So proud of our Gabriella Gutierrez y Muhs!
She pulled the book from her shelf and humbly agreed to read. And when she spoke, she did so in a poet’s voice, with conviction, passion and life.
“…I remember asking you if you had too much to deal with and you turned around and said to me in perfect Spanish: Nunca sabemos donde va a romperse la tela profesora. (We never know where the cloth will rip, professor).”
The poetry of professor Gabriella Gutierrez y Muhs not only spans multiple languages but multiple continents as well. Recently, Gutierrez y Muhs was selected to be the featured American poet at this year’s International Festival of Poetry, known as Kritya 2011, held in Nagpur, India.
To be nominated to such a position, a poet must be recommended by several other poets. Gutierrez y Muhs felt particularly honored when she found out that Alicia Partnoy, the chair of Spanish at Loyola Marymount, a poet, and social justice activist, was just one of the many people who submitted Gutierrez y Muhs’ name.
“It was particularly important because [Partnoy] is so incredible,” said Gutierrez y Muhs. “She’s done marvelous work in every way, [and it’s] invaluable that such a human being would recommend me.”
But Gutierrez y Muhs shines in her own way. In this day and age where issues involving identity and race are slowly building up in our country, Gutierrez y Muhs sees it as a wonderful opportunity to be the featured American poet. This is because she feels that she is not only the representative of America, but she is the face of America as well.
“I am Latina, but I’m also a Chicana, I’m also Mexican, I’m also American. I’m all those subjectivities,” Gutierrez y Muhs said. “So I find it particularly ironic and marvelously wonderful that I would be [nominated].”
Thinking back on her extensive background in poetry, Gutierrez y Muhs remembers that the first time she was officially called “poet” was when she studied in France at the age of 19. Since then, Gutierrez y Muhs has traveled all around the world, speaking at conferences and reading her poetry that she writes in English, Spanish and French. Now making her plans to go to India, Gutierrez y Muhs is not nervous at all. In fact, she has quite the positive outlook on how her trip will be.
“I’m excited because I’m going to become a new person. I’m dropping this shell, and I’m getting a bigger one,” Gutierrez y Muhs said. “I’m going to learn. I’m going to share. I’m going to bring back. I’m going to go there and grow and see and appreciate and represent the United States.”
And her colleagues could not be more proud of her. Ted Fortier, associate professor of anthropology, who has known Gutierrez y Muhs for more than 12 years and has also read her poetry, knows that she will have a wonderful time abroad.
“I am so proud that Gabriella is recognized for her work and for her artistry. She is so accomplished on so many levels, and is a real treasure,” said Fortier. “Once someone meets Gabriella, they always remember her.”
Sharon Suh, associate professor of theology and religious studies, regards the poetry of Gutierrez y Muhs as “a gift that she offers to us all,” and “her poems are both culturally specific and accessible to all.”
That is why Gutierrez y Muhs is among the group of Latino writers, alongside Helena Viramontes and Demetria Martinez, who have had their work translated into Hindi. And in response to that, Gutierrez y Muhs could not feel more honored.
“Here’s these people on the other side of the world who are very much interested in the new American writer which [includes] Latino authors,” Gutierrez y Muhs said. “I do believe I will find other ways of reading, looking at my novel, [and] contextualizing my poems through their eyes.”
From The Spectator, Seattle University