Author Pam Houston and bluegrass band Breaking Blue headline El Palacio party


“Party with El Palacio” on Friday, Aug. 5, features a free triple-header of an evening with award-winning author Pam Houston, Albuquerque bluegrass band Breaking Blue and spoken-word poet Carlos Contreras.

The event, hosted by El Palacio magazine, begins at 5 pm, with a reading and book signing by Houston in the New Mexico History Museum Auditorium. (Seating is limited.) At 6:30, come to the Palace of the Governors Courtyard for a toe-tapping and boot-scooting performance by Breaking Blue. (Wear your dancing shoes!). Preceding the band, Albuquerque spoken-word poet Carlos Contreras will perform his poem “Communion in the Desert (A Trip to the New Mexico History Museum).”

All the events are free. Come for one or for all three.

Each performer has a tie to El Palacio, the magazine of the Museums of New Mexico. Houston wrote about why she chose the Western life in the summer issue of El Palacio, “My Ranch, Myself: Making a Home on the Land.” (For an earlier El Palacio interview with Houston, go here.) Breaking Blue wrote a song based on an article in the winter 2008 issue of El Palacio, “Dearest Annie: Letters from Fort Selden.” And an interview with Contreras along with “Communion in the Desert” ran in the spring issue; a video of him performing it in the Palace Courtyard is on the magazine’s web site.

Houston’s new book, Contents May Have Shifted, will be published by W.W. Norton in early 2012. Among her earlier books are Cowboys Are My Weakness, Waltzing the Cat, A Little More about Me, and Sight Hound. Her stories have been selected for volumes of Best American Short Stories, the O. Henry Awards, the Pushcart Prize, and Best American Short Stories of the Century. She has won the Western States Book Award, the WILLA award for contemporary fiction, the Evil Companions Literary Award, and multiple teaching awards. Director of creative writing at the University of California, Davis, Houston also teaches in The Pacific University low residency MFA program, and at writers’ conferences around the country and the world, including the Taos Summer Writers’ Conference.

She lives on a ranch at 9,000 feet in Colorado near the headwaters of the Rio Grande. You can learn more about her on her web site.

Breaking Blue’s members come from different walks of music – from jazz to heavy metal to classical – but are united in a passion to perform what they call “shabby-chic Americana music.” Along the way, they’ve revived some traditional American “Old Time” songs and lyrics that have been forgotten or re-written over the years.

In 2009, the group won the Santa Fe Bluegrass Festival Song writing contest. Other awards include the 2011 New Mexico Music Award for Best American Song (“Old Roads”); the 2010 Santa Fe Bluegrass Festival Old Time Band Competition; and the 2010 Albuquerque Folk Festival Band Contest. The group’s web site has more information.

Contreras competed on the team that brought the National Poetry Slam Championship home to his native Albuquerque. His awards include the New Mexico Hispanic Entertainers Award for Poet of the Years in 2007. With the Voces program at the National Hispanic Cultural Center, he leads workshops in poetry composition and performance. Contreras has published poems in several anthologies, and a book, A Man in Pieces: Poems for My Father.

For “Communion in the Desert,” El Palacio commissioned him to tour the New Mexico History Museum/Palace of the Governors and compose a poem about the trip. Read more about him on this web site.

Founded in 1913 as the scholarly journal of the state’s then-only museum – the Palace of the Governors – El Palacio has covered the exhibits, public programs and scholarship of the Museum of New Mexico’s four Santa Fe museums (New Mexico History Museum/Palace of the Governors, Museum of International Folk Art, Museum of Indian Arts and Culture/Laboratory of Anthropology, and New Mexico Museum of Art), as well as the Office of Archaeological Studies and the six State Monuments (Coronado, Jemez, Fort Selden, Lincoln, Fort Sumner, and El Camino Real International Heritage Center). For subscription information, go here.