Thursday, October 13, 2011

Kenia Fascinante

Greetings, Toad-kind. 
Over the past week, I have had the extreme pleasure and privilege of digging in to the amazing mind of the gorgeously gifted Kenia Cris. I am relatively new here at the Imaginary Garden, but her work struck me immediately. Poems like this one, titled simply #436, :
The Poet

I walk
When I’d rather float in space,

People live like comets
And die like stars.

Sometimes I feel as old
As the universe,

The road I have not taken
Also showing
On my footprints.

speak in a voice that is both knowing and powerfully pensive; yet contain such vibrance and life. Kenia, your work is fabulous and it was such a joy getting to know you and asking you all sorts of prying questions. 

So i'll step aside and let Kenia tell you a little bit about herself.

I live with my parents, a sister and four dogs in a non-coastal state in southeastern Brazil. I’ve spent most of my life traveling places in paper boats inside all sorts of books once I had no free unlimited access to the sea!  I’m 33, a Gemini and single. I have a degree in Education and I’ve just applied for a post-graduate degree in Psychology of Education. I’ve been teaching English as a foreign language for 12 years. I love reading and learning things about the world and people. My main interests are writing, photography, surrealism in art and literature, cinema, anthropology and philosophy.
How unbelievably cute is baby Kenia!?

I would literally like to talk with you about EVERY SINGLE THING you just said (Mental note to self: have all sorts of fascinating conversations with Kenia very soon), but as our time here is somewhat limited, I'll ask you the question that I most love to ask people. What was the first book  you read that changed the way you thought about the world? That tore your sky to pieces and showed you a new bigger brighter one that you hadn't even imagined? And how old were you at the time? 

When I was a teenager, I had a friend who challenged me to read all the books in the school library and we did it together. I’ve read Flaubert’s ‘Bouvard andPécuchet’ then, I was 15 and it was the first book that opened the sky for me.  It’s the story of two  middle-aged men who happen to sit on the same park bench one day and end up becoming really good friends and their adventures and discoveries in landscape gardening, biology, geology, architecture, history, politics, philosophy, music, and urban planning, just to mention a few. I’ve always had great pleasure in learning new things and this book felt like encouragement.  

Such an encouragement. It's an amazing thing to feel that one is understood by a book. But let me get to the things I'm dying to know. If I understand correctly, English is not your first language. Yet your command of it is exceptional. How and where did you learn?

That is right, my first language is Portuguese. I had to teach myself English because I couldn’t afford studying abroad or taking English classes here. I’ve always loved words, and dictionaries were my first learning resources (back when I started studying by myself there was no Internet!).
In 2000, I passed the Cambridge Examination for the Certificate of Proficiency in English, it was the year I started teaching.
Because I had no formal education in English I still make many mistakes, but I try my best, I read a lot and I study everyday. 
The Poet's inspiring bookshelf

That is completely inspiring. Learning on your own is such a daunting thing, but so rewarding. How has knowing two languages as intimately as you do contributed to your worldview?
My friends and students think the advantages of knowing English are two: Being able to understand song lyrics, and skipping movie subtitles! English has always been about understanding the world to me. I have access to originals in my areas of interest (I read many books much before they are translated, not to mention the ones which won’t get a translation to my language) and the News; I happen to be able to talk to real people whose life experience are amazing lessons.  

It's so incredible how speaking another language allows your world to expand and becomoe so wide. Do you feel that the two languages speak differently? Is there one that you prefer to write in? to speak in? or perhaps, are there times when you prefer one over the other?
They definitely do. I start writing in English most of the times, but now and then I find something that doesn’t seem to have any depth in the language. Then I say it in Portuguese only at Coeur de Poétesse. When it’s the other way round, I say it in English only at The Sky Clears.

Not that two aren't enough, but do you speak any other languages? Or have plans to learn any others? 

Apart from English, I also speak Italian. I can read in Spanish, too. I’ve had Latin classes in College and it was lots of fun to me! I’ve studied Hungarian (just because I was very curious about the structure of the language!) for a year, but one needs much more time to actually learn it, it’s hard! I would love to learn Hungarian, German and French.

How long have you been writing?
I’ve been writing poetry for 3 years and a half. My thoughts on poetry have been mainly influenced by the Turkish poet Orhan Veli Kanık, whose works were introduced in my life when I was 20 by a Turkish boyfriend. After Orhan Veli, I met Pablo Neruda, David Ignatow, Alejandra Pizarnik, Vera Pavlova, Sylvia Plath, Elizabeth Alexander – poets whose words speak loud to my soul and inspire me profoundly.
The poet and her best friend.

 A list of Masters; though each have a very distinct voice. What about your voice? What is your goal with your work?
I’m still ripening poems in the middle of the night. Sometimes I think I’d like to have a book published but poetry in books is not very free. I’d rather see my poems fly and fill people’s eyes and hearts with all sorts of good feelings. Words that can’t touch people in a positive way are not worth being said or written.

 What a beautiful idea. Do you have a philosophy of writing? or of poetry in general?
Writing to me is all about feeling and poetry has to speak to my heart with easy words. I don’t write form poetry and it’s the reason why I called my main blog Poesia Torta (Crooked Poetry). I’m most likely to enjoy free writing, my favorite readings (and I call them my Fantastic Four) being:  Andreas Andersson (Love as poetry), Andrew Phillips (Pied Hill Prawns), Ash Brones (Perilously Precocious), and Marian Kent (Runaway Sentence).

