Latino/a Poets Roundtable
Latino/a Poets Roundtable, part one
1. When does identifying as a Latino poet give you a sense of community and shared purpose, and when does the label chafe?
2. How long did it take you as a developing writer before you discovered, or were introduced to, Latino poets as models for your own work?
3. Who are your Latino poetry forebears? How important has it been for you to find forebears who reflect your own ethnic heritage (e.g. Cuban vs. Boricuan vs. Chicano, etc.), your linguistic heritage, your regional/socioeconomic heritage, your religious/sexual/gender identities, etc.?
4. Do you consciously seek influence by/work in imitation of/find inspiration from the work of other Latino writers? Give details about your own processes/products!
In answer to your first question, I have to say that there is something beautiful about sharing the company of other Latino poets, whether in person or in other media.
A few months ago, my mother told me when she and my father dated and throughout their marriage, they were subject to the curiosity of others. Of course, my brother and I have grown up with questions of, "What are you?" as if we were aliens, having a Black mother and a Puerto Rican father. My hair has been touched as if in a zoo, my skin complimented or spit upon depending on the day, etc. But generally, when surrounded by other Latino poets, it is my work that sings. My understanding of Latinidad and how it applies to me is part of a larger discussion, but I do not feel myself ever the oddity. I love being able to write in Spanish or talk about the particularities of my family life that are so typical of Puerto Rican families. I realize, too, that I am very lucky, because, as a Cave Canem fellow and as an editor for The Acentos Review, my complete self is supported and encouraged within my work, but being identified as a Latina poet does chafe on occasion. Sometimes I want to write about a tree, not the jacaranda on my grandmother's property, rather a tree bending over the river in Nürnberg. I flare with anger when others try to pigeonhole me or my work as belonging to only one community or influence. Yes, I am Latina. I am African American, too. As a poet, I take in the world.
In the case of reading the work of other Latino poets, I was in college before I read any Latino authors, and with the exception of a class and a reading series curated by Aldon Nielsen, the only places that I encountered the work of Latino authors were in Spanish classes. My prior education was founded on the canonical literature of the dead white man. This is part of the reason that as a teacher now I include contemporary and multicultural resources.
While at Cave Canem, the summer after college, I met John Murillo, who was headed right after that workshop to another in California to work with Martín Espada. I asked, "Who is Martín Espada?"—I borrowed some books and was amazed. When I moved to New York for my master's degree, I met Oscar Bermeo, Fish Vargas and Rich Villar within a very short timespan. They were instrumental in challenging me with others they were reading. I'm still immersing myself in the literature that speaks to me culturally and inspires me poetically.
Latino poetry forebearers? For a long time, I was in love with the work of Nicolás Guillén, Julia de Burgos, Luís Pales Matos, Martín Espada, and Pablo Neruda, but I am open, my heart and mind are open, to the work of so many. I enjoy reading the work of Puerto Rican and Cuban authors, but I am intrigued by others as well. Honestly, I keep making these budgets to help me pay some bills...but then Amazon says that it has recommendations for me, I end up spending all the money in the bank on books. Rice and beans are very nutritious, right? That's all I'll be eating with the library I'm building at home.
Hope Maxwell Snyder:
Identifying as a Latino poet gives me a sense of community and shared purpose when I have the freedom to acknowledge my Colombian heritage, Spanish (my first language), and the education I received growing up in Bogotá as integral parts of my social, cultural, emotional, and intellectual experience, while at the same time being able to appreciate the cultural, emotional, and intellectual characteristics that define other Latino poets in varied and unique ways. What brings us together is as interesting as what makes each of us different. I believe that as Latino poets we can add great richness to the world of contemporary American poetry.
I find the Latino poet label unpleasant when I notice that it is being applied to me as part of a group somehow thrown together without real sensitivity to the subtle differences in our language, heritage, and so on. I have always resisted trying to use my Latina status in order to gain more opportunities for myself. My name is not a Latino name. People have suggested that I translate Hope to Esperanza, but I resist being immediately "labeled" as a Latino poet. And yet, that's who I am: a Latina poet living in the US, writing in English. A friend suggested that I sign my poems Maxwell Snyder. Interesting. Clearly, I feel ambivalent about being labeled as a Latina poet.
