In 2012, José Ballesteros, professor of Spanish at St. Mary’s College of Maryland,(SMCM) launched and became the editor for Zozobra Publishing, an independent literary press that publishes bilingual editions of previously unpublished Latino and Latina U.S. poetry. In 2017 he published his second anthology entitled “Knocking on the Door to the White House” which will serve as the centerpiece for the VOICES reading on April 12.
The anthology is a curated and translated version of the Spanish-language anthology “Al Pie de la Casa Blanca,” published in 2010 by the North American Academy of the Spanish Language. Ballesteros said he altered the title to reflect the current political climate, saying “we feel that more than ever that it is important for us to raise our multilingual voices and take up space in some of the contexts that traditionally have been cordoned off to us as people of color.”
“Knocking on the Door of the White House” is the first bilingual poetry anthology for the Washington, D.C. region. It is notable for highlighting “the multilingual diversity, depth, and artistry of the D.C. area’s Latinx poetry scene. It serves as both an important collection of verse as well as an important document reflective of Latinx letters in the D.C. area from 2001 to the present,” according to Ballesteros. Several of the poets featured in the anthology will present their work at the upcoming VOICES reading on campus.
Ballesteros also noted that the anthology “would seem like a direct response to Trump himself or the current state of the GOP given their prevailing position on the plight of undocumented workers, but it’s more symbolic of the empowerment of the Latinx population as we continue to grow and thrive in the U.S. as a whole,” adding that recent political turmoil “is only the latest in a series of obstacles that many in our communities have had to overcome to continue to provide for their families both here and abroad.” He also commented that the political tone of the anthology is not targeting the Trump administration specifically.
He notes that “the verbal marginalization of men of color for political gains is nothing new in this country and unfortunately it is not particular to any political party or demographic.” SMCM alumna María Mateo, ‘17, also served as one of the translators in the anthology.
“Knocking on the Door of the White House” has already received praise, being named to Beltway Poetry’s Must Read list. Ballesteros said that he feels honored to have won the Must Read award against so many competitors. He stated, “I am incredibly humbled, but I’m not surprised. We spent years putting our books together to make sure they are superb and this would surely be impossible without the our authors,and quality editors, translators and D.C.-based bookstores that worked so hard on our behalf.”
The first book Zozobra Publishing released was Carlos Parada-Ayala’s book of Poems “The Light of the Storm” (2014). “Knocking on the Door of the White House” (2017) is Zozobra’s second publication.
For more information, visit zozobrapublishing.com