Stay tuned all month for poet interviews in honor of National Poetry Month.
1) Why poetry?
I’ve tried everything else and this is the form I keep returning to, the life I keep returning to, the mode of expression that has some fairly porous guidelines, ample play, and enables genre promiscuity. Poetry has proven to be some kind of elixir of self for the self in the face of the collaboration fatigue of everyday life. Is that terrible to say? Sometimes it’s the quiet solitary practice of trying to shape and make sense of the chaos that permeates every cellular crack that keeps the hum of life’s static at bay. And also that thing that passes for control, that passes for a sense of self-determination as it comes in a language of my making, your making and then the collective authorship when the reader comes and takes their place at the table.
2) Do you feel like poetry is more or less important & relevant today?
The proliferation of poetry that seeks to dismantle hegemonic structures signals to me that it’s important and relevant, like oxygen? To the multitudes, yes. Poetry is one of those things that gets beloved or belittled depending on the experience a listener or a reader is having…any small thing can mar that experience and lead to the abandoning of poetry, or it can be transformative in necessary ways. Sometimes it’s a poem that wakes you up out of your weird, toxic desire to be led by terrible people and ideas, whether they’re the parents you got in the shit lottery or presidents that hacked the system.
3) Tell us about one poet who has greatly influenced you as a writer and a thinker.
Roberto Tejada is my gold standard and I say that with some tongue in my cheek for his Mirrors for Gold, a project I appreciate for its ability to complicate the colonial encounter by imbuing it with desire and perpetually spiraling psychosexual concatenations that I think is still present for any Latinx person contending with blood quantum, subjugated embodiment, nation, state, and self-making, unmaking, and selfhood.
4) Tell us about one lesser-known contemporary poet who you’d like more people to know about.
I can actually tell you about TWO poets…one is Claire Meuschke who is graduating from the MFA program this Spring and who I will miss having in workshop because she’s a great reader but more importantly a great poet who is brilliantly excavating her Chinese and Native ancestral meditations via her archives culled from places like Angel Island. And then another graduate from University of Arizona, Taneum Bambrick, whose recent chapbook Reservoir (selected by Ocean Vuong) won one of the Yemassee writing prizes. You can check out her work here.
5) Share with us one of your recent poems and tell us a little bit about its context.
This poem is unpublished and came about during my winter break escape to Joshua Tree to nurse a broken heart in a hot tub under a full moon and the Geminid meteor shower but knowing that whatever communing I get to do with the nature of my choosing, with the pursuit of woo uplift and healing that it’s always through some awkward negotiation with capitalism and a conscious attempt at resisting consuming my identity.
Woke Folks Make It Okay To Get Baked.
Winter desert getaway
airbnb for you and me
hot tub under the stars, the stripes
of the libertarian hinterland
Coerce the eyelid flutter wake up to get back
to the Joshua Tree party house booked when
Sorry Sorrow took my clue to blow her exit cue against
the moonsong dreamstutter washing over Jumbo Rocks until it disappears
as a sun rocket cheers inside another burning pale blue pyre.
Here come the ancient good times where I get pulled outside, and wait for sorrow to strike.
We get it otherwise fatale like an avoidant archetype ain’t
a coinpurse scary heartbroke.
It’s a starterpack starring approval next lunation ticking alluvial.
I survive the precarious life of coyote trickster because
I love the unpaved roads of Joshua Tree
paycheck to payback the aging hipster economy, invite me to parties.
But I will cut this pack
when they try and take my dog.
Raquel Gutiérrez was born in Los Angeles, lives in Tucson, writes poems, teaches, and runs the tiny press called Econo Textual Objects (est. 2014).