I grew up in Colombia with a grandfather who loved literature. At fourteen I had Neruda's and Lorca's verses memorized, as well lines from Ruben Darío. After moving to the US and embarking on an academic career, I continued to read Latin American and Spanish poets and novelists. In 2002, when I attended my first writers' conference (Bread Loaf) I looked for Latino poets that could serve as models for my work. Since then, I've met Latino poets from California, Arizona, South Carolina, and so forth. I live in a small town in West Virginia and I participate in writers' conferences in order to meet other writers and poets.
I would say that some of my Latino poetry forebears are Alfonsina Storni, Delmira Agustini, and Gabriela Mistral. I also love Neruda and some of Vallejo's work. These poets were all born in Latin America or moved there (as was the case with Alfonsina Storni) and wrote in Spanish.
Last June while I was visiting my brother in Bogotá I picked up a copy of the Antología de la poesía Colombiana. I do not identify with the poems I've read so far, probably because my experience is not a uniquely Colombian experience, but the experience of a poet born in Colombia who has lived in Italy and now lives in the US and writes in English.
I'm interested in the work of other Latino writers and in how they approach language, what topics they choose to write about. Initially I had a strong resistance against incorporating Spanish into poems written in English, even if the subject of the poem was the Latino experience. Now I've become more open-minded about mixing languages in order to give the poem more texture and to communicate the experience more concisely. I'm also interested in translation as a way to learn, imitate, change.
In Bogotá I also found a book of poems by Cuban poet Wendy Guerra (I love that name). It's titled Ropa Interior. I liked Guerra's poems a lot, and decided to write a poem responding to "Ropa Interior," the poem from which the book draws its title. Here are the first few lines of Guerra's poem "Ropa Interior":
Dejamos sobre las duchas de los hombres nuestros cuerpos
bien amarrados a la tubería solar
Marcamos territorio como animales en celo
con las trusas saturadas de arena y el olor sideral que los aísla
And here are some lines from my poem "Like Cheap Under Garments (After reading Wendy Guerra's poem "Ropa Interior")":
We leave our bodies in the showers of men,
and I add, before love and after.
We mark our territory like animals in heat,
like animals in heat, or celo. Add an s,–celos—
and the meaning changes to jealousy
from the French jalousie, or blind.
When I locate myself historically, socially, culturally, I self-identify as a Chicano poet, but I have always and primarily considered myself a Western poet, a desert poet. I grew up in a household of Spanish and Spanglish speakers; my father was from Las Cruces, NM, and my mother from Rincon, NM—small, rural, mostly Chicano farming towns. Many residents of this part of New Mexico came from families that had settled southern New Mexico in the 1850s, after the Gadsden Purchase. My parents, however, tried as much as possible to expose me and my siblings to American popular culture. My father's and mother's attempts to make a go at it in Gringolandia landed us in Albuquerque, in the suburbs, in 1976. In the white middle to upper class part of Northeast Albuquerque I went to Middle and High School and mostly lost contact with my heritage. It was only in grad school that I began to think about the fact that I had hardly any contact with other Chicanos or Latinos who wrote. All of my peers were white Americans, as were all of my teachers, and almost all of the poetry we read was written by white Americans. I would have to say it was in 1987 at the University of Arizona that I started to question this mode of existence and revolted by leaving the program without my MFA. Al otro mano, the term Latino poet chafes when there is some sort of assumed essentialism attached to the condition of being a man of color who writes poetry. That we must somehow share the same poetics, aesthetics, and politics, for example.
While I listened to a great deal of corridos, rancheras, norteñas , and so forth (my dad's father was a professional musician, a real life mariachi), I was a rock and roller for a long time, and in terms of my poetry I was more influenced by Bob Dylan and John Lennon and Michael Stipe than by Jimmy Baca. I discovered Latino poetry in 1983 when Jimmy Baca read poems in an intermediate workshop I was taking at the University of New Mexico. I have never thought of any writer providing a model for my work, as I have always thought that my writing is a form of communication with others. I believe in Olson's notion that "a poem is energy transferred from where the poet got it ... by way of the poem itself to, all the way over to, the reader..."
