BWW Interview: PART TWO - POET & WRITER – LORNA PEREZ

BWW Interview: PART TWO - POET & WRITER – LORNA PEREZ

Poet & Writer Lorna Perez is an Associate Professor of English at Buffalo State.

She tends to stay busy with her work, Poetry readings and her Writing.

I thank her for taking the time to answer a few questions.

Well, maybe more than a "few" questions ...

MCL: What was your first book and where did the idea and concept come from? Please let us know more about your other books.

LP: Well my only book, as such, is a small chapbook called Overdetermined Romances which was published in 2003 by Chibcha Press. Chibcha was a small press based out of Buffalo founded by the late Latina lesbian poet tatiana de la tierra. For a few years in the early 2000s, tatiana and I and some other folks, all affiliated with the University at Buffalo in some way, began a small writing collective that met every week on Thursday nights for 4+ years. Chibcha in some ways was an off-shoot of that, though tatiana, who in addition to having an MFA was also a librarian, had been publishing in zines and in other big publications for many years. Chibcha published tati's book Porcupine Love and other tales from my Papaya, as well as my book, and the English poet Anna Reckin's book Spill. Overdetermined Romances is a book I have a lot of affection for, though I think it is very much reflective of what it is; the musings of a 25 year old woman. Certainly, the way I write now is very different than what you would find in that book, but the process of making and creating it was certainly meaningful. I still have some copies in a file drawer somewhere, so if anyone is really interested in knowing how I wrote 15 years ago, I suppose they could email me. My most recent work though, is available online, most recently in BlazeVox 18.

MCL: Favorite subject matter you like to Write about? Anything you stay away from?

LP: I tend to write about space and memory a lot. I've been fascinated for a long time with the way that spaces shape us and define us in very particular ways. Though I was born in California, my parents were both from somewhere else. My father was from a small town in Puerto Rico and grew up between Brooklyn, and San Sebastián, Puerto Rico. My mother was born and raised in Des Moines, Iowa, so much of my childhood was filled with these stories about "home" that were in places very different from the place I was raised. I think I have always thought a lot about that; what does it mean to be from a place, what does it mean to belong to a place, and I think I try to probe that in my writing. I also tend to write about what it means to be situated between things-between places, between cultures, between languages but also between things like ambition and hope, or desire and loss. Interstitial spaces fascinate me, so they tend to occur a lot in my work. I also tend to think and write a lot about time. This is my fascination with memory emerging, but time is incredibly compelling.

I realize of course that it is itself cliché to say I try to avoid clichés but there it is. I am not interested in writing yet another sad love poem, but I would also be lying if I said I didn't have a lot of those too. I would say, generally, and this is certainly not true of the younger me, but that I am at a point where I am over the shock value of things and instead am interested in the small details and moments that define us.


MCL: Who are some of your favorite Poets and Writers? Why?

LP: I think the first poet I was fascinated by and loved was Rilke. I remember as a teenager carrying a pretty battered copy of his selected poems and that led me, strangely, to writers like García Lorca, and Neruda. There is something about the sadness and the dreamy quality of the writing I love. I also love the Nuyorican poets and in college obsessed about Aloud: Voices from the Nuyorican Poet's Café. I was living in Nebraska making people listen to slam poetry and hosting my own poetry slams in ways that I imagined were very edgy-I held them in a Chapel on the campus of my Catholic University-though they probably were not. Later I grew to love the work of William Carlos Williams, of Gloria Anzaldúa and Cherrie Moraga, and Sandra Cisneros. Marjorie Agosín is also amazing and I adore Kazim Ali's work. Kim Chinquee, who is a colleague of mine, writes stunning flash fiction. In terms of prose writers, that list is incredibly long but I've been reading James Baldwin, and William Faulkner, and Marlon James and Viet Thahn Nguyen. I adore Toni Morrison and Jesmyn Ward. Junot Diaz's The Brief Wonderous Life of Oscar Wao is a stunning achievement in so many ways. T.S. Eliot's Four Quartets still stuns me every time I read it. I suppose in a very real sense I am a promiscuous reader. I love the greats of the canon, but I also am stunned by writers who have traditionally been marginal to that canon, so I try to devour it all. I think there is real value in grabbing hold of everything and throwing it all together to see what happens.


MCL: You have an undergraduate degree in philosophy and English. How does philosophy help you in your Writing?

LP: Philosophy is incredibly useful in my work as a literary critic-literary theory is deeply indebted to philosophy and draws on it pretty heavily. In terms of my creative writing though, I think it is not unfair to say that the questions I try to pose in my writing are, perhaps like all questions, fundamentally philosophical. What does it mean to be? How does identity work? What does it mean to be in the world? How do we engage in the authentic? How do we resist things bent on destroying and silencing us? These are all foundational questions that are not at all new, but are deeply human. I tend to resist the idea that philosophy is something discreet or purely academic, I think rather that is something that is fundamental and shapes us as humans.

MCL: Finally ... Promote yourself.


LP: 2018 has been pretty busy so far. I hadn't read publicly in a very long time, but back in February my friend Kevin Thurston invited me to read with him for the launch of his book Color Me White (which is an actual adult coloring book interspersed with poems which are in turn hilarious and heartbreaking; its illustrated by Mickey Harmon and published by BlazeVox....check it out). That reading lead to invitations to other readings where folks have been very kind and generous with me, and so it wound up that I pretty much had a reading every month for the fall, starting in September with the Drop Hammer Reading series at Buffalo State, followed by my Reading at the RIC at Daemon College in October, and concluding with the Literary Café reading at CFI in November. I think this is the most I have read out in many years and it has really been a wonderful and amazing experience. Right now, though, as 2018 winds down, my plans are to write more, and stick to sending my work out (I have a bunch of self-imposed rules about this that seem to be working ok) and in 2019 we will see what happens. In the midst of all this, I also have some deadlines I have to hit for my critical writing, so I hope it will be a busy and productive winter, though in the meantime some of my more current creative work can be found at BlazeVox.org and Labelmelatin.com

Photo courtesy of Amber Rampino

FOR MORE INFORMATION ON LORNA PEREZ:

https://english.buffalostate.edu/faculty/lorna-perez

http://www.blazevox.org/

http://labelmelatin.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/03/Lorna-P%C3%A9rez-Substitute-Geographies.pdf

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