Thursday, November 29, 2007

Writer's Corner

Luis Cuauhtemoc Berriozabal

The beauty of the poem is that it can be interpreted in many different ways. So much of the interpretation depends on the readers mental state it can, at times, outweigh the poets intention. The reader brings his or her own thoughts and background to a poem much in the same way a the poet does. For example, when I first read Luis Berriozabal's chapbook "Without Peace" I saw it as the internal struggle of a woman conflict. She may have been conflicted by a choice or simply by life itself. However, I found through talking with Luis that the poem is much more literal, or at least the experience was more literal. The poem has the ability to mold itself around your current mental state, and react in such a way that allows you to see yourself somewhere in the context.

The author of "Without Peace", Luis C. Berriozabal is a writer who I have read in several different places, including through the Guerrilla Poetics Project, and always had a very high regard for. However, when I finally read "Without Peace" I contacted him that night. He is also the author of the 2004 collection " Raw Materials".

Recently Luis took some time out to answer a few of my questions on life, peace, and mental health.

Orange Alert (OA): When did your first realize that you wanted to be a poet?
Luis Berriozabal (LB): This is a good question. I’m not certain when I first wanted to be a poet. I used to write song lyrics when I was in high school, specifically for a girl I was in love with, putting in words what I felt for her. Looking back at those words they were laughable. When she broke my heart, though I blame myself for this, was when my writing improved. This was around the late 1980's. .

OA: I recently read your latest chapbook "Without Peace", and I love how it draws you in to the internal struggle. How did "Without Peace" and your working with Kendra Steiner Editions come about? Is the poem focused on good vs. evil or is it more medical then that?
LB: Doug Draime, one of my favorite poets in the small press, was largely responsible for getting Bill Shute and I together. Bill and I exchanged e-mails and Bill invited me to submit poetry for his press. Kendra Steiner Editions is one of the best presses around for chapbooks. Bill Shute does an excellent job in ensuring that poets submit strong work. He has a keen eye and produces these little gems in such a short amount of time.

“Without Peace” is a poem I had written in 2002. I submitted it to a press (never mention any names) which held the poem for 5 years. Bill was looking for 8 small poems. This poem was one I had always liked, and the longest poem I had ever written. It was 8 pages long and decided to send it to Bill. The result was my first chapbook and some welcome comments by a few fellow writers and readers. The poem is based on a female patient I had interviewed in 2002. She struggled with demons, against “good and bad voices,” but I cannot imagine a “good” voice being better than no voice at all for a person suffering from auditory hallucinations. Glenn Cooper, poet, had told me one of the lines reminded him of Vallejo. I don’t know about that. I feel as if some of the lines wrote themselves. However, I’m always reading poets from different countries, so perhaps I could have been influenced by Vallejo, Neruda, Lorca, or Dario. I would have to thank the patients I interview with much of the words in “Without Peace” and some of my other poems. Without them, I would not be able to write something like “Without Peace.”

OA: Your broadside for GPP, Enemies of the Word, is so fitting for that project and its mission. What are your thoughts on the Guerrilla Poetics Project, and on being one of the first two poets published?
LB: Enemies of the Word was influenced by Nahuatl poetry and the ancient poets of Mexico. As for it being one of the first two poets being chosen, it was pure luck. Justin cheated, I believe he stuffed the ballots.

At the time there were many good poems being considered, poetry by Hosho McCreesh, Christopher Cunningham, Glenn Cooper, Karl Koweski, Justin Barrett, Owen Roberts, Brian McGettrick, C .A. Rearick, and Michael J. Phillips, and if I’m forgetting anyone, I apologize. Without the work of Bill Roberts, printer extraordinaire, this project could not be possible.

I have positive feelings about the project and hope it continues to grow in a positive way. New members have joined to strengthen the project. New readers from all over the globe have found our poetry hidden in books and provided encouraging feedback.

OA: "Will bury what they can't sell"… Why is poetry not more marketable to the general public?
LB: Enemies of the Word was a political type poem. Politics is in everything, even in how books are marketed and sold. I don’t know why poetry is not more marketable to the general public. I don’t know how poetry can be made more marketable to the general public. I am not surprised that poetry doesn’t sell. It is my hunch that many poets don’t buy poetry books. I still have a box-and-a-half of my first poetry book, Raw Materials, in the bottom of my bookshelf. I figure more spiders have read my book than people. Perhaps we are going to have to stick small poems like commercials in other books (biographies, self-help books, best sellers) at the stores of Barnes & Noble and other bookstores. Again, we would have to do this subversively, of course.

OA: You are not the first writer that I've interviewed who works in the mental health industry. What is it about that industry that might lend itself to the writer's mentality?
LB: I was already writing poetry before I started working in mental health. However, I must admit I have found much to write about in my time working in this field. I don’t write exclusively mental health type poetry, but there is a wealth of material to work with. It doesn’t hurt to be a little mad as well to be a writer.

OA: What's next for Luis C. Berriozabal?
LB: I am looking for a publisher for my second full length book of poetry. I have been looking or better said waiting since 2004, the year my first book, Raw Materials, came out from Pygmy Forest Press (edited by Leonard Cirino).

“Keepers Of Silence,” my second chapbook from Kendra Steiner Editions will be published on December 20th. I have Bill Shute to thank for this.

Bonus Questions:

OA: Coffee? If yes, what is your favorite type of coffee and where is your favorite coffee spot?
LB: I don’t go to coffee spots too much. I have been to Starbucks. I prefer to drink coffee at home, or at work: Folgers (Columbian or Special Roast) with milk, no sugar, no flavored crèmes, or sometimes I'll take it black like my women.

OA: On your favorites list on Laura Hird, you list The Smiths (Who have been at the top of my list for quite sometime.) Who are some of your other favorites? Does music ever influence your writing?
LB: Yes, I was a big Smiths fan back in the day. I’m also a huge fan of Camper Van Beethoven and Cracker (David Lowery is the lead singer for both bands). I listen to all kinds of music, from Miles Davis to the Clash, from the Beatles to Nirvana, etc.

Music influences my writing at times. However, I find myself writing at odd hours of the day, sometimes I sneak in a poem at work, amongst the chatter, radios blaring, and ringing telephones at the office. Sometimes I prefer complete silence, so I can concentrate on the poem I am working on.

For more of Luis' work you can go here, and also keep an eye out for his latest chapbook here.


christopher cunningham said...

great interview as always, jason.

LCB is simply one of the best in the small press. a unique voice without question, and I'm lucky to call him friend.

Anonymous said...

Though I've never met Luis, I have featured him in my magazine Calliope Nerve and I have a couple of his pieces in the supersized issue fifteen coming out later this month.

Thanks for the phenomnal interview.

Jason and Luis you are both incredible.

Poet Hound said...

Great interview! I stumbled onto Luis by browsing the broadsides on the GPP web-site. I look forward to seeing more of his work, whether it be literary journals, more broadsides, chapbooks, and/or books.

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