In terms of Latino forebearers, I'd like to think I have more in common with Vincente Fernandez or even good old Pedro Vargas; I was raised on Mexican movies and music, and since what I read came from the public library and from the almost totally white lit anthologies of the '70s and '80s, my influences have been, mostly, poetically, from the Beats and from the Black Mountain poets. I literally count my ancestors as my forebearers, even though none of them wrote poetry. It is important for me to know that I have grown far enough to be able to write and teach poetry for a living because of their hard work and sacrifices. I think about the older generations and how hard they worked to get me here. In terms of reading, because of the scarcity of printing presses in New Mexico and Arizona, there was no definitive literary past for the Southwest, let alone writers that I could have accessed when I was younger. I often think of writers like Alurista, Corky Gonzalez, Rudolfo Anaya, Tomás Rivera, and Juan Rulfo as models that I encountered when I was older, or even giants whose shoulders I am standing on, but even when I resumed grad studies at Arizona State University in 1990, and finished in 1993, there was not much talk about being a Chicano or Latino poet. That all has grown and developed in the last 15 years. Finally, I do consider that I may be more American than Mexican, more gringolandia than barrio. The problem is, I still watch Mexican TV, converse with my brother in Spanglish, cook all the Mexican recipes (I make great tortillas), and shop at the Mexican grocery store. Much of my identity is connected to my heritage, and as well to who I am now, who I have become.
Recently, I wrote a poem that is a riff on Corky Gonzalez's poem "Yo Soy Joaquin." It was published this autumn in Malpais Review. First time I ever did that, though. I was feeling incensed about being the lone Chicano in Dayton, OH, and how most people out here cannot pronounce my name correctly. While Gonzalez's poem is sloppy and in some ways clichéd stylistically, it speaks a core truth in so many ways for us Mestizos. Otherwise, my inspiration comes from my imagination and my personal life/memories as an aging heterosexual Chicano father of teenagers who has been married to an Irish-Italian American for 20 years and who exists somewhere between Albuquerque, New Mexico and Pottsville, Pennsylvania. Many of my poems, in fact, I write to my twin brother.
For me, the question of poetic forebears is directly linked to the sense of community that comes from identifying as a Latino poet. In life, there is not a time when I don't identify as Latina and that also holds true on the page (and stage).
Write what you know, I always heard, and what I know is multicolored, mottled, dappled, logical and absurd. Until I was almost 11, I was raised in Costa Rica by a six-foot-four, silent, Jewish/atheist gringo lawyer father who loved that country and a five-foot, loquacious, intermittently mad, poetry-loving Tica mother who dreamed of life in the US and swooned over Perry Como. I have spent a good part of my life cobbling together a sense of self as a reasonable whole man somehow greater than the sum of my parts, and so I have never privileged over the others that aspect of my self which I now call Latino, following the custom of the day, finally accepting—after decades of rejecting that and any label—that what I am is shaped to some important degree by my circumstances and the perception of others (yo soy yo y mis circunstancias echoing in my head) rather than solely by what I might choose to define as my true self. I remember sitting over my papaya and piña and gallo pinto at the breakfast table in Alajuela and hearing my uncle Enrique reciting with powerful emotion the verses of Rubén Darío, "no comprendes Asunción la historia que te he contado, la del garrido garzón con el acero clavado tan cerca del corazón," and thinking, What could all those words mean? and thinking also, How strange and beautiful they are. I imagine I knew from that time that I was a poet, but as life would have it, it was many years before I said so to myself, and I followed a safer path than that of the artist, becoming at last a civilized college professor . . . and it was not a bad way to avoid starving in a low garret, this life of books and classrooms and young people often ready to share my love of Francisco de Quevedo, Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz, William Shakespeare, A. E. Housman, Pablo Neruda, Frederico García Lorca, Emily Dickinson, Robert Frost, William Butler Yeats, Dylan Thomas and Keats, a heterogeneous pantheon appropriate for someone with his bachelor's in English and doctorate in comparative literature, someone who ended up teaching Spanish without ever giving up laboring on his own verses, invariably written in English.
Blas Falconer: I grew up in Reston, Virginia, thirty minutes outside of Washington, DC., and though my parents loved to read, they weren't particularly interested in poetry. I spent most summers, however, in Salinas, Puerto Rico with my grandmother, who often had a book of poems on her bedside table. Even at a young age, I sensed what the work of Julia de Burgos and Juan Antonio Corretjer meant to my grandmother, an Independent, how these poets inspired national pride and a sense of community.
