Latino poetry is a category that spans multiple cultures, languages, and legacies -- from the pre-Columbian origin myths and political salvos of Pablo Neruda to the Afro-Caribbean rhythms and resistance odes of Nuyorican poets like Pedro Pietri. Oral tradition, legend, and communal struggle all inform what we recognize as contemporary Latino poetry, and "Flor y Canto en el Barrio," a biennial event that's part of the San Francisco International Poetry Festival, seeks to embody all the contradictions and lyricism of Latino poetry by pairing established authors and poets with more marginalized voices. Translated as "Flower and Song in the Neighborhood," the festival is a three-day cornucopia of public readings, workshops, and historical presentations that show off a collective message of finding beauty in the often unobserved ephemera of our lives. Two-time American Book Award winner Alejandro Murguía offers his take: candid, brusque pieces about the grittiness of everyday life that bob and weave through lines teeming with sensuality and bravado. Among the dozens of other artists presenting their work, poeta Leticia Hernandez reads from her multilingual pieces that meld fantasy with the perspectives of working-class women. Appropriately enough, given the assortment of poets, "Flor y Canto" reveals a multiplicity of voices that are at once rousing and raucous, sacred and profane, urban and antiquated. The festival also includes readings by teen poets and a seminar on the art and craft of translation.
A reading with six poets starts at 7 p.m. at Mission Cultural Center for Latino Arts, 2868 Mission (at 25th St.), S.F.
July 24-26, 2008