Q & A with Edwin Fontánez
What things inspire you to write poetry?
Anything and everything. There’s really no predictable stimulus, I just use my powers of observation. A single word, a random event, a song, or even a state of mind can spark a stream of inspiration. I define poetry simply as the ability (or talent or discipline) to impart a new dimension to an ordinary subject. Poetry is highly personal and intimate. There’s really no good or bad way to do it, if it speaks to you.
Do you have any special techniques for getting inspired?
As I’ve mentioned before, being an artist, I have no conscious choice about when I’ll be creative. When it hits you, you have to run with it. A flash of inspiration can be the initial warning that something is on its way. If you grab the moment, then inspiration, technique, and discipline kick in automatically. But if you postpone the moment, it will be gone forever. You might try to recapture it later but the essence is gone by then. Life is full of symbols, it’s just a matter of reinterpreting them.
Which poets do you like to read?
My favorite poet of all time is Pablo Neruda. His Poema 20 is still as striking and beautiful as it was when it was created: “Puedo escribir los versos más tristes esta noche. Escribir por ejemplo: ‘La noche está estrellada, y tiritan, azules, los astros, a lo lejos.’”
I first discovered the work of William Carlos Williams through a library poster on a 7 subway train in New York. To a Poor Old Woman is a simple poem but it shook me to the core: “munching a plum on the street, a paper bag of them in her hand.” The moment I got off the train, I ran to the nearest bookstore!
Clara Lair is a Puerto Rican poet whose body of work sizzles and smolders with images of unrequited love and a longing for the island’s landscape.
And finally, Walt Whitman, whose Song of the Open Road (part 5) has such beautiful and humbling sincerity! I carried it in my wallet for years after using it in one of my multimedia presentations for an AIDS fundraiser.
All seems beautiful to me,
I can repeat over to men and women You have done such good
to me I would do the same to you,
I will recruit for myself and you as I go,
I will scatter myself among men and women as I go,
I will toss a new gladness and roughness among them,
Whoever denies me it shall not trouble me,
Whoever accepts me he or she shall be blessed and shall bless