English Composition II - Dr. Lovell's class

Page 7:  Twenty-Four Questions: An Interview with Alberto Alvaro Rios

[Page 1: On Writing]    [Page 2: On the Writing Process]     [Page 3: On Reading] 
[Page 4: On Creativity and Imagination] [Page 5: On Teaching] [Page 6: On Culture]  
[Page 7: Some General Questions]    [Page 8: On the September 11th Attacks]  
[Page 9: An Essay by Ríos on the September 11th Attacks:"The Night of No Airplanes" and Some Final Comments]

Some General Questions

Mandy Pierce: Mr. Ríos, thank you for taking time to answer our questions. I want to tell you I have really enjoyed reading your work that we were assigned to read. I was wondering what advice you would give a student who is considering becoming a Journalism Major? 

AR: Ah, journalism. Journalism majors have the unenviable task of trying to learn how to take themselves out of their writing. They have to be invisible. The news, or the event, or whatever--that's what has to be up front. For creative writers, the writer is much more evident. So, learning to be unbiased and objective--do anything in that regard that helps. And the best thing of all is what I call the "language of listening." This goes for creative writers as well. Listening is a dying art. By this I mean that we must not simply take things in, but we must learn to value what we take in, on its own terms, rather than dismissing it or putting our own context on the words. This can be very difficult. You will know you have done this successfully when you write some words you, personally, would never, ever have said yourself--and you let them be, without further comment. At that point, you know you are not writing yourself into the story. This is much harder than it seems. 

Samuel Glover: In your poem "The Cities Inside Us" what first gave you the motivation and idea to write such a poem. I think it gives a great depiction of what actually goes on in our minds and bodies every day. But what confuses me is the part about the "sound not coming out or an arm reaching out in place of the tongue." What do you mean by that? 

AR: By "sound not coming out, or an arm reaching out in place of the tongue," what I was getting at is that we carry so many people and places and experiences inside us I'm always amazed we can keep moving forward. Our minds are so full of so much, and inside there everything is so vivid, so alive, so meaningful. I suppose, in some fashion, this is a question many philosophers have dealt with for many centuries, along with the Surrealists at the beginning of the 20th century. When someone speaks in your mind, it sometimes feels like everyone can hear. 

Laura Whitaker: Can you expound on Rugged Individualism in American Writing?  Why do you think Americans integrate "I" so much in their writing?  Why is it so challenging for Americans to see themselves as a part of something and not easily motivated to become a part of that something? Why can we not accommodate ourselves as readily as the Spanish writers? Good stuff! 

AR: This is a lot of stuff! Rugged individualism in American writing--I'm wondering if you read what I already wrote on it, in one of my essays or interviews? The structure of the English language gives a place of privilege to the "I," and we learn this from the very beginning. This can't help but shape our attitudes about things. Other languages work in ways that don't require the speaker to necessarily say "I." That's hard for us to comprehend, sometimes, as English speakers, but it is true nevertheless. The "I" is culturally understood, or sometimes even rude. Imagine speaking without saying "I"! Part of this stems from an appreciation of the life in things as much as people. I often talk about the need for what I call "rugged pluralism" in our writing and our thinking. This is a call to the imagination, that we must all work harder at truly learning to understand--and to value--the real idea of individualism--which means that we are all individuals together. 

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Web page author and instructor: Dr. Linda Lovell
This page was last updated on 11/06/2007.