‘I Am Capable of So Much Love’: An Interview with Ariana Brown

Ariana Brown is an Black Mexican American poet from San Antonio, TX.    She is the recipient of two Academy of American poets Prizes and a 2014 collegiate national poetry slam  champion. Her work has been featured in PBS, Huffington Post, Blavity, For Harriet, and Remezcla. Her poetry explores the intricacies of mental health, identity, and love. You can purchase her chapbook Messy Girl on arianabrown.com.

Claudia D. Cardona: Messy Girl is divided into two sections, “Fail” and “Work”. What was the process like organizing the chapbook and creating these two sections?

Ariana Brown: I took a minute to read through the poems I’d accumulated from that year and tried to see if I could arrange them in a way that read true to my experience of depression, the breakup, dropping out of school. The order of the poems is not exactly chronological—I experienced that year in cycles—but I definitely remember deciding to allow myself to nurture my own sadness; and, much later, I remember deciding to work through it, so I could get to the other side of it. The first section, “Fail,” is comprised of mourning poems. “Work” also holds mourning, but it also holds the possibility of something more. When I was writing “Work,” I couldn’t name what was on the other side of sadness, but I knew I wanted to reach it, and if I was going to get there, I would have to do it consciously. I would have to put in work.

CDC: In the first section, “Fail”, there are several poems that are numbered and bulleted, such as “reasons you are motown”, “a small act”, and may eleventh”. These bullets and lists reminded me of how I often have to break down my tasks and thoughts into lists when I’m feeling hopeless and overwhelmed. Was this similar to your experience writing these poems?

AB: The only poem out of those three that had bullets/lists at the time of writing was “a small act.” The others were edited around the time I decided to put the chapbook together. I usually prefer to write in long, unlineated chunks of text, because it helps me keep track of pacing. I come from a slam background, which in my case, really just means I value how poems sound when read aloud. I find line breaks and other formatting choices to be distracting as I’m writing, so I usually go back and add that stuff later. In the moment of writing, however, I want to pay attention to how the poem flows, how each thought leads into the next. Both “reasons you are motown” and “may eleventh” feel emotionally dense, which is why they got formatted as a numbered list and a bulleted list, respectively, during editing.

CDC: From the first poem of your chapbook, “reasons you are motown” to your penultimate poem, “mercy”, music plays an important part of your healing process. How has music influenced your poetry?

AB: I’m always trying to find a way to describe Motown, the feeling it evokes in me. I think music, especially Motown and soul music, shows up in my life often, so it feels natural to write about. I couldn’t have survived the year of “messy girl” without Otis Redding.

CDC: Messy Girl not only explores your own mental health but also what is passed down to you through generational memory. This is apparent in “alternate memory, or love dances barefoot after the men have disappeared” with the line, “I do not own painless stories of my parents”. Could you talk about this a little bit? 

AB: So, my parents have this amazing love story that ends tragically. My parents met in Air Force basic training, became best friends, then fell in love, and my mom got pregnant. They were thrilled and happy to make plans for the future. Then, a few months before I was born, my father died in a plane crash that made national news in 1992. The entire crew aboard the aircraft died and a mass military funeral was held. It was a big deal.

From all the stories I inherited about my father, he sounds almost prophet-like. The way people describe him—my mom, his best friend from the Air Force (my “Uncle” Carl), his brothers, my great granny, my mom’s mom—he was a man of high morals, easygoing, loved deeply, and was my mom’s perfect match, the person created specifically to love her. And for no apparent reason, she lost him. And her world turned upside down. And seven months later, she had me.

I never met my father, but I imagine he is also my perfect match, in temperament and spirit. I think he would have balanced my mother and I. So when I say I do not own painless stories of my parents, I mean, the life my parents planned together and the short time they had together was the stuff of miracles. It was perfect, in the holy sense. But to remember the miraculous time is painful, because it ended, and can’t ever come back.

CDC: What or who inspired you while writing Messy Girl?

AB: Maybe it sounds silly, but love. Love made me write the poems, revisit what I, while writing, mourned. Love made me believe it was worthwhile to experience heartbreak and depression because even in the midst of all that messiness, love was still present. Still possible. Just like me. I realized while writing Messy Girl that I am capable of so much love, which makes me stubborn, which makes it impossible to stay stuck. After writing Messy Girl I learned to apply that love to myself. And now, I know better than ever, how to work in service of myself and my love. Putting Messy Girl out into the world is a promise to myself to never forget that lesson.

First Millennium: An Interactive Series

By Elle Miza

Screen Shot 2017-11-15 at 12.23.43 PM.png
from Elle Miza’s First Millennium series

First Millennium is an auto biographical series of the working class. Miza’s work explores identity, inter-sectional feminism, loss, LA, and confusion.
Explore Miza’s series here.

 

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from Elle Miza’s First Millennium series

Ellie Miza grew up in now gentrified Echo Park/ Silver Lake in LA. She’s been making visuals since she was a kid. Miza started making more net art around 3-4 years ago regularly during a really difficult period of her life. She work across a variety of digital platforms, making gifs, interactive pieces. Check out personal website.

