[un] llamado al inconsciente colectivo // a call to the collective unconscious

una conversación con el poeta José Vicente Anaya Leal / a conversation with poet José Vicente Anaya Leal

OS Collaborator José Vicente Anaya talks about his poem Híkuri (Peyote), recently translated by Joshua Pollock and available now from The Operating System. Check out our interview with Joshua here.

[Image: The cover of José Vicente Anaya’s Híkuri (Peyote), translated by Joshua Pollock, available now from The Operating System, featuring a painting of a human figure with the head of a mythic, animal-esque creature. Patterns of black and gray squares seem to fall from the figure’s arms, while a similar pattern of yellow, brown, black and gray squares create the illuminated image of a sun above the figure. Cover art by Jimena Schlaepfer. Cover design by Elæ.]

Hola!!! ¡Le agradezco esta conversación sobre su proceso! ¿Puede presentarse, como gusta iniciar?

Soy José Vicente Anaya Leal. Nací en una pequeña pero antigua población de Chihuahua, México, llamada Villa Coronado (antes se llamó Río Florido, como es el río que cruza todo el pueblo, y que fertiliza esa zona desértica, convirtiendo a la región en un paraíso agrícola. Mi nacimiento fue el 22 de enero de 1947, el día más frío de ese invierno, cuando la nieve se estaba convirtiendo en hielo. Soy el más chico de mis hermanas y hermano. Cuando tenía tres años de edad emigramos a la frontera norte, a Ciudad Juárez, y después a Tijuana, Baja California; por lo que mi infancia transcurrió en una vida fronteriza, bilingüe y bicultural.

Greetings! Thank you for talking to us about your process today! Can you introduce yourself, in a way that you would choose?

My name is José Vicente Anaya Leal. I was born in a small, old town in Chihuahua, México, called Villa Coronado (earlier it was called Río Florido, the same as the river that runs across the town and which fertilizes that desert area, transforming the region into an agricultural paradise). I was born on January 22, 1947, the coldest day of that winter, when the snow turned into ice. I’m the youngest of my brothers and sisters. When I was three years old, we emigrated to the northern borderlands — to Ciudad Juárez and then later to Tijuana, Baja California; consequently, I was a border child: bilingual and bicultural.

¿Por que es poeta?

Estoy seguro de que nací poeta porque mi padre y mi abuelo paterno tuvieron una gran imaginación y nos contaban cuentos, tanto los clásicos, como los que ellos inventaban. De tal modo que ellos contribuyeron a abrirme el camino de la imaginación. Además, padre y abuelo tenían muchos libros, de tal modo que yo y mis hermanas y hermano desde la infancia leíamos muchos libros. A partir de mis diez años de edad leí a casi todos los poetas románticos y modernistas del idioma español (que estaban en el librero de la casa); y por esto me sensibilicé y escribí poemas con rima. De ahí en adelante desde la escuela secundaria, yo seguí comprando libros y leyendo poetas.

Why are you a poet/writer/artist?

I am sure that I was born a poet, because my father and my paternal grandfather had great imaginations and they told us stories — classics as well as stories that they invented. In this way, they helped open the path to the imagination for me. My father and grandfather also had a lot of books, so me and my sisters and brother read a lot throughout our childhoods. Beginning when I was ten years old, I read almost all of the romantic poets and modernists in the Spanish language (at least those on the bookshelf at the house); that is where my poetic sensibility came from and I began writing poems that rhymed. From junior-high on, I continued buying books and reading poets.

¿Cuándo decidió que era poeta? (y/o: ¿Se siente cómodo llamándose un poeta? ¿Hay otros títulos o afiliaciones que prefiera?)

Recuerdo claramente el día que escribí mi primer poema a los diez años de edad. Fue un poema de amor dedicado a una bella niña que me encantaba. Pero mi primera reacción fue de sorpresa y duda (me sorprendí a mí mismo) sin entender cómo de mí había surgido ese texto. Primero no creí que era yo el que lo había escrito, pensé que tal vez era uno de los poemas que había leído en los libros de la casa que me lo había aprendido inconscientemente, y decidí re-leer todos los libros de poesía para encontrarlo, fue en vano, en ningún libro estaba. Entonces acepté que yo fui el autor de ese poema, e implícitamente me acepté como poeta. Hasta hoy día esa es la forma en que he escrito toda mi poesía.

When did you decide you were a poet/writer/artist (and/or: do you feel comfortable calling yourself a poet/writer/artist, what other titles or affiliations do you prefer/feel are more accurate)?

I remember clearly the day that I wrote my first poem. I was ten years old. It was a love poem dedicated to a beautiful girl that I was enamored with. But my first reaction was surprise and doubt (I surprised myself), I didn’t understand how that text had emerged from me. At first I didn’t believe that I was the one who wrote it, I thought maybe it was one of the poems that I had read in the books around my house and that I had learned it unconsciously. So I decided to reread all of the poetry books to find it, but it wasn’t in any of them. So then I accepted that I was the author of that poem, and I implicitly accepted that I was a poet. To this very day, that is how I’ve written all of my poetry.

