Miguel Garcia: Mr. Ríos, I have really enjoyed reading your poetry and
short stories. I grew up on the Mexican side of the border and can identify with a lot of
the imagery in your work. I have now lived in the U.S. for more than 10 years. Although I
was influenced by English as a child, I really learned it as an adult. That is why I am
very interested in knowing how the two languages interact in your writing. Even though you
were not allowed to speak Spanish as a child after you started school and you had to
"relearn" it when you were older, do you consider Spanish your first language?
Does the structure of Spanish (as opposed to the vocabulary) influence your writing?
AR: Hello, Miguel. I
appreciate your comments and concerns in general. Let's see--Do I consider Spanish my
first language? Yes, I've said this for many years. As I since thought about it, however,
I've come to the realization that my first language was really what I've called the
"language of listening." What came out of my mouth was not nearly so important
as what entered my ear. For me Spanish was all around me, but my mother was there,
too--with a British accent. I had a zoo of sounds. Your question about the structure of
Spanish is particularly interesting to me. I do absolutely think that the structure (and
more) of Spanish influences my work, things much beyond simple vocabulary. If I had to say
it succinctly, I would say that I write in Spanish--it just looks like English. I do
occasionally write in Spanish, but when I do it's from another time, from childhood,
often. I listen hard for how ideas come to me, in what container they are being delivered,
and I try to be true to it. Sometimes that container is Spanish.
Miguel Garcia: Do you write in Spanish? When you write in English, do you
ever "rewrite" your work into Spanish?
AR: I do sometimes rewrite my work into Spanish, but it never works well
in the sense that when I begin to do this I invariably begin to think of other things, so
a whole other poem or story starts to happen. This is the curse and the grace of a writer.
Miguel Garcia: Your writing carries a lot of emotional impact. Is it even
possible to "translate" that? I know that a literal translation probably
wouldn't have the same emotional meaning.
AR: I do think that translation has little to do with vocabulary and
everything to do with meaning. That's why computers have a rough time. I have many
lectures on this subject!
Miguel Garcia: I am looking forward to reading more of your works. Do you
have a favorite? (Or is that like asking which of your children you like best?) Thank you
for taking time to share your perspectives with us.
AR: What is my own favorite? You're right, it's impossible for me to
choose. All I ever do is suggest my latest book at the time, which currently happens to be
a memoir, Capirotada. Interestingly, I will be doing what's called a "Selected
Poems" book in the near future, and it's going to be torture. In creating such a
book, you go through all your earlier work and choose the "best."
Phyllis Ennis: Do you feel that having parents from two different ethnic
groups and the way you were raised play a key role in the topics you choose to write
about? I know how it is growing up with two different rituals to follow. My mother is
Spanish-Catholic and my father is American-Jew. I really enjoyed your poem
"Nani"-- it took me back when I was young visiting my Aunts and Uncles in Spain.
They too will keep feeding you even though you are about to pop. Thank you for your time,
AR: Yes, yes, yes! I think this is crucial to how I write. It's helped me
to get a sense of multiple perspectives in my writing and writing process, which has
helped me more than anything else. For example, there are two ways to say everything, and
they are both right. This knowledge helps me immensely in my writing, showing me that
there are many ways to say something. I still have an ultimate responsibility to make what
I say be clear, but still there are many ways.
Melissa Childers: Have you ever told the women in your life how important
they are to you (verbally) or do you let your writing tell them how much you admire them?
Although we have only a small selection of your works, I noticed that they openly address
the unconditional love that you had for your mother and Nani - who else influenced your
life as much as they - any men?
AR: What intriguing questions and observations! I do indeed tell the
women in my life that I care for them, but the moment is invariably fleeting. My writing
extends the moment, and keeps it. That is a wise observation for you to make.
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