SJ FOWLER INTERVIEWS ROCÍO CERÓN FOR THE POETRY PARNASSUS
SJF: You live in Mexico City, how does the environment of such a unique and vibrant urban place play a role in your poetry?
Mexico is a megalopolis where you can find in the heart of the city an Aztec pyramid, a baroque cathedral and contemporary buildings one block apart from each other. It has become a body of experiences where time and the living are brutally intense. The moving from past and present is shown in my poetry; my poems can be profoundly violent and sometimes reflect a reflection of the multi-layering of different strata.
SJF: Mexican poetry has long been an immense and formidable tradition, reflecting so much of the passion and invention of Mexican culture itself. Octavio Paz is obviously a world-renowned figure, but I think his anthology of Mexican poetry, in conjunction with Samuel Beckett, really opened many eyes in the English-speaking world to the depth of the poetry historically in Mexico. Is this tradition ever present to contemporary poets?
Mexican poets are children of their own traditions and customs, for better or worse. Young poets disdain their ancestors and they frequently succumb to them. I think this is only natural and I don't think that this happens only in Mexican poetry. My generation does not live under the weight of Octavio Paz anymore. There is a chorus of voices and ways of looking at the world. The global era has played an important role in poetry; for example, by bringing together traditions as far as those of the Slavic world and the indigenous pre-Hispanic poetry. Using Internet these influences can dialogue and share their experience. Translation has become a great tool to re-signify different traditions and their poetic legacies.
SJF: Multi-disciplinary approaches to poetry seem very important to you, fusing the art form with music and art. How central is this to your work?
I was raised in a family headed by my grandfather, who was a scientist, and my grandmother, who was an avid reader and storyteller. Contemporary art has nurtured my poetry. It has become an important influence in my writing and led me to something I call "expanded poetry" (the type of poetry that seeks a dialogue and allows for breaking borders between disciplines). Writing from many angles has been a natural process for me. I am interested in the kind of transversal poetry I call Galaxy Projects, meaning a fusion of language, music, action, video and the body.
SJF: In its sheer scope the Poetry Parnassus offers a unique opportunity for you to interact with fellow poets from every corner of the globe. How do you think this collective experience will benefit those who attend, to be exposed to so many different traditions of poetry, to hear poetry in so many languages?
In this globalized era the opportunity to listen to so many traditions and languages will show the attendees the marvellous differences between cultures. The ability to interact with other poets will give me the chance to learn about the sound of poetry and the intonation of the readers. I believe that poetry is a universal language that can bring a better communication between cultures and individuals.
SJF: The Parnassus is one of the largest poetry events to ever take place, over one whole week with over two hundred poets in attendance. The nature of its design, to bring one poet from every country participating in the Olympics, means, to a certain extent, you are a representative of your nation and its poetic culture. How do you feel about that idea?
I am sitting in a café where I can hear people speaking in French and Mexican slang and Zapotec, a local language from the southern state of Oaxaca. I feel honoured to be able to speak for a new world where cultural differences are upheld but also united in poetry and music. I believe in the power of art to dissolve the notions of nationhood and borders. Yes, I will be representing contemporary Mexico, a country where the East and West, North and South, past and present, meet.
SJF: And what are your feelings about reading before an audience in London and visiting the city in general?
Although I have never been to London, I feel I have already been there through the readings of English poetry and literature, through the paintings of such well know figures as Turner, William Blake or the contemporary works of Lucian Freud, Anish Kapoor or Demian Hirst. I think will be able to recognize that which I have already known in poems and imagery and, of course, I will discover something unexpected.
SJF: The Parnassian ideal that really centres the Poetry Parnassus project reaches back to the Poetry International festival held in London in 1967 which sought to address notions of free speech, community and peace through the art form of poetry. Do you believe this tradition needs to be maintained in 2012?
I believe poetry to be a common motherland. Poetry is a space for experience where we can recognize our deepest sense of humanity beyond geographic borders, language and religious traditions. Poetry is an essential space. Without language and poetry we would have never achieved a civilized and sensible world. As Ted Hughes once said, during that mythical 1967 festival, poetry is "universal language of understanding, coherent behind the many languages in which we can all hope to meet".
About the interviewer:
SJ Fowler (1983) is the author of four poetry collections. He has had poetry commissioned by the Tate Britain and the London Sinfonietta, and has featured in over 100 poetry publications. He is poetry editor of 3am magazine, Lyrikline and the Maintenant interview series.