Fellow Feature: Ruben Quesada

Ruben Quesada

Meet Ruben Quesada, the Attic's newest writing fellow. As the author of two chapbooks and a collection of poetry, Quesada has plenty of writing experience. Alongside his writing, he is a poetry editor, literary translator, reading series organizer, and the founder of Latinx Writers Caucus. With such a diverse literary background, Quesada comes prepared to teach at the Attic with a nuanced set of tools.

Sign up for his upcoming workshops here

Check out his full bio on the Attic or learn more at his website

Q: How are you?

A: The past year has been very challenging, but I am hopeful about where things are going. I believe we’ll have some semblance of normalcy closer to the end of the year, and certainly at the start of next year.

Q: What book or article have you read recently that you really enjoyed?

A: I have been re-reading Missing You Metropolis by Gary Jackson. I’m currently working on a series of persona poems and this collection, along with the poetry of Ai, have been on my desk, among a stack of other books for my committee work with the Nation Book Critics Circle.

Q: How long have you taught writing for? What has been your favorite course to teach or classroom environment to teach in?

A: I’ve been teaching writing since 2006. One of the most memorable courses I taught was for the Vermont College of Fine Arts. It was a course on literary translation. The course allowed me to explore and push the boundaries of translation at the intersection of technology.

Q: What is one quality or expectation of writing that you hope to cultivate in your students when they enter into or leave a workshop with you?

A: I hope my students will come to understand that there is room for their perspective and voice in the literary community. But more importantly, the specificity of their experience and how it informs their writing can only be written by them.

Q: Do you have a specific poetic process? How do you begin a new creative work?

A: There are a number of ways I begin to write something new. I begin by reading other work or spend time reflecting on an idea or feeling that I’ve carried with me and use that to propel the writing.

Q: Can you tell us about your Kenyon Review blog? 

A: My weekly column “Poetry Today” existed long before it found its home at the Kenyon Review. Every week, the series at the Kenyon Review blog features two poets who have recently published a new collection. The series has grown in popularity and it requires a tremendous amount of organization and planning to ensure that I have a new installment ready for publication every Tuesday. The poets are given a set of questions about their personal experience as a poet, their perspective on the social function of poetry, and about their recent publication.

Q: How do you approach the teaching of writing? 

A: It’s very important for me to establish a safe and welcoming environment for my students. Poetry is an art that requires vulnerability. I want my students to understand that there is value in what they choose to write about, but there is also value in being critical about the language they use to communicate their story.

Q: What are you most excited for when it comes to being a writing fellow at the Attic? 

A: I am most excited about meeting writers from around the world who consider the classroom a communal space to explore possibilities and potential of language. I am honored to be one of the first fellows outside of Portland. And that has only been possible because of technology and online teaching. I’m excited to find ways that technology can enhance the writing and learning process.

Q: Do you have a favorite poem that you’ve written?

A: I think all of my poems are my favorites. They’re like children. I don’t think I can choose just one.

Q: Can you tell us about your work in translation? 

A: I have been working on translating a collection of poetry by Luis Cernuda, an early twentieth century poet. This project is a very traditional literary translation of poetry. In recent years, I have been exploring other ways to transgress traditional notions of translations by turning to technology to support translation and also to reinterpret what it means to translate a text. Some examples can include video essays, video poems, or digital stories.

Q: What’s it like co-editing an anthology? How has that project taken shape?

A: The project is in its last stages. It is being sent out for review. Having a co-editor has given the project energy and it has moved it forward in a way that has enabled me to see the end of the project. Having a co-editor was a choice I made, and choosing Natalie Scenters-Zapico was one of the best decision I have made for the project. Her insight, experience, and friendship has made this project effortless.

Q: How has being an involved member of the literary community impacted your writing? 

A: Being as involved as I am has been rewarding. It has given me access to writing I may not have encountered, but it can also be time consuming. Taking time from my own work, it’s a double-edged sword. I believe that poets, having responsibility to their community, not simply to be poets, but to be stewards of creating community.

Q: Are you working on any other projects that excite you?

A: I’m excited about a reading series I started called The Mercy Street Readings. It is a reading series that takes place every first Sunday of the month. I feature six writers via Zoom. The event is organized through Eventbrite, which allows me to fundraise and offer readers payment and covers the cost of closed captioning. The series is currently booked through the start of 2022.