Although I have always identified as Latino, for a long time I didn't consider myself to be a part of a community because, among other things, I didn't grow up among many Latinos. Also, my father was not Latino, and I didn't feel comfortable speaking Spanish. When I began to develop an interest in poetry, I turned to the Nuyoricans, and while I had a tremendous admiration and respect for their work, thematically and aesthetically many of the poems seemed to be shaped by the presence of a community. As a result, I didn't see the poems as the most fitting models for my own voice even though we shared a connection with Puerto Rico.
Eventually, I became more familiar with the work of other Latino poets, such as Judith Ortiz Cofer and Rane Arroyo, who had also grown up outside of Latino communities. I probably didn't feel a real sense of shared purpose, however, until my book was published by the University of Arizona Press in their Camino del Sol series for Latino poets. That's when I came to see that by writing and publishing our poems we are all challenging the notion of a singular identity or a definitive aesthetic. There isn't one way to be a Latino or to write like one. My essay "A Meditation on the Experience and Aesthetics of the Other Rican" in the Latino Poetry Review addresses some of these questions in more detail.
Growing up in the working-class part of Colorado Springs, Colorado, a conservative town, I never got too much exposure to Latino poets and writers until I left for college. I encountered writers many of you already mentioned like Espada, Neruda, Vallejo, but I also found myself learning a lot from prose writers like Gabriel García Márquez and Julio Cortázar because of the way they implemented magic, folklore, and history into their works. These subjects always intrigued me and inspired me to try grabbing a pen. It's probably because of these influences that I continue to delve into the narrative side of poetry, but my other influences would of course include my parents, who maintain strong storytelling skills that continue to inspire my writing and poetry. Due to them, I am part of a rich and unique background like so many of you, though I still have yet to meet a Puerto-Rican Ecuadorian. My heritage is a Caribbean island and a town nestled in the Andes but unified in the state of Colorado, USA. In the poems I write, I keep searching for the magic within the everyday and how they intersect the politics of witness, and the above writers as well as the larger Latino writing community continues to lend its guidance.
I now live and teach in Pueblo, Colorado, which is a small working-class town. Here, I have had moments where I felt isolated from the literary world, but it's fortunate that I can find support from fellow writers and colleagues through technology. But the beauty of communities like Con Tinta and others help me continue to educate myself on not only contemporary Latino writers but also forbearers and important influences. The community continues to help me discover the roots I knew I had and the ones I didn't know I had. We all have our other identities and roles to wrestle while being a Latino poet, but two parts that do chafe would fall in the linguistic category. I grew up in the United States and my parents learned English as a second language, their first language being Spanish. Despite this upbringing, my mastery of Spanish remains limited and it leads to struggle. As a Latino writer, it can lead to its own share of obstacles and personal anxieties and the writerly existential questions that we all have to navigate. The other point of chafing for my writing would be my desire to keep my work accessible and inclusive though I will always continue to incorporate my Latino heritage, history, and linguistics into my work while never making apologies for it. Perhaps it's the standard issue of audience and whom you wish to reach. Regardless, these points become easier to explore and consider the more I write and reach out, leading to more writers and colleagues exploring similar concerns and perceptions.
Juan, I am so interested in what you said: "In the poems I write, I keep searching for the magic within the every day and how they intersect the politics of witness. . . ." Long before I ever read Alejo Carpentier or Gabriel Garcia Marquez, I had been impressed with the sense that there are layers of tangible and intangible; powers/spirits that shift between planes and among us; that the world is seen and unseen. In my second manuscript, I've been playing with that notion, focusing on the ills of our society in respect to children with this undercurrent of malevolent spirit/boogeyman that we blame for all those ills. I am curious: have others experimented in this way or found the work moves in this way?
I'll align here with Albino Carrillo's relation to rock. Poetry was given to me in the moment and place that was the underground music scene of Los Angeles in the years leading to my graduation from high school in Los Angeles (1982). Exene Cervenka and John Doe of X had famously met at a poetry workshop at Beyond Baroque in Venice, and their unsettling lyrics exposed the obscene underbelly of experience for the haves and the have-nots of Hollywood. Most of the exciting bands had line-ups that featured Chicanos and Latinos. In addition to some of the better known, including Alice (Almendariz) Bags, or Ron Reyes and Dez Cadena of Black Flag, were Charles Ramirez (aka Chuck Roast) of the Suburban Lawns and Juan Gómez of the Human Hands. Another outfit, The Fibonaccis, had discovered for me the work of Wallace Stevens in their "Euro-techno-disco-Fellini-circus-chamber-music" version of "The Ordinary Women."
