In honor of National Poetry Month, we’re interviewing several poets and asking them a few questions about poetry. Our second featured poet is Omar Pimienta! Stay tuned all month for more featured poets.
1) Do you think poetry is still important, relevant, and vibrant in today’s culture?
I think it is, that is, I believe, that, now more than ever people are concerned about how their usage of language affects their environment. That to me is the first step into poetry.
2) What makes you want to write poetry?
I currently haven’t been as productive as I would like to be but I would have to say that the driving force has always been “el miedo al olvido,” the fear of been forgotten, not death but that last minute in the future where the last person has the last thought about my existence.
3) Tell us about one poet who has greatly influenced you as a writer and thinker.
My mother: she never published her work but she would always recite it to relatives and friends that would pass by our house in Tijuana on their way to the U.S. Her poems weere mostly nostalgic. They talked about Tecolotlán, her hometown in Jalisco, and since most people that visited us were migrants, they would always get emotionally affected. I guess I have always been interested in that longing and in that affection. I also guess her work is the reason that my poetry has been so anecdotal.
4) Tell us about one lesser-known poet who you’d like more people to know about.
Helí Ramírez, a Colombian poet from el barrio de Castilla, Medellín. He is capable of writing about the worst things that men are capable of, under the worst conditions, with the simplicity that only that experience, sensibility and love for poetry can give him.
5) How do you feel about poetry in the age of social media?
I feel great. As I mentioned before, people are more concerned about language; everyone is translating their thoughts into text, to a certain point everyone is publishing. Also, as I have said before, my mother never published, so I know she would’ve gone crazy with the possibility of posting her poems onto a blogspot and have it linked to her hometown Facebook page where every exiled Tecolotlense could read them and cry. This possibility also makes me a bit nervous, confused, I have to confess, I don’t know whom my audience is, who will be, and will that last thought of my existence depend on the capacity to produce energy.
6) Share with us one of your recent poems and tell us a little bit about its context.
I have been writing from images, and the other day I wrote a poem in English. I usually write in Spanish. The context, I don’t know, trying to write poetry at the same time as I try to navigate a Ph.D program thinking that there are so many other works out there that I could do, that I am supposed to do.
I had family to the north / family to the south
Family in Jalisco, us in Tijuana, family in CA.
We visit them all
all the time
My dad’s immense truck was able to drive for weeks
5 days south to Tecolotlán to visit older people
1 day north to visit younger people
Everyone gave us something: crates of grapes
sacks of potatoes
gallons of tequila
cheese lots of cheese
tickets for amusements parks
Everyone seemed to work in something fun
with food or with Mickey
Don Marcos was the only one that burnt metal
in the middle of nowhere
I remember thinking my cousins were the insides of the park’s characters
I would always talk to them thru their suits
This is a family picture of me with someone else’s cousin.
Omar Pimienta is an interdisciplinary artist and writer who lives and works in the San Diego / Tijuana border region. His artistic practice examines questions of identity, trans-nationality, emergency poetics, landscape and memory. He received his MFA in Visual Arts from the University of California, San Diego in 2010 and he is currently part of the Ph.D program in Literature of UCSD. His work as a visual artist has been shown at the J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles; the San Diego Museum of Contemporary Art; Oceanside Museum of art; Centro Cultural Tijuana; Centro Cultural de España in Buenos Aires, Argentina; the Cineteca UNAM, Mexico City, among other venues. He has published three books of poetry, including: Primera Persona Ella (Ediciones de La Esquina, 2004 and Littera Libros, 2009) and La Libertad: Ciudad de Paso (CECUT, 2006 and Aullido Libros, 2008), and Escribo desde Aquí book that won the 10th Emilio Prado International Publication prize from the Centro Cultural Generación del 27 Malaga Spain, 2010).