¿Qué es un poeta, de todos modos? ¿Cómo percibe su papel cultural o social (en la comunidad literaria/artística/creativa, y más allá)?

Estoy convencido de que como poeta soy un médium de la sabiduría universal, como si alguien (¿Dios? ¿El Inconsciente Universal?) me pidiera que a través de los poemas informe de las visiones que se me presentan.

What’s a “poet” (or “writer” or “artist”) anyway? What do you see as your cultural and social role (in the literary / artistic / creative community and beyond)?

I am convinced that, as a poet, I am a medium of universal wisdom, as if somebody (God? The Universal Unconscious?) asked me to report the visions they present to me via the poems.

Cuéntenos sobre el proceso o instinto de mover estos poemas (o en general, de su obra) desde entidades independientes hasta un corpus de obra más grande, ¿Cómo y por qué sucedió su libro? ¿Qué le animó a completarlo? ¿Tuvo problemas?

Como antes dije, mi poemario “Híkuri” surgió de manera espontánea. En ese tiempo yo estaba viviendo en la Sierra Tarahumara (Rarámuri) de Chihuahua porque al ver una foto de mi abuelo materno, Jesús Leal, noté en su rostro rasgos de rarámuri. Entonces decidí ir a vivir en el territorio de mis antepasados, mis ancestros, y así empaparme de todo lo que ha sido esa cultura (danzas, peyote, idioma, cantos, leyendas, historias, vida cotidiana). Viví muchos meses ahí. Luego hice amistad con el shaman Osé Mereílo, quien me inició en el ritual de comer peyote. Después, en un instante, se me presentó todo el poema “Híkuri” que fui escribiendo poco a poco, tardé más de un año en terminarlo.

Talk about the process or instinct to move these poems (or your work in general) as independent entities into a body of work. How and why did this happen? Have you had this intention for a while? What encouraged and/or confounded this (or a book, in general) coming together? Was it a struggle?

As I said before, my book Híkuri emerged spontaneously. At the time, I was living in the Sierra Tarahumara (Rarámuri) of Chihuahua. I had seen a photo of my maternal grandfather, Jesús Leal, and was struck by his Rarámuri features. I decided to go live in the territory of my antecedents, my ancestors, and learn everything about what the culture had been (dances, peyote, language, songs, legends, history, daily life). I lived there for many months. Later I befriended the shaman Osé Mereílo, who initiated me into the rites of eating peyote. Afterwards, in an instant, the poem Híkuri — which I had been writing little by little — presented itself to me in its entirety, but it took me over a year to finish writing it.

¿Qué estructuras formales u otras prácticas restrictivas (si las hay) utilizó en la creación de su obra? ¿Hay algunos maestros o ambientes de aprendizaje, o textos u obras de arte de otros autores que hayan influido en la manera en que trabaja/escribe?

La estructura, el lenguaje, la formación de palabras y los sucesos se fueron formando por sí solos. No fue un trabajo racional, pre-pensado. Le permití a mi pensamiento que fluyera sin control.

What formal structures or other constrictive practices (if any) do you use in the creation of your work? Have certain teachers or instructive environments, or readings/writings/work of other creative people informed the way you work/write?

The structure, the language, the formation of words and the series of events were formed by themselves. It wasn’t a rational work, thought out ahead of time. I let my thoughts flow out of control.

¿Qué significa el título? ¿Cómo surgió? Cuéntenos sobre cómo tituló su libro, y si específicamente el proceso de nombrar (poemas, libros, secciones etc.) influye y/o matiza su obra.

En lengua rarámuri o tarahumara híkuri quiere decir peyote (también en lengua huichol).

Y la palabra por sí sola expresa todo lo que se sabe o se ha dicho sobre esta biznaga poderosa, alucinógena.

Speaking of monikers, what does your title represent? How was it generated? Talk about the way you titled the book, and how your process of naming (individual pieces, sections, etc) influences you and/or colors your work specifically.

In the Rarámuri or Tarahumara language, “híkuri” means peyote (in the Huichol language as well). The word by itself expresses all that is known or can be said about that powerful, hallucinogenic biznaga [cactus].

¿Qué represente esta obra particular para usted?
…como indicativo de su método / práctica creativa?
…como indicativo de su historia?
…como indicativo de su objetivo / sus esperanzas / intenciones / proyectos?

Para mi es un poema del que no hay antecedentes en la literatura, y desde este punto de vista es todo novedoso. Además, es una especie de llamado al inconsciente colectivo.

What does this particular work represent to you
…as indicative of your method/creative practice?
…as indicative of your history?
…as indicative of your mission/intentions/hopes/plans?

