tesoritos might be a bit deceiving to describe many of the Letras Latinas Oral History Project interviews that are buried here. Not because of difficulty in locating and unearthing them from this treasure map called the Internet but rather because—at an hour apiece—they can be taxing. But what I love about these interviews is that they offer a refreshing viewpoint to many of the Latino poets and writers—Martín Espada, Richard Blanco, Naomi Ayala, and Brenda Cardenas to name a few—that we have learned to love and read, presented in a format that is conversational and flowing and simply put, fun.
In the hope of arousing your curiosity I offer you here a preview of one of these interviews, with poet William Archila. Archila is the author of The Art of Exile (Bilingual Press, 2009) and along with poet Ruth Irupé Sanabria is slated to read on March 20th at Georgetown University in installment two of Latino/a Poetry Now. Also be on the lookout for a Poetry Society of America roundtable featuring William and Ruth coming out in early March.
In his first collection (and in this interview), William Archila chronicles his childhood in El Salvador—a county small as a “paper cut”—its premature disruption by political violence and his family’s displacement to the United States. Without casting fault or blame and showing the outmost compassion, Archila summons a language that “enters evening like a boatman standing in the mist, feeling waves roll underneath, pulling me through the slow nights of a small war.” To read a poem by Archila is to witness a summoning of language that becomes a caress on the mouths, on the memories of the dead.
And in this Oral History interview Archila explores his fascination for the language of the poetic—a language that while different from the language we use everyday can compensate for what is said or isn’t said on a daily basis. In the opening minutes Archila speaks to the experience of a childhood disrupted by the witnessing of a growing wave of violence and disappearances and his eventual exile in the U.S., his first attempts at writing—at a “yearning for union” with Salvadorans and other immigrants. While at the same time addressing the influence of Jazz over his work and the healing effect this music had in him and in his poetry.
For some poems by Archila click here.
Watch the interview here.