Poetry is not dead: An interview with Luna Miguel.
Luna Miguel is a young poet from Spain. She already has several books published, has won literary prizes and has several projects underway, including some very interesting translations. I interviewed her because Noah Cicero asked me to. He was excited about her writing, but less so about his command of Spanish.
I’ve never done anything ‘lit-related’ in Spanish except perhaps that I read Garcia Márquez as a kid, so this felt a bit weird to me, even though Spanish is my first language and the language I revert to in my subconscious (I know this because in nightmares I scream for my mother in Spanish.) But I don’t know, I sound different, the questions I asked sound different to me. I think I mainly think and feel in English.
Still, in corresponding with Luna I found a very earnest, bright young woman, a keen awakening, a dewy rosebud, a hungry morning; many overly poetic metaphors for the trajectory of a life. I kept thinking about firsts, and paths and opportunity, and the awesome spectre of potential that hangs over young lives quiet and subtle but unwavering, like a mist which can only be seen as it dissipates.
Youth is funny. Language is funny.
(Click here to read the interview in Spanish.)
Tell us a bit about yourself. How old are you, at what age did you start writing and how, because I imagine that you realized you had an aptitude for writing from very early on, no?
My name is Luna and I am 20 years old. I began writing at 13 because I was in love. My first collection of poems was called Cuaderno nepalí [Nepalese Notebook]. At 14 or 15 years old, I began to publish work in online magazines. At 15 I started my current blog and met many Spanish poets and writers. At that age I lived in France, where I also met some writers. I haven’t always liked literature because my parents are a professor and an editor of literature and I would get bored of it. Little by little I started liking it, and I realized that in my house there were books, and books, and books. I realized that almost anything was within my reach and that was fortunate for my upbringing. Although I have always distanced myself from my parents, their support has been crucial. I am very independent because from the beginning I wanted to create my own place in literature, but of course I know that it would not have been the same without them.
Among the books you sent me there was a collaboration called Exhumación (Alpha Decay) [Exhumation] that you wrote with your boyfriend, Antonio J. Rodríguez. Tell us a little bit about him, how you met him and how the process of collaboration was.
My boyfriend is a fiction writer. This coming year, Random House Mondadori will publish his first novel, Fresy Cool. He doesn’t write poetry and is not very interested in it, and one day, while we were drinking coffee, he proposed that we write a short novel together. Though I had never written prose, I was excited and we began writing Exhumación with the luck and coincidence that some months later the editor of Alpha Decay proposed to us to publish something together. She had liked my poems and his literary criticism blog. So we began working harder and in three months we had finished the story. We were not living together at the time, so we took turns sending each other fragments of the story via email. Then we would meet and talk about the book and so on during that time. The book has had a good reception and we are very happy. It is like a son or something like that. Our little son of 67 pages!
In the poems in your collection, Poetry Is Dead (DVD Ediciones), there are references that I associate with the English-speaking world, not only the language, but you also refer to, for example, David Foster Wallace, Sylvia Plath, Allen Ginsberg and others. I feel like your book is perfect for bilingual people like me, who grew up between two or more cultures. Where do those influences come from, for you, and what else influences your work?
Literature that comes from the US or Great Britain has always been very important to my formation. Among my favorite authors are Charles Bukowski, Virginia Woolf, Sharon Olds, David Foster Wallace, William Faulkner, TS Eliot, Jack Kerouac, etc. This is why there is a great Anglo leaning in my work, in the references and the approach to the writing. English is not my first, nor my second language, I learned French at school and lived in France to improve it. But I still feel that literature in English has been more crucial in my life, that is why I am interested. Many are of the opinion that only what happens in the US interests us, as if that were the center of the world… I don’t know, it doesn’t seem like the center to me but it is true that there are always interesting movements there. My influences come from the first things I read (at 11 years old I would only read Salinger and Bukowski) and from recommendations from friends (for example, David Foster Wallace is my boyfriend’s favorite author, he’s writing his thesis on DFW, his name weighs heavily on our bookcases and our lives). In addition to these authors I’ve mentioned, I am also influenced very much by French authors: Françoise Sagan, Charles Baudelaire, René Char, Marcel Schwob… I am also very interested in fiction, I think it’s crucial for a poet not to stop at poetry, one has to read a lot of fiction and, in addition to the North American literature, I am also interested in many authors like Roberto Bolaño, or contemporary Spanish authors like Javier Calvo, Patricio Pron or Mercedes Cebrián. Spanish poetry is also very important in my life, especially names that I don’t know if they are known in the US, but that should be translated with the greatest urgency if they haven’t already: José Ángel Valente, Vicente Aleixandre, Chantal Maillard, Miriam Reyes, Leopoldo María Panero, Roger Wolfe, Maite Dono, Ángel González, etc. Apart from literature I like music, film and comics. I am inspired by personal experiences, travels, the body, sex, disease. Everything. Everything becomes important.