It was the motley and makeshift nature of those years in Los Angeles that allowed so many different practices to intersect, even as many artists and musicians were linked by subject matter and a concern to ironize the mono-cultural representations associated with the film and television industry. Especially awe-inspiring for me was the charismatic Tito Larriva of The Plugz. With his lyric minimalism Larriva skewered "mindless contentment" as per the media looming over the creative class of Los Angeles. He sang about desires and discontent, too, in the emergent "scene" of which he was a participant, all of it taking a toll on everyday selfhood. With rare emotional tenor, Larriva belied those US American promises that do not distribute equally, especially if you were socially marked in the spatial disconnection of Los Angeles itself: "Better towns / better times / better life / better luck / better something. / They'll never find / they'll never stop looking. / When things look closer / that's when they're furthest away." (Better Luck, Fatima Records, 1980.)
Larriva sums it up for me: "I think the 'fuck you' attitude of punk was great for Latinos. You could assimilate into a new culture that was evolving without compromising who you were, or having to be segregated." To the extent that my practice as a poet has since been linked to questions of culture, issues in ethics, and the dynamics of history, my energies and commitments have associated with strands of an avant-garde that, over the years, strives to engage the fears and fantasies in the phenomena of global expansion. In the wake of a divisiveness that marked US poetry in the 1980s and 1990s, between so-called traditional and experimental inheritors of Modernism, in the last decade we've seen the formation of an unparalleled number of fine writers who can claim one form or another of Latinidad.
Many of them feature in excellent anthologies: The Wind Shifts, edited by Francisco Aragón; Malditos latinos, malditos sudacas: Poesía hispanoamericana made in USA, edited by Mónica de la Torre and Cristián Gómez (Mexico City: Ediciones El Billar); or the on-line journal Breach, edited by J. Michael Martinez. I draw inspiration from many of the poets included in those titles, even as I desire a Latinidad in the expanded field. So take a look, for example, at the impressive list of translators to The Oxford Book of Latin American Poetry, edited by Cecilia Vicuña and Ernesto Livon-Grosman. You'll find that many of the relevant poets of a now-identifiable generation are also superb translators from the Spanish or Portuguese, be they or not identified as Latinos. The work of Latino writers that most excites me is that which resists the oft-celebrated formal plurality of the current US American poetry scene. Any so-called neutrality runs the risk of a return to cultural uniformity, national solipsism, distraction in the forms of domesticity or exceptionalism, and an untroubled paucity of such terms that might rearrange the relation of poetry to citizenship and its field of action.
Raina, I too have considered the idea of the intangible and the role it has played in my personal and in my cultural life as a Cuban-American woman, although it has not been a deliberate contemplation but rather one that has appeared in my writing simply because the idea of the unseen, in its sundry and magnetic forms, has always sparked my imagination. As a young reader, this manifested itself in my fondness for folklore—the fairytales collected by Scottish poet & historian Andrew Lang, historic and fantastical accounts of the Salem witch trials, or '70s pop-culture myths such as the hirsute and elusive Sasquatch (Please keep in mind that these book tastes were pre-teen).
As an adult I developed this interest in my work as a journalist, reporting on the art and faith found in Afro-Caribbean cultures, such as the glittering Vodoun flags made by Haitian artisans or Edouard Duval Carrié's paintings, which can fuse the "politics of witness" that Juan mentioned with the deities found in the pantheon of Vodoun. I recall seeing one particular picture of his where the spirit of Ezili is forced offboard a ship by two immigration officers. In another canvas, the gods themselves are migrating through the forest at night and with little sense of what is behind or ahead of them. I saw these paintings a few years ago but I can easily conjure them up in my mind. So much of Duval-Carrié's work considers how the ethereal planes Raina mentioned intersect with the politics of survival. It is unforgettable.
Because I live in South Florida, the mesh between Cuban and Yoruban cultures is also vital, and I've written about it too. But this blend of geography and worship exists in my daily life as well, appearing in prayer cards or botanica-bought saints, offerings, and music, around our home and in the lives of friends and family. So I suppose that I've considered this realm more through the lens of talisman—how are we protected by the percussive beats of Mongo Santamaria or a 7-day candle lit for La Caridad del Cobre? What kind of peace or inheritance do these rituals offer us?
