Tell us more about the title of your book. Why Ugly Music?

The title was taken from a line in my poem “Diary Entry #1: Revisitation”: “You’ll fall on the world / like and ugly music.” I didn’t realize how influential music was to my poetry until putting together this manuscript. Not only have individual songs influenced my work, but also the language of music appears over and over in my poetry. To me ugly music lives in the space between cacophony and euphony. It’s not exactly inharmonious nor is it beautiful. This book is my tribute to all the sounds of my life, the songs, the noises that have added up to this moment when I must play them all at once.


What is a typical day for you during the pandemic?

The day starts with coffee and ends with ice cream. In between is a mixture of answering emails, online shopping, and reality tv. Occasionally a poem will happen in the afternoon.


What was your most recent dream about?

In my dream, my lover was painting my toenails while we sat by the lake. He was painting them a soft cream color which is odd since I’ve only painted my nails black or the occasional grey for the past 10 years. Since I don’t have a steady hand, I often paint on the skin, either by accident or completely on purpose, because normally any polish that doesn’t get on the nail washes off in the shower. However, my lover’s hand was steady and his painting precise (even on my baby toe nail which shouldn’t be called a nail since it disappears into the surrounding skin). Each nail was treated with such intentional care. I often suffer from nightmares and this was the radical opposite: such a tender moment.


What was the last song you danced to?

The last song I danced to was “Rojo” by J Balvin. I was in the kitchen cooking dinner and still in my pajamas from that morning.


What does poetry mean to you?

Poetry is both spiritual and communal. I grew up in a strict religious system, and since falling away from that faith, I have been on the search for something to believe in that felt true. Poetry has been my answer to that. Writing poetry is as spiritual as praising. I am connecting with the higher power that is the poetry community. I am communing with all of the poets that came before me and have yet to come. It is a ritual as old as the Bible itself.


What’s a poem that you keep coming back to?

I keep quoting “That’s My Heart Right There” by Willie Perdomo. It’s easy to remember, easy to keep in my own heart. If that poem were a song, it might be my favorite.

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DIANNELY ANTIGUA is a Dominican American poet and educator, born and raised in Massachusetts. Her debut collection Ugly Music (YesYes Books, 2019) was the winner of the Pamet River Prize and a 2020 Whiting Award. She received her BA in English from the University of Massachusetts Lowell where she won the Jack Kerouac Creative Writing Scholarship; and received her MFA at NYU where she was awarded a Global Research Initiative Fellowship to Florence, Italy. She is the recipient of additional fellowships from CantoMundo, Community of Writers, and the Fine Arts Work Center Summer Program. Her work has been nominated for both the Pushcart Prize and Best of the Net. Her poems can be found in Washington Square Review, Bennington Review, The Adroit Journal, and elsewhere. Her heart is in Brooklyn.

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