For me, it is a poem that has no literary precedent, and from this point of view it’s entirely novel. Furthermore, it’s a sort of call to the collective unconscious.

¿Qué hace este libro?

Trae un nuevo lenguaje que debemos atender.

What does this book DO (as much as what it says or contains)?

It bears a new language that we should attend to.

¿Cuál será el resultado ideal para este libro? ¿Cómo podría incidir en el mundo, y cómo su presencia como objeto tangible posibilitará su rol creativo en la comunidad y más allá? ¿Qué espera para este libro y para su práctica creativa?

Este poemario (desde su primera edición) a tomado un camino propio, a manera de ser una entidad que toma sus propias decisiones. Y seguirá los caminos que lo habrán de conducir a sus destinos.

What would be the best possible outcome for this book? What might it do in the world, and how will its presence as an object facilitate your creative role in your community and beyond? What are your hopes for this book, and for your practice?

This book (since its first edition) has taken its own path, as if it were an entity that made its own decisions. It will follow wherever its destiny leads it.

Hablemos un poco sobre el rol de poesía y comunidad creativa en el activismo (social y político). ¿Cómo interactúa su practica/obra/proceso con las condiciones del “Capitalceno” (o las condiciones del mundo actual/capitalismo/cambio climático/ etc.)?

Mi poesía es una entidad sumergida en este nuestro tiempo, igual que estamos los seres humanos.

Let’s talk a little bit about the role of poetics and creative community in social and political activism, so present in our daily lives as we face the often sobering, sometimes dangerous realities of the Capitalocene. How does your process, practice, or work otherwise interface with these conditions?

My poetry is an entity immersed in these, our times, just as we human beings are.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

[Image: Photo of JOSÉ VICENTE ANAYA.]

JOSÉ VICENTE ANAYA (Villa Coronado, Chihuahua, 1947) is a Mexican poet, essayist, translator, editor, and journalist. He was founder and co-director of the poetry journal Alforja from 1997 to 2008. In 1980 he won the Plural prize in poetry. In 1981 he was awarded the INBA-FONAPAS poetry grant. In 1989 he received the Tomás Valles Literature Prize. In 2000 he was named Writer Emeritus by the Chihuahuan Institute of Culture and CONACULTA. He has published more than 25 books. His poetry has been translated into English, French, Italian, and Portuguese.

ABOUT THE TRANSLATOR

[Image: Photo of JOSHUA POLLOCK]

JOSHUA POLLOCK is a translator and poet. His work has appeared or is forthcoming in Vestiges, Jubilat, Chicago Review, and others. He lives in a constant struggle against the mechanisms of attrition and destruction.

ABOUT THE ARTIST

ARTIST’S STATEMENT:

My work includes various media like drawing, sculpture, ceramics, embroidery, video and photography, but the topic is always the same: nature as a source of visual possibilities and metaphor.

Nature becomes a fantastic scenery inhabited by animals and plants that have a secret life. I think that fantasy and fiction are tools that can help us to analyze and understand reality, a way of confrontation and criticism, but also as forms of evasion and idealization.

Over the past years I have been building (physically and mentally), a micro imaginary world inhabited by enchanted beings who are mostly animals. This micro world has been formed through the creation of installations I have done in different places, using only paper, cardboard and ceramics. Also the characters that appear in these installations, continuously appear in drawings, as a need to continue telling stories of this world through drawing, the medium where all my ideas are born, before becoming sculptures or three-dimensional scenes.

In all cases, my work is a result of very long, slow and traditional processes; I like the idea of the craftsman who specializes in a technique, and to create his piece requires a certain domain, time and agility with hands. I think in this era, where everything is going so fast, we have to take our time to think, to do things, to act and to live.

BIO:

The artist JIMENA SCHLAEPFER (b. Mexico, 1982) creates metaphoric work, exhibited widely. Solo shows include “Ossis Lux” which was presented in 2016 in the Museum of the Oaxacan Painters MUPO. In that same year, she also presented the exhibition “Cosmogonía Trilobite” at the Cultural Center of Santo Domingo in Oaxaca. Furthermore the artist participated in a collective exhibition organized by the Museo Universitario el Chopo “Horror en el trópico” in Mexico City. “Historia Adulterada” at the museum La Celda Contemporánea also in Mexico City.

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The Operating System & Liminal Lab

The Operating System is a peer-facilitated experiment in the redistribution of creative resources and possibility. We are committed to gathering resources for citizen action, to transparency, to a unique publishing model, and to continuous evolution. We are based in Brooklyn, NY.

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The Operating System is a peer-facilitated experiment in the redistribution of creative resources and possibility. Join us!

The Operating System & Liminal Lab

The Operating System is a peer-facilitated experiment in the redistribution of creative resources and possibility. We are committed to gathering resources for citizen action, to transparency, to a unique publishing model, and to continuous evolution. We are based in Brooklyn, NY.