Sunday, October 17, 2010

ire’ne lara silva’s furia: la mujer que se sueña libre

Olga García Echeverría
*all poetry excerpts in this blog from furia by ire'ne lara silva

…the truth is that i fear i may lose
words and like a rabid animal seek refuge in
howling with impotent fury

A couple of months ago ire’ne’s manuscript came my way. It fell into my hands unexpectedly, passed on from a friend. furia. The title intrigued me. I carried the manuscript around in my book bag for a while, hoping to find the right time to sit down with it. But every time I thought the right time had arrived something happened--a student came knocking, my mother got sick, my stove exploded. Asi es la vida. Full of unexpected arrivals. Full of combustion. Full of furia.

Finally, I took the manuscript with me to the laundromat. This is where I read ire’ne lara silva’s words for the first time. In Lincoln Heights. On a blue plastic chair. To the soundtrack of tumbling dryers, constant traffic and occasional sirens. I dug into the poems between the wash and the spin cycle. Between the loading and unloading. Among barrio women sorting colores and folding sábanas. In the midst of screeching children running amuck, clutching dripping paletas and plastic bags of Flaming Hot Cheetos. The strong scents of Ariel, bleach, and Suavecito penetrating the nariz. All my senses awake. This is how I entered furia.

ire'ne lara silva’s poetic journey in furia is one of shedding and healing. She peels away at the “calloused layers” of her heart a poem at a time para poder soñarse/imaginarse libre. Pieces in the collection deal with memory, the loss of a mother, love/desire, and the struggle to forgive an abusive father. At times the manuscript feels heavy and dark, but ire’ne is able to weave out of those moments and offer us glimpses of light. Her work is most powerful when she’s able to bust through the pain, transform it, and celebrate herself and others despite all the furia and all the loss. For example, “i come from women illiterate and rough-skinned” honors the women who’ve come before her. Although ire’ne is addressing a legacy of female oppression, she does so in an empowering way, challenging Virginia Woolf’s claim that for millions of years women have sat indoors. The poet’s ancestors have not sat indoors; they’ve slaved and suffered, their class/color/race determining their particular roles in society. Here’s a short excerpt from the poem:

i come from women illiterate and rough-skinned all their creativity
bent to the tasks of survival
enslaved women conquered women…
women who nurtured
babies in their wombs embraced them buried them women who
made walls with their own hands who sewed and washed and cared
for the sick women who took in laundry cleaned houses cared for
the children of others…

Yet, it is the legacy of these conquered women that creates force and longing, “volcanoes of longing/hurricanes of longing deserts of longing…”

their longing and ours
taken root in our soul rising through the earth of our lives
branching and leafing and blossoming as we write and sing and
dance and breathe and dream.

For ire’ne lara silva the creation of art, desire, and nature are medicine. Take the lines from her poem “desire could make”:

desire could make us lean make us flushed make us
speak love break burn blossom us devour us devouring…
…desire could make us live

Or take the final stanza of her poem “the wind suffers love” where nature is a force that sweeps through the poet, casting out the sadness/darkness that possesses the body and spirit:

sweep through me
wind losing none of your grey ferocity
hunt out this aching darkness claw
pierce bleed it make it whimper cast it
out sweep through me hurling out
shadow and ash loss and wanting

Or take the ending of “i come from women illiterate and rough-skinned” where ire’ne attests to the critical role of creativity:

art-making is necessity is survival is
medicine is love is combustion raw and spontaneous bursting
healing our lives
If you're in Austin, Texas, you can check out more of ire'ne's work. HER BOOK RELEASE READING is on 10/24/10, Sunday 7:00pm at New India Cuisine @ 2304 S. Congress. With Guest Poets jo reyes-boitel, Moisés S. L. Lara, and others. Limited Re-Release of ani’mal and INDíGENA (chapbooks)
This past week, I got to ask ire’ne a few questions about herself and her work. Here she is sharing her responses with La Bloga.

When and why did you start writing?
I started writing a very long time ago. I think I was about eight. I woke up from a nightmare where I’d been orphaned after my family died in a fire. There was no one to go crying to, and I had to let it out. I felt compelled to write it down. We didn’t have any blank sheets of paper in the house, so I wrote it on a brown paper bag that I cut up into little pages. Poetry came later. I wrote and wrote and read and read until I graduated from high school. It wasn’t until my first year of college that I began to find my voice and my own subject matter.

Who influenced your journey as an artist?
My first influence was music—musica ranchera, boleros, los conjuntos. Cornelio Reyna, Jose Alfredo Jimenez, and Juan Gabriel. After that, it was African-American poets like Audre Lorde, June Jordan, NikkiGiovanni, Langston Hughes, and Sonia Sanchez. Toss in some Neruda and Lorca and e.e. cummings and Emily Dickinson and Edna St. Vincent Millay. I found Latino poets a little later: Carmen Tafolla, Francisco X. Alarcon, and raulrsalinas, inparticular. The first Latina poet I ever read was Aurora Levins Morales. Raul Salinas was a great example ofartistic integrity and activist commitment. He always made a space for all us stray poets. I’ve also participated in and been influenced by different writer communities: Austin Hispanic Writers, Macondo, and Cantomundo. I owes much to my brother, Moisés S. L. Lara, who is an exquisite poet in his own right. No one could ask for a more challenging reader or a more demanding editor.

