Time Travel II / an interview with poet Valentina Cano

Time Travel II

by Valentina Cano

Head out the way you came
and I promise to forget the last hour.
I will roll up the minutes
like a stretch of unbaked dough,
pulling the sticky remnants from between
my fingers.
I will wind your voice up
like a fishing line,
the bait, the hook
tucked safely in the coils
until I’ve forgotten them.
You can erase the footprints,
I’ll leave that to you,
pick them up one by one,
with a spatula, with a finger,
as you like.
And when all traces are gone,
when your presence has been carved
out like a jewel to leave a dark hole
where an eye should be,
only then will I throw you
a smile, a sigh of
relief to land like a bird
on the branch of your shoulder.

from Event Horizon (mgv2>publishing, 2013)

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Valentina Cano is a classical singer and writer. Her works have appeared in numerous publications, and her poetry has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize and Best of the Web. Her debut novel, The Rose Master, was called a “strong and satisfying effort” by Publishers Weekly.

When asked how she would describe her style, Valentina says,It’s a tough question, because I don’t think I have a particular style. What I try to do with my poetry is to drop the reader in a moment, it could be a sliver of time, or the aftershock of an entire day, and surround him or her with what I want them to feel, see, smell. I suppose I would call my poems vignettes, because there doesn’t tend to be a narrative arch of any sort.”

Bekah and Valentina’s work, including the above poem, recently appeared together in Issue 0 of Datura Literary Journal. Walter Ruhlmann created the inaugural issue to show future submitters what he is looking for: “”What I want from the work I read is that it traumatizes me, tortures me or makes me laugh, disturbs me in fact.” Bekah and Valentina have actually been published together quite a bit. You can also read them together in Issue 15 of TRIVIA: Voices of Feminism, Issue 16 of Five:2:One Magazine, Issue 1 of Sanity Not Guaranteed, Issue 3 of Dirty Chaiand the Winter 2014 issue of Snapping Twig. We wanted to know more about Valentina and her work, so here is our interview with her.

Q~I love the use of figurative language in “Time Travel II.” Tell us a little about the poem. How is it representative of your work?

A~The poem submerges you (at least I hope it does!) into one of those moments I spoke about. You don’t necessarily know what the issue is or who is involved, but you know there is one between two people. I give you the emotion that brought me to write it, and I tell you that even as you read it, I wish I could un-write. It’s in the title. The wish to undo.

Q~Were you surprised that Walter Ruhlmann chose to reprint it in Issue 0 of Datura to guide future submitters on who they “should read and learn from if they want to contribute to this journal”?

A~Absolutely. I’m incredibly grateful to him because he was the one who published my very first chapbook, Event Horizon. He gave me the boost I needed to keep going.

Q~Did the poem come easily to you or was it hard to write?

A~It was an easy one, that one. The poems that have the most sting behind them are always the easiest. Suffering and artists, right?

Q~What’s your writing process usually like?

A~It depends a little on what I’m working on. For poetry, I like to do a free-write, meaning I allow myself to write down everything that comes into my head, without stopping to correct mistakes or reorganize my thoughts. No inner or outer editing. The paragraphs I write will then be distilled and made into a poem.

For prose, narrative is the most important thing for me, so it takes a huge amount of planning. I keep an entire notebook for each novel I write, with carefully outlined scenes, dialogue, and exposition. The freedom that I allow myself in poetry is unsustainable in prose, so I’ve learned to do both.

Q~You are also a classical singer. How do you balance your creative interests? How do they interplay if at all?

A~The great thing about being a writer is that there is no real schedule to follow, so I can engage in any other activities I like. Every day, around one in the afternoon, I stop whatever I’m doing so that I can practice whatever arias or songs I’m working on. Music, I think, has also given me a sense of rhythm that transfers to my writing, as well. The way the words sound together is important to me.

Q~On your website, you said you first began writing poetry to combat severe depression and have continued on to push your own personal boundaries of comfort and truth. How has poetry helped you?

A~I always think of writing, and writing poetry especially, as a kind of medieval bleeding. Slit a vein and let it all pour out. It’s a daily ritual that I maintain. Anything that has bothered me, hurt me, affected me in any way, I let it drip onto the page.

Q~ What are your poetry likes/dislikes?

A~The only dislike I have is rhyming. I’m just not a fan. It’s strange, I know, when I just mentioned wanting musicality in writing, but I always feel as if rhymes take away from the meaning of the poem. Makes it less impactful, since it leads me to think that the words written were not necessarily the best ones, but just the ones that could rhyme.

Q~Who was your poetry first love?

A~Margaret Atwood. I’d never been a big reader of poetry until I started reading her work. She paints pictures with her words and that is something that I’ve tried to emulate.

Q~Who are you reading now?

A~I will read anything and everything, so the books I can be juggling at any one time can be an eclectic mix. Right now, I’m halfway through The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss, The Night Watch by Sarah Waters, and High Tide in Tucson by Barbara Kingsolver.

Q~Are there any online resources you would like to recommend?

A~Duotrope is a great site to stay up to date on all of the literary magazines, blogs, and e-zines that take submissions. There is a monthly fee, but it is a truly minor expense for the wealth of information you will receive.

The other resource that I would like to recommend is one I do with a caveat. Absolute Write Water Cooler has lots of information on agents, editors, and the publishing process in general. My suggestion is to use it as a database, to find contact information for agents and others, but try not to engage with the forums. I’ve had nasty experiences with people who post on it. It is probably the only time that I will suggest lurking at a site, but in this case, it is the best way to keep your blood pressure at a reasonable level while still getting the information you want.

Q~Where can readers go if they are interested in reading more of your work?

A~I have lots of poetry scattered around the web. If you type my name into Google, you’ll get some options of literary magazines where my work has appeared. The chapbooks I have out are also available: Winter Myths and Event Horizon And, if you prefer prose, my two Gothic novels are The Rose Master and Of Bells and Thorns.You can also connect with me via social media on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook.

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