My answer is that they give me a welcomed sense of smallness, that my own concerns are but little seeds scattered in some infinite cosmic garden. More pragmatically, this kind of magic, which at turns appears to me as both childish and nourishing, reminds me to be authentic in my own creative work, to approach my poems and prose as a traveler of sorts, and to ignore the noise of acclaim and keep my ambition centered on the act of making art with words as best as I can.
What does this intangible place offer you?
Hope Maxwell Snyder:
We have all been involved in different ways and to different degrees in the "Politics of Witness" and I think it's great, Raina, that you underlined this statement from Juan's comments. Being a Latino poet in the US today and trying to write about one's experience as a Latino, a poet, a man or a woman, an academic or a former academic, a teacher, an individual comfortable or uncomfortable speaking and writing in Spanish and English is one of the greatest challenges I've ever faced.
Like Mark, as I read your comments I also regretted knowing so little about "the work of poets whose words, are guided, colored, dappled by their Hispanic heritage," poets more closely linked to my experience as a Latino poet than so many others I've read. This past summer I heard Alberto Ríos read his poems. He also delivered a lecture on magical realism that was fantastic.
Like Mark, I became "at last a civilized college professor" and, I would add, in a university that did not have a language department, a Spanish minor or a Spanish major (both of which I developed while working there as coordinator of modern languages). I've always been aware of how traumatic that experience was for me, but until now, until reading about your experiences, I don't think I fully understood it wholly. Thank you.
Being identified as a Latina writer/poet never chafes: as a writer I am not apart from who I am. So as a Latina, everything I write is Latin@ literature, even if the content of the particular work doesn't speak to what are presumed to be "matters Latin@". What does chafe are those presumptions—they confine what we are privileged to write to a narrowly defined paradigm. I love that those of us who speak or write in Spanish and Spanglish can bring a new depth of language and meaning to forms poetic.
My first exposure to Latino literature was the work in El Grito, but I don't know that I found any models in those volumes. (Some of it was pretty raw stuff.) I've always enjoyed Juan Felipe Herrera's and Alberto Ríos' work but I don't presume or want to model my work on theirs. To begin with, I'm not that keen on modeling my work on others'. I'm a big believer in cultivating your own voice, so although there are any number of poets whose work I admire, what I get the most from their words, apart from the sheer joy of reading them, is a light bulb moment for new or different ways to approach poetry. I especially like Spanglish when it reads naturally in the text and doesn't feel forced. People sometimes tell me my work is like so-and-so's when in fact I've never read so-and-so's work. I tend to let the words rise on their own and a su manera. Later, I play with them, see if I can wring/ring more out of them by transposing, juxtaposing, separating, blending, bending and re-rendering them in unexpected ways.
Another thing that interests me is how we all came to identify as writers, or rather, what support networks were in place for that process to happen. Where was the support for these aspirations, this delving into literature and desire to add to it and the world? For me, Mami is a poet and academic, and Papi is an avid reader and a lover of stories (telling them and listening to everyone's in the neighborhood before telling those). From forever, I was taught three things: how to defend myself; that education was important and a matter of family honor; and that no one was going to give me anything in this country, so I better fight. I am still fighting, each day. As you all know, it is not easy.
I'm curious about the moments, quotations, people, etc. that inspired you to travel this road. I know that, for myself, there are moments when I am filled with such a fiery passion to grow, to write, to open my hands to the winds. Many years ago, it was at a reading at the Acentos Bronx Poetry Showcase of Maria Nieves, Nina Velez, and Jessica Torres. These women were Amazon in their force and beauty. Somehow their poems, that were so diametrically opposed at times, seemed to meld into one another in this dance of sense sprung from words. I thought, God, I want to write like that. Not the narrative or form. I wanted to be that exposed and beautiful, in command of the moment and yet vulnerable within it. I was and still do count myself very lucky to have grown within the Acentos community. That scaffolding of writers eager to grow is what I hope to cultivate within The Acentos Review in my comments to those who submit. I had such a strong support within Acentos and the Cave Canem family when I was particularly unsure and still when I feel myself floundering. What about you?