Francisco Aragón on The Social Distance Reading Series
Francisco Aragón is the son of Nicaraguan immigrants. He’s the author of After Rubén, Glow of Our Sweat and Puerta del Sol, as well as editor of The Wind Shifts: New Latino Poetry. He directs Letras Latinas, the literary initiative at Notre Dame’s Institute for Latino Studies.
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.
Part imagined intimate diary of the poet Rubén Darío, part lyrical exploration of the rich inner life of poet Aragón, this pulsating book is an ode to the between-world of those who live a life dedicated to observation of words. Sonically charged lines that delve into solitude, travel, separation, grief, and the complex life of the outsider allow these poems to speak both to the individual Latinx experience and the universal desire to belong, to be heard.
—Ada Limón, author of The Carrying and Bright Dead Things
“Consider all of this / an excursus on origins,” advises Francisco Aragón as he invites the reader into the queer Latinx literary lineage in After Rubén. Comprised of equal parts familial and scholarly figures and conflicts, the depiction of Rubén Darío’s poetic legacy in this collection reveals his lasting impact on Aragón, whose verse illuminates a range of complex and passionate lives. Aragón’s translations (the originals are reproduced in an appendix) and ekphrastic re-visions of ten of Dario’s poems are daring and, indeed, “blasphemous.”
—Carmen Giménez Smith, author of Be Recorder and Cruel Futures
How do you begin a new piece of writing. What conditions help your writing process?
Oftentimes a new piece of writing, let’s say a poem, long before it makes its way onto the proverbial page, will begin as a fragment of language whose sound and texture please me. It will incubate for a time before I’m ready to add to it. Eventually, it’ll find its way onto a page from where it may (or may not) morph into the first draft of a poem. That said, many of the pieces in After Rubén had as their springboard another literary text.
What was an early experience that taught you language has power?
At the very end of the last poem in my first book, I attempt to recreate the moment when I was disembarking from the plane at Madrid airport for the very first time (1987). Just ahead of me was a white-haired gentleman who casually made a remark about the August heat in Madrid. Naturally, he made the remark in Spanish (in his Castilian accent)—and it suddenly hit me that I was about to start a life in Spanish. It moved and jolted me. Spain was home for ten years.
What writers or poets do you continually go back to?
A few weeks ago, before the pandemic became full blown, I was sitting on the terrace of a café waiting for a friend, a poet and a philosopher. I brought with me, to share, Boss Cupid by Thom Gunn, who died in 2004, and who was my teacher in mid 80s. I go back to him again and again. He and his criticism introduced me to another touchstone: Robert Duncan.
What is favorite childhood or adolescent book?
I’ll choose childhood. It’s nearly impossible for me to separate the book from the film. The film led me to the book. I love(d) both: Charlotte’s Web.
What are your thoughts/experiences on social distancing?
I prefer the term physical distancing since I’m managing to remain social despite needing to keep a physical distance. One thing it’s done is prompt me to stay in more frequent virtual touch with certain friends and it’s underscored something I’ve long believed and that is the pleasure and delight of the human voice. It’s also prompted to me to re-discover, and make more regular use of, the bike and walking path behind the building I live in in Arlington. VA.
Where can we find you? Link to your blog or website:
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.
–Didi Jackson, Major Jackson, Kerrin McCadden, and Elizabeth Powell, series curators.
–Kylie Gellatly, editorial assistant, interviewer.