Q & A with OyeDrum’s new Writing & Hybrid Works Editor jo reyes-boitel

By Amarantha da Cruz

Tell us about your background and path to creative writing.

I don’t remember a time I wasn’t writing. Before I knew how to write I would sing, create lyrics myself, and memorize them. I taught myself to read just so I could read the odd books my mother chose for herself. I came to writing poetry in third grade. I loved poetry so much I started crafting little books and created my own library. People come to writing for many reasons. These are the same for me but, at this point, the act of writing became central to who I am. It has brought me my closest friends, helped me find or create safe spaces, allowed me to understand myself and the world, and still allows me to create and recreate the person I am striving to be.

Who are some of your favorite writers and artists?

I have a weird kick for decolonial theory by those who are also artists and writers. These include Emma Pérez, Gloria Anzaldúa, Audre Lorde. Favorite poets are many but include Vievee Francis, Richard Siken, Yesenia Montilla, Paul Tran, Anne Sexton, and Lucille Clifton has my whole heart. I appreciate classic photographers like Cindy Sherman and Laura Aguilar. I’m a little addicted to Octavia Butler and Nalo Hopkinson. San Antonio-based painter David Zamora Casas is the epitome of sexiness, remembrance, and joyful exuberance whose paintings and installations combine history and text. Rodney Gomez’ approach to visual poetry is intriguing and makes me feel capable of creating some myself. Sam Waterson creates landscapes and waterfalls with text that I wish I could have all over my walls. Virginia Grise’s plays combine politics, critique, and personal story. Selah Saterstrom’s essays are ooey gooey richness and revelatory. Toshi Reagon’s librettist work and voice can make you want to give up writing and then take it on again. And Dorian Wood’s performative singing is everything.

What are some literary and poetry journals you read?

I’m a total literary journal slut. I find new ones all the time and follow their social media. A new post or event catches my eye and I end up in a deep dive into the newest edition or a new call for work. This is how I found OyeDrum. I appreciated the diversity of experiences and found that my work was in conversation with those pieces, deciding to then submit my own. I was initially attracted to the name both because I’m a novice hand percussionist and because it reminded me of Oya, the Yoruban diety known for her role in life transitions, alignment with women entrepreneurs, and for her domain over the first and last breaths, of the wind and hurricanes.

I skip through many journals because it makes my heart happy to see there are so many avenues now for our literary voices. Still, I have those I return to again and again: Acentos Review, The New Yorker’s poetry selections, Kweli Journal, Infrarrealista Review, Huizache Magazine, Gulf Coast Journal, and Kissing Dynamite.

I have to admit, however, that I’m a closer fan of small and independent presses and watch what work they offer. Some of my favorites are Neon Hemlock, Haymarket Books, porkbelly press, Aunt Lute Books, Copper Canyon, and the literary project LibroMobile (in collaboration with Red Salmon Arts).

What is your definition of hybrid in writing?

Hybridity pushes within, combines or moves against the genres we have always known. Any work that does this might be called experimental, autohistoria-teoría, micro-plays, novels in verse, librettos, visual poetry (with or without visible text), directives, soundscapes, graphic literature/comics, or other forays into self-expression that doesn’t deny the multiple ways we communicate in a creative piece.

Early commercial iterations considered work hybrid if it blended two or more genres or subgenres into one work (think horror stories with a romance at the center) but hybridity has been with us since the beginning of time and genre as a concept was developed to corral writing into something digestible and knowable and acceptable. I blame Plato.

I love hybrid work that allows for multiple languages or ways of speaking, that incorporates found text, that mimics a chorus with multiple voices.

What do you look for in a writing?

What I want as a reader for my personal consumption and for the journal both are the same: I want to be surprised by a work because of its voice or the unexpected volta, or its lush lyricism. I want to feel how a writer’s choices in their work generates connection and feelings as I run through the piece. Personal experiences, confessional work, and landscape pieces intrigue me. Pieces that leap and take me with them. Work that questions the world. Writing that document beauty. Small moments relived and made into prayer. Work that combines languages because the writer felt the compulsion to reach deeper with their origin languages. Stories or plays that speak to what it is to be a person.

I asked allia, and now I’m asking you! Why do you not capitalize the first letter of your first and last names?

I remember reading bell hooks in college as a young undergrad and loved the look of her name. It’s a distinct name! But part of the beauty of it was the exclusive use of lowercase. I often refused capitalization in my own early poetry and so it made sense to me that my name should follow what my writing was doing. I could have chosen all uppercase – can you imagine! – but the sense of fluidity and the roundness of the lowercase letters really attracted me. It felt like the absence of hierarchical leanings too, which was a bonus given I use both family names and they don’t necessarily get along. Here on the page they are equal. I learned later that hooks chose lowercase to emphasize the work she created rather than her name. I can appreciate that in my own writing goals.

Thank you! Welcome to the Coven! 

I’m honored to be here with all y’all.

Amarantha da Cruz is a writer, editor, witch, and the founder/publisher of OyeDrum.