Close

Donate today to keep Global Voices strong!

Our global community of volunteers work hard every day to bring you the world's underreported stories -- but we can't do it without your help. Support our editors, technology, and advocacy campaigns with a donation to Global Voices!

Donate now

See all those languages up there? We translate Global Voices stories to make the world's citizen media available to everyone.

Learn more about Lingua Translation  »

A Poet Opens Her Eyes In the Metropolis: Juana M. Ramos in New York City

Juana Ramos. Image used with permission.

Juana Ramos. Image used with permission.

Its impossible to not be excited by New York City, in all of its magnitude, particularly if one comes from elsewhere in the world. Amidst the barrage of people who constantly fill its trains, streets and avenues, the crowd often moves as though it was the one with the ball and the play necessary to score the winning goal.

But in the midst of this wild, giddy, aggressive race, there are those who stop, in the middle of the great metropolis, to open their eyes. For there is no other way to understand the metropolis and to understand themselves in the middle of exile.

This was the impression given by the Salvadorian poet Juana Ramos, professor of Spanish and Literature at York College, at the public university of City of New York, during a conversation with Global Voices on what it means to live this lost closeness and gained distance, an experience which she described in her book “Multiplicada en mí” (“Multiplied Within Me”) of which Artepoética Press has just published a second, extended and revised edition, this past February.

Carlos Esteban Cana (CEC) -Let's talk about Multiplicada en mí, this book which you published with Artepoética Press, the publishing house of fellow poet and cultural ambassador, Carlos Aguasaco. First of all… why “Multiplicada en mí” What is the writer talking about when she names her collection of poems in this way?

Juana Ramos (JR): El título del poemario lo “encontré”, “me llegó”, tan pronto terminé de organizarlo. Me di cuenta de que, por una extraña razón, le había dado un orden cronológico a los poemas. Y digo extraña porque no era esa mi intención original. La primera edición de Multiplicada en mí consta de cuatro partes. La primera abre con poemas que escribí en los años 90. La última parte cierra el libro con los poemas más recientes hasta ese momento. Al leer de nuevo el texto, precisamente en busca de un título, me embistió, de súbito, la frase multiplicada en mí, porque pude ver a lo largo del libro diferentes voces de un mismo sujeto poético. Si te fijas bien, en los once poemas de la primera parte hay una voz bastante fragmentada, incluso caótica, que insiste en los adverbios, en calificar de alguna manera “la acción” que se pasea por cada poema. Es una voz más visceral porque el tema que recorre esos versos así lo requiere. Conforme te adentras al poemario, la voz va cambiando, va buscando otros espacios en los que les da cabida a otras cuestiones. En la primera parte del poemario me visualizo enredada en lo más profundo de mí.

Juana Ramos (JR): The title of the collection, was something I found, which came to me, as soon as I'd put it together. I realised that, for some strange reason, I had given the poems a chronological order. I say strange, because that was not my initial intention. The first edition of Multiplicada en mí consisted of four sections. The first opened with poems which I'd written in the 90s, The last part ends with the most recent poems up to now. Reading the book again, precisely looking for a title, the phrase “multiplicada en mí”, all of a sudden came charging at me, because I could see across the book different voices of the same poetic subject. If you really look at it, in the eleven poems of the first section there's quite a fragmented voice, even chaotic, which insists on qualifying with adverbs in some way “the action” that walks through each poem, it's a more visceral voice because the topics that run through those verses require it. Likewise. the deeper you get into the book, the voice changes, it goes looking for other spaces which make room for other questions. In the first part of the book, I saw myself tangled in the deepest part of me.

CEC:The impression that I got on reading is that I was reading three different notebooks orPortada Multiplicada en Mi_Juana Ramos profiles that were very well defined. In broad strokes, a first notebook which invokes and conjures the farewell amongst, let's say, turbulences which intensify when love and disagreement come crashing into each other; another marked by distance, homeland and exile inside of a vertiginous metropolis; and a third notebook which is like the sun in the morning announcing through another encounter, an epiphany. What can you say about this?

JR: Sí, esta impresión que te dejó la lectura del poemario es precisamente lo que te decía anteriormente, a propósito del título, el cual anticipa el contenido del libro. La primera parte es una manera de lidiar con la pérdida que provoca que el sujeto poético se desmorone y ese desmoronamiento es del que habla el aparente caos de imágenes acumuladas y, a veces, herméticas, y la impotencia ante ese “otro”, a quien la voz apóstrofa en reiteradas ocasiones. Una vez solventadas las despedidas, la pérdida, la impotencia; aparece “la niña”, arremetida por el abandono. Ahora bien, el exilio, de diversas naturalezas, es una constante en el libro, y es por tanto, consecuencia de la pérdida de espacios familiares, no solo espacios físicos, sino emocionales, espirituales. Como espacio físico, ya lo dijiste, la patria. Es interesante cómo esta gran urbe, Nueva York, me abrió los ojos y me hizo verme, también multiplicada al concebirme salvadoreña, centroamericana, latinoamericana. El exilio representa, además, una toma de conciencia, una recuperación de la memoria histórica, porque la “cuestión identitaria” no es simplemente una mera nostalgia por la comida, los amigos y la lengua. El libro es muchas voces que se desprenden de una sola y que buscan unidad y unicidad. Es, diríamos, el resultado de un proceso dialéctico, la voz poética que recorre el libro está hecha de esas voces que representan etapas que van cerrándose, pero que no se quedan en la nada. Lo aprendido en cada uno de esos “tramos” se incorpora al siguiente. Estamos hechos, en realidad, de fragmentos de lo que hemos sido.

