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posted Nov 27, 2017, 3:08 PM by kristin naca   [ updated Nov 27, 2017, 3:14 PM ]

Former Professor Sues Mac Alleging Discrimination And Wrongful Termination

Kristin Naca, a former professor in the English department, has sued Macalester College for “discriminatory and retaliatory termination.” According to her lawsuit filed on October 9, the College revoked her employment due to “her systemic Valley Fever, her sincere practice of the religion of Santería, sex, sexual orientation, and her Filipina and Puerto Rican ancestry and national origin.” Naca, who joined Macalester in 2008, was fired in September 2015.

According to Naca’s lawsuit, Director of Employment Bob Graf identified the reason for her termination as “failing to maintain ethical boundaries with a student” at a February 2016 hearing before a Minnesota state unemployment judge.

Graf and other college administrators alleged that Naca engaged in an inappropriate relationship with a student, referred to as “Jane Doe” in the suit.

Naca’s lawsuit claims she did not violate college policy because Jane Doe was an alumna at the time of their “brief, consensual” relationship, and that no policy forbids relationships between faculty and alumni. According to the lawsuit, the judge who presided over the February hearing agreed that no such policy exists and awarded Naca unemployment benefits.

College administrators have maintained that Naca’s termination was a lawful and legitimate response to violations of college policy.

“Kristin Naca’s employment at Macalester was terminated as the result of a serious violation of the college’s policies relating to Title IX protections, following a complaint about her conduct with a student,” Macalester President Brian Rosenberg said in a statement to The Mac Weekly. “Unfortunately, Naca’s response to these findings… has been to attack, intimidate and retaliate against the survivor who brought forward the complaint.”

While Rosenberg did not specify which policies Naca violated, the lawsuit claims Macalester “fabricated a sexual assault charge to mask discrimination.”

The lawsuit references a Macalester College Harassment Committee (MCHC) finding that “current policy does not address faculty relationships with alumni… nor does it outline parameters to consider when entering romantic relationships with alumni.”

The MCHC interviews with Jane Doe also found “no evidence of overt threat or coercion to be in a relationship,” and confirms that the romantic relationship between Naca and Jane Doe began after Jane Doe’s graduation.

While the legal proceedings will continue in the coming months, Naca’s legal team has released a statement to the press, reasserting her claim that Macalester has “abused Title IX for the purpose of discrimination and retaliation.”

In an interview with The Mac Weekly, Naca called her termination a “clear violation of [her] due process rights and a blatant act of discrimination made under false pretenses.”

“I look forward to settling this matter in a public fashion,” she added.

Naca is seeking $2.4 million in compensation from the college for a “lifetime of lost tenured faculty status in academia, inclusive of health, pension, and other benefits,” according to the lawsuit.

In the administration’s statement to The Mac Weekly, the school “condemn[s] Naca’s ongoing actions in the strongest possible terms and intend[s] to vigorously defend against her claims in court.”

Macalester’s response to the lawsuit was originally due October 28, but the judge approved an extension until Thursday, December 8. [Editor’s note: The Mac Weekly goes to print Wednesday nights].

The Mac Weekly will continue to report on this story as documents become public and the suit progresses.

Poet Accused of Purple Prose

posted Oct 11, 2016, 1:27 PM by kristin naca   [ updated Oct 28, 2016, 11:24 AM ]

"...even without volition, purple cascades even from pens, so purple poems are written, telling of the world awash in plush August light..."

It's too good a coincidence. Purple is the color of the house in my long poem, by the same name. It's the official color of Minnesota. RIP, PRN. And it's the color of one of the most influential Orisha warriors, Ogun. Thanks to Judge Schiltz, for providing us the opportunity to hone our points and get it right.

‘Purple prose’ in poet’s prolix lawsuit irks judge

By: Mike Mosedale October 7, 2016 0

Fired Macalester College professor Kristin Naca may have garnered praise for her 2009 poetry collection, Bird Eating Bird, but U.S. District Judge Patrick Schiltz is no fan of the “purple prose and personal invective” in the poet’s lawsuit against her former employer.

“Complaints are not briefs; they are not press releases; they are not vehicles for venting personal outrage or bludgeoning an opponent into submission,” Schiltz fumed in a Sept. 30 order.

However, it was the sheer length of Naca’s complaint that most irked Schiltz, who ordered the pleading stricken for violating a federal rule of civil procedure that requires “a short and plain statement of the claim.”