La Identidad

By Vanessa Moreno

 

 

My first short “La Identidad” is based on my experience as an immigrant and victim of displacement. I want to showcase this film to aid the lack of recognition women of color have in the filmmaking industry and media. This would benefit many women of color who may face some kind of immigrant daughter guilt like I have, where our own parents do not fully agree on our vision to work in the arts. As a young teenage girl, I want this film to speak to people in any way, and relate to those who have suffered the same as I have.

 

Vanessa Moreno was born in Bolivia and raised in Virginia. She identifies as Boliviana, and immigrant. She moved to the U.S when i was 5 years old and grew up here and has dealt with generational gaps and cultural differences with my own parents and by living here in America. Her goal is to get into the film industry when she get out of college. She is interested in all types of mediums in cinema. Always eager to learn more and more about the film-making world and the experiences from female identifying filmmakers/women of color in specific. She enjoys spending my time watching films on Netflix, always finding herself clicking on the “Latin American” genre of foreign movies. She also adores taking pictures on my free time with my Pentax film camera. Taurus sun, pisces moon, and gemini rising. Twitter. Instagram. Website.

Sin Nombre

By Alyssa Carabez

Veinticuatro
y tengo dos cavidades
y me siento como me estoy
deteriorando.
No soy una persona,
solo una sombra.
No hay permanecía,
tu belleza,
tu juventud,
tu amor.
Todos que conozco es
me gusta cuando estoy durmiendo
en una cama que huele conao tú.
Tus pelos dejados atrás,
cuando sueño sobe estar en tus brazos,
tu voz susurro mi nombre.
Conozco también,
un hoyuelo es solamente una
deformidad del piel.
Un beso es solo un beso.
No hay eternidad,
pero ahora, no me siento sola.
Nosotros somos nosotros.
Eso signifca de todo.
No me siento el peso de mi mente
para un momento.
Quiero que creer puedo ser más.
Quiero explorer contigo.
Lo intentaré.

¡Historia¡ A Playlist for Fall

By Juan C. Rowe

¡Historias! Playlist & Song Breakdown
Listen on Spotify

Laura – Me llamo Sebastian
(Me llamo) Sebastian is the leading LGBT voice in Latin America, and there’s
good reason he’s still rising. His songs are political, risqué, yet never not
romantic and fun. “Laura” is about a girl who works as a prostitute, and yet
dreams of finding her dream man some day. What makes this song so special is
the stunning vocals, which are reminiscent of old movies, back when there
were no genres. Even if the song ends, “Laura” stays with you, even if you
never think of that someone you’ll maybe meet in some better future.

La bohemia – Buika
This beautiful cover by the talented Spanish Singer Buika perfectly encapsulates
the haunting aspect of this old Charles Aznavour song. Released in 1965, La
Bohemia (orig. La Bohème) tells the story of artist reminiscing about his years
as a broke painter, a time were he was poor and exhausted but happy. Buika’s
raspy voice and excellent vocal control give this popular tune a genuine depth,
as if an old Spanish woman who had a Bachelor in Arts returns to Paris one last
time.

Breathe – In The Heights
Legend Lin Manuel Miranda’s earlier Broadway play “In The Heights” has million and one hidden gems; This song is one of them. The was it’s written tells story that resonates with many Latinx artistas: The feeling that academically,you’re letting your parents/family/community down. “Nina”, originally played by Mandy Gonzalez, tries to maintain her composure as she returns home from college – secretly having dropped out . What really gets to you about this song is the contrast of the upbeat vocals of her community that paint her as a talented and gifted child star, and the mournful internal monologue of the Nina of today, simply trying to “Breathe”.

La historia de Juan – Juanes
If you didn’t listen to this in your papapa’s car while the grey sky loomed over the starved streets of Lima – you had no one to teach you about your privilege
in the early 2000s. “La historia de Juan” is the heartbreaking tale of a nameless boy named Juan, who “no one loved”. Latino pop would not be what it is today without this song. Synth-y and dramatic, the sing tells of the homeless children of South America, while still remaining catchy. Truly, one of the many
underrated songs that lifted Juanes into the stardom they have today.

Brujas – Princess Nokia
New-York’s faithful wife, Princess Nokia, is truly her husband’s wife when it
comes to rhythm, darkness and urban mysticism. An urban legend herself,
Princess Nokia raps of the everyday magic of being the descendent of both
Latinas and Africans – always keeping a rap/hiphop confidence “strut”. “Brujas”
reminds you of back when your mamama’s sister would “pass the egg over”,
your uncle when he was stressed, or when your auntie reached for her Rosario
after even the smallest shake.

Me enamoré – Shakira
How could any self-respecting playlist for Latinx not include a Shakira song?
This song is a lovely tune about simply falling in love – unexpectedly, and yet
with so much sense. Knowing it’s from a woman with so much to give, “Me
enamoré” is Shakira’s modern masterpiece. A party tune with profound
subtext.

