- Carolina Quiroga-Stultz
56 - Female Poets
How many roles does a woman play in the house? The poet Kianny Antigua tells us that sometimes the multiplicity of roles steals time for the creative mind. In the comments we reflect on the poem "Woman" and talk about the life of today’s author.
Whenever Dominican author Kianny Antigua is asked what the idea of home means to her as someone who has lived almost as many years in the United States as in her country of origin, this is her answer:
“It is a very subjective and delicate topic, and I think that everyone who is «transplanted» like I was will understand the difficulties that come with change (a different language, cultural shock, limitations, etc.) However, for me, it was even more complicated because I never felt I had a home in the Dominican Republic. While there, I lived at my grandparents’ house, and even though I would not have changed that experience and their company for anything, I grew up embracing a sense of detachment, of belonging but not owning. Here in the States was even worse. I constantly moved from room to room, from apartment to apartment, from other people’s houses to other houses. It was only after I had my daughter, that I felt that my home was where she and my partner were, which was not necessarily a place, a here or a there. It is more like a state of mind. I finally belong to them; they belong to me, and my home is where they are.”
. . .
Hello, dear listeners of Tres Cuentos, the bilingual podcast dedicated to Latin America’s literary, historical, and traditional narratives. My name is Carolina Quiroga-Stultz, and today we welcome Dominican author Kianny Antigua who shared during an interview that reading the story "A Change of Light" by Argentine writer Julio Cortázar literally changed her life.
To those listening to the Spanish episode, you will also hear Melanie’s voice because she produced today’s episode.
Melanie tells us that she found Kianny Antigua's work through the Facebook platform where their paths crossed through shared contacts. Melanie felt immediately drawn to Antigua’s solid and honest voice, one that did not seek to be popular and please everyone -as is often the case on social media. Kianny’s voice was one that would provoke and invite us to question not only the world but also ourselves.
Since then, Melanie hasn’t stopped reading everything she can from this wonderful author. For those already intrigued, Melanie recommends checking Antigua’s latest book, Bestezuelas, published by Isla Negra Editores. Dominican writer Rey Andújar tells us that the stories in this book are "fabulously put together for us to savor with dry bites."
On her part, the author tells us that her intention with Bestezuelas, which loosely translated would be something like ‘Little Beasts,’ was to take readers out of their comfort zone, to “show them things that they do not want to see, that they prefer to ignore, but that are there, interwoven in our human and beastly nature.”
Today, we bring you the poem “Woman”, a self-translation of her poem “Mujer” published in the literary magazine Kametsa. After the reading, we will talk about the poem as well as the life of this Dominican author, and we will close the program with one more of her beautiful poems.
Lend me your ear, dear listener, and dare to come with me to a house that, despite its noise, busyness and characters, it feels empty.
burns very slowly.
No matter how many pages
how many characters
insert themselves into my psyche
and my pen,
how many worlds
the muses anticipate for me
my fingers expel-invent,
the child, the When is the next one coming? the dust, the pots, the cleaning rag,
the wrinkles in the faces and on the shirts,
subjugating it all.
Despite the noise,
if I didn't write
The emptiness would lose its return.
In my throat
the seeds would die.
But no matter how much of a poet I am:
The ridges of my nails
always end up smelling
of crushed garlic and onions.
It does not matter
how much fuel I pour,
burns slowly, oh so slowly!
Let’s come back from a house where the old routine and frustrations burn slowly. Melanie tells us that the poem reminds her of a writing exercise she uses in some of the literary workshops she teaches, one is entitled “I am a house.” It is about imagining ourselves as a house, perceiving the colors, the sounds, every detail, everything that is seen, and all that is hidden.
Kianny’s verses are genuinely evocative. Antigua manages to put us in the skin of this woman who burns in every way, but who, even so, resists and defies all those flammable elements around her. Her writing thus becomes her emergency exit, her fireproof shelter.
One of Melanie’s favorite moments in the poem is the following: “…no matter how much of a poet I am, the ridges of my nails always end up smelling of crushed garlic and onions”. The author achieves here an image full of power and beauty that awakens our senses and leads us to perceive the anguish and conflict of the poetic voice.
To Melanie, this is a moment of great honesty, one that can be transferred to the reality of those people who cannot afford to have that private space proposed by the British essayist and novelist Virginia Woolf, in her essay “A Room Of One's Own” in which she advocates for a space both literal and figurative for women to write and have representation in literature. Woolf's goal is excellent, but, like the woman in the poem by the Dominican author, most people can only hope to find little moments in their busy work and family schedule to give some room to what they are passionate about. Any place or moment will never be enough since having any amount of privacy to achieve our dreams is not always possible.
Still, despite this sense of longing, there can be found a great source of inspiration in the poem. Amid the burning flames of stress, of the pressure of work that never ends —represented in the poem with the image of the eternal smell of garlic and onions— we can also find a refuge, a space of calm and fulfillment.
The poem’s title invites us to view ourselves from a woman’s perspective. It urges us to consider the pressures of everyday life, housework, work, the juggling that women must face to please all those who demand their attention, and the emotional, mental and physical burden that this implies.
This text goes beyond this point of view. Melanie invites us to reflect on the constant pressures of the modern and turbulent world. The danger of feeling burned out and neglecting to enjoy life. Despite it all, we can find beauty and moments of joy, and that is precisely the purpose of art and literature—to open the way to those kinder aspects of life.
Very well, it is time to talk about today’s author.
