The colorful El Chante: Casa De Cultura on the southwest corner of Park Avenue and 8th Street is home to burqueño poets every first and third Tuesday of the month.
Manuel González, co-instructor of an introductory Chicano and Chicana studies course at the University of New Mexico and Albuquerque poet laureate emeritus, is the organizer of the bi-monthy “Low Writing” workshop at El Chante.
Tuesdays are dedicated to digging deep into a single emotion selected by González. On Tuesday, Aug. 20, anger swarmed the bright yellow room.
González defined anger in two ways: “Petty anger,” which is the kind that is seen when one is hungry or tired, and “righteous anger,” which is the more galvanizing anger that is agitated by injustice and makes one want to take action.
The workshop started with an exercise in word association. González had participants consider the word anger and jot down the first word that came to mind. They then did this for a strand of words, building a chain of verbs, adjectives and nouns to supplement the next task. For the next 13 minutes, the room was silent as the poets constructed their own definitions of anger by describing the colors they see, the sounds they hear and the way time feels (sped up or slowed down) when they’re angry.
González’s poem described an internal dichotomy of feeling petty anger that urges him to take rash action, while simultaneously knowing that those urges can be problematic.
“The anger becomes silent, it starts to seethe, it’s waiting to pounce — to explode — so I sit here, keep a pen, and wait,” González said.
As the circle shared their writings, it was evident that the anger they described was not violent. Most poets expressed feelings of being silenced because of their identity or overwhelmed by societal maladies.
González focused the group’s righteous anger into his next challenge. The group was told to recall a recent news story that made them feel something deeply, and to use it as a metaphor of how they feel on the inside.
As González played his homemade shakuhachi (a Japanese flute,) he reminded participants that El Chante was a safe environment with no pressure to share, only to listen.
“This is a place where we can come together to authentically self-express,” González said. “Poetry is medicine. It’s for us to heal ourselves.”
When the hour long workshop came to a close, González reiterated that both recurring writers and first-timers are welcome to attend the workshops.
“We’ve had PhD professors and vatos straight out of prison. It’s about community, it’s not pretentious,” González said. “This is about self-expression, not academia or perfect writing.”
Nicole, a third-year University of New Mexico student and first time attendee who declined to give last name or major, learned about the workshop from UNM Communications and Journalism professor Jaelyn deMaría. Nicole said that writing poetry is an essential aspect of her life.
“I write to keep my sanity. Even though I’m in academia, I still don’t feel that my voice is heard,” Nicole said. “I need poetry to process my anger and my passion.”
Katrina Crespin, Central New Mexico Community College English professor, encouraged locals looking to get involved in the Albuquerque writing scene to come to El Chante events.
“Our scene is huge,” Crespin said. She encouraged people to attend their readings, even if they don't want to participate in them, at least to meet people and mingle.
El Chante hosts a slew of other creative events aside from the bi-monthly poetry workshops. On the first floor of the building, there is a boutique that sells works from local artists around the state.
The house itself is rich in creative history. Alan Milne, known by the pen name A.A. Milne and writer of Winnie the Pooh, was a previous owner of the home.
The next “Low Writing” workshop with González is set to be held Sept. 3 at 6 p.m. at El Chante, 804 Park Ave. SW.
González’s recently released poetry book, “OM Boy,” can be purchased from González directly via Facebook or on Amazon.
More information about upcoming poetry open mics, slams and workshops in Albuquerque can be found on the online poetry bulletin, “ABQ Poet-Heart.”
Alyssa Martinez is a reporter with the Daily Lobo. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @amart4447.