Because it the best way I have found of expressing what I feel, what I want to invent, what I want to describe. It’s also the best way of lying. Or lying to oneself. The best way of seducing the reader. I want to seduce the reader. I want him to stay in my words. That is very important.
There is something rebellious and nonconformist in your poems. Do you think that writers have some responsibility to their society, culture, or their generation? What, if any, is the role of the poet or writer, in your mind?
Writers and people of culture exercise a great influence over the spectator. I think that a writer is always compromised, whether he talks about politics or not. I do not talk about politics, I talk more about society and about myself as a nonconforming individual. That is more obvious in Poetry is Not Dead than in Estar enfermo [Being Sick] or Pensamientos estériles [Sterile Thoughts]. In this book I talk about problematic neighborhoods outside Madrid and of my position against the current poetic canon in Spain. I also talk about sex, I think it is the base of society at the same time as its taboo. The role of the writer is to entertain, and make the reader cry, suffer, think, react, smile, become happy, etc. If a writer does not “incite something within you” he is not worth it. That is what I think.
How did you find the indie literature online community that is mainly based in the US, and how did you come to the attention of people like Noah Cicero or Scrambler Books?
Years ago I found Tao Lin’s blog and followed it closely. I had also read Ellen Kennedy (one of my favorite young writers). But it was in the summer of 2010 when I started to look for interesting contemporary authors. I learned of Richard Chiem, Kendra Grant Malone, Chelsea Martin… I started to read their blogs or buy their books. In the meantime, Steven Fowler, via another Spanish poet, interviewed me for 3:AM Magazine. When I asked for Kendra’s book from Scrambler Books it turned out that Jeremy Spencer had read my interview in English so we started writing emails to each other, talking about literature. We sent each other letters, too, and we exchanged books. One day he asked to publish me and we made an anthology of poems from all my books that will be published in 2012. It is one of the best things that’s happened to me in my life and it’s all thanks to two or three nights of searching on the Internet and curiosity for other literature. I learned of Noah through Tao Lin and some articles on HTML Giant. With him I am planning a book of US poetry translated to Spanish. I know that he is a great writer and I want to read more of him.
Among your online projects is Tenian veinte años y estaban locos [They Were Twenty Years Old and They Were Crazy], in which you translate poems from English to Spanish, many of them written by young favorites of the moment like Tao Lin, Kendra Grant Malone, Madison Langston and Steve Roggenbuck. Tell us a bit more about this. Where did the idea come from and how has it been received in the Spanish or Latin American communities?
Tenian veinte años y estaban locos was to bring together many young poets of different nationalities. First I translated Ellen Kennedy, then I started to publish young poets from Spain, France, Argentina, England, Italy, Portugal, Ukraine, Mexico, Canada… I spent months searching, translating, speaking with them. It’s been marvelous and from there, other projects have been born. The first is called the same as the website and will be a book published on October of 2011 by the publishing house, La Bella Varsovia, which will contain 26 authors under 26 years old. It’s a risky project because there are many conservatives here and young poetry has never been seen well by many. But these 26 authors are amazing and they deserve to be read. I hope you will be able to read all of them one day. There is another project too, with my parents’ publishing house, El Gaviero Ediciones, and that is the book, VOMIT, an anthology of North American poets (it has to do with the name of New Wave Vomit by Ana C., who I admire) and it will be a translation with authors such as Tao Lin, Noah Cicero, Dorothea Lasky, Jake Fournier, Jordan Castro, Cassandra Troyan… Every young North American will be translated by a young Spanish author or translator. All the translations and texts, etc., will be done by young creatives. Tenian veinte años y estaban locos is a stimulating, new project and we are very happy with it. The idea was well received, as you can see. Although the website is not being updated currently (due to school exams and things like that) we will be back with more poetry. Much more poetry. Always. [Ed note: This was back in early June and the website has since been updated.]
What is your greatest wish?
To continue discovering good literature for many years. And to have fun with it.