I started this email interview with Francisco Aragon for Tertulia Magazine, but I started late, then overwhelmed him, I think, with this long raw response, and we never finished it. So, I thought I'd park it here. Enjoy! Me, I'm off to California. Come see me in Berkeley.
Subject: Re: Epigraph and question #1
Date: March 14, 2007 11:12:54 AM MST
On Feb 4, 2007, at 4:14 PM, xxxxx.edu wrote:
E-interview with Lorna Dee Cervantes
conducted by Francisco Aragón
"I blog to push through the plug of prose, that clot in the lower vertebrae of
the soul between the inner eye and the third planet from the mind. I blog to
open the doors I hide behind whenever someone knocks on the real. I blog to
answer the phone. I blog to always be home. I blog for the dead—literally. They
like it. They like to see their names written in electrons of light, shooting
out of the dark or slowly blinking in this self-made sky. I blog to remind. I
blog to recommend. I blog to revel. I blog to reveal the bald spot on top of
God’s head. I blog to call out the goddesses. I blog for the goddesses of
documentation. I blog because I lose my calendar even on a good day. I blog
like the ocean comes in on waves. I blog like delivering hot meals to shut-ins.
I blog to not be a shut-in. I blog to sing, “Yo soy!” I blog because I am
misrepresented, misquoted, misunderstood and missed—often. I blog to set the
record straight. I blog because it’s never straight and there’s never any
record. I blog to record. I blog because I can. I blog, because, I am. I blog
because I can’t sing worth a dam."
—Lorna Dee Cervantes, posted Wednesday, January 17, 2007
FA: Hi Lorna! I hope you don’t mind that I’ve used this recent post of yours as
an epigraph to our interview! I read it a couple of days ago and just loved it.
On one level, it’s a delicious feast of rhyme and sound. But of course, it’s
much more than that. I also admire its unapologetic tone, which leads me to the
first question(s): Could you share with us what led to your decision to start
your blog, and what it’s been like? And related to this: how has it effected
your habits as an artist?
I think there's the whole interview with just my answers to these questions. In a way, every time I blog I am adding another word to the answer/s. I didn't really decide to blog, I was lead to it; I believe I was lead by the dead, my personal dead, ronnie burk, in particular, who took me by the hand, literally, I could feel him present.
I've always felt an added sense of responsibility as a writer - our language is never our own. And I've always been moved by a sense of guilt that I am not a prose writer, nor a journalist (I would have been had I been able to write to a deadline. I was a multiple Quill & Scroll winner for journalism in high school for feature writing, editing and as a columnist: The Iconoclast which I co-wrote with my boyfriend.)
One of the added advantages to blogging is that I am busting through that cold war wall of my lifelong prose block. The blog allows me to do it all, in the privacy of my own home, so to speak, all that sweaty exercise, the mis-spelled, untied shoes; like scribbling in my Franklin Planner, which is how I was working daily, I just transferred those pages to the blog. Like the astrophysicist mathematician, Hans Bethe once said about his work habits: "I get up in the morning, I pick up a pencil, and I try to think." And I get to write and think about the dead. Lalo Delgado, Gloria Anzaldua, Tony (Jose Antonio) Burciaga, Pedro Pietri, ronnie burk, Trino Trinidad) Sanchez, Ed Dorn, Ron Sukenik, Lucia Berlin, my father, the visionary fine artist, Luis Cervantes; a list that goes on, ad nauseum; I get to tell their stories, keep their flowers alive. This literary and cultural history has become important to me as I age - and have my own bumps and scrapes with death. I was suffering from what killed Pedro Pietri, uncontrollable vomiting, for years. It was very metaphoric; there was a lot going on that I just "couldn't stomach" and I was taking a sick leave that spring and healing what turned out to be a bleeding ulcer with Chinese herbs. I had just gotten over a bad bout of flu. And feeling good. I performed for La Semana Xicana that March, the first time I'd been out in weeks, months. I had just missed a floricanto organized by Jose Montoya in Sacramento - a big deal, but I was too sick to attend, or even telephone. It was scary. I'd gotten down to 89 lbs. But I felt good at the event, hearing the open mike with all those strong and talented young women, including one of my former creative writing students, April. But when it came to honoring Gloria Anzaldua, I could see that her memory was already fading. As I sat in the darkened auditorium, after the women shouted out, "presente" when her name was uttered, I suddenly had a strange experience, I felt ronnie there in the room, "presente", he was sitting where he was when I first met him in a darkened old auditorium at a poetry reading holding my hand, squeezing it. He had tapped me on the shoulder in 1976 and said that his best friend, Ana Castillo had suggested that he introduce himself: "And Ana doesn't like very many people, so I figured I should." We forged a tight, and I like to think, lifelong bond, after that night, and a few nights later when the heavies of Chicano literature locked him out on the balcony, stripped to his underwear, in the cold Albuquerque night all night then wouldn't let him read until nearly the end, before closer Ricardo Sanchez at the Floricanto. I held his hand as he trembled and waited from his time at 1 pm to read until 1:30 that night/ morning when he read some of the first real poetry I heard at the 3-day fest - the other, being Joy Harjo who read "She Had Some Horses" for the first time, with her eyes closed. It was awesome. I became ronnie's publisher and editor; ever enamored of the workings of that incredible postmodern mind.
