Would you consider yourself an immigrant poet?

Yes, I would. But who isn’t an immigrant? And I don’t just mean that tired old explanation of we all come from someplace else if weren’t not true native americans. I mean more that we all came from that before-time, before the alpha, when it was…what? Womb-darkness, star-fizz, spiritual-shampoo. We’re all immigrants having arrived at this particular existence. We don’t know what we really all are, so why the hell do we insist on labeling other human beings anything other than human beings?

 

How long have you been writing?

I wrote my first poem by directly tattooing it on my heart, when I was maybe four years old. I was in the backyard of my parent’s home in Argentina, and I was surrounded by my pet baby chickens. I let them climb all over me—poop all over me. This was the first time I sensed the sublime. I still recall the warmth of the sunlight and the smell of the baby chickens.

 

After reading some of your poetry, some might say you’re a bit on the conservative side.

That would not be true. I consider myself a liberal. I just don’t always follow the leftist manifesto that says we should ban all guns, stop eating meat, workout six times a week, meditate, smoke weed and support its legalization, and imprison all those that make even the slightest mistake concerning political correctness. That, to me, is just another form of conservatism.

 

You say you were recently divorced. Has that painful experience changed your poetry?

I don’t think so. I was angry before and poetry was a way to shape that anger into something useful and maybe, at times, beautiful. I’m a lot less angry now. Though I’m still working out the loneliness one feels suddenly living on one’s own, seeing your children only on weekends. It’s tough. But I still think I’m essentially the same poet, though I am most definitely a new, and better, person.

 

Do you like to read your poems in public?

I think it’s a necessary thing I have to do. I enjoy meeting other poets and hearing what they’ve come up with, but I’m past the learning-from-others phase. I got enough of that in my MA program at UC Davis. I was lucky enough to study under Gary Snyder, Sandra McPherson, and Alan Williamson. I mean, that’s some poetic horsepower. I learned so much from Snyder by just having the privilege to be around such a grand presence. So, readings are nice, but they’re not my favorite thing about being a poet. I’d rather just enjoy the process of writing and publishing. It’s all one thing for me.

 

Are you working on anything new?

I’m working on a new manuscript. A post-divorce book of poems, dealing with all of that. Like many human experiences, I find that there’s a lot to say that no one has said yet. Being a poet is like being an explorer in the days of Magellan. Only instead of continents, you’re discovering emotions and moods, feelings that have never before been adequately described or described in poetry. I see that as my job as a poet. That, and to be a poetic journalist for the times we are living in. I take care of that part of the job by writing poems directly inspired by the news. A lot of those poems have been published by Rattle magazine, which is based in Los Angeles, as well as New Verse News.

 

You’re forty-five years old now, which is like being twenty-five for a professional basketball player. Any regrets about the early part of your poetic journey?

I wish I wouldn’t have waisted so much time being jealous of what I call “academic poetry,” or maybe that’s an actual term. I thought that I needed a PhD to write “real” poetry that would be accepted by journals like Poetry, AGNI, all the many reviews, Iowa Review and so on. But I’m finally at peace with all that. I mean, I’d love to get into those famous and reputable publications, but I’ve also come to accept the fact that my audience, if I have an audience, doesn’t really appreciate that type of verse, which is in my opinion over-worked and purposefully obtuse. So, I’m in a better place now.

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ALEJANDRO ESCUDE's first book of poems, My Earthbound Eye, was published in September 2013 upon winning the 2012 Sacramento Poetry Center Award. He received a master’s degree in creative writing from UC Davis, where he was taught by such notable poets as Gary Snyder and Sandra McPherson. Alejandro works as an English teacher, having taught in a variety of school systems at the secondary level for over fifteen years. Originally from Córdoba, Argentina, he immigrated to California many years ago at the age of six. A new book, The Book of the Unclaimed Dead, published by Main Street Rag Press, is now available on the MSR website. Alejandro is a single dad of two wonderful kids and lives in Los Angeles with his dog, a feisty yet lovable Jack Russell named Jake.

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