Interview: Deborah Paredez

The following interview was conducted by ACC student Lauren Osborne.

Deborah Paredez began writing in junior high and she feels the she owes a lot of her life as a poet to a teacher she had in the seventh grade: Julie Bathke. Bathke became a sort of mentor for Paredez and helped her realize that poetry was something she wanted to pursue. In the seventh grade Paredez was introduced to a poem by John Donne called “Valediction Forbidding Mourning.” This poem cast her under its spell and started her on the path of poetry. She has been writing ever since.

Lauren Osborne: What writing rituals do you have?

Deborah Paredez: Because I had a baby this past year, unfortunately, writing rituals have gone out the window. I write in whatever stolen moment I can find. Ideally I would write every day. However, it has to be completely quiet in the house. That is my favorite way.

LO: What is your motivation in poetry?

DP: My motivation is to inch closer toward illumination. It is genuinely one of the things in my life that makes me genuinely happy in the world.

LO: What is your favorite computer font?

DP: Times New Roman is the one I use. It doesn’t seem clean enough for poems, but I just use it because it’s the default.

LO: When did you know you wanted to be writer?

DP: I knew I wanted to be a writer in the seventh grade, after I read John Donne’s poem “Valediction Forbidding Mourning” in Julie Bathke’s class.

LO: What jobs have you had?

DP: I have had many jobs. I worked in a windowless back room of a flower shop, cutting and dethorning roses. I worked as a secretary/receptionist. I worked as a professor. I worked as assistant literary director for the Guadalupe Cultural Arts Center. I worked as associate director for the Center of Mexican American Art Studies. I also worked briefly in a laundromat that my father owned for a short time. I helped my dad fold laundry.

LO: What does poetry mean to you?

DP: It means that there is a reliable place for expression and encountering hard truths and momentary transcendence.

LO: What is poetry’s role is society?

DP: Poetry distills language to its very core. It has a particularly powerful role in launching precise attacks against power. It also teaches us how it is that we come to know ourselves through language.

LO: What is your favorite poem and why?

DP: Right now, my favorite poem is “Circus Fire” by Gabrielle Calvocoressi. It is an evocative example of using poetry to fill in the holes of history. It is written in many different personas. I am working on long multi-sequence poems right now, so this poem is really serving as a great model for my long multi-sequence poems.

LO: Do you prefer rhyme or free verse?

DP: I prefer free verse.

LO: Do you think you will write your whole life?

DP: Absolutely!

About Deborah Paredez

Paredez is from San Antonio, Texas and has lived in Seattle, Washington and Chicago. She moved back to Texas and currently resides in Austin. She has one younger brother who lives in San Antonio. Her family has been established in San Antonio since the 1730s. They emigrated from Spain when Texas was still part of Mexico. She received a Ph.D. in theater at Northwestern University and has taught classes at Vassar College and the University of Texas. She did not attend an MFA program. Her training was more informal and self-taught. Poets that influenced her include Margaret Atwood, Sharon Olds, Martin Espada, Lucille Clifton and Marie Howe. Poets she is studying now include Natasha Tretheway, Van Jordan, and Gabrielle Calvocoressi. The types of poets that inspire Paredez are typically female poets that write about everyday life. She is also influenced by 20th and 21st century American poets. In 2002 she published a book of poems called This Side of Skin. In 2010 she co-founded Canto Mundo, a national organization that fosters and supports Latino poets and poetry. She is currently working on a book called After the Light. -Bio by Lauren Osborne