by Kristine Esser Slentz
Paco Márquez’s living room looks like many writers’ I know, complete with a large, paper filled desk and litany of books, now including his own, which is what we are here to talk about. After settling in with a glass of water and a fan for this walkup, we got right to it.
Márquez is a Chicano poet who resides in New York City with a recently published chapbook, Portraits in G Minor. Right away he hands me a copy of his book, which he lovingly has a stash of next to the large living room bookshelf. The compact size make it easy to handle and unintimidating to the eye. Upon cracking it open, you can tell there is a sense of pride Marquez has with this collection, not only with his words and how he reacts to poem as you pass it — as any writer should with their finished work.
After thumbing through a few poems, Marquez made a point to say that his chapbook and writing isn’t about being Mexican, but rather that it is a part of who he is and one of his many roles that he inhabits. To that, Marquez provided me with a well-produced video of his poem, “I Know No Country,” prior to this interview that beautifully puts this in context:
While Márquez says he doesn’t have a particular influencer for this book, he does have some writing philosophies. They are two-fold in this interview: lots of reading and mistakes. He pulls over his backpack and then proceeds to take out The Seducer’s Diary by Søren Kierkegaard, La Muerte de Artemio Cruz by Carlos Fuentes, and Notes on the Assemblage by Juan Felipe Herrera. Like most skilled writers, Márquez consistently reads to build upon his craft. The next philosophy he embraces is the idea of error in art. He references an artist who once had some cigarette ash fall into his painting and left it — it had now become a part of the work itself. At a certain point in the writing process, Márquez believes that this is the mentality to take — sometimes those mistakes or errors can add to the art. He typically revises a poem about three times before having it land in a place that he appreciates.
As both a new New Yorker and poet myself, I felt the need to ask his advice for new writers. To this he had some great offerings, but his most important one being to find an in-person community and then getting involved within that community. He emphasized things like seeking out a poetry or writing center and joining classes or workshop there or going to local poetry readings/open mics. Either way, connecting with fellow writers and seeing their process will encourage both mentally but also poetically.
Leaving Márquez’s East Side village apartment, I was overcome with delight. He exudes a positive energy both about himself and his work that would seem to leave anyone beaming with the possibilities of poetry all the way home to Harlem.
Kristine Esser Slentz has been working behind the scenes as an Assistant Editor at Folded Word since 2016. She has written pieces in publications like the HuffPost, Pattern, and Nuvo Indy’s Alternative Voice. Kristine is currently based in NYC as she works on her MFA.