“Naca’s complaint – which weighs in at a remarkable (in a bad way) 81-pages and 250 numbered paragraphs and culminates in 26 claims for relief – does not come close to complying with Rule 8,” Schiltz writes. “The complaint sets forth in numbing detail just about every slight that Naca alleges she suffered during her tenure at Macalester. And the allegations in the complaint are not ‘simple, concise and direct;’ instead, they are rife with purple prose and personal invective.”

Schiltz’s order requires that Naca file an amended complaint of no more than 10,000 words by Oct. 28.

In the now-stricken complaint, Naca, an assistant professor of poetry at Macalester for six years prior to her sacking in 2015, accuses the notoriously P.C.-college of fostering “an objectively hostile work environment towards people of color, homosexuals, the disabled, and religious minorities.”

As a self-described Santeria priest of Filipina and Puerto Rican heritage who is both gay and disabled by “systemic Valley Fever,” Naca claims she wound up targeted for discrimination.

According to the suit, Macalester honchos used Naca’s “brief, consensual relationship” with a former student as a bogus pretext to justify her firing. She is seeking $2.4 million for the loss of the tenure track position, along with punitive and compensatory damages for emotional distress.

Despite the robust bench slap, Naca and her lawyer, Minneapolis attorney Peter Nickitas, can take some solace in knowing that they are not the first litigants to be scolded by Schiltz for a prolix filing.

Back in 2011, Schiltz announced in a similar order that he would “no longer tolerate the filing of kitchen sink complaints.”

In that case (an otherwise mundane dispute over housing vouchers, Gurman v. Metro Hous. & Redev. Auth.), the judge memorably likened the pleadings to a “coughed up…unsightly hairball of factual and legal allegations” and, as with the Naca suit, ordered the complaint stricken.

Naca Named McKnight Fellow in Poetry

posted Oct 1, 2016, 10:59 AM by kristin naca   [ updated Oct 11, 2016, 3:06 PM ]
By Laurie Hertzel
MARCH 22, 2016 — 4:50PM

Kristin Naca pictured with McKnight Fellows Khary Jackson, David Mura, Anders Carlson-Wee and Loft Board Members and Staff, including poet Bao Phi (far right)

Five Minnesota writers—four poets/spoken word artists, and one children’s author -- have each won a $25,000 McKnight Artist Fellowship, it was announced today by the Loft Literary Center.

The winners were chosen from a field of 103 poetry applications and 22 children’s literature applications

The poetry winners are Anders Carlson-Wee, David Mura, Khary Jackson and Kristin Naca. The children’s literature winner is Constance Van Hoven of St. Paul.

Honorable mentions in poetry are Hieu Minh Nguyen, Jude Nutter, Katharine Rauk, and Leslie Adrienne Miller. In children’s literature the honorable mentions are Aimee Bissonette, Dara Dokas, Stephanie Watson and Stephen Shaskan.

The McKnight Artist Fellowships for Writers is now in its 34th year. Previous winners include Robert Bly, Ed Bok Lee, Jim Moore, and William Kent Krueger.

Judges for this year's competition were Patrick Rosal for poetry and Andrea Davis Pinkney for children's literature.


posted Sep 28, 2016, 12:15 PM by kristin naca   [ updated Oct 11, 2016, 3:07 PM ]


Text / Iyawó (Kristin Naca) 

A poet takes ekphrastic account of artworks that punctuate her initiation into the religion of Santería. 

Leah DeVun, King Dead, King Replaced, 2014, C-print [courtesy of the artist]

To read the entire article and collection of ekphrastic poems, check out Naca's non-fiction, or read on the ARTPAPERS website:


posted Sep 28, 2016, 12:13 PM by kristin naca   [ updated Oct 11, 2016, 3:18 PM ]

Why Being “On Fire” Is for Everyone

      Man on Fire, 1969, by Luis Jiménez

Soneto de Silueta

        Untitled, from the Silueta series, 1980, by Ana Mendieta

Kristin Naca

Kristin Naca, also known as Iyawó, earned a BA from the University of Washington, an MFA in poetry from the University of Pittsburgh, and a PhD in English from the University of Nebraska. Her collection of poems, Bird Eating Bird (2009), was selected by Yusef Komunyakaa for the mtvU National Poetry Series. 
Naca’s poetry explores her multicultural Puerto Rican and Filipina heritage, sexuality, and interest in linguistics. A selection of poems in Bird Eating Bird are written in Spanish, a language that Naca learned in order to better understand her Puerto Rican background. In an interview for, she explained that “the poems document my mouth conforming to the sounds of words.” Naca also described the process of intense revision in completing her collection as “doing reverse taxidermy, refitting the poems’ skins around clouds of ideas.”

