Trenza’s Counterstories

In Their Voices

By Jorge D. H. Prósperi, 2019

During readings of the poems in Trenzas ~ Braids, I am asked by workshop participants to provide the background stories behind the poems regarding inspiration and development.

One question often asked is why the poems are in Spanish and English. There was never hesitation to publish them in both languages as both languages are part and parcel of my bilingual and bicultural identities. I no longer fear nor favor one language over the other as I once did. Once upon a time one was a haven while the other a daunting black hole.

I no longer allow the English language to intimidate nor hold me hostage. That said, in another life I would take the necessary English and literature classes with keepers of the language who would quickly insist to be much more succinct, more selective and transition with grace and style. I am always in awe of stellar writing.

I know that my writing lacks what some would call “scholarly academic sophistication”, but I have always walked among scholars with humility, at times on their shoulders, and always with respect. But let’s be clear. I never pretended nor wanted to be them. Each of us hopefully has a place in “the work” trying the best we can to provide pathways for other people’s voices.

As for the bi-lingual style in Trenzas, I wanted Spanish and non-Spanish speakers to be able to process meaning in their own language given my translations and nuances of Spanish into English. In this way both could relate without having to go through the arduous process of translation wondering what I meant in Spanish and/or English. Each word is stated with meaning and intent. It is up to the reader to paint their own shades of significance.

Another question posed is why the use of poetics and poetry? Poetics is a qualitative research tool – a vehicle for the purpose of providing voice – an opportunity for others to be heard. The use of poetry is best said by Martin Espada’s own words . . . “because poetry humanizes, empowers, provides hope.”

From my perspective, poems are born in the marrow of our bones. They slowly work their way into a poet’s veins and flow through the heart where they palpitate and resonate. They wind their way into his/her lungs, inhaling the air of experiences and identity. From the first primal gasp of air, to every breath thereafter, poems are exhaled to provoke and evoke emotions. They articulate the inarticulable freeing the mind, heart and spirit in order to stay alive. For the poet – poems are life itself.

Trenzas ~ Braids is divided into two parts. The first part of the book En Sus Voces (in their voices) represents the voices of Latinos/as who came into my life as part of my dissertation and their voices coming to life by way of Poetics. The second part, En Mi Voz (in my voice) are original poems built on personal experiences of dual cultural identities born from the blend of my native Argentina and my diasporic experiences in the United States.

The language within the images and stories are the threads that morphed into personal non- conventional poetry – words connecting without rhyme or structure – words emerging without constraints with rawness – a direct uninterrupted link from soul to word. Such poems are personal anecdotes passed on. Others are deeply embedded, indelible heartfelt remembrances of resilient intertwining threads of sorrows and joys.