Ask The Author: Rachelle Cruz

Two Poems from Rachelle Cruz, here, and J. Bradley’s final Interview, below.

1. How does it feel to be my final interview before my post as PANK’s Interviews Editor ends?

Dang, I wish I brought fireworks and glittery churros and Shamu.

I feel humbled. I love the dialogue you’ve engaged with the writers of [PANK] over the years, J. Bradley. Your questions always circle back to the writing process, and they also act as prompts for re-imagining the work itself. Some of my favorite questions you’ve asked: How can a city flood into a room? How does one summon the whore within? What question are you the most afraid to answer?

What gorgeous questions. I might just steal them to use for my own devices…

2. With your radio show, The Blood-Jet Writing Hour, you interview each poet you have on. How do you prepare your interviews?

I read the guest-poet’s work several times, most often times aloud, and take notes. I handwrite the poems that stick with me. Sometimes, I riff on certain lines. I also Google the poet and search for interviews they’ve done in the past, so I can make sure to not to ask the same, stale questions (although I’m sometimes guilty of this; I’m genuinely interested in how people come to poetry or writing in the first place! I love hearing origins stories, especially ones about literary first loves.). On the day of the show, I drink a few cups of coffee and a glass of water. I pee then sweat profusely as I wait for the poet to call into the show. I treat the “interview” as a conversation more than anything else.

I learn so much about writing and process from the generous writers I have on the show. I’m grateful to have access to resources that help promote the work of writers that readers/listeners might not have previously known about.

3. How do you fight back?

With words. But they often feel inadequate because they are. I’m still learning.

4. Where do your poems come from?

Oh, from everywhere sonic and striking, which is most places when I remember to look. Right now, I’m thinking of non-fiction writer and photographer, Sylvia Sukop’s series, I Forget Myself (I Forget You), and how these photos seem to soak up the atmosphere and vibrate with haunting and isolation. The shirt is ghosting again, a line I wrote while sitting with Sukop’s work.

When I look back at the poems I’ve written and still writing, I hear my girl cousins’  big voices, my father and mother’s stories about flooding rivers and the aswang and duwende (which are goblins who reside in infinitesimal villages in rural parts of the Philippines). According to my mother, this is how you scare the duwende so they leave you alone: wear your clothes backwards and flip your eyelids inside out. My mother laughing with the slick red skin of her eyelids exposed. My sister and I are both disgusted and amazed.

The aswang witch, who appears in folklore in several manifestations, notably sneaks around at night to suck the unborn fetuses from pregnant women. Yum. Prior to Spanish colonialism in the Philippines, women were priestesses (or babaylan) and leaders of their villages. They were powerful.

I think of these opening lines from poet Dorothy Barresi’s “Grendelâ’s mother:”

Every mother is a monster.

If you don’t know that,

you don’t know anything about love.

And Imelda Marcos, of course. The ultimate mother-monster-brat:

[Filipinos] need a mother. They don’t only need a president, they need a mother, somebody to care for them, and they are longing for a good president who cares for them and loves them.

The ability of the mother to eat children, to protect, to orphan, to betray, to lie and keep secrets. I know this is an old problem (see: Medea), but I keep circling around this…

I’m reminded of Jennifer Tamayo’s work on brattiness. Carina Finn on Montevidayo writes about JT’s milky performance and writes about daughterhood here :

The perpetual daughter gets stuck in loop because she does not want to give up her bows, she wants more bows, and wearing bows indefinitely throughout time time is an exercise of agency in a faulty system.

And of course, I now think of Nicki Minaj with a huge satin bow in her pink crinkled hair. And I love how folks take Nicki Minaj’s lyric about voting for Romney seriously: “I’m a Republican, voting for Mitt Romney / You lazy bitches are fucking up the economy…” Her slippery personas and Valley Girl voice. Her unabashed brattiness.

My poems also come from Octavia Butler, bad horror flicks, the Food Network, Barbara Jane Reyes, Borges’ Book of Imaginary Beings, the suburbs, Lynda Barry, chalk, harana songs…

5. What are you willing to do for revenge?

Do you remember that scene from Waiting to Exhale when Angela Bassett flips her shit and packs her philandering husband’s Burberry coats and leather shoes into his car and lights it on fire while smoking cigarettes in her silk pajamas the whole time? And then the fireman rings the doorbell and says, it’s against the law to burn anything that isn’t trash, ma’am. It is trash, she says. Yeah.

Seriously, though. I think the worst plot of revenge I’ve done is steal a roommate’s frozen Amy’s burrito. But you ate my rotting banana in the fridge! Everyone’s done that though, right?

6. Which despot best resembles your shoe collection?

Darth Vader with daisies.