What is your favorite word?
How do you describe yourself in two adjectives?
What is your favorite topic of conversation?
Tell me about your dreams. Learn how to interpret dreams and apply your knowledge in waking life. Dreams are creativity in its purest form. The world of dreams is pure consciousness. Pure thinking. Pure creativity. I imagine that the reality it forms is much like the state of death. Take care to liink reality with other realities and present perception / feeling as an independent reality.
Talk to me about food, recipes, traditional dinners, corn, platanos, beans, tagines & couscous … Talk to me about HUITLACOCHE.
Do you prefer to read fiction or nonfiction?
Fiction. Everything is fiction, in one form or other, including “history.”
What do we need more of in the world? What do we need less of?
We need to do something very difficult right now in the world. Love one another. I’m not talking about loving strangers, but go ahead if that’s your thing. Look out for how different people will react! Mostly, love those who surround you in your life. You know them already. You love them already. Just be it, share it, and speak it.
MORE LOVE. Do not be ashamed to practice love. In every way. Explore and appreciate more and more forms of LOVE. The more you love, the more love you have in your life.
LESS WALLS. We do not need more walls in this shrinking world. Refugees of all kinds will be the new normal. Water is the cause, every time. And war. But often wars are over lands that have water. And religion causes war. And persecution. We have no place for racism in the new world. We have no place for intolerance, and especially fundamentalism.
Currently there is a hotbed of new writers and young creators. It is important to initiate conversation so readers get engaged and talk about the poetry of the new scene. How do we go about this?
You know what? Interviews like this are very important. Better? I believe in podcasting. Interviews in live time, poetic radio, every week, direct to listeners from your blog or website.
It is said that people who read are more involved with social matters. What would you say to those readers? And to non-readers?
Dear readers. It is you who know how to think, how to study, how to apply your attention for more than two seconds at a time. We are in need of thoughts and contributions from readers like you in our world now and for our future. Please read the newspapers of your town, today. Please read the romances of yesterday, written more than 100 years ago. Please read about human rights. Please, read poetry.
Dear non-readers Listen to me; listen to my voice, do not get lost in so many voices that appear in all parts of your world, that are confused with your own thoughts, that destroy your peace, if you ever seek peace. Listen to me well because your future hangs in the balance. Take the time to watch documentaries about the world and your community. Listen to some podcasts. Listen to the stories of your family, your people, your nation. Now is the time to stop and listen. Your world will not change if you do not listen. Then, learn how to read good poetry, my dear ones.
How did you live your childhood?
I lived a very sad and lonely life as a child.
Tell us how did you learn to read, how to write and how did you discover that you were a writer?
I taught myself to read from ages 3 to 5.
When I was 16 or 17, I had a friend I was very much in love with. Of course she was not so crazy about me. We played with an old typewriter that I had. We pretended to write to it and it would answer, like Archy the cockroach of the 1920s. Not like the infamous typewriter of Cronenberg’s movie “Naked Lunch,” which has very little to do with the real “Naked Lunch” by William S. Burroughs. But anyway, this young woman whom I loved found my good friend more attractive than me. Probably because he was white. Yes, she was white. I always wanted a blonde girlfriend with blue eyes. But anyway she left, they left, and I was left alone with the typewriter. I carried on the conversations by myself.
Soon after, I received a much smaller and lighter electronic typewriter. That’s when I began my first experiments with writing and dreaming, writing a poem “Do Poems Count as Sleep?” I wrote everything that came to mind as I fell asleep, all the crazy disconnected thoughts. The goal was to teach myself to write as I slept. If I should do this with my fingers in the wrong position, I would wake up with nonsense. If I had my fingers in the correct position on the keyboard, I would wake up with some very interesting morsels.
How is your daily life?
Single. I live very alone, and then at times, very public. I eat very healthy and I live near the beach.
Would you share an experience from your life that has influenced your life as a writer?
I was an international researcher for a company that I can not name. For this company, I had to carry out low-level security background checks on individuals and small companies overseas. At the end of this investigation I had to write a report. It was the writing of this type of report that really opened my eyes to a new interpretation of writing. What I mean is that in every amateur writer, and perhaps in more experienced writers (I have no idea how each individual mind works), there is a discrepancy between what a writer thinks they have written and what the commonly perceived understanding is of that writing. There is often an abyss of misunderstandings between what the writer wanted to write and what was actually written. I am also learning, today, at every moment, which words in my texts are essential and which are not essential, in order to be absolutely clear.
