When and why did you first start writing?
Writing has been a journey I dismissed like several other things that helped me grow into who I currently am. I’ve always written because of school and I was pretty good at it, or at least that is what my teachers and report card said. I would say that writing poetry didn’t become something that I would consider a great skill until my junior year of college. Up until this point I only had written essays of the academic variety, besides the picture prompts we were mandated to write in the U.S throughout middle school and high school. Writing became important to me my junior year, when I was taking “Literature of Social Protest” with political theorist, Barbara Foley, while taking my first creative writing class that junior year where I read poetry from the likes of E.E. Cummings, William Carlos Williams, Hart Crane, Gwendolyn Brooks, and Amiri Baraka just to name few.
I then realized writing as a form of expression and although I knew it always existed I was learning through those readings how to use the written word as a lyrical catharsis; a tool to put my thoughts on the page and let them exist as these different images making material out of my interiority. I would say that my writing continues to do so, except now I come at each piece with more of a guided purpose rather than writing for myself.
Who is most supportive about your writing?
My partner has always been my biggest support system. We got together very young so I wasn’t a writer, nor was I bookish or cared much about my culture, history, or anything like that at 18. But throughout the years we have grown together just as I had grown into this identity of “the writer.” If anyone knows anything about the true labour and work we do as writers it’d be the people we hold the closest. Those who are in close relation to writers know the strain it can put on any type of relationship in terms of the countless excursions in books and out in the world “to feel” experience as well as all of the time spent on craft & drafts.
I jokingly call her my public relations rep. because I’m the type of person that has my two hands in five different pots each day and she’s really good at making me find my balance between what I can do and what I’d like to get done. It’s remarkable how closely she pays attention to the small details and is lovingly involved and in my corner with what I write about and I appreciate her as my biggest critic and supporter.
Tell me something about your work published in Peeking Cat Anthology 2017.
In this poem what seems to be an omniscient unknown narrator goes into the meta and takes form as a scribe, allowing the readers to bear witness to violence within families and who it affects. There is an interesting ambiguity to the ending in the synonym between a knife and sliced bread and the son who wields this dangerous object. These 3 subjects are used to help highlight the image of the home, and the delicateness of what happens behind closed doors as we glean into this routine of perpetuated abuse that is domestic violence.
Where do you write? Do you have a writing space or a particular process/routine?
I write wherever I have the will. This could take place on the train, in the shower, before I sleep, while reading a book, or even while teaching a class. In every situation listed, I’ve taken out my phone, went to the notepad and immediately jotted down lines, words, or ideas. I think recording these strokes of brilliances when they happen are key to a good poem. I can’t begin to mention how many times I’ve lost good lines for not writing them down and that’s simply because I can’t remember them!
In terms of routine or process, I’ve been trying to get one about a year now. What I hope to get more consistent with is the act of waking up earlier with the intention of getting reading or writing done before I start my day. There is something about waking up in the quiet, nourishing your body with breakfast, and writing or reading that puts you in a great headspace.
What’s your favourite word?
What do you find the most difficult or challenging about writing?
The thing I find the most challenging in my writing is truly turning my emotion and my thought process into word. This is especially when I am speaking from the place of fragments, whether that be a memory, recalling a situation, or in deep observation. There is a very fine distinction between the space taking up the poem and the space that is left: we have the words there that give us our narration, but what is the stage direction that lies within the empty space. What are we to infer? What is left out? These are the questions I am constantly asking myself, even after something sounds pretty good.
Tell me about the piece of work that you are most proud of writing, or about the writing accomplishment you are most proud of.
I am proud about all of my pieces in some shape or form so that is a hard one to answer. But if I am thinking about the writing accomplishment I am most proud of it is definitely getting the opportunity to be a part of the Rutgers- Newark MFA cohort. It’s a fully funded fine arts program in the heart of my hometown with some of the best mentors ever, shout outs to Rigoberto Gonzalez, Brenda Shaughnessy, Alice Dark, Akhil Sharma, Jayne Anne Phillips, and Sarah Nichols. Since starting my MFA I have learned so much about my own writing, as well as the industry and discovering where I fit into things as a scribe for my Latinx culture. They’ve also helped me give birth to my passion for community organizing which includes being highly involved with the education and the arts.
What are your writing plans, goals or dreams for the future?
I’ll continue to publish works whenever is possible until I feel ready to publish my first book. Then my second, then my third, and so on. I want to be able to write for a living while teaching the importance of lyric and literature on my way to that goal. Once I’m a home-owning, married, fulltime faculty member at a university that’d be a comfortable enough for me, especially from where I came from.
The icing on the cake would be if I could somehow bring back the poet laureate title to New Jersey! It has been defunct since Amiri Baraka last held the title in 2003. I don’t have to win it the first or second time, (maybe the fourth or fifth!) but I’d like to be one of the people who help bring it back.
Dimitri Reyes is a SortaRican PuertoVegan poet born and raised in New Jersey. He establishes his poetic identity through personal, experiential meditations that focus on subjects such as veganism, eco- ethics, being Latinx, and growing up in the inner city. Dimitri is a candidate in the Rutgers- Newark MFA program. His poetry is published in Acentos Review, DryLandLit, Radius, Peeking Cat and others. Follow him on Instagram @dimitri_reyes