Furia is your first collection of poetry. Did you write it at a particular time in your life or with a particular intent?
For the most part, I wrote the poems in furia over the last seven years, but this is not the book I planned. furia coalesced very recently during a particularly difficult time. But once it did, everything fell into place very naturally. I can't say, though, it was an easy collection to work on. There was a lot of revision involved.

You write and weave in and out of two languages. Do you do that consciously?
I’ve written in English, in Spanish, and I have some English/Spanish bilingual poems. A few poems are also embedded with a little Nahuatl. I don’t write this way because I think it makes me more authentically Chicana or Latina or because I deliberately want to be anti- establishment. I think a poet, in pursuit of expressing her deepest truths, needs every tool at her disposal—every word, every image, every emotion. Nothing can be discarded.
Have you encountered any challenges publishing due to language?
I’ve never had any problems publishing the poems I wrote wholly in Spanish. Every Spanish poem I’ve submitted to a literary journal has been published. Of course, I submitted them to U.S. Spanish-language journals or to Chican@/Latin@ journals. Honestly, I wasn’t sure that I would find a publisher for this particular collection. Not because of its language or languages, but because of its themes and its cultivation of one's inner darkness being relinquished. I am very glad that my work found Mouthfeel Press( ). Our communities (people of color, women, working-class, lgbt) have a long history with small, independent presses. They have been the best forums for our work because they support our visions and our ways of working with language.
What would you like readers to take away with them when reading furia?
There’s a lot of confusion and grief and loss and anger in these poems, but I think there’s also a lot of energy and a lot of hope. In a way, these poems are my map--how I kept going. All of us, I think, are at different stages of being wounded and of healing, feeling and not feeling, remaining silent and speaking. And that’s what I hope these poems acknowledge and affirm--that there is no need to be afraid to feel, that we shouldn't let repressed emotions poison us, that we can speak.
In furia, nature emerges as medicine? Can you briefly speak to this theme in your poems?
For a beautiful expanse of wildflowers to exist, the seed has to struggle to emerge from the ground. It has to wait for rain, vulnerable to the weather and the heat. Each flower waits for pollination. And each flower has to surrender so much of itself to create new seeds. It gives up everything, letting parts of itself die so that the new seeds can be released and born. Nature shows us, always, how ceaseless the work of rebirth is. What matters are the seeds we create and how willing we are to undertake that work, learning what should be surrendered and what should be preserved. On November 19th, it will be nine years since my mother passed away. I still grieve for her everyday. I don’t understand this reluctance people have to speak of their dead. My mother would say, “mis muertitos,” and acknowledging death did nothing to lessen her love for the ones she had lost. She surrendered her fear of death and preserved love.
Why did you choose the word furia for your title?
In nature, animals possess a ferocious innocence that they need in order to survive, to hunt, to protect their young, to shed everything that isn't aligned with their health. To me, 'furia’ is not just ‘fury,’ to me it also means ‘ferocity.’ And we, like animals, must be ferocious in our living, our speaking, and our healing. People think of grief and anger as negative emotions or as emotions that should be dealt with efficiently and then put away. But they, like love or desire, can be a spark, can be kindling, can be illumination. Any emotion, felt ferociously, cannot be a stagnant thing. You move through it, move with it, fight it, sit with it, learn from it, create with it.
What's next for you as an artist?
I have a completed short story collection that I'm hoping will soon find a publisher. My collection of short stories, titled “the ocean’s tongue,” is concerned with borders of all kinds—and the potential for transformation or self-destruction. The nine stories are heavily invested in writing or rewriting ‘myth’ from women’s point of view and in investigating liminal ways of perceiving the world. La Bloga readers can read the title storyat:
And currently, I'm working on a novel, NACI, set in South Texas, that explores racial/national/gender/sexual identities and the human consequences of historically documented environmental pollution.

ire’ne lara silva lives in Austin , TX. Her work has appeared in various journals and anthologies including Acentos Review, Sin Fronteras/Writers Without Borders, CIPACTLI, Kweli Journal, The Worcester Review, Rhapsoidia, Kalliope; Soleado; Borderlands: Texas Poetry Review, Palabra, The Mesquite Review, The Weight of Addition: Texas Poetry Anthology, Turtle Island to Abya Yala: A Love Anthology of Art and Poetry by Native American and Latina Women, Finding Gloria: Nos/Otras, and the Cantos al Sexto Sol Anthology. She is the 2008 recipient of the Gloria Anzaluda Milagro Award and a 2010 Cantomundo Inaugural Fellow. ire'ne lara silva is the author of two chapbooks: ani’mal and INDíGENA. Her first collection of poetry, furia, was published in October 2010 by Mouthfeel Press. She can be reached at: for reading invitations, scheduling workshops, or any other correspondence. For more info and to order books, please go to:

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