“I liked the idea of giving this chapbook an ending that is also the beginning of an exploration for the reader.”
Symptoms of Teething (Paper Nautilus Press, 2017)
Could you share with us a representative or pivotal poem from your chapbook? Perhaps something that introduces the work of the chapbook, or that invites the reader into the world of the chapbook?
I think the first poem in the chapbook, “Suppose,” really sets the tone—I wanted to begin with a supposition, with a sense of uncertainty because most of the poems in the book deal with this tension of both longing for something and then not exactly knowing what to do with that thing or with oneself once it’s procured or attained.
Your poem “Yesterday” seems to pay homage to W.S. Merwin. How do your poem and his poem “Yesterday” interact? Or is the poem responding to other poems by Merwin?
“Yesterday” pays homage to both Merwin and to my dear friend Kyle who introduced me to Merwin’s piece. Kyle and I watched a YouTube clip of Merwin reading his poem aloud, and Kyle proceeded to memorize it for a class we had together during our MFA years at Emerson. The music in Merwin’s reading and the cadence in Kyle’s version stuck with me for months and then one day Kyle said something to me that I immediately wrote down and asked if I could “steal” it—“I’ve been heavy on the good times lately”—I knew that line was my way in to this piece, which borrows its form and music from Merwin’s poem of the same name.
You conclude Symptoms of Teething with “Aubade.” The last three lines, “This morning, / we fabricate each other / into being” seem to end the book with a hopeful tone, a sense of renewal or another chance. What does it mean to you to end the chapbook with these lines?
I think these lines can be read as hopeful or hopeless, and it’s interesting to hear how readers interpret the idea of fabrication. It can seem hopeful that we’re able to start from scratch, to invent or re-invent ourselves (and others) each morning. But it also hints at the flaws in that, at the idea that each day we wake up and construct/re-construct a self to present to the world. I liked the idea of giving this chapbook an ending that is also the beginning of an exploration for the reader.
The title poem “Symptoms of Teething” seems to be outside of time, with the past and present intertwining to evoke the timelessness of struggle. How did you come to write this poem?
I’ve been a teeth-grinder since I can remember. I actually wasn’t aware of it until my family told me they could hear it throughout the house at night when I was 7 or so.
I was beginning to do some research to write a poem about bruxism when my nephew started teething, which is supposed to be one of the most painful experiences in a human’s life (thank goodness for infantile amnesia). This got me thinking about mouths. Without teeth, we’d be unable to chew our food or make ‘TH,’ ‘S,’ ‘V,’ ‘F,’ and more sounds—things we do on a daily basis. Our mouths, our teeth are this source of constant anxiety but also of relief.
If you could choose another artistic path (painting, music, dance, etc.) what would it be and why?
I’d love to be a ceramicist or a sculptor. I’d probably make functional pieces—like bowls or bookshelves. I love the idea of making physical objects that have dimension and purpose.
Could you describe your other chapbooks and your forthcoming full-length book?
My forthcoming chapbook Mexicamericana (Porkbelly Press) is an exploration into belonging to two cultures, two languages, at once. My parents are both from border towns in Mexico (San Luis Rio Colorado and Mexicali) and I spent a great deal of my childhood on the road driving down to those towns or with extended family coming up to our house in Arizona. The forthcoming full-length From the Inside Quietly is sort of an amalgamation of the themes explored in my chapbooks—love, longing, family, identity.
Eloisa Amezcua is an Arizona native. Her debut collection, From the Inside Quietly, is the inaugural winner of the Shelterbelt Poetry Prize selected by Ada Limón. She is the author of three chapbooks and is the founder and editor of The Shallow Ends: A Journal of Poetry. Author photo by David Emitt Adams.