September 29, 2006

Five Questions With Adrian Castro

Adrian CastroOne of the most vibrant Caribbean/South Florida poets, Adrian Castro's work scintillates with tonality, bilingualism, clarity of image and spirit. On the publication of his first collection, Cantos to Blood & Honey, Victor Hernandez Cruz wrote, “Reading [Castro] like ritual itself, like ceremony. Castro's criollo bipolarity and polyrhythmic versing approximate chant. The poems are clear maps of migrations, from the indigenous Orinoco and island hopping, to the Spanish sailors who vanished into Siboney maracas. The sounds of the Yorubas upon wooden vessels crossing the Atlantic, singing the first salsa into the stars. History is organized burglary. Adrian Castro has realized his geophysical position in the spider web of Caribbean history as an individual and as a larger portion of blue space.” Adrian’s work has been widely anthologized in publications such as Paper Dance: 55 Latino Poets, One Century of Cuban Writers in Florida, and Little Havana Blues. His most recent collection, Wise Fish, was published by Coffee House Press. He lives in Miami, Florida.

1. Which author and/or book has most influenced you?

I have several writers/books-- Canto General by Pablo Neruda, several works by Octavio Paz, specifically Sunstone/Piedra del Sol and Rhythm, Content, & Flavor, and Red Beans by Victor Hernandez Cruz.

2. How has living/working in South Florida shaped your work?

Place greatly informs my work. So the "Republic of Miami" as I call, it is intrinsic to my work. Miami, being a Caribbean city located in North America. I would go as far as saying that without Miami, my work would be drastically different. This assuming I would not be living in another Caribbean city.

3. In some ways, I would categorize you as a "romantic poet." How do you feel about that label?

Do you mean "Romantic" in the Shelley, Byron sense? If so, I don't think that would be too far off. Shelley was important in my early formation, i.e. the Cameo days. Romantic in the sense of writing about epic/mythic subjects, states of mind, philosophical, even moody-- I'd say usually yes.

4. How has the Yoruba religion informed your poetic choices?

Well, greatly! I often use the form and rhythm of Ifa verses. Obviously Yoruba myth and sensibilities greatly inform my work. I would say that place (Miami, Caribbean) and Yoruba myth and spirituality is, certainly nowadays, the cornerstone of my work.

5. Many of your poems contain references to the sea. Of course, based on context, the meaning that you attach to the sea will shift from poem to poem, but what are the dominant emotions/feelings/ideas that you associate with the sea?

That's the Neruda in me. He told me once in a dream: “Ponga su oreja al mar.” Really. I can only tell you about the dominant ideas because for me, the sea/water/rivers is a metaphor for life. It IS the world. Here in the Caribbean we're at a poignant perspective (in the visual art sense) in relation to it. Some include richness, depth, mystery, history, ancestry, and music.


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Next week: Colin Channer, author of Waiting in Vain.

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