Stay tuned all month for poet interviews in honor of National Poetry Month.
1) Why poetry?
poetry because it was the first language of us. it was essential and efficient and unconcerned with posturing or conceit. it was immediate. it was the way to address god. the special effects before there were special effects.
2) Do you feel like poetry is more or less important & relevant today?
it is never less or more relevant. instead our attention to it is heightened in times of scarcity and when survival is not guaranteed because we turn to that first language to speak directly and truthfully.
3) Tell us about one poet who has greatly influenced you as a writer and a thinker.
Late in adolescence I found Cherríe Moraga. I was starved for openly queer Chicana voices and when I read “La Dulce Culpa” I gasped out loud at the deep truth of it:
“What kind of lover have you made me, mother
who drew me into bed at six/ at sixteen
oh, even at sixty-six you do still
lifting up the blanket with one arm
lining out the space for my body with the other
as if our bodies still beat
inside the same skin
as if you never noticed
when they cut me
4) Tell us about one lesser-known contemporary poet who you’d like more people to know about.
Bridgette Bianca is a Los Ángeles poet whose work i have been paying close attention to even as we were students together in workshop. As a poet, Bridgette demonstrates a deceptively simple economy of language which delivers arresting if ephemeral images. Thematically, her syntax conjures the times we live in, even as it simultaneously invokes a historically private inner world, a shared national memory of erasure, grief, rage and restoration.
Here is an excerpt of her poem “to reap”:
to find you here
the bones of our dead
In short order, Bridgette addresses and indicts a reader complicit in erasure and appropriation. A belief in the constraint of efficiency has the effect of liberation in Bridgette’s hands: because we have such little time, let us get to the point.
5) Share with us one of your recent poems and tell us a little bit about its context.
This is from a series called Puentes, about some of the bridges that connect the east side of Los Ángeles, where I grew up, attended school and worked as an adult as well. My work concerns itself with maps. Mapping a body or a landscape. Documenting what has occurred or what is possible. My work is also concerned with languages, not only like bilinguality (there is that, in a lot of my work), but also the idea of language, what can be accessed or denied, and even inter-textual translation. Lastly, it is concerned very much with desire.
Sixth Street or some Dantean reference
There are instructions:
line up east and move toward the river
how a thing floats, how bruised feet walk
where steam rises from the water
there is not enough death to kill you little pistol, little match
not in that graveyard not in the smokestacks
what is a grave when we have the internet
what is death but a mouth
a tongue but a bridge
a gasp before birth (yours, hers)
and there the bridge
there there/like that
here is destruction
here what stars.
Rocío Carlos is the author of “A World Below” (mindmade books, 2014) and co-author of “ex her pt” (wirecutter collective, 2016). Her work has been published in Chaparral, Angel City Review and is forthcoming in Spiral Orb. Selections of her collaborative work in progress with Rachel McLeod Kaminer, “Attendance” appear in Cultural Weekly. She lives and works in Los Ángeles.