In Their Own Words

Poets and translators on their work.

Deborah Paredez on “A Show of Hands”

How to de-familiarize ourselves, how to make strange, the familiar language and images that have informed us about and inured us to the effects of war and violence? How might a focus on Latinx experiences of war and violence, and the vexed relationship Latinx communities have with "documentation," help us interrogate the visual and rhetorical terms and tropes of documenting disaster? I take up these questions in my book, Year of the Dog, a Latina feminist chronicle of the Vietnam War era.

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Didi Jackson on “Ribollita”

I am astonished at how moments of absolute joy and elation can be companioned with sorrow and grief. I now realize that the loss of my husband to suicide is an agony that will always accompany me wherever I go. Even in moments of bliss, that ache will be alive and smoldering. I thought that time would heal, as the saying goes. And it may to some extent weaken the intensity of the grief, but I also understand it will never actually go away.

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Xandria Phillips on “Nativity”

A dream unleashed itself. I was doing one of my favorite things. I was advising a workshop group during a Winter Tangerine Workshop at Poets House in 2018. When I have time, I write with my students and this was one such occasion.

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Zoë Hitzig on “Silent Auction”

Power creates reality. I often think about that famous moment from the Bush era in which a White House aide derided members of “the reality-based community,” who “believe that solutions emerge from [a] judicious study of discernible reality.” Elaborating on why he found this community moronic, the aide continued, “That's not the way the world really works anymore… We’re an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality.”

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Paul Legault On “The Gift of Muntadhar al-Zaidi”

When I turned in The Tower, a “translation” of sorts of W. B. Yeats’s The Tower (from Yeatsian to Legaultian English) my editor pointed out that I had forgotten a poem. In his Collected, W. B. deleted “The Gift of Harun al-Rashid” from The Tower and included it in a separate “Narrative and Dramatic” section. I had one more poem to write.

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Aricka Foreman on “A Longed-For, Which I Enter Gratefully”

“A Longed-For, Which I Enter Gratefully” arrived in tandem while visiting NYC, a trip familiar with beloveds and the chance to read poems, talk shit, laugh, and be quiet. It receives its title from a phrase in Audre Lorde’s Sister Outsider essay “Uses of the Erotic, The Erotic As Power.”

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Jessica Q. Stark on “Explanatory note”

“Explanatory note” was one of the last additions to Savage Pageant, a hybrid poetry book that centers (in part) on a defunct zoo called Jungleland. In the book, I juxtapose poems about my first pregnancy and my own terror of bringing a child into this world with the chronology of California landownership, Hollywood gossip and concealed information, a zoo and its zookeepers, and a history of ecological violence nearby

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Francisco Aragón on “1985”

The poem is about the Reagan Administration’s Contra war against Nicaragua—the terror inflicted on communities there in the 1980s, including the woman portrayed here, her hair “[l]ong and black, the streaks of gray, aflutter in the light / wind as she prepares to tell // her story…” The earliest version of this piece, which I titled “Witness,” I presented in my very first creative writing workshop—led by Ishmael Reed. In its first iteration, the Spanish-language passage was, literally, a footnote.

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