Wombwell Rainbow Interviews: Luis Cuauhtemoc Berriozabal

Wombwell Rainbow Interviews

I am honoured and privileged that the following writers local, national and international have agreed to be interviewed by me. I gave the writers two options: an emailed list of questions or a more fluid interview via messenger.
The usual ground is covered about motivation, daily routines and work ethic, but some surprises too. Some of these poets you may know, others may be new to you. I hope you enjoy the experience as much as I do.

Luis Cuauhtemoc Berriozabal

 According  to Bill Shute at Kendra Steiner Editions:

“Los Angeles poet Luis Cuauhtémoc Berriozabal, widely published in the alternative poetry world, is one of the most respected American poets among his peers, the quiet shaman of contemporary poetry, a man who speaks clearly and precisely and beautifully on the page, whose work radiates beauty and wisdom, but who has no need to raise his voice or to indulge in cheap shock effects and theatrics.

Between 2007 and 2016, Luis published six chapbooks with KSE—-MAKE THE LIGHT MINE (KSE #364), DIGGING A GRAVE (KSE #174), OVERCOME (KSE #141), WITHOUT PEACE (KSE #59), KEEPERS OF SILENCE (KSE #82), GARDEN OF ROCKS (KSE #103)—-as well as doing a duo chapbook with Ronald Baatz, NEXT EXIT: SEVEN (KSE #100), and appearing in two KSE multiple poet collections….LAST POEMS (KSE #115) and POLYMORPHOUS URBAN: POEMS FOR LOU REED (KSE #272).”

The Interview

  1. What inspired you to write poetry?

In High School I had an English class where I was introduced to American Poetry. I read Edgar Allan Poe, Robert Frost, Carl Sandberg, Emily Dickinson, Walt Whitman, Wallace Stevens, William Carlos Williams, e e cummings, and other writers. Edgar Allan Poe was perhaps my favorite, because I also liked his short stories. As the years have gone on, I find myself drawn to international poets, Spanish language poets, and song writing poets, such as Dylan. I started off writing songs to and for someone I loved in my late teens. Since there was no music to these words, I was told they seemed more like poems.

Life, mundane things, social issues, almost anything I find worth writing about inspires me to write poems.

  1. Who introduced you to poetry?

Indirectly, it was probably my father who introduced me to poetry. Our house was a house of books; too many books for someone who might hate books. My father had books from some of the best Mexican poets and Spanish language poets. He had books by Octavio Paz, Sor Juana Ines de La Cruz, and Nahuatl poetry. I would go to the bookshelves and read whatever I wanted. He also introduced me to Mexican singer, Agustin Lara, whose words were poetry. There were books by Shakespeare and ancient poets, such as Horace, on the shelves as well. I did not get into Shakespeare until the end of High School and College.

  1. How aware were you of the dominating presence of older poets?

I have been aware of the older poets since the beginning. It seems like the poets I like best are no longer with us. This is nothing against living poets. Throughout my life I have read so many poets and I have so many favorite poets in no definitive order. The list is endless: Federico Garcia Lorca, Cesar Vallejo, Miguel Hernandez, Pablo Neruda, Arthur Rimbaud, Charles Baudelaire, Fernando Pessoa, Julio Cortazar, Rainer Maria Rilke, Juan Ramon Jimenez, Vladimir Mayakovsky, Robinson Jeffers, Charles Bukowski, Alfonsina Storni, Henri Michaux, Jorge Luis Borges, Du Fu, Li Po, Basho, Czeslaw Milosz, Nicanor Parra, Nazim Hikmet, Luis Omar Salinas, Leonard Cirino, and Alejandra Pizarnik. There are so many others. We can learn so much from the past and words of those who have come before us.

  1. What is your daily writing routine?

I write every day. There is no real routine. I write whenever I find the time. I usually write when there is complete quiet in the house and everyone is asleep. Sometimes I write with music playing. It could be classic rock, alternative rock jazz, soul, rhythm and blues; however I am feeling. I try to read a lot more than I write.

  1. What motivates you to write?

I write to get things off my chest. Reading the poetry of poets I admire, motivates me to write. Social issues, what is going on in the world, motivates me to write.

  1. What is your work ethic?

I probably write too much. I do not edit my work as much as I should. If I write something I do not like, I write something new and try to improve what I wrote before.

  1. How do the writers you read when you were young influence you today?

I found that the language of poetry has been a great influence. I quite enjoy the surrealism and nature in poetry, the way Edgar Allan Poe writes of the sea, the way Walt Whitman wrote of nature, the way Cesar Vallejo wrote of the human condition, the way Garcia Lorca wrote of the moon and rivers; the colors in the landscape. I am learning more now than when I was young. Poetry is ever evolving and reading something written long ago now is like discovering something new. I wish there were more translators in the world to make the work of poets from all over the world more accessible. When I was in college I read the poetry of the Beat Generation, the prose and poetry of Jack Kerouac and Allen Ginsburg, the work of William Burroughs. I was influenced by the stream of consciousness method of writing. If I was more disciplined and more patient, perhaps I would try and write novels. However, I prefer to write poetry.

  1. Who of today’s writers do you admire the most and why?

One of today’s writers I greatly admire is Robert Edwards from the state of Washington. His poems on social issues are excellent. He uses surreal language, striking images, and speaks through the voice of working people in the struggle of the working class. Glenn Cooper from Australia is another poet I admire. His poetry could be funny, sad, and clever. His prose poetry books, Emancipator and Hum the Song of the Dead Grass are quite original. He observes what he sees and puts observations down on the page in surprising juxtapositions and word-play.

  1. Why do you write?

I write because I enjoy it. Through writing I can unleash any tension I have inside. I let my fear, my pain, my anger, my joy, everything I feel inside— out.

  1. What would you say to someone who asked you “How do you become a writer?”

I would tell them anyone can become a writer. I would tell them to get themselves a library card and start checking out some books. I would tell them to read voraciously.

  1. Tell me about the writing projects you have on at the moment.

I have no current projects at this moment. I am writing all the time. I probably have enough material for a chapbook or two, but I have no offers and I have not solicited my work to any press. My last chapbook was over 2 years ago. If it was not for the kindness of Bill Shute at Kendra Steiner Editions, I probably would have less work available. He has published at least 7 of my chapbooks, including one that was co-written with Ronald Baatz. I had stopped submitting work for the past few years. I had been submitting to only about 6 to 8 journals for the past several years. This summer I was diagnosed with cancer and had to have surgery. The surgery was successful. I am currently cancer free. The surgery and scare kicked my butt. I have been writing more often and submitting more frequently to different journals. I figure if I might kick the bucket sooner than I planned, I might as well do the thing I love, and that is to write, and to share my words with readers and other writers. In the past three months I have submitted poetry to over 50 journals I have never sent work to before. I have lucked out with getting acceptances in about 10 new places. I have also sent out work to journals that have been kind enough to publish my poetry over the years.

 

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