Why do you write?
Because I can not help it.
What has been your success and how do you get there?
Success? I did not succeed. Have I succeeded?
Every day, no matter how, I write and think about how to write better. It is a compulsion.
Tell us a little about your writing.
I write poetry and stories. I write about my Latin side, from Colombia. This is my mother’s side. I write about my Arab side, from Morocco. This is my father’s land. Of course, I write from my own experience.
I have written four books so far.
Blue Demon: A novel of a sailor of the XIX century, with an invisible monster, that kills everything.
Death At Sea, Poems: Love, loneliness and nostalgia on the high seas in a quasi- XIX century style. Also, one day I will write a book of haunted XIX century sea tales.
Fiercer Monsters: Short stories. An exploration into the futility of language and the power of the word, of the letter.
Critics of Mystery Marvel: collection of magical persona poems.
In Fiercer Monsters, there is a story called “Corn Woman, or the Baker’s Wife.” When I was growing up, my mother wrote in diaries, at least once a week. I only witnessed the entries on Saturday morning. The habit fascinated me. The content of her diaries is not my concern. Maybe I would access a window to my own personality, transmitted by my mother as she reports on her life; or directly, as she observed and probably reported on me. Corn Woman is written as a journal entry in one of my mother’s many diaries. His older brother, my uncle, now a great-great-grandfather, read a first version of the story and called me furious, saying: “Very good, but this was not what happened! You asked so many questions about our childhood but this is evil!” So I decided that I was a liar. I felt bad because he was upset, but I love a good story. This was a golem story. I had researched the Golem of Prague, the creation of Rabbi Loeuw. Of course I love the Mary Shelley version, and then there was Gustav Meyrink.
The story takes place outside of Caracas, Venezuela. At the time they called it “Los Campitos de Baruta,” but today I think they call it Baruta. Venezuela has been ruled out of the crude oil business, and the government had no established safeguards, there is a lot to be said about it. I do not know if we have a family There I know that most of my mother’s extended family immigrated to Los Angeles at about the same time, in the mid-1950s, they were white-skinned Jews of Polish descent who spoke Spanish most of the time, Yiddish from time to time, Polish among the elderly and English for me.
How many languages do you speak?
Three? Each one I speak poorly.
So, is that English, French and Arabic?
Unfortunately, I do not speak Arabic. I was born in the United States, outside of an Arab community. I was the first child of our family to be born here, in San Luis Obispo, California. I was kind of an experiment, I suppose. My parents spoke French to me when I was a baby, but once my father left, my mother no longer spoke French. She spoke Spanish only to her mother and brothers. Was it my second language? No, that’s not it either. The three languages have been sitting in my head since I can remember. My first baby word was pronounced on the lawn in front of the Griffith Observatory in Los Angeles.
LOL. Now I have to know. Do you remember your first words?
Yes. I will tell you. It was “la rousse.” The word in French for dandelion. Haha it’s also the name of a popular dictionary publisher in France.
So, do you speak English, French and Spanish?
Yes and no. I’m stumbling in all three, really.
Do you compose in all three?
Well, it seems as if I should, but different words and phrases mean different things in different languages, and are understood in different ways by different societies. I imagine that, for now, I will do everything possible to compose in English and I will let the academics and translators worry about translating my work piece by piece. It’s much, much better and more efficient if someone else takes the translation, because as I’m doing it, I get too inspired and come back and change a word or phrase, re-read it, then go back and keep translating. Ad infinitum.
Do you write about being Arab or Latino, or both?
Morocco, as a topic, or perspective, or environment, manifests in one way or another in everything I write. Latinismo is the way I see the world and frame my writing. Stories, magical realism, surrealism and fabulism occupy a prominent place in both Latin American and Moroccan literature.
HEARTY THANKS TO THE FOLLOWING:
Mar Barrientos, for initiating the idea and publishing a version of this interview in PoderEdoMex.
Violetta Lara, for correcting and advising certain aspects.
Paul Corman Roberts, for asking some important questions.