Getting to Know barbara de la Cuesta And Her New Book Rosamundo

Available now from Fishing Line Press

  Barbara de la Cuesta  is a teacher of Spanish and English as a Second Language. She has lived in South America, New England, and presently at the New Jersey Shore. Her novel,  The Spanish Teacher , was winner of the Gival Press Fiction Prize in 2007.  She has been past recipient of fellowships in fiction from the Massachusetts Artists’ Foundation, and the New Jersey Council on the Arts, as well as residencies at the Ragdale Foundation, The Virginia Center, and the Millay Colony.  Her poetry collection was published this year by Finishing Line Press, and a recent novel,  Rosa , has just won the Driftless Novella Prize from BrainMill Press.

Barbara de la Cuesta is a teacher of Spanish and English as a Second Language. She has lived in South America, New England, and presently at the New Jersey Shore. Her novel, The Spanish Teacher, was winner of the Gival Press Fiction Prize in 2007.  She has been past recipient of fellowships in fiction from the Massachusetts Artists’ Foundation, and the New Jersey Council on the Arts, as well as residencies at the Ragdale Foundation, The Virginia Center, and the Millay Colony.  Her poetry collection was published this year by Finishing Line Press, and a recent novel, Rosa, has just won the Driftless Novella Prize from BrainMill Press.

When did you first encounter poetry? How did you discover you wanted to write poems?

I first encountered poetry in a way that moved me to love it hearing it read by poets—Dylan Thomas reading from “Fern Hill”, and Robert Frost reading “the Death of the Hired Man.” Later, in college I studied both Frost and Yeats in depth, and learned that the plain words of Frost’s poems were undergirded with the iambic pentameter rhythms which gave me the original innocent pleasure I couldn’t have defined when I first heard them read on an old Caedmon recording. I studied with Robert Hillyer and still recall his voice reading to the class. Later, living for years in South America I found that for whole populations of people poetry was an auditory experience. People in all walks of life memorized and recited poetry. When my Spanish was sufficiently advanced I came to love their poets, and attempted translations.

Do you have a writing routine? A favorite time or place to write?

I try to write in the morning, taking up something unfinished from day before.  Usually this is prose.  Poetry must seize me at such odd times I often find myself writing on check stubs and napkins. Interestingly, if I am ordered to write a poem in a class or workshop, I can usually come up with something.

Where do your poems most often come from—an image, a sound, a phrase, an idea?

Rosamundo began as a work of prose, but some of the characters, particularly the elderly, and the mentally impaired clients of the home health aide who is the main character, seemed to want to speak in poetry; so all I can say is, I allowed them.

Which writers (living or dead) do you feel have influenced you the most?

My favorite poets are Frost, Yeats, and Neruda and Garcia Lorca. I came to love the poems of Alfredo Coronil Hartman, a Venezuelan poet, whose poems I translated.  I also love the long poems of James Merrill. He and Robert Frost have helped me see the beauty in narrative poems and the use of dialogue in poetry.  

Tell us a little bit about your new collection: what's the significance of the title? are there over-arching themes? what was the process of assembling it? was is a project book?

Rosamundo is a long poem depicting one day in Waltham, Massachusetts in 1981.  The shuttle Columbia orbits above, sends down messages, Priscilla, college dropout, home health aide goes about her visits, elderly participants in the Sunshine Club prepare to celebrate the hundredth birthday of Adie, and a visit from the mayor.  Bits of Waltham’s history are introduced.  I wanted to create a complete picture of a city past and present.

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Read an excerpt from her book here:
 

THE LIBERATION OF THE PEON                       Diego Rivera
 
They form a circle round him and
round are the guerilla’s faces
and the sombreros, round.
Circlets of bullets crisscross their chests
and pistols ride on hefty buttocks
Round and wild are the horses’ eyes
and a lasso holds them
earthbound
 
They cover the clay colored
body on the ground
with a ruddy blanket
No Ascención del Señor de Orgaz
here,
 
But only a return to earth
under the red petal
of a blanket.  

Will be published in On The River This Morning by Fishing Line Press