Bird Eating Bird was a 2010 Lambda Literary Award Finalist, and Naca was awarded an Honorable Mention in Poetry from the Astraea Lesbian Writers Fund. Her poems and essay, “Life Altars,” details her initiation as a santera in Art Papers. She teaches Asian American and Latino literature and creative writing at Macalester College in St. Paul, Minnesota.

POETRY magazine reviews BIRD EATING BIRD

posted Sep 28, 2016, 12:12 PM by kristin naca   [ updated Oct 11, 2016, 3:08 PM ]


Oh, hi there, reader! Hello!

Matthew Zapruder’s Come On All You Ghosts, Vera Pavlova’s If There is Something to Desire, and Kristin Naca’s Bird Eating Bird.

Bird Eating Bird, by Kristin Naca. Harper Perennial.$13.99.

In Leonard Bernstein’s revelatory and ridiculous playlet Bull Session in the Rockies, a lyric poet motors through the American West while driving home this comparison between music and words: “Whenwords are in the hands of an artist, a poet, they can acquire a value of their own, over and above the mental image they convey,” thus becoming “more like notes, which exist basically for their own sake and not for any representational idea.” 

Kristen Naca’s often mellifluous first collection delivers sound in concert with sense, but—in accordance with the lyric poet’s theory—the former lures attention away from the latter, so that on first reading, you hear the poetry rather than understand it. She estranges American readers from our own language even as she introduces us to its musical undertones:

Her lips, red gathering in the creases when she puckers.

Endings that are dirty tricks and also feathers.

Red water out the pipes, teeming from the rusty gutters. 
       —From “Speaking English is Like”

When her uneasily bilingual poetry incorporates Spanish, she at once draws English speakers closer to her own experience—a Filipina-American, Naca grew up with Spanish and English in her ears—and alienates those of us who don’t know the other language well. Like the Nuyorican Poets, Naca occupies one of America’s many linguistic borderlands, and seems at home neither in Spanish nor in English: when using one, she must always negotiate with the other. In Bird Eating Bird, that discord echoes through the reader’s experience too.

Naca precedes four of her English poems with their Spanish versions, providing all but the perfectly bilingual with readerly green cards: she invites us in, but only so far. At other moments, she mixes the languages, translating the Spanish phrases only sometimes. When she does, she places English translations to the right of Spanish words, creating a verbal seesaw that’s hard for the monolingual reader to balance: if you attend only to the Spanish, you sink into confusion; if you stop looking at the poem to glance at the English, you break the rhythm of reading. Whether she places translations on the following page, requiring page flipping, or on the same line, necessitating eye flicking, she forces imperfect options on the reader—a reflection, perhaps, of the strained hybridity of her own bicultural experience.

Yet meaning emanates from that awkwardness. The translated phrases clustering to the right of the poem clump into short stanzas of their own, commenting on the original. Then Naca’s text seems most like a score, scripting concurrent cadences that are impossible to read, and hear, at once. This dual effect proves particularly effective in poems about couples. While the speaker describes a romantic encounter, the translation of assorted phrases floats on the right-hand margin, permitting another voice to assert:

            you didn’t stop staring
      you alone were completely
              beautiful and sensual

               . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
         How I fell into your arms

              —From “Gavilán o Paloma”

One of Naca’s finest pieces, “House,” melds not only languages but also genres, subjects, and styles. This surreal prose poem describes the identity crisis of the word “house,” and it reads like a children’sstory embedded with linguistic morals. Characteristically, Naca focuses first on sonics. She highlights the heinous “h,” a letter Shakespeare’s multilingual pedant Holofernes dubbed an “abhomination.” (Sometimes—as in Spanish—it’s silent; sometimes—as in French—it’s silent in ways that complicate matters anyway; sometimes—as in English—it’s silent only sometimes.) Naca describes the pronunciation of a Spanish-style “house,” without that “chimneystack, cleft of a letter.” After a war of words whose complexities exceed the scope of this chronicle—let’s just say some letters aren’t happy that others get pronounced louder and more consistently than they do—that silent “h” feels unwanted, and goes wandering, an alphabetic Cain:

And for the rest of her days misfortune followed her, sentence, language, country, continent. . . . In Spanish, ‘h’ suffered mistaken identity: ¿‘Hache’ o ‘ge’ o ‘equis’ o ‘jota,’ ¿cuál es su nombre, ‘h’? The Spanish words said. 

