New York State Writers Institute Interviews Poet Giannina Braschi
We caught up with Giannina Braschi, a celebrated figure of the Nuyorican (New York-Puerto Rican) poetry scene.
A pioneer of literary work in Spanglish– the blending of Spanish and English employed by communities throughout North America — Giannina Braschi is the author of El imperio de los sueños, Yo-Yo Boing!, and United States of Banana.
She is also the subject of the forthcoming book: Poets, Philosophers, Lovers: On the Writings of Giannina Braschi. Co-edited by Frederick Luis Aldama and Tess O’Dwyer (U Pittsburgh, October 2020), this book features essays by fifteen scholars from seven countries exploring Braschi’s linguistic and structural hybrids of poetry, theater, and political philosophy.
United States of Banana is forthcoming in a new version as a graphic novel in March 2021:
The Covid-19 Pandemic of 2020
Q: Hi Giannina. Is there anything you’d like us to read as we shelter in?
A: In these times when we can’t breathe, Breathing Chaos and Poetry by Franco “Bifo” Berardi is inspirational. I’ve just ordered Immunodemocracy: Capitalist Asphyxia by Donatella Di Cesare and Irreversible Noise by Inigo Wilkins.
Q: How do you cope with social distancing?
A: I have always kept my distance so it is inspirational to see the singular become a plurality.
Q: Any words of wisdom for us?
A: Intuition is the positive energy that envy kills when it refuses to see the rainbow in the sky.
For progress to happen — spiritual progress — intuition is the driving force that is not drawn back by any bad feeling — intuition renews itself — not knowing the whereabouts of progress nor questioning the origin of progress — letting it be as it is in its simplicity — it stays there — rocking its thoughts — and never letting them get old — because they are never guilty of anything — they never have to hide — or do shameless things — everything is in the open — and when you come out of the cave — it is always progress — when the obscurity is brought to tears of shame — left behind — because spiritual progress depends on escalating degrees of light — of running into the light — of shining with the light inside — of reflecting back what has shined — and dawning — giving birth to puppies of light.
Q: May we share one of your poems?
Giannina Braschi’s cutting-edge work has inspired adaptations by other artists into theater, photography, video, lithography, painting, sculpture, comics, chamber music, and even kinetic furniture. Of note, New York designer Ian Stell recently built a steel chair which transforms into a floor lamp. Stell designed this kinetic device to exist as a functional hybrid between typologies and named it after “Giannina”, who is a collector of designer chairs, mechanical toys, and illumination devices.
Braschi visited the University at Albany in October 2012 as part of a panel of major poets entitled Performing Voices of the Puerto Rican Diaspora. The event was held in association with the 20th Anniversary Conference of the Puerto Rican Studies Association, hosted by UAlbany’s Center for Latino, Latin American, and Caribbean Studies, and Department of Latin American, Caribbean, and US Latino Studies, in partnership with the New York State Writers Institute. Albany was chosen as the location of the conference because of its long and distinguished history as home to one of the first Puerto Rican Studies programs in the country. The program achieved international recognition under the leadership of Edna Acosta-Belen, one of the nation’s leading Latino Studies scholars and a frequent co-creator of Writers Institute programming.