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Spring 2016 Issue: Meet Lourdes Figueroa

The Spring 2016 Issue is fast approaching and will be released on May 1st. Between now and our launch date, the editors at BACKWORDS Press sat down with each of our three new writers to talk about the upcoming issue, their work, and to let them reveal a little bit of their unique voices.

Last week was Armin Tolentino (click here for his interview), and this week we’re excited to speak with Lourdes Figueroa.

Lourdes, our second poet from the Spring 2016 Issue, is the author of the poem, “War America War.” Before we dive into her interview, a little bit of background:

Lourdes Figueroa was born in Yuba City, California during a trip her parents made from Mexico to the USA when they worked in the campo tilling the soil for tomatoes. Lourdes is a proud 2009 and 2011 VONA alum. Her work has been published in the SF Poet’s 11 2008 & 2010, in Generations Literary Magazine, Eleven Eleven, Something Worth Revising, and Spooky Actions Books published her first chapbook, yolotl. She received her MFA in Creative Writing at the University of San Francisco. She works and lives in San Francisco.

The interview follows below…


BACKWORDS Press: How do you begin a poem?

LF: Quite honestly, it begins in an encounter whether with a kiss on my wife’s cheek, or a sudden insult at work or a smile. The poem is born on a walk or a breath, or out of sweat, a fleeting feeling, before it gets to the page it’s in the body–in the pores of my thoughts or feelings.

BACKWORDS Press: How long have you been writing?

LF: I’ve been writing from the moment I visited Sea World in Vallejo. As corny as it sounds, I was about 11 years-old. I felt devastated after that visit, and what devastated me was the fin of the killer whale I saw–that it was bent over—wilted, my father’s anger didn’t devastate me as much as this. I’m not sure why this penetrated me. Coming from a very poor background, the visit to Sea World had such an impression on me especially seeing a beautiful beast that I had only known in books. My first poem was for my youngest sibling, and for this whale.

BACKWORDS Press: Which poets do you continually go back to?

LF: I continually go back to Roberto Bolaño, Kazim Ali, Sor Juana, June Jordan–Some of Us Did Not Die is a constant; Norma Cole’s translations; García Lorca, I am constantly studying him, reading him aloud in Spanish. Ali Liebegott, Ruth Forman, Alejandro Murguía; but mostly, Kamau Braithwaite, Alfred Arteaga, and Enheduanna; but there are so many poets and writers that I seek that are not published widely but around here—we are so lucky here in these parts to have access to chapbooks and zines and other mediums, well I am lucky for these encounters.

There is also prose like Borges, Octavio Paz, Clarice Lispector, DJuna Barnes, Gloria Anzaldúa, María Luisa Bombal, Juan Rulfo…I was once bullied in a writing workshop by a professor regarding my intense reading of prose—“a poet that reads so much prose…interesting…” is what the professor said sarcastically. There is poem in a sentence—I strongly feel this. Borges writes poetry too aside from prose, many others too, the act of storytelling is inherently a song being sung.

BACKWORDS Press: Why Backwords Press?

LF: Why Backwords Press you ask? Well aside from you encouraging me to submit, which lit a fire in me, I’ve been following you since your birth. This press is walking so beautifully—putting the word, putting song on bodies, the act of being, an invocation on a body, poetry is movement, Backwords Press is movement, it is a medium that embodies that of the word.

BACKWORDS Press: What fuels you?

LF: ...waking up every day, especially knowing that you are here, that my wife is healthy and well, and she is so warm, the world is so big, I am happy in my smallness, and that I’ll never run out of books to read, I am very lucky to have keys that open a door to a place I can come home to.

BACKWORDS Press: Finish this sentence: If I wasn't a poet, I'd be ____________?

LF: If I weren’t a poet, I’d be wheat or weeds or possibly a tree, but to be a tree is a dream come true...

BACKWORDS Press: Anything else significant we should know about you or your work?

LF: My work like every artist, is an inheritance of this reality, a song older than we could ever imagine, even the sun is this way...


Lourdes’s poem, “War America War,” is one of three new and original poems featured by working writers in the Spring 2016 Issue. The entire Issue, is currently available on pre-sale on our website, the text of the poems will be released officially on May 1st, 2016.

Come back next week, on Wednesday, April 20th, to meet our third and final Spring Issue writer. Thanks for reading!

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