Naca doesn’t translate that sentence, which asks the name of “h”: is it “h,” “g,” “x,” “j”? (In Spanish, each of those letters can be pronounced the same way, like the “h” in “ha.”) Various Spanish constructions also use “hache,” “ge,” “equis,” and “jota” interchangeably, as placeholder terms. In such subtle ways does Naca build the problems of insignificance, of homelessness, of namelessness, into this parable of a single letter, and remind that major issues of immigrant experience are writ small in problems of pronunciation. In “House,” Naca’s fascination with sound becomes political as well as poetic.

When it comes to religion and sex, as well as to language, Naca issues incisive observations from outside established systems—literary knife-throws. Her teasingly titled poem “The Adoration at El Montan Motor Lodge” refers not to Catholic devotion but to lesbian sex. “Baptism” describes, rather than its titular event, the slaughtering and roasting of a pig that gets “hoisted onto some posts,” where it “hovered for hours over the orange coals” until “the pork skin transluted.” “Transluted” isn’t a word, though it hints at the ideas of translucence and translation, and recalls verbs like “transubstantiate,” at the core of Christian debates over the contents of the Communion cup. Naca—who places herself literally off to one side of the pig party—can play with language in illuminating ways not despite but because of her location on the periphery.

The poet is not merely on an edge; she’s on edges—between various cultures, languages, ways of life. Does that orientation put her on edge? This book about borders analyzes what happens when objects touch, and often it’s ugly: tobacco stains, water stains, “the cheap nail / polish that pooled between / her cuticle and skin,” “tires leav[ing] tar varnish on the street.” But the volume’s loveliest passage shows a city pretty in purple:

street lamps gauze the town over in purple, when the cool, dimming light of August approaches—houses, and sidewalks, the laundry mat windows, and laundry chiming in the windows of the washing machines, and suds purpling....And lovers soothing against each other in the purple heat of August, leaving swatches of color on the sheets beneath them.
     —From “House”

Sometimes—as in Bird Eating Bird—things come together nicely.

  • Originally Published: April 1st, 2011


posted Sep 28, 2016, 12:11 PM by kristin naca   [ updated Oct 1, 2016, 2:08 PM ]

Listen at:

BIRD EATING BIRD in Lambda Literary Review

posted Sep 28, 2016, 12:06 PM by kristin naca   [ updated Oct 11, 2016, 3:10 PM ]

See more at:

Lambda Award Finalist

At the intersection of deconstructionism and post-colonialism, it is understood that language is a homeland. We all live in language, and for border-dwellers, the internal and external clash of cultures and languages becomes a very real, three-dimensional geography. In her 2008 National Poetry Series Open Competition wining collection Bird Eating Bird, Kristin Naca, writing in English, Spanish, and bits of Tagalog, gives us a new paradigm—language as a tool for re-shaping physical homelands, for inscribing geographies in layers. In “Uses for Spanish in Pittsburgh,” she asks:

[…]What difference does it make
to say, the chimney pipes peel their red skins,
or las pieles rojas, exposing tough steel underneath.

The poems of Bird Eating Bird are an extended answer to that challenge, to the charge from her father’s family Spanish means there’s another person inside you. Over and over, Naca gives us places transformed by language: Pittsburgh; Arlington, VA, when it was a poor and blue-collar city; and Interstate 80 through Nebraska, described in one of Naca’s pairings of Spanish and English poems. Naca is a language poet, but not of the Language Poetry School variety. While some of the poems are linguistic play, particularly the sequences “Tres Mujeres” and “House,” they remain grounded in the physical world rather than the abstract. In her work, the spaces where language isn’t clear are mysteries but not barriers, invitations to connection. In “Language Poetry / Grandma’s English,” Naca explores her love for a grandmother whose words are “consonants blurred/from her mouth a flat tire.” Knowing that, as a child, she could never understand what her Grandma and Dad fought about, she captures the beauty even in this disrupted tongue:

[…] Grandma gives up.
A martyr she says, Go on, it it. Her tongue
forcing sparks from our household English.
Beauty when she grabs her chest and sighs,
I gahng go up dos stairs, Charlie. My art, my art!

