Posts Tagged ‘gabriela jauregui’
The final part of my conversation with the talented Gabriela Jauregui.
How has your reception been in the mainstream media and publishing world as a Mexican writer who tells multicultural stories? Do you find that independent and alternative presses are more open to multicultural and diverse stories, whether it be poetry, novels or non-fiction?
I think mainstream media is definitely open to the concept of “multiculturalism” broadly defined, but in general the works published in mainstream media (I guess we should probably also define what we mean by that…) are not as interesting to me because they tend to present stories or poems that are more traditional in their form or they can gloss over a specific culture and its complexity in an attempt to make it palatable to a general audience (in fact, the concept of “multiculturalism” can be problematic precisely because of that sweeping gesture implied in it). Of course there are exceptional things that filter into the mainstream, so I hate to generalize. But I do feel that the work done by independent or alternative media can be more interesting because there’s less of a market constraint, less of a concern for selling selling selling, and therefore it allows for more risk-taking. And of course taking a risk always implies the possibility of failure yet risk can also bear fruit: some of the most ground-breaking work has been written and published by people who take risks or leaps of faith.
What are some books you’ve read lately that you found to be inspired and that you enjoyed? And what’s next for you, writing and travel-wise?
I just finished writing my PhD dissertation, so I have been reading and re-reading and obsessing over the wonderful and earth-shatteringly good novel De donde son los cantantes (1967) by cuban writer, Severo Sarduy, as well as Kathy Acker’s Empire of the Senseless (1988). In other things, I happened upon Jean-Luc Nancy’s La communauté désouvrée (translated to English as The Inoperative Community) and read some sections on community and writing that blew my mind. I just found a first-edition copy of Brion Gysin and William Burrough’s collaborative book, The Third Mind and I am incredibly excited about reading it.
I am looking forward to catching up on my creative writing once I am done with the PhD and I am working on a book of poems in Spanish. Travel-wise, I am moving back to Mexico in June, so that’s exciting but also sad because I will be leaving my friends, the family I have built, back in LA. And I will miss eating Pho whenever I want to (which is often)!
Gabriela, above, reads from her poetry collection Controlled Decay in Los Angeles.
Here is Part 2 of our conversation.
Tell me about the sur+ publishing collective and the Taquimecanografas, a group of female writers and visual artists living in Mexico City, NY and LA, both of which you belong to?
sur+ is a collective that envisions “the South as a new political imaginary,” to borrow Corinne Kumar’s words. Our name is both a word and sign play that implies the re-evaluation of the social south in a world dominated by the north, and on the other seeks to counter-pose itself to one of the meanings of the original french word surplus:the surfeit, what is left-over, what is no longer useful to the system. We are interesting in strengthening the dialogue amongst the social south and in an aesthetics that is as revolutionary as the politics behind it. The project started in the middle of last year when a group of friends got together and we decided that we wanted, no that we needed to publish a bunch of great writers who were not available in Spanish. So we have poetry, essay and fiction, for now we have published El Tiempo Se Volvió Cuero, the first Spanish translation bi-lingual anthology of British author Tom Raworth’s poems, our second book was Los vampiros de Whittier Boulevard, Juan Felipe Herrera’s first anthology to appear in Mexico, our third is Netamorfosis, an anthology of short stories from the ongoing Tepito workshop El Sotano de los Olvidados. And our forthcoming books are the first Spanish translation of Chris Abani’s Song for Night and of John Berger’s A Seventh Man. You can check it all out at www.surplusediciones.org and http://surplusediciones.blogspot.com/.
The Taquimecanógrafas is a collective that was formed by the late Aura Estrada, a dear friend and wonderful young writer who died tragically (but happily her legacy lives on with her first book Mis Días en Shanghai, and through the Aura Estrada Prize, and through her work in the collective). The other members are poet Mónica de la Torre (who lives in NY and edits BOMB magazine) and Laureana Toledo, a multi-talented visual artist who lives in London and Mexico City, and myself. We started working on loose constraints and re-writing each other’s texts (hence the play on the now-extinct female species of the taquimecanógrafa, or typist!) and we have finished a long verbo-visual experiment that will hopefully soon be published by Tumbona in Mexico City.
What is the significance to you of spoken word performances and of telling your story aloud to audiences? For many writers, the thought of presenting their work aloud is nerve-wracking.