Later that night, morning, while working on a long drawn out task of compiling my cv bibliography, while googling, I came across poet Eduardo Corral's blog. He was calling me out about founding some kind of Chicanao/Latinao literary arts center. I was enchanted with what I could read of his blog, and even more so with his poetry. I tried to comment on it, but you had to belong to Blogger in order to comment, so I opened up a blog. It seemed not to be my voice I wanted to hear on it, but the dead. So the first posts are just poems to the dead, beginning with Joseph Beuys, an artist I love and have been influenced by, and, strangely, Eduardo had just posted the pic to one of my love poems to Beuys entitled the title of his performance piece from the photo. When I finally say anything in my voice (prose) on the blog, it's to tell this story about ronnie burk, to keep his name and words alive in the search engines.
And that's the fuel that runs the engines here, my name in the search engines - what gets said about me which is outright wrong. For whatever reason, there have never been many interviews with me. What passes and gets passed around for my literary bio and criticism was written by a 15 year girl in a youth at risk class I addressed one afternoon in Denver when I was working for the Online Poetry Project. But I've never been one for self-promotion. My whole family is like that. "That's not what it's about" as my father would say. I've been thinking a lot about this lately, about how it really is about my religion, my sense of spirituality, that has no place for that kind of hierarchical ego-practice of id-biz. But the university, in the end, a major corporation, requires it of me: an updated cv. So, I google. And I was appalled that a story this girl got garbled about when I was 15 years old got retold as me not having published anything for a morbid fear of rejection. (!) And this, at a time when I had a major work which is as much a meditation on The Book of poetry as it is an art-concept piece where the entire suite of five books, that movement of The First Quartet is to be considered all in one, and didn't lend itself to piecing out individual poems to this magazine here or that journal there just to collect the Brownie Points of the publication. Not because I was "terrified of rejection." I have the opposite problem, I have many publishers jostling for my books and editors for my poems; I always have; and I've always taken my time, until they are right, or as near to right as I can get it, like "truing" the frame. So I blog. My experience, at least in Boulder, is that no one ever talks to me. So I have to speak for myself. Anything you want to know. Just ask me. I'll always tell you the truth, whether you want to know it or not. I have another blog at lornadcervantes.blogspot.com called lornadice where I'm supposed to talk about the poems in the anthologies and in the SAT and Advanced Placement tests, and answer people's questions for their reports and their papers, up through dissertations, and I'm supposed to put links to poems published and bios, criticism, etc., but I haven't touched it in almost a year. That's the one where I'm supposed to self-promote, but, evidently, I don't have the heart for it. I'd much rather serve up some good poems by other people and host at my "house", my main blog, where the dead and living mingle, and real poetry is reeled in daily. I'm hoping to start a online zine soon of the best on the net.
That's how the blog has affected my habits: It's GONE FISHIN' every day. You get to where you know the covers where the big fish hang out, and when.
Lastly, I have always lived my life as if the business of my life is to know who's writing, who's writing real poetry and who's doing it exceptionally well. Blogging gives me one more valuable tool to accomplish that. It's an everlasting enriching spring - or set of springs - where the words are always fresh and flowing, from someone or another. I love the serendipity of it, of reading blogs, of discovering and making connections; like engaging in the synapses of the planetbrain. And adding my little stanzas to the train. I like to think I could help people, a main motivator for me, maybe another way of my religion, my spiritual practice. Like Einstein said, there are two ways you can live your life: as if miracles never happen and as if miracles are happening every day. I think poets, the good ones, keep to the latter. It certainly keeps it all entertaining, these stories we tell ourselves about what is happening to us - and who we meet, who we read, and why: our final weave. That's the nicest thing about poetry, it always leaves you the last word, one way or another.
Besides, there's lots of Chicanaos - Xicanerati - online. The new generation, ARISE! It's El Quinto Sol all over again.