Thursday, June 8, 2023 7:15 p.m. to 9:00 p.m.
Feature Lisha Adela García has an MFA from Vermont College of Fine Arts and currently resides in Texas with her beloved four-legged children. Her books, A Rope of Luna and Blood Rivers, were published by Blue Light Press of San Francisco. Her chapbook, This Stone Will Speak was published by Pudding House Press. In addition, she is widely published in various journals including the Boston Review, Crab Orchard Review, Border Senses, Muse and Mom Egg Review.
García leads the Wyrdd Writers, a writing group based in San Antonio with participants from Kerrville and San Marcos and co-facilitates a Poetic Medicine group named Poetry Exile Group founded by Jungian analyst, Dr. James Brandenburg. She also facilitates Poetic Medicine classes in Social Justice, Archetypes and other topics, and is a candidate for certification from the Institute of Poetic Medicine.
García has served as a judge for various poetry prizes, most recently the Chicago Poetry Prize of Chicago’s Poetry Society, and has given workshops for a variety of colleges and universities. Her work has been nominated for a Pushcart and was a recipient of the San Antonio Tri-Centennial Poetry Prize.
CH: How did poetry and the music of language figure in your childhood? What is your first memory of poetry?
LAG: Poetry has always brought solace. My mother loved poetry and shared the poetry greats like Neruda, Machado, and Mistral in Spanish. My mother gave me Sonnets of the Portuguese for my eighth birthday when I was confident enough in my English to be able to enjoy it. The love for poetry in both languages has embraced me ever since.
CH: When did you first begin to think of yourself as a poet?
LAG: I’ve written poetry since I was a young child. I however, had a large inner critic and didn’t like sharing what I had written. It wasn’t until I completed my MFA and had a large number of publications that I was confident enough to call myself a poet. My self-esteem needed to rise and meet the duende. It needed to rise consistently, until I found my distinct voice in the human sea.
CH: I understand you have an MFA in Writing from Vermont College of Fine Arts. What prompted you to enter this MFA program? How did participating in this program change you as a writer?
LAG: We are very fortunate to have Gemini Ink, a literary non-profit, in San Antonio. They sponsored a mentorship program with known poets. I applied and mentored under Martha Rhodes, publisher of Four Way Press. Founder and then Executive Director, Nan Cuba and Martha saw enough promise to encourage me to apply for an MFA. They were kind enough to write letters of recommendation and modeled the magic of why an investment in a creative life was imperative. I chose a low residency MFA as I was a single mom and working full time. My life has bloomed with poetry and its healing balm ever since. I am forever grateful to both of these ladies.
CH: Blue Light Press published your first full-length collection, Blood Rivers, in 2009. Tell us a little about the book.
LAG: Blood Rivers was my learning book. I’d written hundreds of poems by then and had never worked on a collection. The book began as my creative thesis for the MFA and then was refined many more times. I had discovered Diane Frank, publisher of Blue Light Press as a muse and worked with her individually when she asked to publish the book.
CH: Over what period of time were the poems written? How did you go about sequencing the collection, and how did you connect with the publisher?
LAG: The final poems selected for this book were written over 10 years and revised and reordered many times. I had trusted readers and editors help in the process. I believe that you always need an outsider to assist you with final edits and ordering because they can be a much more critical audience. I am too close to my work and words to be completely objective about the experience I want my readers to have. I need help!
CH: You followed up in 2016 with the publication of A Rope of Luna, also with Blue Light Press. The cover design for A Rope of Luna suggests to me nested identities both bound and breaking free of constraints, an image well-suited to a collection whose title mixes English and Spanish. Please tell us a little about this book as well.
LAG: This book indeed broke me free of many labels. Poems refer to the extreme losses in my life and the need to grieve but not placate the victim archetype within me. The premise of a rope coming down from Luna and leaving messages, frames the book’s sections. It attempts to answer the question of who you are and what parts of you remain when all your reference points are gone. I was extremely fortunate that Blue Light Press wanted to publish this second book as well.
CH: How did your experience with Blood Rivers shape your work with A Rope of Luna? What was different for you as you put together this book? In your opinion, what are some of the benefits of a long-term relationship with a single publisher?
LAG: The benefits so far of having a single publisher is the cherished relationship one forms over time. A deep bond of respect. Blood Rivers was a journey to Rope of Luna five years later. I continued to write consistently and chronicle the world through my bilingual, bicultural filter. My poetry world expanded with more readings and regional activities. I’ve almost completed a third book entitled: Prayers to the Saint of Impossible Situations. In the interregnum between book two and three, the world changed with COVID and the increased intolerance for the most vulnerable among us. As a result, I chose to pursue a certification in Poetic Medicine with the Institute of Poetic Medicine and learn how to effectively use poetry as a healing modality. Work on the third book stalled while I studied. Book three needs a home and I promised myself to revisit it soon as a much larger endeavor.
CH: I understand that you practice literary translation of poetry, from Spanish to English and English to Spanish. Translation inevitably involves trade-offs; how do you approach the translation of a poem? What does the practice of translation bring to your poetry?
LAG: The challenge of translation is not just the translation of words from one language to another but also, to unearth the cultural context of the world of the poet. A second challenge requires a re-creation of the poem as another poem in the translated language worthy of its original song. When you are fluent in more than one language, you realize that you inhabit a bridge in a world that always needs translating.
Discovering voices that need to belong to a broader world is such an honor. My life and poetry practice are enriched beyond my immediate context when a translated voice is allowed to enter my consciousness. Although I can read the great Spanish language poets in their original language, where would we be as a people, as poets, without access to the voices of Rumi or Szymborska? I would not feel totally human without poems from all over the world.
CH: In addition to your MFA in Writing, I understand you also hold a Master’s in International Business from the Thunderbird School of Global Management, now part of Arizona State University. What synergies do you find between these left- and right-brained arenas?
LAG: During my undergraduate years my choices were to lead a life of academia and a PhD or to risk something entirely new and understand how money moves in the world. In those days, not many women were encouraged to enter the world of business. I wanted to be prepared to never have to depend on a man for money. At that time, Thunderbird was recruiting liberal arts graduates because they were more well-rounded than someone who chose a strictly business focus. I wanted to have that balance in my brain and in my life. I wanted to be able to support myself and future children AND honor that creative side. I am so glad that I made those choices because now I have two vocabularies, can support myself and live a creative life.
CH: How do you find and create balance in your professional and writing lives?
LAG: I find myself always working on either a client business issue or jotting lines for a poem. It seems I never really have enough time as I would like for either. I love my job as a business advisor as much as I love poetry. I am always trying to find the right balance and some weeks I succeed but some I do not. I’m just grateful that my life is so full.
CH: What is the most recent book of poetry that you’ve read?
LAG: I’ve just finished reading, The Well Speaks of its Own Poison by Maggie Smith, Spirit of Wild by KB Ballentine and Anorexorcism by E.D. Watson. Learned so much from each of these. My recent Poetic Medicine classes, with E.D. Watson, were on Social Justice and Women with Rage. Our third online class this year is forthcoming.
Thank you, Cindy, and Book Woman for this great sharing and reading opportunity.