Two weeks ago I was in my girlfriend’s room and saw a copy of “make-believe love-making” sitting on her desk. Then looked down and read the name Ana C. Thought in my head, “I’ve read that name online.” Decided to sit and read it. The language was unique. There was a consonance and meter, like in the adcdeFML, “my stomach growls/when you kiss me, and it’s embarrassing.” In the poem adcdeFML there are ten S sounds that appear in eight lines. Even though she does something very literary she writes in a unique style and conveys an image, of a person being in a relationship. In Big Chunks of Tomato she applies assonance with the lines, “Your pasta always tasted like shit/I smiled and ate shit because I wanted to fuck you.” The words ‘pasta’, ‘tasted’ ‘ate’ and ‘wanted’ all contained a similar vowel sound which makes the image of a human being eating their lovers’ crappy food to get sex even more funny and endearing.
You can tell that Ana Carrete thinks deeply about poetry and works on making her lines convey a certain emotion but at the same time applying musical qualities to it. Check out her blog and buy her book while you’re there.
Noah Cicero: Are you ever in a computer lab on campus, mall, or on the street and you look around. And everyone just looks pointless. What do you feel at that moment?
Ana Carrete: I try to ignore everything. I feel alone. I pretend nothing bothers me. I think that even when I’m “happy,” everything is depressing. I try to make jokes. I write a poem about it but sometimes I feel too empty and can’t do it. I can’t focus.
One time I was in Tijuana trying to cross back to the U.S. and one of those guys who cleans cars while waiting in line had a shirt that said “g is for green-card.” I just thought “who gave this man that shirt and why?” “La vida no vale nada.” Life is worthless or something.
NC: I notice when I try to write in Spanish it comes out very basic. I can’t write in Spanish, “My girlfriend is like a nervous ballerina waiting for her painkiller to kick in.” I have no idea how to write that sentence in Spanish. I would just write, “mi novia es nervioso.” Would you say that there are a lot of lines you would have written
differently if you were strictly writing in Spanish? If there are, could you give examples?
AC: That sentence in Spanish: “Mi novia es como una bailarina nerviosa que espera a que su calmante le haga efecto” (something like that).
It’s hard to translate some lines because sometimes I think in Spanish and others in English and when I translate sometimes things feel/sound awful/fake. Slang is the hardest.
I really admire people who are able to adapt and translate without changing the meaning/style. Sometimes just one word can change and even “ruin” everything.
I often play with words (like puns and stuff) and that complicates things too. Metaphors and culture are also difficult to translate. You need to make sacrifices: delete, change, adapt, etc. I think my style changes a little when I write in Spanish. Sometimes I feel like I have to write a new poem when I translate.
Also, English is my second language so I guess I say things differently. Like words that come from Latin roots… I think about those in Spanish. Sometimes some of those words aren’t that common in English but are “everyday words” in Spanish, so I use these words like I would in Spanish.
Maybe it’s because I didn’t grow up learning all the rules. I think that gives me freedom. But that also makes me doubt a lot. I think doubt might affect my writing (both positively and negatively). I check things. I use the dictionary all the time. Even when I’m chatting with people. The internet is amazing.
For example: when I use the word “come” it always has double meaning, and when you translate, even when you can adapt it… you lose some type of “universal double meaning” because Spanish slang varies from one country to another. I think that happens in English speaking countries too but for some reason I feel like certain things are more consistent. I’m not sure. I can’t think of more examples. I just think everything is different and I write differently when I write in Spanish and vice-versa. I also feel more censored when I write in Spanish because it’s my native language. Like I can’t really separate my “real self” (whatever that means) from writing. I’m working on it.
NC: When you wrote the stanza, “how come i don’t know/ just because okay/ cunt me in baby/ cunt me in,” what were you physically feeling at that moment? Were you like sighing, feeling hungry, angry, tired?
AC: The first time I typed “cunt me in” was on my phone. I was driving, the sun was bothering me, and I was worried about getting a ticket for texting while driving. I’m afraid of cops. One time I was speeding and a cop pulled me over and handcuffed me and said I was going to jail. This happened in the U.S. Not in Mexico. I cried in his car and he was listening to a shitty radio station. Anyway… it was late when I wrote the actual poem and I don’t remember. Maybe I was “sarcastically horny.” Maybe tired. Maybe both.
NC: Do you write with the lights on or off?
AC: I write with the lights on, but I just got a voice recorder like a month ago so sometimes I grab it and record with the lights off.
NC: Can a person be A Poet? Are there still Poets? Can a person devote their lives to poetry? Have you devoted your life to poetry?
AC: A person can be A Poet. I’ve decided that I want to devote my life to poetry. If for some reason I was told I could only have sex or poetry for the rest of my life, I would pick poetry. I mean, sex is awesome. I don’t know. Poetry is something else.
NC: I just read the poem from Penis Envy, “i was eating cereal and a little penis (said hi).” What the hell is wrong with you? I mean, I think there is something wrong with everybody. There is no such thing as ‘an excellent human being.’ I feel like writers write from the wrongness in themselves. So what do you think is wrong with you?