I find that I am always very nervous before a reading, and I choose some texts beforehand but not all because I like to feel the place, the audience and then decide on most of what I read based on that. But once I am up there, and reading, a sense of calm washes over me: it’s like the work itself is speaking not me, my voice gets clear and I just let the words do their thing. It almost feels like being possessed, in a way.
But I wouldn’t call my reading style “spoken word” because that’s a specific genre within poetry that I don’t think my work is a part of. There’s elements of what is known as spoken word echoed in my work, and there’s a definite sense of reading out loud that is different from reading silently, there’s rhythm, and sound, and a sort of “performative” element, but my work is definitely not spoken word. I mean a lot of spoken word, for example, is done from memory, recited and not read, for example, and I never do that. I have a pretty awful memory for my own work, sadly. I admire people who can just recite like that (the theatrics, the exercise of that in itself) because I certainly cannot. Also I don’t feel like I am telling my story aloud, because poetry is not exactly like a story, it’s not narrative like that. And my poetry and fiction is and it isn’t personal at the same time–it comes from the I but is also not necessarily about the I– a lot of the “stories” contained in my work are not mine per se; they are not about me, necessarily, in that sense, you know?
I do think, nevertheless, that it is important and beautiful and (even!) fun to read out loud. For me, poetry is visual, but it is also and above all music, and music is meant to be heard. And the sharing of a communal space and a communal experience of hearing, of reading out loud can be a powerful political and aesthetic act– a ritual.
Gabriela Jauregui is a writer and poet who hails from Mexico City. She now lives in Los Angeles, where she graduated with an MFA in Creative Writing from the University of California, Riverside and is now a PhD candidate in Comparative Literature at the University of Southern California. Her book of poetry, Controlled Decay, was called “fierce and sensual” and was released in 2008.
I am talking to Gabriela about writing, travel, crossing borders and straddling cultures. Here is Part 1 of 3 of our conversation.
When did you leave Mexico City for the United States? You now split your time between California and Mexico — do you find similarities between LA and Mexico City? Do any other cities remind you of DF, and why?
I left Mexico City for LA in the fall of 2000 and I have been living between both back and forth ever since. I call them my two two-lettered cities. I find many similarities between the two cities…There’s an intensity, a dispersion and an over-stimulation that happens in both cities. Both cities have jarring contrasts in class and you can find the wealthiest and the most destitute side by side. Both cities are schizophrenic: full of humbleness and grandeur, disgust and of beauty (natural or otherwise). Both cities are multi-ethnic, but in very different ways. Both cities have earthquakes. I mean the list is endless, but one thing that is very different, of course, and gives each city its own very singular feel is the history: as a city, DF, of course, is much older than LA.
And of course there are many other cities that remind me of DF. Specifically certain neighborhoods or buildings or a restaurant or a gathering of plants in front of a doorway that I have found echoed in a particular building or street or even just a certain familiar feeling in New Delhi, or Mumbai, or Paris, or Berlin, or Nairobi, or Lima…
How does living (at least half of the time) outside of your home country affect your writing? Do you find that you look at the world differently?
This self-inflicted exile, my nomadic circumstance, this permanent state of being outside, of missing DF when I am in LA and missing LA when I am in DF, of having friends in both places, and feeling at home in both–or neither– definitely affects my writing. I feel like it gives me a point of view that is marginal and therefore simultaneously inside/outside. It can be problematic, but it can also be extremely productive, creatively speaking. Of course this condition this sense being on the outside looking in and inside looking out, is part of being an artist, a writer, regardless of whether you live in two places at once or never leave your town or city (I can think of many writers who traveled in their minds and lived in this same state of liminality but who never left their neighborhood). But also the particular relationship and similarities and differences between DF and LA, my experience in both and in-between, are also specifically a part of the themes, concerns and questions I address in my writing.
Your poetry has been described as intensely political, like poems that focus upon the U.S.-Mexican border, for example. How important do you think activism or highlighting neglected causes and issues is in one’s work, and what other themes do you like to explore in your writing?
I think that all art is always political, whether or not its politics are explicit. But I also think that there is a difference between art and activism–it is one thing to attempt to highlight relevant issues and another to make pamphlets. I am not saying that one is better than the other, I am just saying each have their place and their role in society. I am interested in those artists who have developed an aesthetics that is as revolutionary as the politics behind it–and I strive to do the same in my own work.
Photo via the National Book Critics Circle