Poems that Delight, Confound and Intrigue

Interview with Odalisque in Pieces author Carmen Gimenez Smith

By Marcela Landres
Published on LatinoLA: April 5, 2010

Poems that Delight, Confound and Intrigue

Some poems delight, some confound, some intrigue--Carmen Gimenez Smith's collection Odalisque in Pieces does all three. My favorite line? "One lets go of will/or becomes the shrapnel of it" from the poem "Vacation as Prelude." Read this month's Q&A to learn more.

Q & A

Carmen Gimenez Smith is an assistant professor of creative writing at New Mexico State University, and publisher for Noemi Press as well as editor-in-chief of Puerto del Sol. Her work has most recently appeared in jubilat, Ploughshares, and Colorado Review and is forthcoming in A Public Space, Denver Quarterly, and New American Writing. Her collection of poetry, Odalisque in Pieces, was published by the University of Arizona Press in 2009. A memoir called Bring Down the Little Birds will be published by University of Arizona Press in 2010. For more information, visit http://www.noemipress.org/

Q: Which author or book inspires you, and why?

A: I think the book that I most often return to is The Collected Poems of Wallace Stevens. I always make wonderful new discoveries there. Recent books that I love are Undocumentaries by Rosa Alcala and Couer de Lion by Ariana Reines. In both cases, I love those books because of their toughness. Two other poets I often return to are Alice Notley and James Wright.

Q: Why do you love to write?

A: I don't know that I love to write as much as I love to fix things, which is the great thing about working on writing. I like to solve problems and arrange things, objects, ideas.

Q: Who is your agent and how did you meet him/her?

A: I don't have an agent. Most poets don't. I have a nonfiction book coming out next year; perhaps then it will be necessary. Nobody is beating at my door yet, though.

Q: What is your writing ritual?

A: I take a lot of notes in the dozens of notebooks I have lying around the house. I must admit to composing most of my poems on the computer, but then I print them and rewrite them in longhand when I'm revising. I have two kids, so I write whenever I can, mostly at night.

Q: Other than honing their craft, what advice would you give to Latino writers looking to land a book deal?

A: I don't know how one lands a book deal! Being a great writer is important, as is knowing how to promote your work. A book deal seems to be like winning the lottery.

About Marcela Landres:
Marcela Landres is the author of the e-book How Editors Think. She is an Editorial Consultant who specializes in helping Latinos get published and was formerly an editor at Simon & Schuster.
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