Naca’s work is sensual, solid, and physically detailed in astounding, surprising ways. “Ode to Glass” is a four page description of a Pepsi bottle, made so real I could feel it in my hands as I read, reminding me of something I knew but would never have thought to include, the:

ring carved from
the bottles being
packed too close
Scars that
keep dry and
soft as silk, even as
the glass beads, and
you start to trace
the droplets back […]

Ultimately, this is a poem about her memory of being a seven year old drinking soda in the store next to her Uncle Ulpe’s house in Manilla, and in the way that the most specific poem is the most universal, it pushed me into my own seven year old self, drinking Mt. Dew from the nickel coke machine in my grandfather’s filling station in rural Illinois. In “Glove,” this same embrace of minutely accurate detail becomes sexual as Naca describes a woman lover slowly peeling off leather gloves:

So, the glove,
now, looks like
skin unraveled from
the spokes of
her fingers, or
a bat’s wing
as it catches
wind and launches
from the bone’s
knuckly masthead.

While both of these are short-line poems written in direct syntax, Naca’s range as a poet is very evident in Bird Eating Bird. Her poems flow from long lines whose sound and image are equally enveloping—“The path along the lake lit up with the pitch of purple stars”—to a prose-poem form in “Baptism,” to linguistic play in “Tres Mujeres,” to the hybrid sequence “House.” And sometimes there is language for the sheer joy of language, as here in “Revenant Gladness:”

Its eloquence forced upon us the way the air frequents the prongs of
a feather, to underscore as frugal, unspeakable knowledge—how I ask
(hardly knowing you),
Darling, when you name an unbearable truth, what do you find yourself

Naca’s few poems in Spanish are also striking. Poet and translator Yesenia Montilla says of these poems, “Naca is doing something that’s so hard—establishing an individual voice in both Spanish and English. She isn’t just translating, but is writing originally in both languages.” In an interview with Susie DeFord at BOMBLOG, Naca, who grew up hearing but not speaking Spanish, says of these poems “Spanish was an experiment for me. I’m not a great speaker. […] In writing the poems, I wanted to build emotional connections to the words, [an] emotional attachment to vocabulary.” This is such an interesting risk to take as a writer, to let language itself be a site of learning, not only a tool for exploring.

And finally – yes, Kristin Naca is a lesbian poet, in a new-generation way. Her sexuality is evident, public, but is not a point of contention, not a source of dramatic stress, not a need for explanation. In a poetry collection that explores such difficult terrain – race, language, nationality, class – sexuality is, delightfully, simply a given. As readers, we get to settle into this place with her, with all the richness and none of the justification once needed:

Before there was a need for me to talk, for me to even ask,
there was the smoking afterwards of your hands.
I ate when you said I was hungry.
I drank because you held a glass to my lips.
I slept because you lay down beside me.
I dreamt because you were gorgeous and I was dreamy, you said.
I cried because there was ache, and because of you
on the phone there is so much more of the gorgeous ache.

By Kristin Naca
Harper Perennial
ISBN: 9780061782343
Paperback, $13.99, 93pp

See more at:

word eating bird

posted Sep 28, 2016, 12:02 PM by kristin naca   [ updated Oct 11, 2016, 3:19 PM ]

Kristin Naca’s first book Bird Eating Bird was selected by Yusef Komunyakaa for the National Poetry Series and published October 2009 by HarperCollins. Naca’s language is similar to her title—her poems are delicate, meticulously edited, and at times ravenously devour the reader. She takes us on a road trip from Pittsburgh to the Philippines, Mexico to Nebraska. We enter her intensely personal world though familial anecdotes written in Spanish and English that illuminate her multicultural background with tenderness and humor in poems with titles like “Grocery Shopping with my Girlfriend Who is Not Asian,” and “Uses for Spanish in Pittsburgh.” She also explores her sexuality and relationships with women in the poems “Heart like a Clock” and “Rear Window.” Her fresh and much-needed voice is that of the American grappling with the supposed idea of our country’s “melting pot” mentality, which at times seems filled only with white bread and vanilla ice cream.

