Sunday, December 9, 2012

Latin@ Featured Poets: 3 Interviews

Linda Rodriguez interviews Lucha Corpi

Lucha Corpi is the author of two collections of poetry and six novels, four of which feature Chicana detective Gloria Damasco: Eulogy for a Brown Angel, Cactus Blood, Black Widow’s Wardrobe, and Death at Solstice. In addition to writing poetry and mystery novels, Corpi is also the author of two bilingual children’s books and has been distinguished with a National Endowment for the Arts fellowship in poetry, an Oakland Cultural Arts fellowship in fiction, the PEN-Oakland Josephine Miles Award and the Multicultural Publishers Exchange Literary Award for fiction.

She is currently featured in an interview with novelist Linda Rodriguez in her blog “Linda Rodriguez Writes,” in which the character of Gloria Damasco is foregrounded as a central and defining figure in Lucha Corpi’s work: Both for her role as being considered, among scholars and critics, as the “first Chicana private detective in American literature… [and as]the first fictional woman detective to be deeply rooted in Chicana-o/Mexican culture in the U.S.” but also for the special place this character holds in the imagination of the author:                  

“That same year, my father underwent a cornea transplant and had trouble reading the newspaper. He asked me to read to him from any page in the newspaper except La página roja—the crime page. I was seven years old, so my father went to great lengths to remove the red page and hide it from me. But he didn’t destroy it right away, so I usually found it and read it. La página described knifings, fights in the sugar cane fields, other brawls and bloody accidents, in all their gory details. I soon tired of reading those repetitive news reports. But my curiosity grew the first time I read about and followed the case of a woman who had unsuccessfully tried to poison her husband. I fell in love with the kind of story, in which it was evident that there was someone’s “intelligence” behind the crime, and someone else’s matching “wits” to bring the criminal to justice—aka the detective story. But it wasn’t until 1989 that I undertook the research for my first mystery novel, months before I met Gloria Damasco, the detective who would need access to all that knowledge at a moment’s notice to do her job.”

                  [Continue reading.]

Rigoberto González interviews Natalie Diaz

Natalie Diaz is the author of When My Brother Was an Aztec (Copper Canyon Press, 2012) and is currently featured over at “Critical Mass” in an interview by Latino/a Poetry Now featured poet, Rigoberto González and which profiles Diaz’s debut collection of poems.

Grounded in the experiences of growing up in the Fort Mojave Indian Reservation in Needles, California, 
Natalie Diaz’s debut collection burrows from native folklore, Greek mythology, Mexican pop culture, and the speaker’s brother and his troubled addiction to methamphetamine to build a series of poems that is both narrative and surreal but always engaged with reveling what Natalie Diaz calls the “truest truth:” Testimonies that are to be found not in “history” but in the “myths” found in tribal stories:

I was raised to hold many truths in my hand, all at the same time, and to never have to drop one in order to have faith the other. This is the beauty of growing up in a multicultural family. Our capacity for identity is large. I am many. Even though most people use the word “myth” to speak of our tribal stories, we see them as truth. So, for me, myth has always been the truest truth. The word “history” on the other hand, we question. Since I first began reading, I was drawn to any stories that were labeled myth—Viking, Roman, Greek, etc.—because I had learned those were the real stories. My grandparents are from the north of Spain, Asturias and Oviedo. We grew up hearing them speak Spanish, and I ended up playing basketball and living in Spain, where I learned to appreciate the language more. Though my grandparents are Spanish, we have many Mexican relatives. My mother is native, from two tribes, but our language was a dying language, and so not spoken at home. It wasn’t until I began to work with my Elders that I began to learn the Mojave language. There are only a few poems in the book that use Mojave, and this is very intentional. The English language silenced Mojave for a very long time, worked hard to crush it completely. I don’t ever want to force my Mojave language to speak in English—what I mean by this is that in my writing, I use Mojave to say Mojave things, things that the English language is too young or not strong enough or deep enough to hold. Truly Mojave things. If I have something to say in English, well, there is plenty of the English language to say it with.”

                  [Continue reading.]

 Emma Trelles @ Boxcar Poetry Review

Emma Trelles is the author of Tropicalia (University of Notre Dame Press, 2011) and the winner of the 2010 Andrés Montoya Poetry Prize and is currently featured in a conversation with Justin Petropoulos, author of Eminent Domain (Marsh Hawk Press, 2011), over at “Boxcar Poetry Review.”

In this conversation both poets express the convergence, in their two texts (Tropicalia and Eminent Domain), of poetry as an agent of preservation where language serves both to document and record the voice(s) of communities previously displaced; where language acts as the agent that cures and preserves these voices like the “canning of fruit for the coming winter:”

“I find it interesting that although our books are utterly disparate in tone, there is still a fundamental unity present that involves the document—a thing that serves to record, preserve, or, in some cases, give voice to communities which, as you put so precisely, are "relegated to silence" by the very language that is used to mask their existence. This idea of language as a form of preservation is also of great interest to me, although my own book's approach is rooted more in the truths and artifices of the image, how it is subject to manipulation through a desire to document.”


Maria Melendez @ Letras Latina’s Oral History Project

One of Letras Latinas’ most little known initiative is the Oral History Project. A series of taped interviews, this initiative is intended to provide a resource on the web for students, scholars, and the general reader alike. To date this collection includes over twenty interviews, including those with poets Valerie Martinez and Brenda Cárdenas and prose writers Daniel Alarcón and John Phillip Santos, to name a few.

Latino/a Poetry Now featured poet, Maria Melendez is the author of How Long She'll Last in This World (University of Arizona Press, 2006), for which she received Honorable Mention at the 2007 International Latino Book Awards and was named a finalist for the 2007 PEN Center USA Literary Awards.  University of Arizona Press published Flexible Bones, her most recent collection of poetry, in 2010. 

In this Oral History Project interview, Maria Melendez speaks of her own poetics and its relationship to the environment; where poetry has the power to mourn the loss of biodiversity, the loss of whole communities of plants and other living beings—as well as the ability to remember places that are lost and which where once inhabited by human and non-human life alike. And of her fascinating and artistic childhood and household where she was first encouraged to write poetry in exchange for ice cream: “poetry does pay” Maria jokes laughingly.

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