Poet's structurally meticulous works begin with a sound

Poet Eloisa Amezcua is fully bilingual, having learned to speak Spanish before learning English. While she does translate other poets' Spanish work into English, her writing is strictly in her “second” language, though it is certainly impacted by her dual fluency.

“It just makes me more aware of a word's meaning and its multiple meanings, and the way certain words can be stretched to mean four or five different things rather than just one thing,” Amezcua said by phone from her home in Arizona. “So I'm constantly looking for ways to manipulate words and language to their full capacity.”

Meaning is not the only manipulation of the language at work in Amezcua's poetry. Immediately evident when viewing her works on the page are the line breaks.

“I take line breaks very seriously. It's for me probably 70 percent of the fun in writing,” Amezcua said. “It's about being able to bring the reader along on this journey by having what you're saying hinge on the space between one line and the next.”

Amezcua said her meticulous care in the physical and formal structure of her written work is to “teach the reader to read the poem as they're going through it.” However, before she concerns herself with the reader, she must first satisfy her own interests with form and meaning.

“I think through language I am able to clarify certain ideas or experiences for myself,” she said. “It's not so much working through a thing emotionally — I tend not to write about things that are super close to me currently because I think I need a little bit of distance from whatever experience or idea that I'm trying to write about.”

Before a poem can be finished, however, it must be begun, and for Amezcua, despite the value she places on ideas, form and meaning, it's most often the way something sounds that provides the germination for a poem. Amezcua said she's a collector of snippets of sound and turns of phrase, storing up sonic seeds to be nurtured and pondered.

“My poems actually start with sound, a certain phrase that will come to me or some words that I'm mulling over in my mind,” she said. “Occasionally it's an idea or an image, but mostly it's the sound that gets the wheels turning. That phrase will be the starting point, if not necessarily the beginning, of a poem, and from that starting point I try to unravel the meaning and the sounds within that phrase.”

Those sounds find their way into poems of love — also identity and family, but often even poems that touch on those topics are also concerned with love — in Amezcua's first collection, From the Inside Quietly. She'll be reading from that collection and other works on Friday, May 11, at Bossy Grrls Pin Up Joint as part of the second annual Flyover Fest.

The written word and spoken word go “hand in hand,” Amezcua said. “A poem that looks great on the page most of the time sounds really great out loud, too.”