Yes, this impression that you got on reading the book is precisely what I was telling you earlier about the title, which anticipates the content of the book. The first part is a way of struggling with the loss which causes the poetic subject to fall apart, and that is collapse is the space from which both the apparent chaos of accumulated, at times inscrutable images, and the impotence before this “other” speak, and which the voice addresses on several occasions. As soon as the the farewells, the loss, the impotence, are resolved “the child” appears, assaulted by the abandonment. Having said that, the exile from various natures is a constant in the book and it is as a consequence of the loss of familiar spaces, not just physical spaces, but emotional, spiritual ones. Regarding spiritual spaces, I already mentioned the homeland. It's interesting how this huge urban centre, New York, opened up my eyes and made me look at myself, also multiplied, in conceiving myself as Salvadorian, Central American, Latin American. Exile also represents a gaining of consciousness, a recovery of historical memory because the “identity question” is not simply a nostalgia for food, friends and the language. The book is many voices which become detached from a single voice and seek unity and uniqueness. It is, let's say, the result of a dialectical process; the poetic voice which runs through the book is composed of these voices which represent stages coming to an end, but which do not come to nothing. Whatever is learned in each one of these “sections” is incorporated into the next. We are made, in reality, of fragments of who we have been.

CEC: The focus of this perspective, critical, scrutinising, whether of official history or institutionalised concepts, also has its place in the poetic texture of Multiplicada en mí. . . without this perspective, I suspect that even the poet would not exist.

JR: No, no existiría. En realidad, era necesaria, como necesario era salir de allá para poder tomar conciencia y, paradójicamente, mirar a mi país y su historia muy de cerca desde la distancia.

No, no she wouldn’t exist. In reality, it was necessary, like it was necessary to get out of there, to be able to become aware and, paradoxically, to look at my country and its history up close, from a distance.

CEC: From a distance, how do you see, almost five years later, Multiplicada en mí? These poems inside this book of poetry, do they still represent you; do they still represent the poet Juana Ramos?

JR: Después de casi cinco años lo sigo viendo como cuando lo di a luz, como el primer paso de una larga caminata en la que todas esas que he sido, acompañarán a la que soy ahora. Y sí, cada uno de esos poemas sigue representando a esa que era en el momento en el que los escribí, por tanto, son una parte de mí. Claro está, la voz se afinca, encuentra una textura, un punto en el que se siente cómoda y desde donde me permite hablar de todo lo que me rodea. A propósito de la relevancia que el poemario sigue teniendo en mí, en febrero de 2014 salió una segunda edición, revisada y ampliada. Tiene una sección nueva que consta de 32 poemas cortos. Artepoética quiso sacar esta segunda edición en vista del recibimiento generoso que tuvo la primera.

After almost five years, I still see it as when I first created it; as the first step of a very long road on which all of the people who I have been accompany the one who I am now. And, yes, every single one of these poems continue to represent the person who I was in the moment in which I wrote it and therefore they are a part of me. Of course, the voice settles, it finds a texture, a point in which it feels comfortable and from which I can allow myself to speak about all that surrounds me, As for the relevance that this book of poems still has for me, in February of 2014 a new edition, revised and extended was released. There is a new section consisting of 32 short poems. Artepoética wanted to release this second edition in view of the generous reception that the first one received.

CEC: And finally, how did Juana Ramos end up doing poetry? How did you become the writer you are today?

JR: Empecé a escribir a los 12 años. Escribía todo aquello que no me atrevía a decir, sobre la situación familiar que estaba viviendo. Soy de muy pocas palabras, nunca he podido “hablar”, decir a bocajarro lo que siento, por lo que la escritura ha sido terapéutica, un ejercicio catártico. Pero más allá de ello, tomo conciencia de la escritura misma, de la necesidad de decir, trabajar y decantar la palabra. Tiendo a ser muy económica con el lenguaje, a expresarme en pocas palabras, las justas, las necesarias; tal vez por ello es que me siento más cómoda con la poesía.

I started to write when I was 12 years old. I wrote everything I dared not say, about my family situation that I was living through. I'm a person of very few words; I could never “speak”, say straight up what I feel, and that's why writing has been therapeutic to me, a cathartic exercise. But beyond that, I became aware of writing itself, of the necessity of speaking, working and decanting words. Tending to be very economical with language, expressing myself in few words, the right ones, the necessary ones; perhaps this is why I feel more comfortable with poetry.

Receive great stories from around the world directly in your inbox.

Sign up to receive the best of Global Voices
* = required field
Email Frequency



No thanks, show me the site