Emerging poet ire'ne lara silva is a recent CantoMundo fellow, the co-coordinator of the Flor de Nopal Literary Festival in Austin, TX, and the author of two chapbooks and a recently published collection called Furia (from MouthFeel Press). She was recently interviewed by Lauro Vazquez on the Letras Latinas blog, where she covered her early influences, her "guerilla writing tactics," and poetry as a life raft, among other topics:

I was a little apprehensive when I first showed this collection [Furia] to other people—not because of what it revealed about me, but because I wasn’t sure how it would affect them. I went around telling my readers that I was okay and not to worry about me. My friend Levi Romero, who wrote a beautiful cover blurb for ‘furia,’ said it best when he responded, “I know you survived, like I did. Some come to poetry because it's trendy and hip and they learn how to write it, sometimes well. Some of us come to poetry por que no nos queda otra. We'd die without it. It's not a game. Poetry is healing, powerful, sacred, holy.”

So yes, I had literary influences—Langston Hughes, e.e. cummings, Francisco X. Alarcón, Nikki Giovanni, Audre Lorde, Carmen Tafolla and I’m strongly influenced by musica ranchera, especially lyrics written by Cuco Sanchez, Jose Alfredo Jimenez, and Juan Gabriel—but poetry for me doesn’t come just from an aesthetic impulse…writing poetry is literally how I survived my life and my experiences without breaking down or zoning out or giving in to self-destructiveness. No me quedó de otra—there was no other way, no alternative, no rescue. I’ve made it this far one syllable at a time.

And about those guerilla tactics we mentioned before:

My guerrilla writing tactics! It’s all about approaching writing with mobility, spontaneity, and ‘quick strikes’. Given my time constraints—two jobs, being a caregiver, my own health demands, no maid in sight; considering that I can’t afford to go away to residencies or writing colonies, etc.; and having obligations that mean I can’t live in someone else’s basement or out of a backpack, I had to find a different way of approaching writing.

First—mobility. I’m not dependent on having an office, a writing space, a desk or anything else. I used to love writing in cafés…don’t have the time for that anymore. Now, I write on the dining room table, on the bus, while I’m in line at the grocery store, during breaks and lunches from work. I write on loose sheets of paper where I’ve printed poems and stories in progress, in a composition notebook I always carry, and sometimes, on my laptop. Spontaneity comes from creating a discipline out of being ready to write at any moment—in whatever length of time opens up—whether it’s while dinner is in the oven, while I’m at the doctor’s office, or the bus is late.

Mobility and spontaneity are both dependent on preparedness. For me, that means carrying my work-in-progress around with me everywhere I go. Not just on paper but in my mind. Daydreaming time and contemplation time can happen at any of the above places, any of the above times. Striking quickly means you can’t afford the luxury of a day or an afternoon to ‘sink’ into a project. Instead, you live your spare moments planning, dreaming, weighing words. And then, when those five-plus minutes open up, you swoop in, write, and then withdraw.

Read the whole wide-ranging interview here.

Originally Published: December 7th, 2011