Natalia Trevino

Born in Mexico City, and the mother of one, Natalia Ortegon Trevino was raised in San Antonio, Texas and is an Associate Professor of English at Northwest Vista College as well as a member of the Macondo Foundation.  She is a graduate of UTSA’s graduate English program and The University of Nebraska’s MFA in Creative Writing Program. Natalia is the recipient of an Alfredo Moral de Cisneros Award, the Wendy Barker Creative Writing Award, and the 2008 Dorothy Sargent Rosenberg Poetry Prize. Her essays, poems, and fiction appear in a variety of print and online journals. An excerpt from her novel, La Cruzada appears in the Winter 2011-12 Platte Valley Review, and most recently, her essay  “Crown Our Good” appeared in the anthology, Complex Allegiances from Wising Up Press. Her first book of poems, Eight Marry Wives, is forthcoming from Pecan Grove Press.

Three of Natalia’s poems are featured on Sliver of Stone.

M.J. Fievre: When did you first turn to a creative art?

Natalia O. Trevino: I turned like a slow meat roast. I don’t eat mammals or birds anymore, but this image works to describe a very slow process. It started in third grade, where I was temporarily enrolled at Flour Bluff Elementary in Corpus Christie, Texas. I was given a prompt-card with a giant on it; he was missing a sandal and the small girl next to him looked smart. I was told, “Write. Make up a story.” Even though I had never written anything in my life, I wrote and wrote. The other children finished long before I did, and yet my teacher did not tell me to hurry. I was lost in my story, and when I looked up, there were eight pages. I had created a whole world. The teacher was amazed to see how many pages I had written.  She picked them up them with a big, warm smile, and just could not believe what I had done. I never got a chance to read the story back to myself. She never returned those pages to me, not even when I left the school to come back home to San Antonio. To me, that moment meant this: I had the ability to write, and writing had the ability to change my world.

MJF: What does being a poet mean to you?

NT: Being a poet is like being a window. With colors pieces of light and shadow flowing through it from both sides. It is ever-changing, collecting reflections of light and space. This is a window that will not break until I die. I cannot afford to be a fragile window. Being a poet allows me entry to eternity, not because each piece will stand for eternity as a finished product, but because I have access to a space—by some grace—that I do not understand, that brings me into a whole experience where I have the privilege to look inward like an outsider while becoming a part of its essence. This allows me to grasp its geometric shape and document it on the other side, on the page. My hope it to achieve a depiction of reality and a direct insight to that reality simultaneously, as a window does. It is a space where I like to visit because too often, reality happens so fast that I cannot look at it long, nor can I understand it. Being a poet lets me stop time, receive insight, and offer up what I see.

I am also a fiction writer, and it is not so much being the window, but looking through many windows at once.

MJF: Who are your favorite poets and why?

NT: I love Sappho and Chaucer and Euripedes and Homer. I love Lao Tzu and Rumi. During my senior year in college, I considered becoming a Medieval literature scholar because of the poetry. I am crazy about Walt and Dickenson and William Carlos Williams and Wallace Stevens. I love Mark Doty who gave me, “every sequin’s / an act of praise,” when I was inconsolable after my dear friend, Marlo Casanova died of brain cancer. Pat Mora had a huge impact on me as the first Latina poet I read when I was about twenty-years-old; I saw how I could allow the simplicity of my bilingual mind show itself on the page. I am from two cultures, and Pat Mora showed me how to embrace both in a poem. Wendy Barker is my favorite poet of all. She has taught me everything I know about poetry, my aesthetic, voice, and form. I marvel at her poems. Now I am turning toward my elder sisters and teachers in Chicano literature for more inspiration about my responsibility as a poet and writer. I look up to Julia Alvarez, Carmen Tafolla, and especially my dear friend Sandra Cisneros who has been a such a gracious teacher to me. The most valuable lesson I have learned from her is to be generous to your reader. I love that.

Comments

  1. Blanca Esthela Treviño de Jáuregui says:

    It´s just precious! You have too much talent and creativity! I congratulate you from the
    bottom of my heart; I wish I could read the story of the giant that lost one sandal and the smart little girl!
    I can imagine how you must feel by having been endowed with such an
    incredible gift: that of creating new and beautiful worlds for others to enjoy. God bless
    you always, and may all your aspirations as a writer come true. Your loving aunt,

    Blanca Esthela

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