Eric James Cruz is a poet and high school English teacher who lives in San Antonio, Texas. His poems have most recently appeared in The San Antonio Express News, Black Napkin Press, and River River Review. He is the author of a chapbook, Through the Window, published by Pecan Grove Press (2002). His poem “December Winds” will appear in the Summer 2017 Premium Edition of Carve. Preorder or subscribe by Sunday, July 16, for special savings and discounts.
Do you often break your poems into parts? Can you tell us about your reasoning behind this choice in "December Winds"?
The shape poems come to, for me, is largely dictated by the relationship between the narrative of the poem and the images it must produce.
In "December Winds," the poem announces itself in sections because of three distinct moments that helped forge the images. There is a thematic tie between all three sections, each dealing with a distinct awareness of becoming someone new.
This newness is incremental and barely perceptible in real time, but the speaker in each section conveys an understanding and, I think, an appreciation for their transformation. If I were to garner a guess as to where the poem is taking me, it is through a series of ever shifting terrains in my own life: middle age, that of a spouse, and as a father.
Did you do many drafts of this poem before you reached the final draft? How did it develop over time?
"December Winds" actually began as three or four separate poems. Great poet friends of mine who are critical readers of my work, Jo Reyes Boitel and Barbara Bowen, read these separate drafts and informed me that something was lacking in all of them. I distinctly remember feedback that said there was "too much" in these first drafts.
Once the process of revision began, I tried to get to the bones of each draft, listening to lines or phrases from each that seemed the most essential. In its final form, "December Winds" speaks to the urgent message in each of those early poems; being open to feedback and trusting the poem to reveal its true self allowed me to press into the poem's strongest pulse.
The winter setting feels essential to the tone of the poem. Are the seasons a theme you often write about? What are some other topics you gravitate toward?
The winter setting in this poem made itself apparent only after I reconciled the speaker's uneasiness with being reshaped or transformed by each experience. It is hard to die and come back different, I think, because our human nature is to fall in love with the person we are at the moment. But as I reflect on what the poem is trying to tell me, there is something necessary about being overwhelmed, forgotten, and broken at times in your life. Like winter, these moments cut short the life that once was, but on the other side is the potential for a new season of growth.
In some ways, the topics that seek me out—masculinity, family, injustice—all link to this idea of enduring with hope and strength. While my poems are not seasonal in the most direct sense, I do feel something cyclical and generative about the topics that speak to me most.
I'm proud to say we're both San Antonio poets! How has the community in San Antonio influenced you as a writer?
The San Antonio writing community has been extremely supportive of the work I produce. I have numerous mentors: Cyra Dumitru, Marian Haddad, Laura Van Prooyen, the late Palmer Hall, as well as many talented peers. Without the grace, patience, and cultivation of these people, whose talent and vision is far greater than mine, I know I would not be as attuned or as developed as I now am.
I also want to give a huge shout out to Gemini Ink, our local writing non-profit. I have taken numerous classes and workshops through GI, and each one has helped me hone my craft in a more profound way. The tireless work of the entire staff is developing a culture of learning, creativity, and community among local writers.