Ainslie Templeton Interviews Christopher (Loma) Soto

By and | 1 May 2017

AT: You founded Nepantla: A Journal Dedicated to Queer Poets of Color, can you tell me a little bit about its inception, and how the editorial team works? What are some of Nepantla’s goals for the future?

CS: Started with Jameson Fitzpatrick who introduced me to William Johnson at Lambda. William is my editor. I do most of the work for Nepantla and William keeps me in line.

AT: Nepantla’s express aim is to ‘centre the lives and experiences of QPOC in contemporary America’. It’s such a good journal, and seems to have had an amazing response all round, suggesting to me that it’s really needed. Would you like to see it grow to outside of the US?

CS: No, I’m afraid of homonationalism. I’m barely comfortable publishing posthumously in case people would not identify as QTPOC. My rule has been if someone international finds the journal and submits poems then I will read the work. Otherwise, international publishing is not a goal of mine.

AT: Another campaign that you cofounded was the Undocupoets Campaign – I read that you’re no longer with the Undocupoets. Why did you leave and what do you hope to see the group accomplish in the coming years?

CS: I became too busy to contribute to the Undocupoets Campaign in the way that I would have liked. Janine Joseph took my place on the team with Marcelo Hernandez Castillo and Javier Zamora. I hope that they continue to give out grants to undocumented writers and that those grants are able to grow in size and number. I also hope that they continue to advocate against the barring of undocumented writers from poetry publishing guidelines. I’m confident in their abilities to continue doing solid work.

AT: I’m not sure how much you know about this but the Australian government has long-standing border policies that enable a large constellation of detention centres, as well as a prison regime that is increasingly expansionist, following the US example. As an explicitly prison abolitionist poet, your work (in many senses of the word) is a strong example of a response to state violence. What would you say to people engaged in struggles against these things here?

CS: For folks who are also in a fight against state violence, as it appears in prison systems and elsewhere. I offer my verbal and physical and often economic solidarity. I don’t know much about Australian politics.

AT: How is the manuscript going that you are currently working on? When can we expect to see it?

CS: I think my manuscript is about one third of the way complete now. It is my hopes to finish it in the next five years. I write and publish pretty slowly. I’m happy with how it’s coming along so far though. I can see its form and voice and I’m proud of what I’m producing. Writing poetry hasn’t always felt that way for me.

AT: In a few interviews and writings you’ve mentioned that you’re an Aquarius. Do you ever think of your poetry as having some particularly Aquarian bent?

CS: Hmm, yes I guess so. Aquarians are supposed to be creative and rebellious. My poems tend to be anarchistic. Everything that I’m writing now is about prison abolition. So sure! I can agree with that.

AT: I read that Eileen Myles was your thesis advisor. What was it like working with them?

CS: One of the main reasons that I went to NYU was to study under Eileen. They have been one of my literary icons for a long time. When I go to New York. They weren’t teaching at NYU for the first three semesters of my program. Eileen only taught the very last semester of my studies. I had to pick a thesis advisor before that semester began too. Eileen and I had barely known each other at that time but I thought, ‘Fuck it, we’ll either get along or we won’t’. I asked Eileen to be my thesis advisor, without having had much time in the classroom with them. It was a risk that other students didn’t take. And I was lucky because Eileen is fucking genius and it was only the two of us working together that semester. They didn’t have other thesis students. This was before the relaunch of Chelsea Girls, so I guess the other students didn’t understand that Eileen was a cult hero for decades? Or maybe they were too scared to ask for an advisor they hadn’t worked with before. It makes sense. NYU has a billion brilliant faculty members. Anyways, Eileen and I got to spend a whole semester together emailing and texting and writing poems and gossiping and reading and building intimacy and I feel in love with them as a person and not just a poet. And they gave me a sense of liberation that I had never felt in academia before. Being able to look at a professor and know that they saw you, your work and what you were trying to accomplish. Eileen really pushed me into my own voice, helped me be less afraid of speaking in my tongue. While other professors would want me to be “more poetic” Eileen would just want me to be more myself. To exist as a poet was not to merely write on the page. With Eileen, to be a poet meant a dedication to a lifestyle, a way of viewing and interacting with the world – in constant curiosity and interest and rebellion. Eileen really helped me empower me.

This entry was posted in INTERVIEWS and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Related work: