NPR

| Back to npr.org

PRC May 12-18, 2002
Hilton Washington and Towers, Washington DC

Margie's Story

INTRO:
THE BORDER, A PLACE IN BETWEEN, A PLACE THAT HAS ITS OWN IDENTITY. EL PASO IS A PLACE THAT FEELS LIKE MEXICO AND THE UNITED STATES, BUT IN SPIRIT IT'S NEITHER ONE. IT IS IN THIS NEBULOUS PLACE THAT POET BEN SAENZ (pronounciation: signs) FINDS HIS MUSE. REPORTER MARGIE MONTES HAS MORE ON THIS STORY.

TRACK 1:
El PASO, STAND IN ONE CORNER AND YOU'LL SEE MEXICO, CROSS THE STREET AND YOU'LL SEE THE UNITED STATES. BEN SAENZ CALL THIS PLACE WHERE CULTURES UNITE, HOME. SAENZ HAS DEEP ROOTS IN THE MEXICAN-AMERICAN COMMUNITY WHERE HE HONED HIS VALUES FROM THE CATHOLIC CHURCH. HE WAS IN THE PRIESTHOOD FOR THREE YEARS, BUT DISCOVERED HE COULD NO LONGER BE A SPOKESPERSON FOR THE CHURCH. HE FELT HE NEEDED TO EXPLORE THE WORLD AROUND HIM. SO HE BECAME A WRITER.

ACTUALITY 1:
ben saenz
(DAT) 1:24:02/1:21:54 I THINK THAT PEOPLE WRITE BECAUSE THEY'RE STRUGGLING TO COME TO TERMS WITH THE WORLD THAT THEY LIVE IN. THERE'S THE IDEA IF I DARE CRITICIZE THIS COUNTRY .WHAT'S WRONG WITH RADICAL DEMOCRACY?

TRACK 2:
IN HIS POEM "AT THE GRAVE OF JUAN LUCERO SAENZ", BEN SAENZ IMAGINES HOW HIS FATHER LIVED AS A BOY. HE IMAGINES HIS WORLD, CROSSING BORDERS, AVOIDING GRUDGES, AND CREATING PATHS FOR THOSE BEHIND HIM.

ACTUALITY 2:
WE HAVE ALWAYS BEEN THE ENEMY. YOU DIDN'T HAT THEM BACK. YOU DIDN'T WASTE YOUR TIME. PEOPLE CROSSING BACK AND FORTH, A DAILY RITUAL. LIKE MORNING MASS. IN YOUR BOYHOOD, THE RIVER WAS A RIVER. NOT A BORDER. I SEE YOU, A BOY CROSSING PASSENGERS ON A RAFT FOR A PENNY. I SEE YOU, A SKINNY YOUTH, JUMPING TRAINS TO COLORADO. YOU BECAME A MAN BY BUILDING TEXAS ROADS: I SEE YOUR FACE, YOUR STEADY HANDS LIGHTING DYNAMITE, CLEARING THE PATH FOR THOSE BEHIND YOU.

TRACK 3:
BOBBY BYRD PUBLISHES SAENZ' WORK FOR CINCO PUNTOS PRESS. HE IS ALSO A POET AND A LOVER OF THE BORDERLAND. BEN SAENZ AND BOBBY BYRD OFTEN SIT ON A FRONT PORCH SIPPING WINE AND TALKING ABOUT POETRY. BOTH ENJOY COMPARING LIFE IN MEXICO TO LIFE IN THE UNITED STATES.

ACTUALITY 3:
bobby byrd
(1) 4:07 WE WERE HAVING A CONVERSATION RECENTLY ABOUT THE RIO GRANDE AND WHAT IT MEANS IN TERMS OF WHO WE ARE LIVING ON THIS SIDE OF THE BORDER. HE WAS TELLING ME ABOUT A POEM WHERE THE RIVER IN THAT POEM THE RIO GRANDE BECOMES MUCH LIKE THE RIVER STYX IN GREEK MYTHOLOGY SO THAT WHEN YOU CROSS OVER TO THE OTHER SIDE YOU'RE CROSSING INTO A DIFFERENT PERSPECTIVE ENTIRELY.

TRACK 4:
WHILE POET BEN SAENZ RESIDES IN THE UNITED STATES, HE SEES AND UNDERSTANDS LIFE SOUTH OF THE BORDER. THE MEXICAN TRADITIONS AND VALUES HAVE GIVEN HIM INSPIRATION. THIS INSPIRATION ALLOWS HIM TO APPRECIATE AND SEE THE COMPLEXITIES OF A PLACE WHERE LIFE IS IN TRANSITION.