Al otro lado de la luna – Gian Marco
Gian Marco, celebrated son of Peru, is unsurprisingly unapologetically
Romantic – nature-imagery and strong feelings included. “Al otro lado de la
luna” is about a good man realizing his partner is cheating on him, and making
the heavy decision to leave. The truly beautiful thing about this song is how the man doesn’t truly want to leave his beloved, and among other things, leaves
behind his heart “al otro lado de la luna”. Vivid imagery and a secret hope for
reconciliation leaves you wishing you could write something similar, while you
throwing away the last of his t-shirts.

Hijo de la luna – Mecano
Honestly – while we’re on the theme of the moon- who didn’t hear this song from their hippie-ass mom’s CDs? Mecano’s super hit speaks of a Roma myth –
a woman desperate for a husband, makes a deal with the moon to get a man,
but must give away her first-born in return. The song sounds as magical as the
lyrics, and cries of complicated motherhood, domestic abuse, and another
forbidden romance that ends in disaster. After you hear this song enough,
looking at a waning moon reminds you of sleeping babies.

Casado 39 – (me llamo) Sebastian
To finish off in a nice, round, circle, I add another tune by Sebastian. This is one of the best examples of the artist’s story-telling ability, while still keeping it politically relevant. Casado 39 is about a man who on the outside, is all about the perfect Christian, hardworking, homophobic façade, but whenever given the chance, his heart is full of homosexual escapades. Like most of (me llamo)Sebastian’s work, it is full of irony, passion and a poignant point about society: those with the most hate, could just be desperately searching for some kind of love.

Washing Dishes

By Keegan Nieto
Corpus Christi, TX

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This painting is called ‘Washing Dishes’ and it represents all Women who’s mind drifted while washing dishes. Women who are imprisoned by their task yet freed by their thoughts.

Hombres Tercos Como Las Mulas

By Guadalupe Cisneros

Tu,
hombre poderoso frente a la sociedad,
quieres pensar que eres dueño de mi cuerpo
solo porque tu eres macho y yo soy el producto
de la costilla de Adán.

No importa si tu comentario es ofensivo,
es la atención la que deseas
donde según tu solo bromeas
y que al final gritarte se convierte en mi mayor motivo.

Que mi lenguaje corporal transmita miedo
que tu hombre poderoso puedes oler,
como perro perdido
en la calle buscando alguien para morder.

Más si una mujer se atreve a defenderse
de tus palabras corrientes;
¡Pecado! Es bruja, loca y además puta.
Al fin y al cabo que ni querías.

Aunque no se si soy yo o es usted.
Obviamente no es ciego, sordo o mudo
pero, ¿Enserio no sabe acerca del consentimiento?

Perdone usted,
que confundí yo la palabra.

Pero no lo niegue.

Tiene miedo al rechazo y
que no signifique nada para las mujeres.
Excusa tras excusa,
sigue usted culpando a la que ni de su posesión es.

Movimiento

By Noemi Iniguez

Before the gold and manifesto destiny, before the West was romanticized, Mexicanos used to live where I live today, and before that Native Americans.

When my dad and then my mother came to California, they were greeted by friends and family. My dad was able to become a citizen in no time, while my mom became citizen of the United States in 2011.

To me, a border, is a sign of movement, movimiento.

A border is supposed to regulate entrances and exits between both lands I am a part of.

I have family on both sides and carry both cultures in my blood.

When I am asked who I am, I say I am a Chicana

Mexican – American

To me, adding a wall to one side, takes away a part of who I am.

Mexican—American.

American.

I am expected to be okay with a wall to part my family, to cut me into two halves, to leave behind where I come from.

On the other hand, I face the wall, but on the otherhand, I face the loss of my family.

I face racism and discrimination of my family who has been here all their life but are expected to move because they don’t have papers.

I face anger as the man who called my family criminals, drug dealers, and rapists is about to be the President of the United States.

Donald Trump is President of the United States.

Mexicanos have been moving back and forth throughout their existence.

From America to Mexico

From being deported and separated from their family

To staying here and facing racism, but working

Trabajando para vivir, para existir.

Para lograr sus suenos.

Whatever they may be.

Moviendo y moviendo

Bailando, corriendo, caminando.

Pero no nos muevas de aqui.

No more.

Estamos aqui para quedarnos.

We’re here to stay, and we’ll still be here, fighting against Donald Trump and his motherfucking wall.

La Libertad

By Rosura Estrada

La Libertad es como el viento, que se viene y se va.
Si no la cuidas, se irá con El Tiempo,
Que no se detiene y nunca regresará.

La Libertad es un grito, es un llanto, que no puedes controlar.
Es el abrir y cerrar de ojos,
Son estos pies que se mueven sin para.

La Libertad es la vida misma,
Es respirar sin tener que sufrir.
Son los ojos que me miran,
Y me dan esas ganas para poder vivir.