The fantastic four! Brilliant. So, as writers, we're always out feeling for the lightning. Where do you find inspiration? And what does it feel like to you?
A Brazilian poet called Manoel de Barros has this poem I like very much that begins like this:
All the things whose value can be
disputed over a long-distance spitting challenge
are good subject for poetry.

A man who only owns a comb
and a tree
is good subject for poetry.

Inspiration is everywhere. Sometimes it’s on my way and I stumble it. Sometimes it’s prompted and challenges me. I just wish I had more time to write.
Ask her to tell you the story of her tattoo.

'Time' is the ugliest of four-letter-words. But when the inspiration comes, do you have any particular rituals you do when writing? A specific place you like to go? Certain music you listen to? A favorite snack? Do you just pull up a page and start? … let us in on your process.
I usually write in bed at night, when the house is asleep, but I also write on the bus while commuting to work – I get good insight from what I see on my way to work. I always have paper and pen with me because you never know when a good line will become a good line for a poem!
I like listening to Beirut, Explosion in the sky, The Cinematic Orchestra and A Weather while writing.
When I have too many things going on my mind, I start writing by doing surrealist automatism - it helps to declutter my head and write better poetry.
Can you explain surrealist automatism? 

Surrealist automatism is spontaneous writing, practiced without conscious aesthetic or moral self-censorship. André Breton (the founder of surrealism) and Philippe Soupault wrote together the first automatic book, Les Champs Magnetiques in 1919, but Breton’s most significant theoretical work about automatism is  The Automatic Message.
Alastair Brotchie has the best description of the technique in his book Surrealist Games:

“Sit at a table with pen and paper; put yourself in a 'receptive' frame of mind, and start writing. Continue writing without thinking of what is appearing beneath your pen. Write as fast as you can. If, for some reason, the flow stops, leave a space and immediately begin again by writing down the first letter of the next sentence. Choose this letter at random before you begin, for instance, a 't', and always begin this new sentence with a 't'. Although in the purest version of automatism nothing is 'corrected' or re-written the unexpected material produced by this method can be used as the basis for further composition. What is crucial is the unpremeditated free association that creates the basic text.”

What a great exercise. To wrap this up, do you have a favorite quote or inspiration you'd like to share?
I’d like to share this beautiful poem written by Jayne Relaford Brown which reminds me of the woman I want to grow up to be.

Finding her here
I am becoming the woman I’ve wanted,
grey at the temples,
soft body, delighted,
cracked up by life
with a laugh that’s known bitter
but, past it, got better,
knows she’s a survivor –
that whatever comes,
she can outlast it.
I am becoming a deep
weathered basket.

I am becoming the woman I’ve longed for,
the motherly lover
with arms strong and tender,
the growing up daughter
who blushes surprises.
I am becoming full moons
and sunrises.

I find her becoming,
this woman I’ve wanted,
who knows she’ll emcompass,
who knows she’s sufficient,
knows where she’s going
and travels with passion.
Who remembers she’s precious,
but knows she’s not scarce –
who knows she is plenty,
plenty to share.

'Who remembers she’s precious, 
but knows she’s not scarce –' that is a difficult balance. Thank you so much for sharing your vision, and  for opening your door to us today. 

Kenia can be found at her main blog
as well as at 

Kenia is also a photographer, (as well as a philosopher, poet, linguist, teacher, NaNoWriMo novelist, and all-around person of inspiration) and her work can be seen 

Posted by Shawnacy 


Kerry O'Connor said...

This is a fascinating interview - the wonderful personalities of both women are unmistakable. So many interesting perspectives of life and writing to absorb, this is very inspirational. Thank you.

Kenia Santos said...

Awwwwn! You're a sweetheart Shawnacy! It was both a pleasure and an honor to answer your questions, you're adorable. Thank you toads for the opportunity to speak here.

Kiss you girls. <3

Liz Rice-Sosne said...

Kenia, you are so very delightful! I have read your work and I do enjoy it. I love your philosophy of life. Thank you Toads for this interview.

Marian said...

kenia, you are so lovely and inspiring. i love this interview and most especially that snapshot of you and your friend. kiss kiss!

miss ash tuesday said...

One of my very favorite Poetesses! She is not only an extraordinary writer, but she's a good friend and has a heart that shines around the world. I could use more Kenia in my life.

Kay L. Davies said...

Wonderful interview of a wonderful young woman!
I enjoyed this so much.

Kay, Alberta, Canada
An Unfittie’s Guide to Adventurous Travel

Abin Chakraborty said...

wonderful poems.a unique and striking voice.fantastic choice.

Matthew Quinn said...

You are a wonderful and multitalented person. So glad I know more about you now!

Susannah said...

I enjoyed getting to know more about Kenia, I really love her writing and am already a big fan! :-)

Lovely interview both of you.

Laurie Kolp said...

Thanks for this wonderful look at the person behind the poet. Kenia is an inspiration.

Sweet Lily said...


ed hart said...

shawnacy, you continue to blossom
kenia cris, you have a new admirer

Sherry Blue Sky said...

What a FANTASTIC interview! A fascinating life story, incredible spirit and yet another mind-blowing look into the life of a poet. Wonderful. Congrats to both of you. This was just superb reading and I will be back to read it again!

nothingprofound said...

Ah, Kenia! What a goldmine of lyricism you are! Keep writing, for all our sakes.

Anonymous said...

Language is a wonderful thing - to master 2/3, read a 4th and dabble in others is extraordinary - I dabble in Latin and love the monuments and buildings of Rome with Roman inscriptions. You have a wonderful philosophy !!