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Q&A with Poetry Contributor José del Valle

José del Valle is a Cuban-born writer living in Rockville, RI. Poems & stories have appeared in The Saranac Review, The Acentos Review, Tipton Poetry Journal, The Mainichi (Tokyo), Contemporary Haibun Online, The Heron's Nest, the late Jane Reichhold's Lynx & other small haiku pubs.

José's poem "Objects In Mirror Are Closer Than They Appear" will appear in the Summer 2018 issue of CarvePreorder or subscribe by Sunday, July 1, for special savings and discounts.

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I notice there is a lot of movement in your poems—in particular, you use flight and travel images. Why do you think you use these types of images?

About flight, travel, movement in my poems: I think poetry should take us places. And not always places within ourselves. I am discouraged (not the right word) with a lot of the new poetry I see. We are all so involved with ourselves, enthralled, often beyond writing especially decently. Travel, distance, movement—arrival and departure—to or from places outside of ourselves, beyond ourselves. Maybe I should try science fiction!

Perhaps with “Objects…” you could pinpoint a source of motivation or inspiration. What was your initial image? What does this poem want from the reader?

What inspired this poem? I don’t know, I liked the idea of travel underground, the murkiness and the viscosity and the roots. The light is obscure and confused. This poem asks very little of the reader—and now that I think of it, a lot of my poems ask little of the reader. The reader is a like a watcher, a reader of poems, and the poems are more like spectacle than anything participatory—and the bigger the spectacle, the better! 

How do you think your Cuban heritage influences your work? Also, who are current poets you read and admire?

As for influences on my work, from my Cuban heritage to the rafts of important poets—I am equally unable to speak of either. I have no doubt the label “refugee” has had its impact on my life (I was not yet three when I came here; indeed, the first time I defecated in an actual toilet was famously on that fateful flight to Miami). But I have very little knowledge of Cuban poetry, yesterday’s or today’s, beyond Jose Marti (not personally a favorite). I admit I read mostly dead people—and even the few living people I admire are dying. Because reading time is so precious! There is too much I haven’t read, and will never get to read, which is essential to get to, so, Kaveh Akbar, you’ll have to wait.

Tell us about your experience with haiku. What do you like about this genre? How do you know a moment is best rendered in haiku as opposed to other poetry types?

I think of it much more as a craft than a poem. Haiku began as part of a party game, and it retains (for me) a flavor of that lightness. Which is not to demean or belittle haiku in any way! But it’s a different thing for me than poetry—and I just can’t explain how. I love haiku, though. It’s a form, and, when successful, it has that happy tension between rigor and fun.