Kianny Antigua is a prolific and multidimensional writer. Her work crosses linguistic, cultural, and literary borders, ranging from poetry to children's literature. She is also a translator and educator.
This Dominican narrator, poet, and translator was born in San Francisco de Macorís, in 1979. She immigrated to the United States when she was just a teenager. Her mother had emigrated years before, managing to get the necessary documents, and by the time Kianny graduated from high school, as she tells it, “[my mother] got me a green card. And what do you do with it? Well, you leave." Like many immigrants, her decision to leave her country was to search for better opportunities. Although she arrived with excitement and the youthful anticipation of exploring her new environment, she admits that the change was hard.
Antigua has published twenty-three books of children's literature, five collections of short stories, two collections of poems, a book of flash fiction, and a novel. Her work appears in various anthologies, textbooks, magazines, and other media. Her stories have been translated into English, French, and Italian.
In 2019, Antigua compiled and edited the collection Literary Works by 10 Dominican Women, which celebrates the life and work of ten extraordinary Dominican women writers who currently live or have lived abroad. In 2011 she was awarded second place and honorable mention in the Juan Bosch Short Story Award. She has also won eight more mentions and awards, including the Casa de Teatro National Short Story Prize and the Young Short Story Prize at the Santo Domingo International Book Fair.
Kianny recently participated as a translator for a special edition of the literary magazine Asterix Journal in which six Latina writers interact, through flash fiction and poetry, with the visual work of Chilean poet and activist Cecilia Vicuña. Antigua was also part of the 'Afro Summit 2022' in Puerto Rico, where some activities were also held around the presentation of her latest short story collection, Bestezuelas.
Currently, Antigua lives in New Hampshire, where she works as a professor of Spanish at Dartmouth College. In addition to teaching Spanish classes, she also teaches creative writing as part of a class for Latino students.
Kianny confesses that she is an impulsive writer, that the moment she has an idea, she hurries to put it down on paper so that it does not escape her. She also enjoys the beautiful sensation of finishing something. She says that her ideas are born from what surrounds her, from memories, and, above all, things that frighten her. For many, writing is a catharsis that we can all benefit from, especially in these times of uncertainty.
Kianny Antigua seeks to inspire dialogue and reflection around various cultural and racial stereotypes through her books for children. In her book Greña / Crazy Hair, Antigua addresses the stereotype found in some Latin American and Latino communities in the United States that curly hair is “bad” hair.
Although she writes children's books in English and Spanish, her poetry and fiction is written mostly in Spanish. Antigua not only feels more comfortable writing in her native language, but she feels committed to writing in Spanish even as she acknowledges that the literary market within the United States is limited for those Latin American authors who choose to write in their first language.
When asked what it means for her to live in the diaspora, Kianny Antigua closes her eyes and answers through poetry, through that literature that, as she tells us, helps her breathe:
"I see a tree floating, with roots in its feet and its hair...
insurgent and rebel
hair that does not fear
and that, like the flames,
rises and takes root
in the wind.”
Very well dear listeners, and that is all for today, before we close the program, I will leave you with one more of Kianny’s poems, also published in Kametsa Magazine.
It Is No Longer About Fruits nor The South
Strange pieces fall from the sky.
The trees’ humpback
could not take the weight
nor the sadness.
The explosion of a gigantic fruit
floods the air upon falling,
and its pulp scatters about
staining sidewalks and memory.
The road simply has rotten men.
And with these powerful images coming to us from New Hampshire, we wrap up today's episode. Next time, we will introduce you to the poetry of Salvadorian author Roxanna Méndez. Until the next poem, adios, adios.
Tres Cuentos is an exercise of creative writing, researching, and retelling.
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The list of credits per song can be found in the transcript.
Thanks for listening, adios, adios.
Asterix Journal. Literary Magazine. URL: https://asterixjournal.com/amaranta/
Kametsa. Literary Magazine. URL: https://revistakametsa.wordpress.com/2022/05/10/poesia-internacional-kianny-n-antigua-republica-dominicana/
Interview: He aprendido que nada tiene más valor que el texto mismo. Emilia Pereyra. Mayo 7, 2020. URL: https://www.diariolibre.com/revista/cultura/kianny-antigua-he-aprendido-que-nada-tiene-mas-valor-que-el-texto-mismo-OL18649601
Interview: Oral History Project for the course Crossing Over: Latino Roots and Transitions course. Jessica Valles. November 13, 2013. URL: https://journeys.dartmouth.edu/dlohpfa136/oral-history-2/
Interview: Latino Book Review presents Kianny N. Antigua. URL: https://anchor.fm/latino-book-review/episodes/Latino-Book-Review-Presents-Kianny-N--Antigua-e121obg
Author’s website. URL: https://www.kiannyantigua.com/about
Book Review: Greña / Crazy Hair. Gerald A. Padilla. March 21, 2018. URL: https://www.latinobookreview.com/kianny-n-antigua---grentildeacrazy-hair--latino-book-review.html
Book Review: Un cuarto propio, de Virginia Woolf. Centro Bibliotecario de Puente Alto. URL: https://www.centrobibliotecario.cl/index.php/2020/08/13/un-cuarto-propio-de-virginia-woolf-resena/
Teatro de la luna. Magazine. URL: https://teatrodelaluna.org/amigos/poetas/kianny_antigua.htm
Book: Literary Works by 10 Dominican Women. Kianny N. Antigua, editor. https://www.amazon.com/Literary-Works-10-Dominican-Women-ebook/dp/B09FT4HYPK