Even though Emma Trelles is not E.T., it doesn’t matter. She’s better than anything Spielberg could possibly dream up. That’s, right! Emma Trelles is the author of Tropicalia (University of Notre Dame Press), which won the Andres Montoya Poetry Prize. Ma adores the cover art because it reminds her of her imaginary backyard. Our real backyard doesn’t have grass. Anyway, back to Emma. Emma is also the author of the chapbook Little Spells (GOSS183), a recommended read by the Valparaiso Poetry Review and the Montserrat Review. Montserrat, Spain, FYI people, is my favorite place on Earth and in or around heaven. That’s where I want my ashes tossed from. Emma has been a featured author at the Miami Book Fair International and at the Palabra Pura reading series at the Guild Literary Complex in Chicago, and she is a regular contributor to the Best American Poetry blog. She lives with her amazingly awesome husband (I wish I had a husband!) in South Florida where she teaches and writes about arts, books, and culture. She also break dances. Note: I’m a liar. I interviewed Emma before her book release at AWP in Washington D.C. and this is what she had to say. Enjoy-ness.
Almost Dorothy: What does it mean to live in South Florida and what does it mean to live in South Florida as a poet?
Emma Trelles: Living in South Florida means living and dreaming water: ocean, lake, canal, and rain (misted or primordial), the Gulf and its delicate inlets, marshes, rivers, swimming pools, fountains and the man-made waterfalls that trickle down the tiki gods of the Mai-Kai. Living in South Florida as a poet is a tightrope
between musing and survival.
AD: I’m obsessed with this 2-part question: what is a poem and where do you live inside your poems?
ET: A poem is a document, a dirge, a pleading, or a blade. A poem is a way of making the small matter and what matters remembered. I live inside every word, space, and punctuation mark of my poems; in them, I am invisible and persistent.
AD: If you ran into yourself in 3021, what would you say?
ET: Woman, you look good.
AD: Ma agrees. Anyway, j’adore your book, Tropicalia, your first full-length book, right? I love that word, full-length. It’s like now you’re legit, real, good-to-go, and no longer trapped in a mini-skirt. What’s the significance of the title?
ET: Yes, it’s my first full length collection, but I already felt legit because I’ve been writing for a long time now, on occasion in a mini-skirt but usually in jeans and Converse. I pinched the title of the book from the same-named Brazilian visual art, literature, and music movement of the late 60s, which welded together all sorts of cultural and political influences. That kind of collage, and the freedom that accompanies it, is something that interests me and informs my own work, but I was also thinking about place. So many of these poems were inspired in some sense by the tropics, not just the wild green of the region I live in but the cities wedged within it.
AD: (I just realized I’m interviewing E.T. Hehehehe!) In your poem “Autorretrato Quintina” (“Self-portrait of a Queen Named Tina” ?) you reference the famed Spanish painter Velázquez. Why? And what can you tell us about the importance of your connection to the visual arts and the visual world?
ET: Oh, I like your title better! I mention Velázquez because I ‘ve been thinking about his painting, Las Meninas, for more than twenty years since I first saw it in the Museo del Prado in Madrid. It’s a portrait of the Spanish royal court in the 17th century, in what appears to be both a staged and a casual moment. While the king and queen are supposedly sitting for Velázquez, they appear only as smudged ghosts in a mirror. The artist brushes his own countenance much more prominently into the canvas, obliquely turning it into a self-portrait of sorts but also with an eye towards the viewer, because the whole tableau is what we’d see if we were before him while he was working. When I was asked to contribute a poem to Poets and Artists: The Self Portrait Issue, this painting once again came to mind. It holds so many of art’s essential themes: perception, form, history, vanity, reflection, the lucid vs. the deliberately obscured. And this is all some of the same ground we trod upon when writing and reading poems. The visual and literary arts are forever twined in one way or another.
AD: Off topic. I want your input. Dances for Non/Fictional Bodies, a danceAble performance created by Jess Crutis/Gravity for able and disabled dancers, undresses the social idealization of the body, that is society creates a ‘fictional body’ that disables individuals in terms of their ability to see others and to be seen as beautiful, empowered and autonomous people. Are we ‘fictional poets’?
ET: I think we as poets are at times disabled in valuing one another, and ourselves, because of desire, some of which might be professional or artistic. But I also think we are always free to turn away from that kind of containment and put our heads back into the work.
AD: Before this gets too serious, favorite curse word.
ET: I love a good “fuck.”
AD: That is so capital G capital R double o double s. If you could be any microorganism, an organism that is small small, which one would you be and why?
ET: I’d like to be a cell that coats a hummingbird’s feather. I’d like to have some part in that flash of flight and color.
AD: The title of the poem “Love” is risky. You must be tough as nail heads. “Even if our shapes are smudged beyond recognition”, you wrote, then what?
ET: Then there is nothing except two lovers and the eternal white.
AD: I still can’t believe I’m interviewing E.T. In the poem “For the Woman on the Boulevard” you write:
Drink his thick wrists, his hands
shifting, turning the wheel, calling
the radio with his bossanova tongue
this master crafter of all you can’t,
the call, the fix, the winch?
What’s up with that woman now and how are his wrists?
ET: I see her all the time and she’s much happier now. As for his wrists, I think she quit them a while ago.
AD: Favorite soup?
ET: Variations of lentil, such as red, curried, with potato or tomato or cream.
AD: Will you share an excerpt of something new?
AD: What is ‘parallel transport’?
ET: The ability to travel simultaneously in a teleporter with one’s evil twin.
AD: Emma Trelles will…
ET: soon board a plane to the cold and snowy North.
Emma Trelles is the blue bird (pictured left) and author of Tropicalia (University of Notre Dame Press), which won the Andres Montoya Poetry Prize. She is also the author of the chapbook Little Spells (GOSS183), a recommended read by the Valparaiso Poetry Review and the Montserrat Review. Montserrat, Spain is my favorite place on Earth and in or around heaven. Emma has been a featured author at the Miami Book Fair International and at the Palabra Pura reading series at the Guild Literary Complex in Chicago, and she is a regular contributor to the Best American Poetry blog.