Angela Narciso Torres on The Social Distance Reading Series
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.
-Marci Calabretta Cancio-Bello, contest judge and author of HOUR OF THE OX
Exploring themes of growth, autonomy, life, and death, To the Bone’s pulsing rhythm splashes images on the page in a manner reminiscent of Cézanne.
It usually starts with a striking image, or a memory/idea that’s been nagging at me. I free-write about this image, memory or idea until I’ve exhausted everything that I can say about it. Often, I really don’t know where this will lead, but ultimately, the meaning or purpose reveals itself. Editing and shaping the poem comes later. Trusting the process really helps. The pressure of deadlines, such as committing to write a poem-a-day, is magical.
What was an early experience that taught you language has power?
I was three- or four-years-old, in preschool We were learning to read. One day the teacher wrote a long word on the board. She asked the class who could read it. I raised my hand and slowly sounded out each letter. The moment the sounds clicked into place, I felt all fizzy and bubbly and ready to explode out of my skin. I blurted out the word: Coca-Cola. From that day onward, the world became infinitely larger.
What poets or writers do you continually go back to?
Sharon Olds for her intelligence in metaphor-making and in making personal poems that ring true to almost anyone reading her. Li-Young Lee teaches me to trust in the breath and in white space, and that writing from one’s deepest truths connects us; bridges differences. Ellen Bryant Voigt taught me everything I know about the power of syntax. Lucille Clifton reminds me to sing and celebrate and believe in my voice as a woman writer-of-color.
What is your favorite childhood or adolescent book?
Anne of Green Gables. Growing up brown in Manila, it’s uncanny that I should identify with this red-haired orphan girl in Nova Scotia finding her way in a new family, school, and community. Being a shy child I often stood on the fringes, observing from the outside. I loved Anne’s tenacity and spiritedness despite her being an “outsider”—and shared her love of words and nature. She may well be the first “poet” I loved.
What are your thoughts/experiences on social distancing?
Not surprisingly, I’m very comfortable with it. Thoreau said it best: “I love a broad margin to my life.” Not only do I love it, I actually need it regularly. Of course, I do not love the circumstances that have necessitated social distancing, but I welcome it as a chance to go back to the basics, to look inward, to simplify our lives, to be comfortable with solitude.
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.