Monday, October 8, 2012

Affrilachian Appreciation Interview 1: Ricardo Nazario y Colon talks to Teneice Delgado

In recognition and appreciation of Appalachian heritage month, and in an effort to contribute to a more diverse conversation on what it means to be Appalachian, Stacia Fleegal and I decided to show a little love to a few talented poets that we’ve published in previous issues who are all members of an organization called the Affrilachian Poets (you can follow them here on Facebook and learn more about them here).

We're going to feature one poet every Monday that remains in October. Our first poet is Affriliachian Poets founding member Ricardo Nazario y Colon, whose poem “Papo Hueso” appeared in our most recent issue. Find out more about Ricardo here.

Enjoy the interview!

-Teneice Delgado

TD: Recently, the Affrilachian Poets celebrated 20 years. How do you feel AP has changed since it started?

RNC: This question is one that we discuss often. It goes to the heart of our continuous existence. In the beginning, we were young writers and our fellowship was as strong as our desire to write. We had enough time to spend with one another, to forge a bond closer than any family could ever hope to accomplish. This was a purposeful bond, a chosen path as compared to being born into a family. As the years past, we recognized the need for continuous growth in creative interest and in membership. While many things may have appeared to just happen, I think today we would use the word organic to describe that process. There were always the "shapers" or "shepherds" who had an eye on everything that was happening. We knew we had something special and that we were special human beings not because of our talents but because of how we viewed our friendship. As we look back today we realize that we cannot duplicate what we once had. The nature of things of life demands change. Now a days we understand that in order to survive we must find ways to bring members into the family that first and foremost are committed to the craft, second people that we could individually and collectively call family. Not the way the word FAM is casually tossed around like people in my native Bronx say Yo SON or Bro. I mean people we can love and care about beyond their work. We are busier, we are parents, still lovers, live far apart, we have other interest like golf, cooking, hot sauce, sneaker collections, movie production, pursuing PhD degrees, MFA degrees, Tenure. We are just like anyone else out there.

TD: What would you like to see AP become involved in over the next 20 years?

RNC: I want us to make a collective impact on our young. I want the Affrilachian Poets to be a political force that raises awareness in every aspect of life that we inhabit. I want us to continue to give voice to those who may not feel like they have a voice. As our aesthetic says I want us to continue to "Make Visible the Invisible."

TD: When did you first feel a connection to the Appalachian Region? Or are you still looking for that connection?

RNC: When I started to not justify why a Puerto Rican from the South Bronx, NYC was a member of the Affrilachian Poets.

TD: On your website you say that you live in Clearfield, KY by choice. Having grown up in the Bronx and Puerto Rico, what, if anything, is familiar about Kentucky? What drew you there?

RNC: Clearfield, KY is a small township in the Daniel Boone National Forrest. I work at Morehead State University, a very good regional campus of the state of Kentucky colleges and university system. What is familiar is the friendliness, the kind service, the desire to better our children. Good values that we often forget in the hustle and bustle of larger living spaces.

TD: Can you talk about when you first knew you were a poet? How does your family react to your poetry?

RNC: There were moments in my life when I displayed an aptitude for poetry. While in Marine Corps Boot Camp Training at Parris Island, SC I wrote a poem about an ant. I shared it with several of my family and friends back in the Bronx and everyone wrote back about how beautiful this poem was. As luck would have it no one has a copy of the poem, not even me. While in community college I used to write poems on demand to assist friends who were in poetry class. Then when I moved to Kentucky and connected with the people who eventually became the Affrilachian Poets.

TD: Can you describe one of your favorite memories from an AP event or tour?

RNC: I think one of my most memorable moments was at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville when someone in the audience recognized a reference I made to "Avispado" in my poem "The Lure." It was fantastic to be able to chat with someone who not only new my reference but who also had a personal connection/experience to share. It made there reading of my poem that more special to me and I presume to her.