A Cup of Coffee with Esperanza Reyes

Esperanza Reyes is a multi-talented artist we met on the gram as @e.t.reyes. Not only does she write delicately thoughtful poetry with an edge, she accompanies her words with digital collages as well. We had a little chat with Esperanza and are proud her work is featured in our first anthology.

Can you tell us a little about yourself?

I live in Phoenix, Arizona. I received my first degree with an emphasis in creative writing. I am currently working on my next degree in social work and sociology. I am currently a care provider for individuals with disabilities. I often enjoy writing about my upbringing and the social construct that has/is influencing (and inspiring) me every day. 

When did you realize you were a poet, and how did that happen?

I studied poetry in college, but I didn't stick with it. However, about a year ago poetry found me while sitting at my job. I heard a student say "yellow flames" and suddenly I found myself scribbling on a piece of scrap paper. I haven't stopped since.

You just published your first chapbook, how did writing your first book go?

Messy. I didn't know where I was going with it, but I just kept writing. The theme rose to the surface three poems in. I still have doubts about certain pieces, both collages and poems, but I feel that's life, there will always be a little doubt, you just can't let it stop you. 

Do you have any tips for authors that are thinking about printing a book?

Do it! But do it in a way that feels right to you. I'm a 'test the water’ type of person, but even creating a chapbook, that I print and bind myself, feels more like a leap! 

Why did you want to write a book?

My mother. Since I was a little girl, she would say that I have a unique story to tell and that people need to hear it. Maybe it’ll make another person, who was in the same shoes, feel a little less alone. However, I’m saving that for a larger collection that I self-publish as a full-fledged book in the near future.  

Did you learn anything from writing this book?

Yes! No matter how prepared you think you are, allow yourself space to make mistakes, so you can learn as you go. I learned more about myself through this process.

Do your subjects read your poetry?

Some, but I write more about people who have passed and moments I never want to forget. Now that they are gone, there is so much I wish I could have said. Especially to my mother. Maybe it’s how I grieve? I create memories that never existed but wish did. Or maybe they do, maybe that’s how they live on.

Publishing your work is a vulnerable process, how do you deal with that?

It is like a lump in my throat. I cough a lot when I’m nervous, and so when people ask me about my work, I often keep it short and to the point. I practice in front of my pets and my wife. One day, I’ll be able to confidently express my vulnerability without feeling like it’s such a mistake to do so. 

Do you think someone could be a writer if they don’t feel emotions strongly?

Yes, and it’ll reflect through their craft, but not necessarily in a negative way. I worked with a lot of young individuals on the autism spectrum. Most didn’t know what or if they were feeling and would express it in a non-typical way, or not at all. I would have them write to themselves, about themselves. Some made lists or wrote in the form of a story, many would transform themselves into dinosaurs or superheroes. I believe it reflected a lot about who they were and who (or what) they wanted to be. I saved some and still go back and read them, getting to know a little more about them each time. 

What is the first book that made you cry?

Sometimes I Think I Can Hear My Name by Avi. I was about thirteen when I had to do an essay for one of my classes. I was such a procrastinator (still am) and just chose a book of the libraries’ display. Actually, it chose me. I needed it more than I expected. My parents didn’t have the sweetest relationship. They fought the most during that time in my life. This book helped me more than I ever realized. 

What makes a good story in your opinion?

Honestly, anything that makes the reader connect. Just be real in your own way. It’s almost impossible to judge what a good or bad story is because we all see the world through our own unique lenses. What may be a good story to me, maybe bad to someone else.

Do you believe in writer’s block?

Yes and no. I have experienced dry spells where any thought seemed hopeless or unworthy. However, I feel it was because I was expecting one thing, when really, it was taking me another direction, and I was fighting it. Sometimes, we need to get out of our heads and into the world to give ourselves space to change, to evolve, especially for the sake of our art. 

Do you view writing as a kind of spiritual practice?

Deeply! I fear judgement, but when I write, and people take my pieces and read them in their own way, it makes me feel liberated knowing that no one will ever really know what I was writing about. Sometimes I don’t even know, and that’s what makes it so spiritual to me. 

Anything else you would like to spit out?

Express yourself! Write, draw, paint, whatever! Whether you think you are good or bad, fuck it and do it! We are taught to get to know others but not to take the time to get to know ourselves. Whether it is a single sentence or a whole damn book. Do this one thing for you.

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