Sor Juana Inez de la Cruz was a nun and poet who helped the sick people during the plague. She eventually died from the plague having caught it while helping those in need. Basically, she was a really nice chick. April is National Poetry Month. NAC offers a lot of cool programs throughout the year, and April is a great time for events concerning poetry. I've participated once before, the coordinator having asked me to read part of Whitman's Leaves of Grass and then my own poem, "Circuit," from an anthology about Whitman. This time, she asked that I partake in a Sor Juana celebration.
Do I speak Spanish, she wanted to know. I took Spanish from the third through eleventh grade. I can proudly say, Yo me llamo Christina. Vivo en Valley Stream. Me gusta la basura.
Translation: My name is Christina. I live in Valley Stream. I like the garbage.
So, technically, yes, I speak Spanish. Actually, she'd asked because I could have read some Spanish poems. I can read Spanish better than speak or understand it. I would read it poorly, but I could read it. She found some other poets who could read the Spanish poems. A bunch of other poets read some English translations. So there were a bunch of poems in both languages before my part came up. I was to read the part of Antonia Mora, Sor Juana's secretary.
Sor Juana didn't really have a secretary. Well, maybe she did and perhaps Antonia Mora was her name, but the coordinator took the lines from Paul Anderson's over-1000-page novel, Hunger's Brides, which you can double as a weapon because it's so friggin heavy. Apparently, there's also a paperback version of the book that's a lot shorter and lighter because the paperback takes out the framework tale about a student researching Sor Juana and having a love affair with her professor. None of that affair was in the NAC presentation either, but it sounds really juicy. I could have read for either of those parts ;)
Anyway, Antonia Mora is a character in Hunger's Brides. The part I read was interlaced with parts of Sor Juana's poem (not fictional) called "First Dream." The actress playing Sor Juana read the English version while I read "diary entries" of the secretary. I read such things like: 28th of February--In a town in Italy, they rounded up the lepers and Jews, locked them in a barn, and set it alight; and: 5th of March--Even worse than the agony is the confusion on their faces.
It was all very uplifting.
Our part of the presentation followed a one-woman original piece, a homily for a Baroque-era German nun who was also a poet. I'm not really sure who she is or what she did even after watching the performance because I couldn't follow it. I really don't know what it was about. The performer wore a sparkly pink accessory scarf with peace signs on it over her head, like a nun's habit. A very retro-trendy nun. She ran over time so when my part came up, in the middle, the coordinator had to whisper to the Sor Juana on stage not to read any more poems and let me just finish, and it took me a moment to realize what was going on, but we pulled it off quite nicely, especially considering that we practiced once, right before the event began.
Afterwards, they served cake. We like cake. Cake is good. This cake was really, really good, and I had a whole piece of it because I was in need of a sugar-rush for the hour drive home in the dark on the wet roads. Also a rush--the people afterwards who told me I read real good. So I'm really good at playing a nun's secretary if I have a script in front of me. If there's an open casting call for that, let me know.