An Interview with Eloísa Avoletta by Jesse Lee Kercheval

Eloísa Avoletta’s work appears in the online anthology of very young Uruguayan poets, En el camino de los perros: antología virtual de poesía ultrajoven. She received the 2016 Pablo Neruda prize for young Uruguayan poetry organized by the Pablo Neruda Foundation and the Department of San José. She studies Social Education and works at a bookstore. Recently, our Senior Translation Editor, Jesse Lee Kercheval, had a chance to ask her a few questions about her work, women’s writing, and the contemporary literary landscape.
JLK: Is there anything you would like to tell readers about your poetry or the poems in this book?

EA: I write what I can. Until now I’ve said what came out. I don’t like to polish or analyze my writing too much because I feel as though I were betraying the initial state. That’s why what comes out is usually concise and, at times, very much unexpected. There are things that I want to say but I have not written about because the right word has not come to me yet. I don’t think there is anything else to add, although I’m sure that in 10 minutes I’ll come up with something.

JLK: Is there anything you would like to tell readers outside Uruguay about Uruguayan poetry, especially the poetry written by other women poets?

EA: I think that for women, the world is a hostile place, and in the literary world it is like that too. I don’t feel I could give an opinion about Uruguayan poetry in general. We’re getting to know each other. What I do know is that I and many other young poets are writing so that new words are heard. I can hardly hear their howling while they are in the midst of a whirlwind of daily jobs and tasks, foreign times, several sedatives, with an earthly and profound lucidity that lights things on fire by their own spontaneous combustion. I can say that in that it is in that Uruguayan poetry that I trust.

JLK: Are there any Uruguayan women poets who have influenced your work or you particularly admire?

EA: I like Marosa’s [di Giorgio] textures, in that which is very small in Circe (Maia), the climatic in Ida, and Idea’s [Vilariño] power. I also love what other friends and women around me are writing now—things that leave me speechless, wanting to dance or break things. I’m thinking of Lalo Barrubia, Tania Lezama, Isabel de la Fuente, María Laura Blanco, Guillermina Sartor, or in María Laura Pintos Noble.
Jesse Lee Kercheval is a 2016 NEA in Translation Fellow and is the author of fourteen books including the poetry collection Cinema Muto, winner of a Crab Orchard Open Selection Award; The Alice Stories, winner of the Prairie Schooner Fiction Book Prize; the memoir Space, winner of the Alex Award from the American Library Association. She is also a translator, specializing in Uruguayan poetry. Her translations include The Invisible Bridge: Selected Poems of Circe Maia and Fable of an Inconsolable Man by Javier Etchevarren. She is also the editor of the anthology América invertida: An Anthology of Emerging Uruguayan Poets. She is currently the Zona Gale Professor of English at the University of Wisconsin-Madison where she directs the Program in Creative Writing.