AC: I’m nervous and anxious all the time and I don’t do drugs. I went to catholic schools all my life and everyone always told me sex was “bad.” I still go to church with my family every Sunday. I never confess my sins and I take communion. Haha “sins.” I don’t know. Sex is kinda funny and cool. I had braces and glasses and got straight A’s. I was bullied. I thank/blame Catholicism and bullies. Also, being in contact with two countries almost on a daily basis. We’re similar but way different. Crossing is tiring. The contrast is frightening, depressing and stimulating. I’m afraid all the time but try to ignore it. I mean, maybe it’s normal. Sometimes I’m home alone and hear sounds and think someone broke into my house. I get paranoid. I go to the kitchen and grab a knife and check if the phone still works. I did that once. Seriously. I watch movies.
NC: I’ve been to San Diego several times and lived there for a summer in 2000. The place just seemed nice. Like it was the kind of place one could enjoy life. But you are also from Tijuana which seemed like a place that was dangerous and at times terrifying to a person from America. Vincente Fox was elected and people were screaming and parades were happening. I remember pickup trucks at night with men in machine guns riding in the beds of them. I remember cops messing with people constantly. It was really difficult for me to handle. Is it still like that there? How did you grow in reference to all that? Is there a writing scene there or are you isolated from the world?
AC: Unfortunately, there’s still pickup trucks with men with machine guns (not just at night). Sometimes when I’m crossing the border (in the morning), the soldiers walk around the cars with their machine guns. I always feel like they’re going to use them. I try to ignore them. It’s scary.
This type of “military activity” is recent. I didn’t know that happened in 2000. Wow. Almost 11 years. It doesn’t feel like 11 years. I don’t remember. That never happened when I was younger. I felt safe. I had everything I needed. I was spoiled. I guess I never felt exposed to “direct violence.”
For example, they’ve robbed our house like 4 or 5 times (total) which actually isn’t that bad. My parents used to own a drugstore and they were attacked 4 times maybe. The day I turned fifteen was the first day I saw and heard one of these thieves. They broke into our house. One of them (the one I saw) had a gun. We ran. We tried. No one was hurt. I always thought quinceañeras were stupid.
Last semester a professor told me there’s some writers in Tijuana. He said there’s a “punk scene” (that’s what he called it) and said “You don’t wanna hang out with them. They just make noise.” He said there’s workshops and groups but I don’t know about that. I have 3 friends who are writers and live in San Diego.
NC: What writers would you say have influenced your writing? What writers do you like that have not influenced your writing?
AC: Is it weird/funny if I say Bjork was one of my first role models? Mark Haddon’s “the curious incident of the dog in the night-time.” Then came Miranda July and Tao Lin. Karen Finley. Bloggers/writers from “the indie lit scene” (the list is long). I follow you. You know who you are. Feminists. Punk bands. Sharon Olds. Sandra Cisneros. Juan Rulfo (fucking amazing). The internet. Everything and nothing and everyone. I think some people I mentioned haven’t influenced me that much (you can’t really “make the connection” or whatever) but I like them. I also like Eileen Myles. I like women. I like men. I read Shakespeare in Spanish when I was fourteen and liked him.
NC: Have you ever work shopped your poetry and if you did how did that go?
AC: In community college, maybe 9 out of 30 liked what I wrote. At SDSU, 3 out of 30-something liked what I wrote. I felt better about my writing even when only 3 classmates liked what I wrote. The professor didn’t like me. For some reason, I offended and confused people. The title of one critique was “WHAT THE FUCK IS GOING ON????!!!!” I have a document where I saved some comments: “I find the imagery a bit disturbing and I don’t know if you can maybe word it better and make it less ‘in your face’.”
NC: How do you think poetry should be read? I think poetry should be read only out loud and alone. Or out loud to other people. Do you think some poetry is better if you are standing or sitting while you read it?
AC: Poetry should be read out loud to other people or whispered into microphones. I hate public speaking and whenever I “have to” do this I sweat and feel like I’m going to die. I did a reading via skype a few months ago and got sick after I read. I was sitting down. Before I read, I remembered someone had blogged about how orgasms stopped nervousness. I told my boyfriend. I think it depends on the poem. Like sexual poems can be read while sitting down or not. I’m not sure. Maybe it’s not about standing or sitting. I’ve seen videos of extremely talented writers. Some of them get really nervous. I think “extreme emotions” like nervousness can help and make things more honest and powerful. I think poetry should be shared. I guess it doesn’t need to be read out loud, it just needs to be read.
NC: Have to ask, why do some Tijuana putas have dicks but look so female? America has trannies but they look like dudes in dresses. What is going on there?
AC: Everyone is hot here. No, I don’t know. I’ve seen trannies that look like guys. My dentist’s office is near “their hood” and sometimes they stand outside of the office at eleven a.m. with their super short skirts. Yeah, some are really tall and beautiful. Some are not from here. Some are European or something else.