Updated: Dec 19, 2018
On this week's blog we had the great pleasure of speaking with Miguel Vega, a poet who has taken the concept of A Mi Manera and rewrote it into different, yet equally as beautiful piece of art.
•The original script of A Mi Manera dealt with a dark subject matter in a unique way, what was your thought process when translating the concepts presented in the film into a poem?
The original script for A Mi Manera has a very unique subject matter that attracted me from the moment Candice Torres showed me the film — taking control of your own life through one’s perception on death. At least, that was my take from it.
When it came to translating that concept into a poem, well it all happened pretty fast. Normally a poem takes me several months to complete (I am currently trying to edit a few poems that I began a year ago) but “MORIBUNDO” happened within two hours. In A Mi Manera, the main character, Aria, decides to take control on how her death will be viewed by planning her own funeral. In my poem, I declare ownership over both my life and my death and that’s really where the connection between the two begin and end. You see, for a great majority of my life I have felt that I am not in proper control. I have to dress a certain way for my family and friends, I had to go to a certain college to appease my mother, I have to behave properly to those who are rude to me or I’ll be seen as picking fights. I have to do this that and the other just to appease everyone while many issues I have been able to hide begin to manifest more clearly. So “MORIBUNDO” is my declaration of ownership; I am going to smoke weed, I am going to drink, I am going to flirt with strangers, I am going to prove that I am not plastic or glass that serves as decoration—I am a person and I will show you even if I have to bleed and rot. This could be in the literal sense, but it can also mean that I am going to live so fully that my death will carry no surprises. The poem is sarcastic, cynical and suicidal, it ends where it begins like the rose that will rise again.
•What attracted you to work on this project?
Well you see when I entered the project—there was no project. Candice Torres and I were meeting to discuss ideas for the Day of the Dead photoshoot we did in November and I had also texted her the poem (then titled A Mi Manera as homage) and she was really excited about it. I wanted her to shoot me reciting the poem so I can present it when applying for any Masters program. She got the idea to also shoot my friend and he proem as well. I was excited then, and poetry in video is not a new concept, I got the idea from seeing Ariel Bissett recite her poetry on YouTube. Anyways, after meeting with Candice and looking over my friend’s poem, it only made sense then, that because her poem and mine have a similar thread of resemblance (where it concerns thematics), that the most obvious choice was to make a short film out of it and that’s what we are currently doing.
But to answer your answer more in depth, there are two main reasons I am interested in continuing on this project. One, I really want to see literature presented in different media and in more modern media. I also want to see literature that represents our current time period. As much as I love the classics, we need to pay attention to the work being published now to see how it correlates with our strange time period. We need to communicate with young children and teenagers that this is our world—and the calendar is only hiding even more terrifying atrocities that might be foreshadowed and yes, understood.
Secondly, I have this thing about literature being controlled by elite pretentious men that want everything into a mold and when we finally fit that mold, the rules get changed again! I hate writing essays and not being able to use “I” because it’s not “professional” even though I wrote the damn thing. I hate being knocked down for grammar even though some idiot made this system one of the most confusing modes of language to learn because the rules don’t apply to themselves often. I hated having to feel a certain restrain from writing about my experiences as a Chicano because then I would be another “poet of color” who gets shoved in the back of anthologies while the other white poets get different classifications. Above that, I really hate that many writers get turned away from the canon because their work is seen as “non-academic”. Look at Rupi Kaur—she has sold millions of books and helped change the culture of poetry from being strictly in magazine form to being accessible directly through social media. Now, I am not saying it’s good poetry (I actually do enjoy The Sun and Her Flowers more than Milk and Honey) but I will not take the title of “poet” away from someone who writes what they truly believe and know to be poetry—and poetry is subjective anyways, so who am I to say if it’s good or not. Kaur is not getting enough credit, and she managed to get many young people into reading more, and wasn’t that the goal? So now that she did what white male poets get celebrated for, we are going to start attacking what they are reading? I am going in circles, but not making any sense, aren’t I? To put in simply, I want literature to be more representative of the society in which it was written in. Those magazines and anthologies that give Allen Ginsberg, Sylvia Plath, and Robert Lowell praise are the same ones that will shove and group the colored poets together just because they can. No really, check out Norton’s Anthology of Contemporary Poetry, Vol. 2 in which they do just that.
