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Catalina Gómez: Good Morning, I’m Catalina Gómez from the Hispanic Division of the Library of Congress and it’s a pleasure to be here recording poet Gina Franco. Today is June 8th of 2016 and we’re recording Gina for our Archive for Hispanic Literature on Tape, as well as for our Spotlight on U.S. Hispanic Writers Series, which is a separate series that we are collaborating with the Poetry and Literature Center and Letras Latinas.

Gina, thank you for being here, and welcome.

Gina Franco: Thank you so much, Catalina. I really appreciate you doing this with me. I’ll be reading from The Keepsake Storm which was published in 2004 with the University of Arizona Press, and the book itself, and a whole lot of the poetry in it is about my hometown of Clifton-Morenci, Arizona. It’s a mining Town, and it’s a very strange place in many ways. It exists out of time in the sense that it’s still the monopoly that I think old mining towns were. Everything is mine-owned. Everything is built by the mine. And so because it’s actually property and not quite officially a town a whole lot of what’s there in the landscape is the ruins of four generations of miners left behind by the industry that is still at work there. So some of the book is thinking about what ruins are, and some of the book is thinking about the culture. Most of that culture, the mine workers, were Mexican or Mexican- American, and most of those generations that settled there were originally miners who had the skills to actually extract metal and that came up to work for New York money. But they also arrived sort of hoping to find a home. They were given land to live on there. So some of the book is thinking about that landscape and the culture; and some of the book is also thinking about my mother’s hometown which is a very similar culture, but also a border culture. So I will maybe just start reading some of the poems form the section that is about Clifton-Morenci and move into some of the poems that are about Del Rio, Texas, which is my mother’s hometown.

  • Poet reads “Fishing” - The Keepsake Storm (2004)

GF: I’m going to read a poem called “The Bells.” And it’s actually about the flood in 1983 in Clifton-Morenci, Arizona. It’s a poem that is reflecting on the town gathering on a Sunday to restore or to do some of the work after the damage of the flood, to rebuild. And that in part this is what a Sunday morning is about that it’s a congregation not gathering of the church, but rather the gathering of the town to rebuild.

  • Poet reads “The Bells & These Years, in the Deepest Holes” - The Keepsake Storm (2004)

GF: I’m going to read a longish poem called “The Spirit that Appears When You Call,” and it’s filled with vignettes of images of what it was like to grow up in this town and in this culture, some of it Mexican influenced but also a great deal of it religious because some part of my background is Catholic, but later my mother converted to Pentecostalism so there’s this intermingling of the Catholic faith with the Pentecostal faith.

  • Author reads “The Spirit that Appears When You Call” - The Keepsake Storm (2004)

GF: I’m going to read a transitional poem. It’s actually a dream of what it would be to move into a city where the identity of the city is wrapped up with all the cities of the world; and the way in which that identity becomes more general, it may be only specific when you can find and sort of locate it on one particular person. This poem came about, in part, because I had to leave my home in order to become educated, this was part of the pursuit of writing, and that meant I had never actually been east of Texas so I was seeing cities for the first time, and seeing myself outside of the context of my hometowns, of my mother’s and father’s hometowns for the first time. So this is called “The Walk like Old Habits.”

  • Poet reads “The Walk like Old Habits” - The Keepsake Storm (2004)

CG: Can you repeat the title of that one more time?

GF: Sure -- “The Walk like Old Habits.”

CG: Thank you.

GF: So one the things that connects my hometown experiences in this book is that they are both places with a certain kind of commerce and industry, but also they were both, I think, poor located in flood lands or flatlands; so there were very serious floods in both places and the flood imagery in the first section of the book is about a flood that destroyed my own hometown. The flood imagery that I’m about to read about is a flood that happened in Del Rio and many of the people living in that section of town were elderly, and not all of them were here legally in the states, but most of them unable to get out of their houses on time, so there were many drownings, many drownings, and my grandmother was one of them. So this is for Carmen Rios, flood victim of Del Rio, Texas, August 22nd, 1988; and the title of the poem is “Where the Bodies, Half-Dressed, in Pieces.”

  • Poet reads “Where the Bodies, Half-Dressed, in Pieces”- The Keepsake Storm (2004)

GF: And I think I can maybe give a two poem warning. Is that good?

CG: That works. That’s perfect.

GF: This poem is sort of paired with the previous poem because there is a lot in the book that is about disaster. Some of it is natural disaster. Some of it is, actually, religious disaster. So this is a poem about 9/11. And it’s entitled “That Cried to the Whole City ‘Sleep No More’”, which is actually a line from Wordsworth when he is also thinking about the disaster of the French Revolution and the terror and the violence, the terror and the violence of the French Revolution.

  • Poet reads “That Cried to the Whole City ‘Sleep No More’” - The Keepsake Storm (2004)

GF: And I will close with the last poem in the book, which is an elegy for a woman who has lost her ability to create new memories, and her ability to put old memories together in some way that allows her to recognize other people and even recognize herself. But she had a great ability to rally occasionally, and she would occasionally decide that she could still walk and that she could still sing even though she actually couldn’t any longer. So I’ll close with this elegy.

  • Poet reads “Archaeopteryx, an Elegy” - The Keepsake Storm (2004)

CG: Well that was a wonderful reading, Gina. Thank you so much.

GF: Thank you so much, Catalina. I really appreciate it.


U.S. Poetry at the Library of Congress, Washington, DC

June 8, 2016

Approximately 40 minutes.

Recording Title: Hispanic-American Poet Gina Franco Reading from her Works
Reading moderated by: Catalina Gómez


1). Selections from ‘The Keepsake Storm : Poems’ (2004)
- “Fishing” – (min. 2:38)
- “The Bells” – (min. 5:40)
- “These Years, in the Deepest Holes” – (min. 7:40)
- “The Spirit that Appears When you Call” – (min. 11:01)
- “The Walk Like Old Habits”– (min. 23:30)
- “Where the Bodies Half-Dressed, in Pieces” – (min. 27:45)
- “That Cried to the Whole City ‘Sleep no More’” – (min. 31:36)
- “Archaeopteryx, an Elegy” – (min. 35:34)

Conclusion – (min. 36:57)

End – (min. 37:05)

The Keepsake Storm : Poems

LC Catalog record:https://lccn.loc.gov/2003010222
Gina Franco, The Keepsake Storm : Poems, Tucson, University of Arizona Press, c2004)


Related Resources

Gina Franco

Gina Franco

Gina Franco was born in Clifton-Morenci, Arizona in 1968. She is the author of the book of poems The Keepsake Storm (2004). She has also published a variety of poems in literary journals, among them “The Stone is Worldless” and “Otherwise All Would Be God.” Her honors included a fellowship at Casa Libre en la Solano, Robert Chase Poetry Prize, and the Phillip Green Wright Lombard Prize for distinguished teachers. She served as art editor to Pilgrimage Magazine. Franco is currently teaching at Knox College in Galesburg, Illinios.

Learn more about Gina Franco at The Poetry Foundation