Notes on "Picture of an Indian Girl, Chiapas" from issue 300.3

Peter Ludwin

A_Spanish_Woman_G34A few years ago after the conclusion of another wonderful San Miguel Poetry Week in central Mexico, I traveled south to the city of San Cristobal de las Casas in the state of Chiapas. I had long wanted to go there because of its natural setting and the presence of age-old indigenous cultures in the surrounding countryside. Though I cut my stay short due to the irresistible lure of Guatemala directly across the border, it wasn’t before I wandered into a small shop that sold some limited edition postcards. Two of them taken of the same subject—a young girl descended from the ancient Maya--immediately riveted my attention. I had to have them. I felt a kind of internal vibration that I’ve experienced at other times when I know I’ve found a compelling source for poetry. I’ve always trusted that intuition, and it’s never let me down.

The cards became the genesis of my poem “Picture of an Indian Girl, Chiapas”, which can be found in the current issue of North American Review. They also inspired a second poem, which appeared last year in an anthology called Goodbye, Mexico that was published by Texas Review Press. Such is the magical power of travel and contact with other cultures. Those experiences that occur outside the boundaries of one’s normal everyday life are fertile embryos incubating until they take shape. Sometimes they force themselves kicking and squalling into the light of day. On other occasions they have to marinate for weeks, months, even years before a door suddenly unlocks and the poet gains access to what had balked him to that point. Once in awhile they tumble out fully formed with no visible defect or changes needed. More often they require to be kneaded like clay, transitioning through several drafts. Our word “poem” travels back in time through French and Latin to the Greek “poeio”, which means “make.”

The world is a repository of endless possibilities from which we derive the inspiration to make poems. We need only to be present, to be open to everything around and within us. As the old travel saw has it, “Wherever you go, there you are.”

Peter Ludwin

Peter Ludwin is the recipient of a Literary Fellowship from Artist Trust and the W.D. Snodgrass Award for Endeavor and Excellence in Poetry.   He was the Second Prize Winner of the 2007-2008 Anna Davidson Rosenberg Awards, and a Finalist for the Muriel Craft Bailey Memorial Award.  For   twelve years he was a participant in the San Miguel Poetry Week in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico, where he workshopped under such noted poets as Mark Doty, Tony Hoagland, Joseph Stroud and Robert Wrigley.  His work has appeared in many journals, including The Bitter Oleander, The Comstock Review, Crab Orchard Review, Nimrod, North American Review and Prairie Schooner, to name a few, and he has recent work forthcoming or already published in Atlanta Review, Colere, Common Ground Review, Concho River Review, Oyez Review, Pinyon, Poem and Weber: The Contemporary West.  His first full length collection, A Guest in All Your Houses, was published in 2009 by Word Walker Press.  A chapbook manuscript, Gone to Gold Mountain, was a Semi-finalist for both the 2010 Concrete Wolf Chapbook Award and the Floating Bridge Press Chapbook Award.  His second full length manuscript, Rumors of Fallible Gods, was a two-time Finalist for the Gival Press Poetry Award and was published in 2013 by Presa Press.  His poem “Terezin Concentration Camp, Bohemia,” was nominated for a 2010 Pushcart Prize, and “Trial of Compassion, Baker City Oregon” received Special Merit Recognition in the 2011 Muriel Craft Bailey Award Competition.  Soundings Review named him its Reader’s Choice winner in the spring/summer 2011 issue for his poem, “A Convocation of Crows.”  He has been a featured reader at Peninsula College in Port Angeles, Washington; the University of South Dakota; Whittier College and in the Czech Republic, among many other venues.  He was recently anthologized in A Face to Meet the Faces: An Anthology of Contemporary Persona Poetry.  An avid traveler who has journeyed by canoe to visit remote Indian families in the Amazon Basin of Ecuador, hiked in the Peruvian Andes, thumbed for rides in Greece and bargained for goods in the markets of Marrakech and Istanbul, he spent nearly a month in 2011 in China and the Tibetan region of Sichuan Province.  He lives in Kent, Washington.