Poetry Project. In spring 2005 she was inducted into the “Latinas: The Spirit of California” exhibit as part of the California Museum for History, Women, and the Arts. She was named Connecticut Poet of the Year in 1998. Her poems, stories and essays appear in numerous anthologies and journals.
From the sequence poem Bittersweet Harvest: Cosecha Amarga, Cosecha Dulce VI. Bitter Harvest A voice shouts Calexico, el valle Imperial, and a surge of men almost carries him along but his instructions are to take the train to another valley, el valle de San Joaquin. Over the next five years he will learn of other valleys as well, Santa Clara, Salinas, San Juan. There, his days will fill with chiles, tomatoes, cherries and plum. The air will stifle him mid-day, chill him mid-winter. In the Merced labor camp, Camp CPC, he will meet the man he will become around an evening’s fire, the strum of guitars, a harmony of men’s and women’s voices that carries him home. He will learn the language of exile, eat the bitter harvest of homesickness, love the woman who loves him back, and when his card expires, when his time is up, he will leave behind a woman who carried the scent of gardenias, two daughters the stars in his heaven. Decades later, he’ll take a bus to Merced, four days’ journey, as long as the journey he took as a boy. He will learn the woman with gardenias in her hair died years earlier, diabetes, heart disease. Her mother remains in town, the barrio curandera. She directs him to his youngest daughter’s home where he tells her he married again and named the two daughters from that union after the ones he left behind. Honorable, he tried to live an honorable life. So he waits outside this store in Rosarito for news of monies found, a retirement fund for men who made their way to el otro lado, who worked in fields until their backs seized up and their hands crabbed closed; their knuckles swelled and their knees cracked; men who endured taunts of wetback, beaner, greaser; men who sent money home long after their parents died; a generation of braceros, all men of honor.
Dust devils shift and blur the air,
Sonoran spirits do the dance
of rock and dune, gully and sink. If I
call the ancestors, will they show me the
dance for rain? Stark image, desert
dwellers rain dancing in this corner
of the land. No more stark than
small groups bending the border,
taking a chance on water tanks,
canteens, gallon containers not
emptied by a prior week’s migrants.
I have proof my ancestors crossed
with abandon, visiting family
from one end of the desert to the other,
inscribing this continental home
with stories of chance meetings, one
family group stumbling on another;
flocks of yellow-headed blackbirds
to mark the spot, the feast that followed.
We belong to this land. For eons, water
has seeped to the lowest points, hidden
in shallow indentations, shadowed
by rock, rock traced with deeper trails
made by ancestral travelers who knew
the desert’s passwords, proof in the stones.
At the San Xavier Mission, birth and baptismal
records convince me with their proof,
my mother’s Pima father, his
Mexican mother an immigrant to this land.
We are all the same peoples, connected
by time, place, memory: familial stories.
Border records capture dates, names,
ages, descriptions. Family groups.
All one land, all one people, separated
by border laws and walls and policies.
How many ways must we say this:
our bones, our blood are the proof,
soil, rock, water the proof.
I can run five times around the village, my dog beside me. I have tested
myself against her speed, my younger cousins’ endurance. I win.
My cousins go with me this morning, their dark hair glossy, so young
their shoulders. Their mothers tell me to watch over them.
I have said goodbye to all who remain, grayed village elders,
wooden statues of saints in our small church, my mother.
I go with the blessings of my mother and her sisters. I am the youngest
of the girl cousins, no great beauty, no wealth to keep me here.
I wear only what I have. I carry a blouse one aunt gave me,
a friend’s old sandals for days when heat persists into the night.
My cousins who have made the journey send this advice: travel early
in the morning and at night. When you reach the trains, gain a space
in the middle; don’t move. Don’t let anyone steal your space. When we
reach Mexico, we are to look for coyotes wearing yellow bandanas,
not red or green. Those wearing yellow come from our region,
they speak our language, they are known to our village.
If no one waits at the border wearing yellow, we wait or take
our chances. I have waited two years for this chance. No more.
If the coyotes separate me from my two cousins, mis primas
instruct me to let them take what they will, but not my life, never my life.
They think I don’t know what they mean. I know what a man
can take from a woman. I know my younger cousins’ pride.
I will protect them from their pride, our family honor. I will scream
or fight if I can. I will run if I can. I know now how fast I can run.