Leonor, what are you up to lately?
I am a photo editor at a media company by day. Side project maniac by night - in the last year, I photo directed a kickstarted magazine, co-created a zine, ran social media for an author, started a weekly newsletter, started producing another visual project for an upcoming book release - I love a side project. Clearly.
What is moving you at this moment?
So many things - I am at a computer all day at work, so I like to seek out beautiful things on the internet. I stumbled on Paper Darts recently which I wanted to spend all day reading. I am still thinking about the gorgeous Pippilotti Rist show at the New Museum which I went to in November - it made me want to crawl inside her head. The latest collection of short stories by Roxane Gay, Difficult Women cracked open my heart in the best possible way. The Marilyn Minter exhibit at the Brooklyn Museum. Photographs by Bobby Doherty, especially his still life food photography.
Where do you go to tune out and/or tune in?
I'm lucky to live a few short blocks from the Brooklyn Botanic Garden and it's my refuge. I go year round - in the rain, the snow, the cold, the heat. I try to go at least once a week - even if I am short on time, I'll simply walk through to get to the train. In the summers, I cut through on my way home when they have their late night hours. When the weather is nice, I try to spend my time reading outdoors and that is my preferred place. I feel calmer, more grounded there. It's quieter. It's clean. It's perfectly curated. In the summer, there are tiny bunnies running around! What is there not to love about that? I am very protective over who I invite to spend time with me in the gardens since I consider it my safe space.
What is your relationship to poetry?
I was your standard angsty poet in high school, but somehow it didn't go away when I went to college. I studied creative writing and graduated with an English/Creative writing degree. I desperately wanted to get my MFA in poetry, but in true tragic form, I didn't get in and thought my life was over. I still wrote for several years after that, but fell out of the habit and lost the drive in my mid-twenties. I never stopped reading poetry, holding a slender tome in my hands still gives me a thrill.
Can you remember the first words (ie. poem, story, lyric) you fell in love with?
I've been a book nerd since I was very little - I carried books with me everywhere. One of my first favorites was The Phantom Tollbooth, which happens to be all about language. The book that made me think that my stories could be worth telling was The House on Mango Street by Sandra Ciseneros.
What is your earliest memory of writing?
I've gone through a lot of phases when it comes to form. When I was in kindergarten, my teacher, Lorna Davis, was incredibly encouraging to me as a reader and a writer. I remember writing stories in a composition notebook, phonetically spelling out every word. In middle school, I fell in love with playwriting after seeing a play on off off off Broadway, written by my uncle. I went through a short story phase in HS, along with writing poems. College was all about creative non-fiction and poetry. The through line always seemed to be poetry.
Can you describe your current writing process?
I am only just getting back into writing - both the act of writing for myself and the act of sharing that writing with others. When I was actively writing, I had a notebook that I carried around everywhere for just that purpose. I am trying to get back into that habit now. I've noticed that now I'll have an idea in my head, but won't take the next step to write it down, and then it disappears. I don't want to let any more words disappear, so I am getting back into the habit of carrying around a book for poems.
Where do your poems come from?
The poetic answer would be from the fissures in my soul - from my pain, from my joy, and all the sentiments in between. The reality is they come from there and from a combination of my life experiences and my very active imagination.
How does poetry connect us as human beings?
For me, poetry is one of the most vulnerable mediums. The writing leaves the poet so exposed. I think it creates a special connection between the writer and the reader.
What is the path of fear?
For me, especially, insecurity and self doubt. I am fearful of failure, and am loathe to try something new unless I have full confidence that I will be great at it - a tough burden when something is foreign. For me, the only way to combat fear is to be bold and brave.
Who would you like to see interviewed on We The Tender Hearted?
I'd love to see other people who don't necessarily consider themselves writers (like myself), but who write.
And Siri Quarfordt,an 8 year old poet from Brooklyn. She was published in Mary Review, and is wildly talented with an old soul.
photographs by Naomi Shon