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Two new interviews with Loretta Collins Klobah

In an interview called ‘Sentient of how we are related’, Vahni Capildeo interviews Loretta Collins Klobah about Ricantations.

Let me answer the question about the plurilingualism in my poetry by going back to my childhood. I was born in the town of Merced, in the San Joaquin Valley of California. My mother had Spanish and Scottish heritage, my father Cherokee and Irish. My godmother, María Ochoa, and my godfather, Jesús Pérez, were from Mexico. Spanish was spoken by a substantial portion of Merced’s population, and the language was a part of my daily and cultural life. When I was a child, my godfather made an effort to teach me some Spanish every Sunday. Johnboy López, a year older than me, joined our family when I was a preteen and lived with us as my brother while his parents remained in Mexico. Later, I had classes in Spanish. 

A long list of writers have blended Spanish and English in their work. I feel particular affinity for the poetry of Willie Perdomo, Martín Espada, Sandra María Esteves, Victor Hernández Cruz and Raquel Salas-Rivera for how they write the Puerto Rican diasporic experience and the island, but also how they innovate with language to write about the working classes, culture, history and social justice issues. My own style of blending languages, however, comes out of my immediate lived experiences and my ear for language as much as my long-standing engagement with Puerto Rican, Latin@ and Anglophone Caribbean literature.

Ann Margaret Lim also interviews Loretta in two parts over consecutive weeks at the Jamaica Gleaner. She talks about a range of topics over these articles, including the Caribbeanness of Puerto Rico and its literary traditions:

Puerto Rico is Caribbean, geographically, geologically, historically, culturally, environmentally, linguistically, musically, dietarily, and even politically. Puerto Rico is located exactly at the crossroads where the Greater Antilles meets the Lesser Antilles, just a couple of islands over from Jamaica. Nonetheless, sometimes writers from the English-speaking Caribbean who have visited Puerto Rico have been surprised by its Caribbeanness, in all senses. I guess that is because the Free Associated State of Puerto Rico is still a territory of the US maybe they were expecting just to see US strip malls everywhere, not mountains that look so like the Blue Mountains of JA, dishes and dance rhythms that are familiar, and people of complex Creole ancestry with family structures and lifestyles that clearly express a form of Caribbeanness. The Caribbean literary tradition is not just the anglophone tradition.

She also discusses the subject of the people that inspire her poems:

I am drawn to what is special about the person (or animal being), (their divinity?) what they give in their own way to their communities, how they relate to a place, how they build up instead of tear down, and how their stories touch on wider themes. The first poem that you mention is an elegy for an astronomer hobbyist who started our local astronomy society, affiliated it with NASA, and served as its president for decades. When she was young, my daughter and I viewed Saturn and Jupiter through his old, large telescope, which he set up on a hill in Corozal on the second Saturday of every month for thirty years. He was a good soul, with visionary dreams for developing astronomy in Puerto Rico, some of which never got realised because of local politics.

Read part one and part two.

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