Felicia Zamora on The Social Distance Reading Series

Felicia Zamora is a poet, educator, and editor living in AZ. She’s the author of five books of poetry including Quotient (2021 Tinderbox Editions), Body of Render, 2018 Benjamin Saltman Award winner forthcoming in April (Red Hen Press), and Of Form & Gather, 2016 Andrés Montoya Poetry Prize winner. 

Brought to you by The Vermont School and Green Mountains Review

In the wake of book event cancellations due to COVID-19, this pop-up series is designed to offer poets a platform for launching new collections of poems. Stay tuned for a new reading each Wednesday and Sunday.

Here’s Felicia reading from her new book BODY OF RENDER, available at Red Hen Press.

Language is action in these poems, which are utterances of pleading, fighting, and mending in an America we can hardly stand to look at straight on. Body of Render is a book of saying what must be said: “say Capitol Hill be voice of all your people, be just; in haunt, you must be voice, must.” The risks Felicia Zamora takes with form, syntax, and breath pay off in poem after poem—and make Body of Render one of the most dynamic, most transformative collections I’ve read in years.

 —Maggie Smith, Author of Good Bones

In 1917, NAACP organizer James Weldon Johnson wrote “To America,” a poem in which he asked, “How would you have us, as we are?//…Rising or falling?” And with the (unjust, Russian influenced) election of 2016, 100 years later we (migrants, people of color, women, queer and trans and nonbinary folx, folx with disabilities, abuse survivors, and all who believe equity is true freedom) are still forced to fight for better answers than the ones America is giving. How grateful I am to hear Felicia Zamora’s heart and voice rising, reminding us that “alone is not us.” Here is a book that is part elegy, part ecstasy, part clapback, and all vision. How she zooms in to the microscopic wonder of cells only to zoom out to remind us what we are capable of. “oh/unanswerable molecule of you; oh inorganic beast; oh/ organic beast; burn down, day day, then rise.” Thank you, Felicia, for lifting us (and yourself!) up with these prayer-poems. May this book usher in freedom: simple and mighty.

—TC Tolbert, Author of Gephyromania

GMR: How do you begin a new piece of writing? What conditions help your writing process?

Each poem is its own small world. I listen for the instinct that calls the world out from inside me.  After I complete a manuscript, I breathe for a bit and then after about six months, I begin to get the pull back to the page. My vision starts zooming in; my senses and thoughts start collecting again, gathering ideas. I try to be as open as possible, open to the world around me and let my obsessions show themselves. 

GMR: What was an early experience that taught you language has power?

Language has always shown its power in my existence; I think for many people of color, trans, queer, and marginalized people, we are forced to acknowledge language as it’s hurled toward us, but I also think language is what we are always fighting to reclaim, to call our own, or to find ourselves in. I can’t remember a time that I didn’t feel the horror and the beauty that language holds. Language is a broken system, you know. A word will never encompass the thing itself; however, it’s this failure that makes me love it so, and forgive it over and over and over again. It’s about wielding. It’s about the who behind the language. 

GMRWhat poets or writers do you continually go back to?

Claudia Rankine is one of the most influential poets in my life. Danez Smith and Tommy Pico have also changed me. Recently, Jericho Brown’s The Tradition and Jos Charles’ Feeld brought me to gasps in the most wrenching and necessary ways. 

GMR: What is your favorite childhood or adolescent book?

My mother found this incomplete set of The Junior Classics, The Young Folks Shelf of Books, a series that had fairytales and stories and poetry for youth, at a thrift store. I just pulled book off my bookshelf, it’s the 10 Poetry Reading Guide Indexes. It still smells like my childhood home, which is a mixture of emotion for me. I spent so many hours, days, weeks in these pages. Oh, I also read Salem’s Lot at around 13, and it’s one of my favorite books. I love horror still. 

GMR: What are your thoughts/experiences on social distancing?

We are in a moment of time that we cannot predict or imagine how this virus is going to impact us socially, economically, or as a world. As we individually and physically turn inward to flatten the curve, we may feel disconnected, discombobulated, but this shows our connectivity to each other now more than ever. I believe in our humanity, and our ability to be here for each other. I worry about those who don’t have access, those who are already struggling before the virus. I keep asking myself how can we take care of each other? What can I do? 

GMR: Where can we find you? Link to your blog or website:

feliciazamora.com or #feliciazamorapoet

The Social Distance Reading Series

Brought to you by The Vermont School and Green Mountains Review

We’re thrilled to host The Social Distance Reading Series, a collaboration between Green Mountains Review and The Vermont School poets. In the wake of book event cancellations due to COVID-19, this pop-up series is designed to offer poets a platform for launching new collections of poems. At this point, we are focusing on collections by poets whose book events have been cancelled between January through May 2020.

Stay tuned for a new reading each Wednesday and Sunday.

Thanks,
–Didi Jackson, Major Jackson, Kerrin McCadden, and Elizabeth Powell, series curators.
–Kylie Gellatly, editorial assistant, interviewer.