The Poet As Art features Raúl Sánchez and Marjorie Manwaring on Friday March 29, 7 pm. Please join us at the Lucia Douglas Gallery in Bellingham.
Please excuse the improper accent in Raúl’s last name in the image above (and poster).
Before we start the interview, it would be good to note, as a quick introduction to Raúl Sánchez, that he read at Elliott Bay Book Company last summer, and we’ve been making attempts to set up a reading with him since his book was published.
His long-awaited debut collection of poems is titled All Our Brown-Skinned Angels (MoonPath Press, 2012), about which Francisco X. Alarcón says:
“I open All Our Brown-Skinned Angels, the new collection of poems by Raúl Sánchez, as a book of intimate, personal prayers. But the prevailing Judeo-Christian theology is turned upside down in these poems. Here, the Earth is sacred … Raúl Sánchez is the contemporary Netzalhuacóyotl of the Northwest, who lives in damp Seattle … and has come out with wondrous poems in praise of life that are liberating prayers for every day.”
All Our Brown-Skinned Angels cover
Wet is right! The photo on the event poster is from our pond on Noon Road in Bellingham reaching flood level in March. Or was that late February? At any rate, the level moves up and down so much lately, it’s like the pond is breathing. This is the weather we live with. Well, I digress.
At Elliott Bay, Raúl read with MoonPath Press publisher, poet and fiction writer Lana Hechtman Ayers and the musically inclined poet John Burgess—both fogbound poets from around Puget Sound. I would have liked to have been there, because each of these poets is well worth hearing, and such different writers from each other!
While it has always been important, with current events as they are right now, it may be more crucial than ever to hear the poems of Raúl Sánchez. Hear what he says about his poems in the following interview, and you may see what I mean. He is full of seriousness and humor.
An Interview Raúl Sánchez with for The Poet as Art
What aspects of your experience keep you writing poetry?
There are many experiences I’ve had as an immigrant. Those include relationships, employment, political situations and the diaspora away from México.
Are there features of your life that have run contrary to you being, or continuing to be, a poet?
Yes, the first one will be that I do not have formal education from any educational institution in the USA. That makes me feel incapable to write Poetry. However, I started journaling and writing notes from the travels I did between 1981 and 1994. One of those years I spent in India. At one point, I was writing short simple poems that were published in company newsletters and local newspapers. When I was younger, I wrote a couple of political poems for the student movement in Mexico City. In 1996, I decided to join a Latino writers group in Seattle, where I learned more about writing. That is when I decided to get serious about writing poetry.
What is the single most surprising thing you’ve learned about poetry?
Poetry is a medium by which we can express what we see, feel, hear, taste, smell and experience, whether animate or inanimate, in an artistic way by sounding off words in a rhythmic voice.
If you could choose one person, dead or alive, who influenced you as a writer, who would that be? How did he or she impact your writing experience?
For me it would be Renato Leduc. A French-Mexican Poet, Journalist and signaler for Francisco Villa.
I remember Renato reciting his poems in the middle of my father’s restaurant in Mexico City. I was a young lad then and had no idea what poetry was. Then one day I discovered his poems and stories in an anthology of Mexican poets and writers. On one of my trips to Mexico City, I found his complete works, which were not translated into English. To my delight, I’ve translated one of his poems into English, which was published on-line by Pirene’s Fountain in 2011.
What kind of non-literary books stimulated your poetry?
Having learned English in Mexico City, I would say Dick and Jane. I still have a couple of those books.
The famous Dick and Jane books
Which book of poetry is most important to you and your work as a poet?
Since I have lived in two countries, from México it would be Jaime Sabines’ Poesía Amorosa, and from the USA, Denise Levertov’s Relearning the Alphabet.
What do you believe your readers enjoy most about your work?
Our personal diaspora, connectivity and ethnic identification. Family, migration, the uncertain future and the certainty of the roots that keep us growing.
Raúl Sánchez, poet
Here is one of Raúl Sánchez’s poems, the one I’ll be making into a poetry broadside. The broadside will be available free at the reading, and we hope you’ll make a donation to help us continue bringing poets to Bellingham.
Every Dress a Decisión
after Elizabeth Austen
My older sister could never
ever decide what to wear
on Friday and Saturday nights
My parents told her too short, too tight
what that meant I didn’t understand
all I know is that my older sister
went away wearing her platform shoes
and skin-tight skirts every time
she could sneak out
after my parents went to bed
and I fell asleep
while watching Superman
Raúl’s comments about his poem:
I went to the Richard Hugo House the night Elizabeth Austen read at the “Cheap Wine and Poetry” series after her book release for Every Dress A Decision. The title of the book stayed with me and triggered a poem thinking about my older sister, who doesn’t exist since I’m the oldest. Perhaps wishful thinking lead to the idea that “If I would’ve had an older sister, that’s what she would’ve done” back in 1969. My editor decided to change the word “Decision” to “Decisión” to add flavor to the poem. I gave the poem to Elizabeth handwritten in Spanish on one of the postcards she made to promote her book.
We hope you join us for this poetry reading at the Lucia Douglas Gallery, which is showing collaborations between the artists Thomas Wood and FishBoy (RR Clark). Strange and wonderful art.
Posted by Anita K. Boyle