•I've heard you are currently creating a organization of sorts for poets, what can you tell me about that?
“Organization” sounds too serious and I’m too shy for something like that haha. No, I would rather love to build connections with the scholars whom I know do amazing work. I began to write, actually, by accident. I followed poet Jeannie Le into a magazine-editing course my senior year in university when I heard she enrolled and the professor, poet Chad Sweeney, was leading the class. One of the requirements was that at the end of the quarter we would present a manuscript of poems to the class. Now here’s the thing, I did not have one. Everyone intimidated me because they were in the creative writing track and I was in literature and the poems I had up to that point were all Rupi Kaur ripoffs. I was scared because I did not have anything besides a poem I wrote in 2015 called “Valley of the Dolls” that received decent reception. So I scrambled. I began writing nearly every day and responded to literature I was exposed to through poetry and shared what I had written with Jeannie. It wasn’t until we attended the 2018 Rising Stars Writers Conference as our professor’s guests that I began to really get a “bug” for writing. I met famous poets Natalie Diaz and Kaveh Akbar, both whom gave me personal advice and stated they would like to see me write more. I then became friends with other poets in our class and we all get along really well. So my idea is that I want to take my love of modern literature and their love of writing and go from there.
What do I want to do? I have no clue—but is that now how all great ideas start? I want to maybe begin with podcasts, maybe talk to them about the work they publish and how it fits into today’s society. Afterwards, maybe move to Youtube videos and present their poetry as part of our digital age. I’m not restricted by statement of poetics, I want to do this with good essays, short stories and even good conversation. I don’t know, it all sounds so cool to me.
•Are they any other projects to look out for? Where can anyone looking to find more of your work go?
Oh gosh, my friends and other people who have gone to readings in which I have performed have all asked me these questions and I am always afraid to answer. I am currently helping out this project through selecting the work that goes into it and making sure that it makes sense. Just because the project may or may not have any plot does not mean it should not have sense. That would be it if you are referring to more projects like this short film. Now if you are referring to an actual project like a book of poetry, as I’ve been asked before I have no plans for that. I don’t want to, not for the moment anyways. Sure, it would be cool to show my friends what I have written, but I have recently become so discouraged and here is why. Many poets write for many different reasons—whether to write for themselves, to find an audience, or to spread awareness. I write in order to properly communicate myself because I feel that sometimes I fail with communicating face-to-face. I wrote a couple of my friends a poem titled “To All My Friends Who Forget the Zoot Suits” and I love that poem, it is one of my favorites (“What is this strange skin you dress me in/ and reflection yours to keep?”). It is about me trying to claim back my identity in a society that is so obsessed with appearances. Long story short, the poem is a failure, no matter how good it is. My friends understood what I was trying to tell them, but only for a while and if art fails in its endeavor, then it is a failure no matter which way you try to look at it. I thought that if I could write what I meant, and pass it off as art then I can communicate better. I was wrong.
I am however interested in reading at open mic nights in the Inland Empire and I actually have an idea for about two more videos. Whether they will be standalone or part of a bigger project, I do not know, besides I would need to find people to do it. I wouldn’t count publishing out, but maybe when I see that the work is doing something besides filling space. For the time being everything will go directly in other media once I find a way to properly present everything (you can read “Valley of the Dolls” and “Blossom Song” on Instagram, @mxguelvega). In terms of favorites (aside from Moribundo) I like “Playgrounds,” which revolves around school shootings and the March For Our Lives movement.
In a time where the written word seems to be the resurgence Miguel is definitly one of the great few to be on the look out for in the coming future. Just from reading a few excerpts from Moribundo its easy to tell the great talent he has in creating written art, and I for one cannot wait to see what else he has in store for us all. So be sure to support Miguel whenever and however possible so his incredible work can continue to be shared.