Xochitl-Julisa Bermejo: Gettysburg Poet-in-Residence

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Listen to the Big Blend Radio interview with with Tanya Ortega – Founder of National Parks Arts Foundation (NPAF) and poet Xochitl-Julisa Bermejo, author of “Posada: Offerings of Witness and Refuge”, who will be the NPAF artist-in-residence at Gettysburg National Military Park in Fall 2017.

Xochitl-Julisa Bermejo is a first generation Chicana born and raised in San Gabriel, California, who fondly remembers weekends spent haciendo traviesos with her cousins around her grandparents’ Boyle Heights home. She wrote her first collection of poetry, Posada: Offerings of Witness and Refuge (Sundress Publications, 2016), while living in a house in the shadows of Dodger Stadium in historic Solano Canyon. Many poems from her first collection were inspired by her time volunteering with the Tucson-based humanitarian aid organization, No More Deaths/No Mas Muertes in 2011 and 2013.

Bermejo is a 2016-2017 Steinbeck fellow and was previously honored as a Poets & Writers California Writers Exchange poetry winner, Barbara Deming Memorial Fund/Money for Women grantee, Los Angeles Central Library ALOUD newer poet, and her poetry received 3rd place in the 2015 Tucson Festival of Books literary awards. She has received residencies with Hedgebrook, the Ragdale Foundation, and is a proud member of the Macondo Writers’ Workshop.

In Los Angeles, she is a cofounder of Women Who Submit, a literary organization using social media and community events to empower women and nonbinary authors to submit work for publication, and curates the quarterly reading series HITCHED. She received a BA in Theatre Arts from California State University, Long Beach and an MFA in Creative Writing from Antioch University Los Angeles where she is currently a book coach and workshop instructor with the inspiration2publication program. See www.xochitljulisa.wordpress.com

By Xochitl-Julisa Bermejo

Those green prickly plants made of arms like roof tiles.

The ones my grandmother cleaned of needles

before chopping and boiling for dinner.

Those tender emerald bites dropped in my belly like a love letter.

Overnight nopales spring and fan across Los Angeles to brag

they are native to this continent. Native like her. Native like me.

I want to cut one paddle off the hill outside my door,

slice the needles with a sharp knife like she showed me,

carve a heart in its center, place a stamp on it,

and send it as a postcard with the word, “Extraño.”

But because I can’t, I’ll nail it to the peach wall in my kitchen

and wait for it to sprout and glow in the night.

This poem is for chin hairs. Those chin hairs that stuck out

black and course from the soft skin of her face just like nopal needles.

She was always a nopal faithfully keeping vigil over our family.

Now, she is the nopal kissing the Virgen’s feet.

Grandma, in the hospital room, when I kissed the fade of your cheek

to say goodbye, crisscrossing chin hairs caught my attention.

Now, when I look in the mirror and find hairs have bloomed overnight,

I think of roots. I think of you. I hope I can be a nopal woman too.

The National Parks Arts Foundation (NPAF), a 501(c)3 non-profit, has expanded its Artist-in-Residence program Service at Gettysburg National Military Park to include 12 artists over 12 months.  The Gettysburg Foundation supports the Gettysburg program which has become a model for artist residencies in all of the national parks. NPAF selects any sort of artist for national park residencies, from traditional landscape painters, photographers, to performers, installations, films/video, as well as writers, poets, sound artists, and new arts media. More information about these opportunities is available at www.nationalparksartsfoundation.org

National Parks Arts Foundation Celebrate the Arts

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