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A Life Distilled Through Poetry

Author Amelia del Castillo explains what spurred her to release her first collection of bilingual poems.

Q. What is the inspiration for your poetry?

A. Inspiration comes to me from the moment I wake up and know that I am alive. Writing is a catharsis for me, not because that is my intention, but because I have no other alternative than to express myself. A poet exposes his or her inner feelings, and there is nothing more unnerving than that exposure. It's like revealing your soul's modesty.

Q. How has maturity affected your writing?

A. It is a way of saying "this is it." It's not something in the future. It is the here and now, the accumulation of experiences that have finally awakened in you. You realize what is and what is not; but most of all it is acceptance of your circumstances. You can never go against what is, lest you become bitter. The senior years bring some bitter and compelling moments. You look at things differently, they do not affect you as much. You know who you are and understand those around you.

Q. Are there discrepancies in the way different generations respond to your poetry?

A. My generation embraced my poetry with an interest and warmth that I couldn't have imagined, since I always wrote for no one but myself. I was most surprised with the young poets, who not only attended my readings, conferences, and presentations of books, but also brought me books I thought were out of print to be autographed. I would like to encourage those poets to always be true to themselves. The poetic self is a naked self and cannot be achieved without authenticity. That exposure lets you communicate with the other person without barriers.

Q. Can you tell me about your other books?

A. My brother and sister kept my first poems, those I considered worthless because I was too young then and knew very little about poetry. Those poems were published in 1975, in my first book, Urdimbre. I never thought that book would be accepted, but it had a prologue by Agustín Acosta, Cuba's national poet, and that generated some interest in the book. Three years later, the rest of my unpublished works were collected in Voces de silencio.

I identified deeply with Cauce de tiempo (1981), with a prologue by Matías Montes Huidobro. People always tell me that my poetry belongs to the mystic school. I believe it has more to do with enlightenment, just like faith. Another interesting poetry book is Agua y espejos, which won the prize of Cátedra Poética Fray Luis de León, of the University of Salamanca. It was a diary I kept between the ages of 17 and 20, and it was left behind in Cuba. In 1966 my mother brought it to me. It was not my first published book, but it was the first I wrote.

Las aristas desnudas (1991) recounts a difficult time in my life when my husband was very ill. Géminis deshabitado (1994) totally describes me. It deals with that other self that has always haunted me. El hambre de la espiga (2000) was dedicated to my three granddaughters and to women in general. De trampas y fantasías (2001) came afterwards, a compilation of 26 short stories, several of which were granted international awards.

One of my last books, Un pedazo de azul para el naufragio (2005), contains poems on very different subjects and reflects my feelings upon leaving Cuba. It was something very personal; for the first time my poetry was harsh, disheartened. That book came about because I found a series of paintings in artist Carmen María Galigarcía's house with very powerful themes, quite uncharacteristic of her style. She told me that it was her catharsis to deal with the situation in Cuba. I told her that the same thing was happening to me with my poetry. We had a very successful joint exhibition that combined my poems and her paintings.

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