ACTUALITY 4:
ben saenz
(DAT) 1:10:29 NOBODY GROWS UP NEUTRAL. YOU HAVE TO HAVE SOMETHING TO GROW UP INTO AND MAYBE EVEN GROW AWAY FROM, BUT IT'S GOTTA ALWAYS BE SOMETHING. IT DOESN'T MATTER WHAT BECAUSE WHATEVER CULTURE THAT YOUR FAMILY BELONGS TO. THAT'S WHAT YOU KNOW, IT'S THE GROUND THAT WAS GIVEN TO ME.

TRACK 5:
IN HIS POETRY SAENZ EXPLORES THE ISSUES OF POVERTY, TOLERANCE, AND RESPECT FOR HUMAN KIND. HIS POETRY AND HIS NOVELS ARE FILLED WITH IMAGES OF THE WORKING CLASS, THE STRUGGLES OF EVERYDAY LIFE, AND THE COMPLEXITIES OF THE WORLD WHERE CULTURES COME TOGETHER. ONE WAY THAT SAENZ LOOKS AT THIS IS INTER-MINGLING IS THROUGH THE MEDIUM OF LANGUAGE. HE'S A MASTER AT JUGGLING SPANISH AND ENGLISH SIMULTANEOUSLY. NORMA E. CANTU IS A LITERARY CRITIC AND AN ENGLISH PROFESSOR AT THE UNIVERSITY OF TEXAS AT SAN ANTONIO.

ACTUALITY 5:
norma cantu
(2) 1:29 HE USES THE LANGUAGE ALMOST AS AN INSTRUMENT, A SOUND. IF YOU READ THE POEMS ALOUD YOU CAN HEAR THE LANGUAGE PLAY ALMOST LIKE AN INSTRUMENT.

TRACK 6:
CANTU READS FROM THE POEM ELEGY TO BURCIAGA WHICH SHE SAYS ILLUSTRATES THE MUSICALITY OF SAENZ' WORDS.

ACTUALITY 6:
norma cantu
(2)4:10 "OYES, BURCIAGA, FIJATE QUE I WAS LISTENING TO 93.9 "LA CALIENTE" AND I THOUGHT OF YOU. PORQUE LAS VOCES EN ESE RADIO STATION COMIENZAN A DECIR ALGO EN ESPANOL AND ALL OF A SUDDEN THEY'RE SPEAKING IN ENGLISH AND, HOMBRE, QUE TE CUENTO, DICEN UNAS COSAS THAT WOULD DRIVE ANY MONOLINGUAL PERSON TO QUESTION THE MEANING OF LANGUAGE."

TRACK 7:
SAENZ BELIEVES THAT THIS WHIRLPOOL OF LANGUAGE TAKES ENERGY AND CREATIVE THOUGHT. HE LOVES THE MIXING OF SPANISH AND ENGLISH WORDS, THE METAPHORICAL CROSSING BETWEEN LANGUAGES JUXTAPOSED WITH THE LITERAL CROSSING OF THE BORDER. HE RESPECTS THE UNIQUENESS OF BOTH THE AMERICAN AND MEXICAN CULTURES AND CELEBRATES THE CREATIVITY OF THEIR FUSION ALONG THE BORDER.

ACTUALITY 7:
ben saenz
(DAT) 1:27 I WANT TO WRITE CLEARLY ABOUT THE SPACE THAT I INHABIT. AND THE CLEARER I AM ABOUT IT THE MORE ANYONE CAN UNDERSTAND IT.

TRACK 8:
SAENZ SAYS THAT HIS LOVE OF POETRY WAS INSPIRED BY THE DESCRIPTIVE LANGUAGE OF PABLO NERUDA AND JAMES JOYCE. HE SAYS HE WANTS HIS WORK TO BE APPRECIATED BY EVERYONE, NO MATTER THEIR CULTURE OR WALK OF LIFE. CANTU SAYS THAT SAENZ, LIKE POETS WHO HAVE GONE BEFORE HIM, GARCIA LORCA AND NERUDA, HAS HAD AN IMPACT.

ACTUALITY 8:
norma cantu
(2) 10:16 I BELIVE IN THE POWER OF WORDS. AND DEFINITELY POETRY IS THE MOST POWERFUL WAY OF USING WORDS.

TRACK 9:
BEN SAENZ'S BOOKS OF POETRY RAISE ISSUES OF ALIENATION, PREJUDICE, SIMPLE PLEASURES, JUSTICE, AND IDENTITY; ISSUES THAT SAENZ EXPRESSES IN SIMPLISTIC YET PROFOUND LANGUAGE. A MASTER OF LANGUAGE, A MASTER OF THE BORDER LANGUAGE. FOR NEXT GENERATION RADIO NEWS, I'M MARGIE MONTES.