Anali­cia Sotelo

VIR­GIN

Poets and Writers - - The Literary Life -

HOW IT BE­GAN: All I thought about when writ­ing this book was whether the po­ems were hon­est in their in­ves­ti­ga­tions. While there are many po­ets I love, I don’t al­ways think of their col­lec­tions as a whole. I think in­stead of beau­ti­ful, sonic, in­di­vid­ual po­ems and strong lines. I like it when a poem vis­its me un­ex­pect­edly while I’m do­ing the dishes or sit­ting around try­ing to fig­ure out a feel­ing. There’s an emo­tional con­nec­tion that a good, pow­er­ful poem can make across time­lines and spa­ces. I of­ten think there is so much more to that poem than the poet who orig­i­nally wrote it. I think a poem is some­times a con­ver­sa­tion that was so pow­er­ful it was meant to con­tinue.

My veil is fried tongue & chicken wire, hang­ing off to one side.

I am a Mex­i­can Amer­i­can fas­ci­na­tor.

—from “Do You Speak Vir­gin?”

With this col­lec­tion I tried to honor the power that lan­guage car­ries by writ­ing first, then see­ing what might go to­gether. I like to ex­plore the feel­ings be­tween feel­ings, the re­la­tion­ships that aren’t ex­actly lin­ear. That led me to an anachro­nis­tic project through which I wrote from the per­spec­tive of a young woman try­ing to un­der­stand love, lone­li­ness, and de­sire. At times Greek myth, Vic­to­rian life, and the South­west­ern land­scape all ar­rived in the same poem. I was ques­tion­ing what has changed and not changed about the power dy­nam­ics of re­la­tion­ships. The book shaped it­self in the spirit of that trans­for­ma­tion.

IN­SPI­RA­TION: How a de­li­cious, quiet din­ner can make a con­ver­sa­tion with a friend go on for hours un­til, by the end of it, life seems a lit­tle nicer. The ti­tles of most sur­re­al­ist works. Bod­ies of water. Art nou­veau. Thrift shops. Vic­to­rian cu­riosi­ties. Old love songs. New love songs.

IN­FLU­ENCES: El­iz­a­beth Bishop, Larry Le­vis, Louise Glück, Sharon Olds, Jack Gil­bert,

Franz Wright, Dorothea Lasky, Sylvia Plath, Anne Car­son, Lor­rie Moore, An­dre Dubus.

WRITER’S BLOCK REM­EDY: I’ve de­cided I don’t al­ways have to be writ­ing. I let my­self live and try to let go of the pres­sure to al­ways phys­i­cally write. In some ways it feels like I’m col­lect­ing feel­ing. That’s not to say I don’t sit down and try reg­u­larly to get some­thing on the page, but it might not look like a poem. It might look like writ­ing in a journal about what I’ve seen and heard that day. That process helps me feel more will­ing to lis­ten to what’s pos­si­ble rather than pre­de­ter­mine what I think I should be on the page.

AD­VICE: Try to write au­then­ti­cally and read as much as pos­si­ble; make notes on all of your fa­vorite first books, and love po­ems more than pub­lish­ing. Love po­ems.

AGE: 32. RES­I­DENCE: Hous­ton, Texas. JOB: I work in com­mu­ni­ca­tions, mar­ket­ing, and devel­op­ment at a non­profit. TIME SPENTWRIT­ING THE BOOK: Seven years. TIMESPENT FIND­ING A HOME FOR IT: A cou­pleof years.

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