Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Writer: Rosa Alcalá

Welcome back to Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Writer, our interview series that asks writers the burning questions we’ve always wondered (and that takes its name from “Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird” by Wallace Stevens). Our second writer in the series is poet Rosa Alcalá whose book MyOther Tongue was recently published by Futurepoem Books.


What is your go-to pen(cil)? Whatever pen I’ve pilfered from my ob-gyn.

Most beautiful word in all the world: Albahaca in Spanish, aphonic in English.

Alter ego: Rita Hayworth as Gilda.

What’s for dinner? Panic.

What’re you reading? The latest issue of the Chicago Review and Siam by Sara Uribe.

Who is your most-recent writer crush? Dawn Lundy Martin because I loved Good Stock Strange Blood.

Song lyrics stuck in your head, go: Under the boardwalk (down by the sea).

You’re a new edition to the Crayola box. Congratulations. What is your new name? Duende.

What are you putting off? The present.

What was the last gift you gave someone? A Howlite necklace. It’s supposed to have calming properties. She has four kids.

What were you like as a college or graduate student? I lived at home, worked, had terrible acne, and joined many causes.

Here’s your free ticket. Where are we going? Mexico City.


Rosa Alcalá is the author of three books of poetry, most recently MyOTHER TONGUE (Futurepoem, 2017). Her poems, along with critical perspectives on her work, are included in Steph Burt’s The Poem is You: 60 Contemporary American Poems and How to Read Them (Harvard UP, 2016), The Fate of Difficulty in the Poetry of Our Time, ed. Charles Altieri & Nicholas Nace (Northwestern UP, 2017), and American Poets in the 21st Century: Poetics of Social Engagement, eds. Claudia Rankine and Michael Dowdy (Wesleyan UP, forthcoming). The recipient of an NEA Translation Fellowship and runner-up for a PEN Translation Award, she is the editor and co-translator of Cecilia Vicuña: New & Selected Poems (Kelsey Street Press, forthcoming).  She has taught for CantoMundo, and was the 2016 Allen Ginsberg Fellow at Naropa’s Jack Kerouac School of Disembodied Poetics. Currently she teaches in the Department of Creative Writing’s Bilingual MFA Program at the University of Texas-El Paso.


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