Friday, May 5, 2017

Interview _ Cynthia Rodríguez

Cynthia Rodríguez is based in Leicester and regularly performs at spoken word events that include Anerki, WORD!, Find the Right Words and House of Verse. She had also performed at Poetry is Dead Good, Too Deep for a Monday, Write Minds Wiff Waff, QTIPOCALYPSE at Rough Trade Nottingham, Coventry Pride, The Chameleon, and the LGBT Laureate night at The Phoenix in London.

In addition to spoken word, Rodríguez has collaborated with musicians such as David Dhonau and the BootLeg Jazz Trio, and has performed as a featured act at Moonshine Word Jam, the jazz and spoken word evening hosted by Mellow Baku and Lydia Towsey.

Her work has been published in zines that include the Mouthy Poets Queer Zine edited by Dean Atta; the anti-xenophobia Do Something edited by Selina Lock; and Anerki and Sean Clark’s Interanerki. In late 2016, two of her poems were included in Welcome to Leicester, edited by Emma Lee and Ambrose Musiyiwa for Dahlia Publishing.

Rodríguez is also a singer and a songwriter at the queer noise girl band ANATOMY, where she plays alongside singers and musicians, Adrienne Jones, Emily Rose Teece and Leonie DuBarry-Gurr.

In this interview, Cynthia Rodríguez talks about poetry, writing and Journeys in Translation.

When did you start writing?

I started writing when I started learning how to write.

It started a bit like private street art, writing the name of my celebrity crush on my living room wall when I was two years old. When I was four, I started to write and tell short surrealist stories about the people and places I knew or imagined. I would write, for instance, about a girl coming from Mars who ate bolts and screws and used apples as petrol for her spaceship. Like my now deceased aunt Adriana, there was a time I would write calaveras ... rather morbid poems about living people and the ways they would meet The Ripper, a Mexican folk tradition for Dia de Muertos.

Since then, I’ve been dancing between short story and poetry/songwriting, but been more steady on the latter for the past 18 months.

How would you describe the writing you are doing?

Intersectional and interdisciplinary. I tend to write about the experiences people live from the margins and at the crossroads. Identity plays a huge part in my work, particularly as a queer fat foreign brown woman with mental and chronic conditions.

Recently, I’ve been playing around with more artistic disciplines as well as writing, such as film and music, and I have been exploring the musicality of the spoken and written word.


Cynthia Rodríguez performing at Anerki, a spoken word, poetry and music event that is held monthly in Leicester. Photo by David Conrad Dhonau.

Who or what has had the most influence on you as a writer?

Life and art. My life, the lives of loved ones and those around us. Art, in its audiovisual and performative ways. People like Laurie Anderson, Penny Broadhurst, Pete Um and Saul Williams. Spoken word and interdisciplinary collectives in the East Midlands such as Anerki, Mouthy Poets, House of Verse and FAG. The spirit of the times.

How have your personal experiences influenced your writing?

A lot. No two life stories are alike, so it is necessary that we tell our own stories and perhaps find a common ground.

English is my second language and I still enjoy exploring it and setting myself challenges to learn and expand. Britain is still quite new to me even if it feels like home, so writing is a bit like trying and testing plugs and taps around a fully furnished house I’m still paying mortgage for, stumbling upon a loose wooden tile under the carpet and discovering a neverending basement underneath full of positive and negative surprises.

What has been your most significant achievement as a writer so far?

Discovering an extensive network of people who love writing and art as much as I do. It has been amazing and truly, emotionally and professionally rewarding getting to know these people, sharing words of advice, collaborating, learning, performing together and even making strong and enduring friendships.

Getting published has also been good.

Cynthia Rodríguez's poems have been featured in anthologies that include Welcome to Leicester (Dahlia Publishing, 2016) and Do Something (Factor Fiction, 2016).

How did you get involved with Journeys in Translation?

A couple of my poems were selected for Welcome to Leicester, the poetry compilation co-edited by Ambrose and Emma and published on Dahlia Publishing. Ambrose found out I spoke Spanish and we talked about Journeys in Translation, and I was more than happy to help.

Which were the easiest aspects of the work you put into the project?

The main messages were pretty easy to translate. I think it was because they are international and necessary in every country and language.

Which were the most challenging?

Keeping metrics, shapes and messages in certain poems. For instance, Rod Duncan’s “but one country”. Not only did I have to keep the shape aligned, but I had to find a clever way to keep the original message and its alternative readings forwards and backwards. For this, I took liberties with commas and signs. It may not be entirely grammatically accurate, but the message is still there.

What would you say is the value of initiatives like Journeys in Translation?

Telling stories from different experiences we hadn’t thought before. Travelling not only geographically, but through language. A lot of the subjects and authors from the original project already had to do their personal journeys in translation by learning and practicing a different language to survive, so it enhances the experience and shows it to people who perhaps have never needed to go through said journeys.

Rod Duncan’s “but one country”, Over Land, Over Sea: Poems for those seeking refuge (Five Leaves Publications, 2015) p.123. Translated into Spanish by Cynthia Rodríguez.

Editor's Note:

Journeys in Translation aims to facilitate cross- and inter-cultural conversations around the themes of home, belonging and refuge.

The project encourages people who are bilingual or multilingual to have a go at translating 13 of the 101 poems from Over Land: Over Sea: Poems for those seeking refuge (Five Leaves Publications, 2015) from English into other languages and to share the translations, and reflections on the exercise on blogs, in letters and emails to family and friends, and on social media.

So far, the 13 poems that are being used as part of the project have been translated into languages that include Italian, German, Shona, Spanish, Bengali, British Sign Language, Farsi, Finnish, French, Turkish and Welsh. Currently, over 20 people from all over the world are working on the translations. More translations and more languages are on the way.

In Leicester, Journeys in Translation will culminate in an event that is going to be held on September 30 as part of Everybody's Reading 2017. During the event the original poems and translations will be read, discussed and displayed.

Over Land, Over Sea: Poems for Those Seeking Refuge (Five Leaves Publications, 2015) was edited by Kathleen Bell, Emma Lee and Siobhan Logan and is being sold to raise funds for Doctors Without Borders/ Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF)Leicester City of Sanctuary and the Nottingham and Nottinghamshire Refugee Forum.

Copies of the anthology are available from Five Leaves Bookshop (Nottingham).

More information on how Over Land, Over Sea came about is available here.

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