The X in My Name – Francisco X. Alarcon

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X, marks the spot

Chapter 14 talks about Personal Identity and poetry, we learn that despite the myth that all authors write about themselves, some actually do. And those aspects of their life that they share are vivid, and significant.

One of the most unique and personal things about a person is his/her signature, and his/her name. A person’s name is embedded in everything they do, from the day they are born until the day that they die. And with that so is their signature, they use it get money, send a note, sign a contract. Some of the most essential aspects of life would not exist without a signature. The poem The X in My Name  by Francisco X. Alarcon, speaks about the importance of value, and one’s self. As I stated earlier, Chapter 14 talks about personal identity and how many times poets write their poetry based on their own expierneces and lives. In order to best understand this poem by Francisco X. Alarcon, I decided to do a little bit of research on him. It turns out that Alarcon is not only an award winning poet, but he is also a teacher at the University of California, Davis. He has won quite an extensive list of awards, such as 1993  American Book Award, the 1993 PEN Oakland Josephine Miles Award, the 1984 Chicano Literary Prize, Fred Cody Lifetime Achievement Award from the Bay Area Book Reviewers Association (BABRA), the 1997 Pura Belpré Honor Award by the American Library Association, the National Parenting Publications Gold Medal, the 2002 Pura Belpré Honor Award, Danforth and Fulbright fellowships, and the 1998 Carlos Pellicer-Robert Frost Poetry Honor Award by the Third Binational Border Poetry Contest, Ciudad Juárez, Chihuahua. Being such a proclaimed writer, I feel that a poem of this degree probably isn’t talking much about his life now, but a personal account of what it took to get to where he is.

The X in my name is a short poem that goes like this:

The X in my name

“the poor signature of my illiterate and peasant self

giving away all rights in a deceptive contract for life”

This poem by Alarcon, goes deep into his past, from this poem I imagined an uneducated man, who is coming to a new place, where he is misunderstood and he is confused. Trying to do what is best for his family, he has set out on this journey to become someone else, someone who can provide, and someone who will be able to mesh with this new culture he is faced again. At the same time, this man is trying to make sure he can still withhold his morals and teachings and to be true to himself and his family. The contract that is talked about in this poem, could be his acceptance to enter a new country, his acceptance to begin working, he is signing on a peice of paper that really he has not a clue what it is saying. This man is signing himself away to people, he leaves himself vulnerable and readily available to be taken advantage of.

I’m not sure but from the background I have learned of Alarcon, I would sat that he was raised in a rich Hispanic community with a ton of flavor of culture and family. This community, much like the the man in the poem, may have been quite uneducated and in a rural area of the world. Being a minority myself, I feel that Alarcon has written this poem as a way to show those he cares about that he has accomplished a lot through his struggle and battle he has overcome it and became something he is quite proud of. In a way it shows that despite mistakes he may have made along the way, and how he may still be penalized for them, he has overcome and conquered his dreams.

Quite literally, I think that the X in his name represents, the need to blend into the new culture of which he was exposed to. A middle name, that really may not mean much to him, but could be something that was vital in order for him to get the job, or to sign the contract. The X may be representative of his struggle and his triumph.

WEBSITE USED FOR BACKGROUND INFORMATION: http://www.poetrymagazine.com/archives/2003/May03/alarcon.htm

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