5 Questions With Iris De Anda
Iris De Anda is a internationally celebrated poet, author, practicioner of the healing arts and all around bad ass currently kicking ass in Los Angeles, California and beyond. Her work has appeared in countless anthologies, journals and zines. In recent years she has brought her work all throughout the US and most recently to Havana Cuba, reading and paneling at Casa De Las Americas.
We recently had a chance to pose 5 questions to the great Iris De Anda. Here are her answers. Enjoy.
1) How did the publication and promotion of Codeswitch change things for you in your poetry career?
Having started in the open mic and performance circuit with my poetry back in 2010, the publication of Codeswitch: Fires from Mi Corazon in 2014 catapulted me into a wider audience with invitations to Universities, conferences, radio, etc as well as presentations outside of my hometown area of Los Angeles, such as the Bay Area and San Diego. I wanted my book to be a form of activism outside the page and I mailed a copy to President Obama at the White House, highlighting the poems I felt he should pay attention to which were relevant to the current issues of Immigration, Gentrification, and going back to his Grassroots days at Occidental City College. I was invited to perform in Washington, D.C., where I met presidential candidate Bernie Sanders at a rally where we shared the mic the day before he announced his candidacy for President of the United States of America. Codeswitch: Fires from Mi Corazon allowed me to travel to New Orleans, Texas, New Mexico as well as an invitation to CECUIT in Tijuana, B.C. It opened the doorway to my first TV appearance performing To be a Pocha or not to be on the Hulu series East Los High. It has also been used at part of the curriculum in Ethnic Studies and Chicano Studies at Pasadena City College, UCLA, and Cal State Northridge amongst others. Some of the poems in Codeswitch: Fires from Mi Corazon have been translated and published in different journals in Europe as well. It was a self published work under my creation of Los Writers Underground Press. Codeswitch: Fires from Mi Corazon is on it’s 4th printing with over 1500 copies out in the world.
2) You have referred to yourself in interviews as Salvi-Mex or Mexi-Salvi, how has being both Salvadoran and Mexican and living in the US shaped your work?
I was lucky enough to be born under the SalviMex / MexiSalvi flag here in Los Angeles, CA. and being a first generation mujer born into a whole subculture definitely influenced my writing early on. We do have a flag right? Haha, I have always navigated cultures, tongues, borders, in the style of Anzaldua, I live nepantla in my body everyday, neither here nor there, not American enough, not Salvadoran enough, not Mexican enough, but always human enough. My Spanglish, Identity, and Spirituality have become a huge part of my writing style.
3) Recently you went with a group of poets to Casa De Las Americas in Havana Cuba. Can you tell our readers about your impressions of Cuba as well as that highly esteemed institution?
So last fall in Oct of 2019, I had the privilege of being invited to perform at Casa de Las Americas with a group of esteemed colleagues including Matt Sedillo, Viva Padilla, the one and only Luis J. Rodriguez, and El Profe Jose Prado. It was surreal and affirming to step foot into this iconic institution in Cuba. When we arrived after a red eye flight from Los Angeles to Miami to La Havana we were all sleep deprived and loved it. The smell of the airport reminded me of El Salvador because they seem to share a similar tropical climate. The ride to our Casa Particular was a scene from an old school film reel full of the classic cars and murals along the road paying homage to Castro and la revolucion. El Che permeates the air. Casa de Las Americas holds the spirit of all the greats including Violeta Parra, Roque Dalton, and Gabriel Garcia Marquez. I stood in the hallways, staircases, and courtyard imagining the colliding of my footsteps with theirs. As a poet, this is so far the highlight of my writing career. Cuba left an impression on me because of its people and their humble yet joyful spirit. I had the opportunity to speak with folks on the street, in the restaurants both private and government run. There is no sense of despair. They are a proud community. They cherish each other, what they have lived thru, el comandante and what is to come. I noticed lots of places for sale. Their is a new tourist economy blooming in Cuba. I spoke with Luis J. Rodriguez on one of our walks thru La Havana and mentioned how we should invest in a Tia Chuchas or Eastside Cafe our there, una casa para los artistas del extranjero to arrive and work but in hindsight Casa de Las Americas is that place. Fidel invested time and energy into the arts and we are the lucky ones who get to step foot into that world when arriving in Cuba with our words.
4) In addition to being a celebrated poet you are also a musician. Is there any plans to combine these art forms in the works?
This is a tricky question to answer but one that I look forward to owning in the near future. After doing poetry for years, I was looking for another creative outlet to pour my feelings and ideas into because I was getting bored of the word on the page. I am very influenced by the works of Patti Smith, Jim Morrison, and Lou Reed. The beats did it in their own way and spoken word has benefited from a certain cadence or flow but having music merge with your words is a whole other experience both for the artist and the audience. I am currently working on an EP to be released in 2020. It is my intent to bridge both art forms which have played a huge role in my life. I want to be the Latinx Patti Smith. There I said it.
5) Codeswitch is something now of a beloved cult classic. Is their follow up on the horizon?
Wow, that’s great to hear. I am always surprised by people’s take on Codeswitch: Fires from Mi Corazon. I think being a cult anything is pretty punk rock. That makes me smile. I am currently finishing my second collection of poetry with Flowersong Books in Texas. The current working title is Roots of Redemption: You have No Right to Remain Silent. It strikes in the vein of current issues revolving around police brutality including my own experience with the L.A. Sheriffs. I’m gonna get into a lot of trouble for it but that’s what good heartists do.