Alfredo Aguilar’s poems refuse to be silenced

So our current political climate makes poetry a crucial method for voicing the things that our admin & its supporters want to silence: identity, ethnicity, immigration rights, beauty, consent. How do you use poetry to respond to our environment?

I think one of the many uses poetry has is to illuminate the experience of others & in that way build bridges & cultivate empathy. As incremental as that progress is, I really believe that in sharing our experiences with others we can perhaps connect with other people & make the world a less lonely place. In thinking about the current political climate & poetry, I’ve thought a lot about this Osip Mandelstrom quote: “Only in Russia poetry is respected – it gets people killed.” Poetry isn’t thought of like that in the U.S., but I do think it speaks to the how powerful & galvanizing poetry can be. Poetry can be a threat because it encourages imagining. It also reminds me of the kind of danger poets at different times face(d) just to write. It reminds that I am here, this is my world, & I cannot be silent.


How do you use poetry to talk about personal matters? Many writers describe poetry as a way to understand what they think about something. What ways does poetry interact with your emotional and mental journey?

I think sometimes the poems articulate certain emotions before I’m totally aware of it. This is one of the things I love most about creating something, the act of discovery that can occur if you manage to get out of the way. I think poetry has at times given me a lens form which to view & sort out my emotions on the page. & to see it existing in some form outside of myself can maybe help me understand those emotions better.

When did you begin writing poetry? Why?

I began writing poetry about four years ago. Writing poems came about because I frequented this open mic, Glassless Minds, where I saw people reading & performing poetry. When I first saw it I thought it was incredible, but I never thought of it as something I wanted to do because at the time I was writing & signing songs on guitar. But when I burnt out on writing songs, I began thinking in the kinds of rhythms I heard at Glassless. I wrote down what was in my head, shared it, & that whole community of poets were super supportive & spurred me to keep writing.

Who are you as a poet? How does writing poetry influence your identity (and vice versa)?

I definitely think of myself as poet whose entry point into poetry was song. I believe I fell in love with language through music & I think a lot about the music in poems. I’m not entirely sure how writing poetry influences how my identity. I know I am not my poems & that this hold true for other poets as well, which I always think is a good reminder. I also know that when you’re described as a “poet” people will sometimes project whatever ideas they have about what a poet is or should be.

As for identity influencing my poetry, I really can’t separate who I am when I sit down to write. & it definitely shapes how & what I write about. My poems will always be brown kid poems. But there is a range of emotions & experiences that come with that & it’s more than just how people perceive my otherness.

Tell me about the publishing process. I stumble across your poems in obscure journals and also in widely-read journals. How frequently do you submit your poems? Where have you felt honored to be published?

I tend to write for a few months, assemble packets, & see if any of the journals that I enjoy reading would be a good fit for my work. I submit maybe every couple months or so. Honestly, any place that has been kind & generous enough in their reading to be say “Yes, we’d love to publish your work” feels like an honor. It still kind of leaves me in awe when people believe in my work.

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What do you like about culture? What don’t you like about culture / society? 

One thing I love, as it relates to poetry, is the community of people I’ve found through poetry. I have met so many close friends that I would never have met had it not been for writing poems… Through this art, I’ve found my tribe. & to me it’s so wild that all of this happened because I wrote down my thoughts & shared my words.

One thing I don’t really like & that I think about often is the ways in which capitalism shapes certain pressures around creating poems. In particular, the pressures to always produce or publish. Feeling that you’re always falling behind or aren’t doing enough. I think this holds especially true for younger writers. I think these pressures can be incredibly detrimental, & I try to find ways to push back against those pressures in my own practice of writing.

I really appreciate that perspective; I know I’m indifferent to being rejected now, after years of having my poems rejected, but many other people our age haven’t built up their submitting skins yet, and rejections can cripple the creative soul. Keep on pushing back on that expectation (although if you do keep publishing, I won’t complain). 🙂

What are your goals for the future?

I’m going to try & trick myself into writing a first book. I’m also working on being a better friend, brother, & son.

I can’t wait to read more from you and wish you the best in your debut collection journey. 

Interview edited for clarity and grammar.

Peace & love from Jay the Inspirational

What is the power of poetry?

Every word that you put together to form a sentence can be used to incite violence, provoke thought, or give comfort. It is our duty as artists to be cautious with our words. Poetry has the power to change the world, but we must be careful what we say. I believe that violent words have the potential to do more damage than any sword.

How has writing impacted you?

There is an infinite liberty when I pick up my pen and turn on an instrumental or start playing my djembe. I can sing or write about anything on my heart. One could say it’s therapeutic to be able to get all of my one million scattered thoughts on paper.

Who or what inspires you?

My mother inspires me. She taught us to respect each other and to treat others the way we wanted to be treated. We never wanted for anything. Granted, we didn’t have all the fancy material things, [but] we were happy. It’s all about love. My mother definitely had a major impact on me.

You write a lot about family and friends; where do you gather support and connection from?

Again, my mother and my grandmother were the first people to really invest in my music. I tell the story all the time, but my mom bought me my first keyboard. My grandmother makes a point of telling me the story [of] how when I was two, I came up to her and told her that Jesus told me to preach. To this day, I am still preaching; it’s just a different message.

What is important to you?

Love is important. Love is the energy we transfer through art, our lives, and the experiences we share on this giant space marble. We cannot advance as a people until we come together in love. Only when we put down our weapons and learn to love can we truly understand what unity is. In short, we are all [we] have here.

Unless we come together, unless we have love others more than we love ourselves, this world and our communities will continue to be at war. It is time to lay down our arms and open up our minds. Our planet is dying; cultures are disappearing. Listen, it’s easy; we just have to be nice. Stop treating your neighbor like dirt.

Be good to yourself and every living thing on this planet, from the smallest human to the oldest redwood.

falling down isn’t failing. not getting up is.

written by J. A. Anderson | July 25th, 2017

We’ve all been there. That awful moment when you’ve worked so hard just to find out that…you failed.

Thomas Edison once said, “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways it will not work.”

So, let’s talk about failure.

Failure is defined as “lack of success.” What is a success? Well, success is reaching a goal or achieving something you’ve aimed for. We’ve all been there. You work so hard on one project, one idea, only to find out your hard work didn’t pay off.

We’ve all been there. You work so hard on one project, one idea, only to find out your hard work didn’t pay off.

Or did it?

Back in elementary school, I was part of a program called Oddessy of the Mind. You would work for months with a group of other kids on a skit. You would write the script, make the props, act, sing, dance. Everything. We would work for months on a six-minute skit, preparing for the finals.

We went in, pumped up on adrenaline and excitement, knowing that we had to win. We had done so well. The judges came around and read off the winners only to find out that we did not win.

It was the worst feeling. My heart dropped into my stomach. My eyes started to burn, a lump formed in my throat. I told myself that I still did great, but it didn’t feel like that anymore. I failed. All that hard work down the drain. It felt like it was all for naught.

But it wasn’t.

We may not have won (we did win bronze two years in a row, making it to State the next years) but we learned so much. I learned how to write scripts, how to problem solve, how to be a leader. We learned how to compromise, how to work hard. So to the other teams, we may have failed.

But to me, we won.

If you ever get down because you failed, take a step back. Failure is another word for learned. Just because one way doesn’t work, that doesn’t mean you have to stop. Get back up. Brush yourself off. Look at what you did, and find a better way to do it. Redefine your success. You did not fail.

You learned.

“Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.” -Winston Churchill.

“Only those who dare to fail greatly can ever achieve greatly.” -Robert F. Kennedy.

“Failures are finger posts on the road to achievement.” – C.S. Lewis