Readers Corner: An Interview with Paco Marquez

With the release of Portraits in G Minor tomorrow, I decided it was time for a look into the book’s author, Paco Marquez. A man of many talents, I wanted to get into his mind to discover a little about who he is, what he does, and what he has to say. Below is the insight of an author who revels in mystic wonders and sees the world illuminated. So take a look at our discussion, feel free to get involved in the conversation, and check out his wonderful work when it releases tomorrow!

~ Sarah Gibson

1. When did you decide to become a writer?

 I remember my mom giving me an article from the Reader’s Digest about one writer’s journey. I must have been in community college, and spoke about wanting to be a writer. I was romantically drawn to the idea, even if I didn’t know exactly what it entailed. The writer in the article talked about years and year scraping by just to eat and pay rent as a single man, until, eventually, I guess he “made it.” Yeah, I think mom was trying to discourage me. As a philosophy major in college I read that Nietzsche self-published his books, and I thought maybe I could do the same. When I graduated in 1997, MFA programs were just starting out and not really known. My friend in the program Jeff Garza and I had heard of the Iowa Writer’s Workshop, but it sounded like a prestigious, very hard program to get into, in some land far away from us. I had no portfolio. Out of many reasons, I decided to pursue work in order to supplement my experiences as a writer. I really didn’t know what I was doing. Through every job I struggled to find my way to the perfect job, one that would give me the time to read and write on the side, which was not happening. My girlfriend mentioned the idea of me maybe doing a poetry reading at some point; it was part of an argument, so the conversation went elswhere, but in the back of my head I thought; a poetry reading, there are such things? I had a breakthrough when I took two evening creative-writing classes at Berkeley City College with Tom Moniz and Cleavon Smith. The idea of sharing my poetry with others terrified me, but it turned out to be ecstatic. Soon after I printed and stapled a chapbook of my own, about 25 copies which I never distributed but was still happy with. Eventually, instead of pursuing a Masters in Library Science in order to make a living, I yielded to my parents insistence that I work with them at their card-room. That didn’t work out, but it gave me the time I needed to organize my writing and write more. To my good fortune and just by chance, I found a wonderfully vibrant poetry community in Sacramento (having moved there from the Bay Area). I created a community, began writing more, and from there managed to get into the MFA program at NYU. Now that I have completed the MFA, and experienced what I experienced and read there, I think that being a writer is part of my biology, just something I need to do; I was probably born this way. So, more than deciding to become a writer, it has been about the process, and good luck, of unearthing it within me.

2. What makes this particular genre you are involved in so special? Why poetry?

 I am biased. Lately, I often think back to a quote in Maurice Blanchot’s essay, The Book to Come. He describes that for Stephane Mallarme, “when there is rhythm there is poetry, and that the one thing that matters is to discover and master the true rhythm of life.” Poetry allows us to discover the proper relationship to the world and to each other. In the rhythm, the scansion of a poem that we like, we are finding a way of being in the world, a way of of dancing in it. And here I mean poetry, and art, too. The work of artists awakens our awareness and cognizance ever more. After a drawing class, the eye learns to discern the surroundings a little more sharply. And what percentage of our reality is related to our relationship to words? In the exploration and structuring of words, we are exploring who and what we are, what to do, and how to see…. All the arts, and probably all professions, seem to have someone in them someone who thinks that their trade is the one that holds the key to proper understanding. For me, the later writings of Martin Heidegger have been very influential. He had “a turn” where he began trying to understand our relationship to Being in terms of art, and particularly, poetry. In the end of his life, he thought poetry is where we can understand how to be.

3. Do you have a special time to write or how is your day structured?

Ideally, all the bills are paid, the desk is clean, I have exercised, slept well, had sex, read, talked with loved ones, and feel alert. (Wanting to write has been an exercise in self-care for me). Of course, this is not always possible. I often think about a workshop I took with Richard Tarnas about “The Art and Discipline of Writing.” He spoke about writing his book while having children and a family, and so to let the tensions between life and writing make their way into the writing. A healthy amount of stress, from the news or from having a pile of dishes to do, can pull the letters on the page on a direction in which I need them to go – or even from the peer pressure of a writing group. I often write on the back pages of books because I am inspired by what I’m reading — often on the go. (I have an informal formula that for every 100 pages of reading that I like, I am able to produce one draft).  I like to have as many ways to approach the writing as possible, without a set daily structure. As soon as my mind is free, almost always I’m “drafting” in the back of my head, wherever I am. If I write something too quickly, the inspiration may dissipate; I may have to mull the thought in my head for days or years. Writing while listening to a lecture or reading that I like has also worked well. I do always write with mechanical pencil on notebooks, with a good eraser nearby to make corrections. A window or a vista does seem to factor in often, now that I think about it — as well as rumination and daydreaming. More than having a structure to writing, I work as hard as I can to try to always stay inspired, following that to where it leads me, in writing and in life.

4. Do you feel that this book covers both of your homes, Mexico and the US? 

 No. This is an American book. With Méxican roots for sure, but to really represent México, it would have to have a lot more Spanish, and I would have had to spent more time in México forming myself as a poet.

5. What advice would you give to aspiring writers?

 Do it! The mere fact that you have an aspiration is a sign that you must explore it further, note everyone has one. In the process of  trying to become a writer, you can pursue one of the most awesome and basic things anyone can do in this life: the process of self exploration and discovery. Even if you don’t publish or pursue a career in it, the self reflective quality of writing can be its own reward. Finding others to write with seems to have been fundamental to me — finding a community, a friend or group of friends to share the writing with seems both elemental and fun! If through extension classes, a writing group, or college, keep at it. And do it for love, not for ego. More than being in the spotlight or receiving recognition, I think that most of the best works of art have managed to encapsulate a bit of love within them, which we are able to go back to and drink from. Just yesterday I learned of a great Van Gogh quote that someone put at the end of their email: “I feel there is nothing more truly artistic than to love people.” It seems right — that the artistic and creative impulse arise first from an effort to love.

Order Portraits in G Minor:

photo of Sarah Gibson

Sarah Gibson is Folded Word’s Publicity Assistant and Contributing Editor to its blog. She is a 22 year old who resides in Beverly, Massachusetts. As a recent grad from Gordon College, she works as a marketing director in Saugus, MA and spends her free time reading, writing, and working and learning with Folded Word Press.

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