Former McAllen poet laureate’s publishing company finds connection in book of poetry by Leslie Contreras-Schwartz

FlowerSong Press
In “Black Dove/Paloma Negra,” Leslie Contreras-Schwartz unfolds the pain of people struggling through a variety of trauma, such as those suffering from mental illnesses, sex workers, and border detainees. (Courtesy photo)

When Houston Poet Laureate Leslie Contreras-Schwartz approached Edward Vidaurre with her latest poetry book “Black Dove/Paloma Negra,” the editor-in-chief of FlowerSong Press, a McAllen publishing company, didn’t hesitate to accept it.

Vidaurre, the 2018-19 McAllen Poet Laureate, says there isn’t a book that could be more aligned with the mission of FlowerSong.

In “Black Dove/Paloma Negra,” Contreras-Schwartz unfolds the pain of people struggling through a variety of trauma, such as those suffering from mental illnesses, sex workers, and border detainees. Throughout the book, she writes from the perspectives of those struggling.

“There’s so much vulnerability in this collection of hers that it just needs to be put out there,” Vidadurre said. “I think the collection provided a lot of self healing for her and will offer a lot of healing for others.”

The McAllen man was already a loyal fan of Contreras-Schwartz’s work before last year when she reached out to FlowerSong, so when she came to him with “Black Dove/Paloma Negra,” a poetry book that sought to pacify the afflicted, he immediately said yes to being her publisher.

Through the FlowerSong, Vidaurre says he strives to offer a platform for “voices that are often marginalized by traditional publishing.”

“Being from the border, I just thought we sometimes get overlooked,” he said. “You know, we are not a big city, usually with writers, the ones that get paid attention to are from bigger cities, like Houston or San Antonio, Los Angeles and New York.”

Vidaurre, a native of Los Angeles who moved to McAllen 20 years ago, emphasized that though the FlowerSong is based in South Texas, his intentions with the company is to offer a platform for writers from any end of the U.S-Mexico border — and even some composers from across seas.

This year, he will be publishing works by authors from all around the world, including a poet from Nigeria.

“My goal is to be publishing underrepresented voices,” Vidaurre said.

It’s for that reason that he says “Black Dove/Paloma Negra” was a perfect fit for FlowerSong.

“Reading (Contreras-Schwartz’s) book, I think in a way helps people not feel alone, alone in certain aspects if they are going through certain things,” Vidaurre said. “If there is a fracture in their life that makes them feel like they have to be silenced, or through some sort of mental illness, if they are trying to get out of something like that, this book makes them not feel alone — feel like there’s other people out there that are going through the same thing with them.”

Leslie Contreras-Schwartz and Edward Vidaurre (Courtesy photos)

Though reading the book may not be the key to overcoming a kind of trauma, he said it’s a step toward healing.

“It can empower them, even though the suffering is still there — it gives them hope,” he said.

Vidaurre added that he thinks composing the book provided some healing for Contreras-Schwartz, too.

“It just felt like it was something she was writing down that was very difficult, that was very jarring,” he said. “I felt that she might have been writing, stopping, crying, and toward the end, that final period was like an exhale… I think throughout her writing, she destroyed herself in the writing and at the same time healed herself in the writing, and then just came full circle at the end, and was able to breathe again.”

Vidaurre encourages the community to pick up a copy of “Black Dove/Paloma Negra,” which can be purchased through www.flowersongpress.com.

“I think this is one of the greatest books that has come out during the pandemic that can’t be overlooked, and I think it’s from one of our greatest contemporary writers,” he said. “She writes with a lot of wisdom, a lot of rich words and thoughtfulness.

cdeguzman@themonitor.com