‘Commissions y Corridos’ part of a series celebrating Albuquerque’s poets laureate

“Commissions Corridos” by Hakim Bellamy

The book “Commissions y Corridos: Poems” shows the breadth of subjects, the depth of thinking and the vibrant flow of creativity of distinguished Albuquerque poet Hakim Bellamy.

Not all the poems are commissions, and Bellamy suggests in the book’s preface that none is a corrido, per se. “But they are songs. They are songs about my life in this place, full of characters (including Burque itself) real and make believe,” he writes.

The opening poem is all-embracing – “One Hundred Years of Corridos: A Song for the New Mexico Centennial.”

The centennial year was 2012, which happened to be the first year of Bellamy’s two-year term as Albuquerque’s inaugural poet laureate.

The poem notes, in part,

“For one hundred years BC / before the Commodores / before Lionel Ritchie / and for one hundred years more / we’ve farmed, feasted, and fixed cars. …”

The poem later advises that with New Mexico having the oldest and highest state capital in the country, “people on both coasts / should look up to us / instead of wondering / if they have to exchange their money before coming. …”

Hakim Bellamy. (Courtesy of City of Albuquerque)

In the profound and provocative poem “Bread & Roses,” Bellamy assigns different meanings to the words “labor” and “unions.” It opens with a reference to slavery as a union of labor: “The very first unions in America / were brought here by boat, / broken by back. / By whip, / rape, / and rope.”

The poem moves forward in time and places workers alongside historic figures, many of them labor leaders: “…We are Dolores Huerta. / We are Cesar Chavez. / We are Samuel Gompers. / We are Gabriel Prosser. / We are Lucy Gonzalez Parsons. / And we are Rosie the Riveter.”

Another Bellamy poem, “Bless Me,” was inspired by the life and literature of Rudolfo Anaya. However, the poem’s focus is on the character of Antonio, who is six when the curandera Ultima comes to stay with his family de ella in Anaya’s famous coming-of-age novel “Bless Me, Ultima.”

One particular line in “Bless Me” resonates today in view of the Russian invasion of Ukraine. It reads “… and it’s quite normal / for war / to make people lose their faith… . / in everything.”

Another poem pays tribute to teachers in their roles in and out of the classroom. It concludes, “For as long / As you’ve been on your feet for me / I will stand for you.”

Several poems are specifically about Albuquerque. The shortest poem in the collection is this haiku: “Albuquerque. Where / the desert doesn’t get in / the way of your view.”

Another poem, “ABQ Manifesto (For We Are This City),” has the spirit of an anthem: “We be loco. / We are local. / We be wolves / singing to the night. / We are your favorite city’s / favorite city.” A third, “Sidewalk Society,” takes a critical look at how Albuquerque values ​​its public art.

Some of the poems in the collection were composed during Bellamy’s tenure as the city’s poet laureate. The volume, part of a series celebrating Albuquerque’s poets laureate, is co-published by the city’s Arts and Culture Department and the University of New Mexico Press.

Bellamy has lived a multidimensional life. He’s been a member of two national champion poetry slam teams. He’s a musician, actor, journalist, playwright, community organizer, facilitator of youth writing workshops and was the on-air host for New Mexico PBS’s “¡Colores!” program.

According to Shelle Sanchez, director of the Albuquerque’s Arts and Culture Department, what’s important about the process of selecting the city’s poet laureates is that it is community-led and driven, and is separate from city government.

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