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“Being an outsider or a misfit has always been part of my creative psyche and feeling out of place in two places I come from has always given me a powerful inner world where I can work things out creatively.”
The work of poet and Creative Workforce Fellow, Mary Robles is rich with a tension she pulls from an interesting dichotomy within her cultural heritage - one rooted in both Mexican-Puerto Rican and Czechoslovakian ancestry. Her most recent manuscript, The Great Cholla, explores this tension through an autobiographical series of poems, rife with melancholy and a haunting sense of longing.
Steering away from autobiographical work in the past due to its tendency to appear self-indulgent and superficial, Mary waited for the right moment to craft and present The Great Cholla. “It took time for me to realize that there is value in telling your story and it can be a brave decision to take on a subject that feels very small and personal. I've realized that we only have so much time to tell the stories that are the most beloved to us.”
We came from the desert
with our apache fireworks
to the bitter middle
where the corn is grown.
We were from the desert
with our wrinkled jean jackets
and our chili pepper quilt
and going to the fishhouses
we would catch the watery eye
of old men with gnarled Ohio
hands and filthy ball caps
who would say What are they
some kind of Indians? And I couldn't
see my face And I swung my feet in circles
And my grandparents
hotly speaking Spanish in
whispers I still cannot understand.
Q. How did you get introduced to your craft?
A. I was introduced to poetry by my dad reading to me as a child. In particular, he read me the poetry of Edgar Allan Poe and this sparked my interest in ghost stories, supernatural, and animal themes - all the same types of subjects that inspire me today.
Q. Do you have any long-standing influences?
A. My favorite poets are Ted Hughes, Sylvia Plath, and Larissa Szporluk. Larissa has been my greatest mentor and I'm so grateful to have had her as an instructor at BGSU. Her work is some of the most original I've ever read and in my own creative sphere it keeps alive the beauty of being weird and the challenge to remain authentic.
Q. Describe your idea of artistic success?
A. I think that managing to get your art created and completed regardless of what else is going on in your life - depression, death, dead end jobs - equals artistic success.
Q. What advice can you offer to other emerging writers?
A. I would tell a new writer to write with complete abandon and maintain a secret writing world, writing as though no one will ever read it. You can always delete it! This gives you complete freedom and the ability to write in a "non-voice", or completely outside yourself, so that nothing can get in the way of what comes through. Later you can always write in your own voice too, but you have that ability to channel anything.
Q. What is your process for generating new ideas?
A. Like many writers, I love to read and daydream and just let things develop. I think it's good to leave your mind open and every experience can help build the foundation for something creative.
Q. How do you feel your work affects your audience? (and/or) How do you want your work to affect your audience?
A. What I want is to write bravely and to be original. My ideal is how Ted Hughes said: "Imagine what you're writing about. See it and live it ... When you do this, the words look after themselves, like magic."
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