Naca is a CFD Fellow at Macalester College in Minnesota where she teaches courses in poetics, Asian American and Latino poetry, and creative writing. She received her Ph.D. in English from University of Nebraska (2008), MFA in poetry from University of Pittsburgh (2003), and MA in English Linguistics from University of Cincinnati (2000). Her poems have appeared in Harpur PalateIndiana ReviewBloom, and Rio Grande Review. She has been a member of Sandra Cisneros’ Macondo Workshop in San Antonio, TX, since 2002.

Susie DeFord Your first book Bird Eating Bird was selected by Yusef Komunyakaa for the National Poetry Series and published by HarperCollins. You also got to interview Komunyakaa for MTVU. Will you tell us about this whole experience?

Kristin Naca When I was told about the prize, I was in the middle of moving to Minneapolis from San Antonio, Texas. I was in Minneapolis a few days before and MTV called and told me I had a day to compose interview questions that they would review. The producers added three questions to my list, in which I was to ask Yusef why he picked my manuscript for the prize, what kind of advice he had for me, etc. I thought their questions would be completely mortifying to ask. Then, filming the actual episode was strange because they tell you what to do and you just do it, knowing you have no control of what the end result will be. But once I finally got to the interview, the world finally slowed down. Yusef is such a careful, thoughtful person and, as he speaks, his sonorous voice makes you believe you’re inside a poem with him. I asked my questions—embarrassing ones first—and he answered directly and surely. We talked about performance, about his poetry heroes, his writing process, and how the subject of death continually cycles through his poems. The questions MTV made me ask really helped me understand how he personally connected with my collection. It was maybe one of the most thrilling experiences of my life. I flew back to Minnesota in a completely different space; I could hear my own thoughts again.

SD Bird Eating Bird is very meticulously written and edited. How long did you work on this book?

KN I salvaged seven poems from my MFA manuscript and composed the rest over a three-year period, in Nebraska and Mexico City. Then, I revised that group of poems for about three years. In the last year, I was working with comments from poet Joy Harjo, whom I had met at the Macondo Writers Workshop. It took me a while to digest her feedback. It was mostly unspoken or nonverbal. That’s the best way I can think to describe it. Somehow, her feedback inspired me to become the enemy of my poems. That’s when I did the most aggressive work. I wrote from scratch, over and over. It was like doing reverse taxidermy, refitting the poems’ skins around clouds of ideas.

SD In Bird Eating Bird you have some poems written in Spanish. Have you always written in Spanish and English?

KN Spanish was an experiment for me. I’m not a great speaker. But I have a desire to learn more about my family from Puerto Rico and Spain, as well as the roles that Spanish colonial myth play in my being who I am, in my family’s inception, etc. I was reading poems and taking courses in Spanish. In writing the poems, I wanted to build emotional connection to the words. It seemed like the decent strategy, since so much of my life takes place between pages of books. I also believed working and reworking the poems would help me build emotional attachment to vocabulary. Good writing comes from the body. The poems document my mouth conforming to the sounds of words. I also tried to work with the limited vocabulary I had. So, the poems reflect what I don’t know. Like, I repeat words, record my awkward/non-fluent phrasing, and when I sound out words that becomes the content of the poem. A fluent speaker can see how much I stumble around. I know some readers are hostile to that idea. But honestly, how else do we learn, but by being clumsy?

SD In your poem “Uses for Spanish in Pittsburgh” you quoted relatives who said, “Spanish means there’s another person inside you.” Can you speak about this?

KN My father told this to my brother and me as children. He meant, you can speak to twice as many people and inhabit other worlds. But he also talked about the harshness of the culture, and of his family, around speaking Spanish: not polluting it with code-switching in English, and the traditional (or violent) catechism of learning grammar, la letra con sangre entra. I think this is one reason he wasn’t so hot to teach us Spanish. Because it hurt. That decision, though, left this gaping hole in my understanding of my own experiences, particularly in relation to him. It meant there was someone inside him I couldn’t know or perceive, unless I learned more about where he came from. In the same way, as a young person, you know when your existence is complicated. I wanted to give myself the tools to reexamine existing. My parents believed that it would be easier for my brother and me—as mixed race, multiethnic kids—to just skip that part. My curiosity just never went away.

SD Bird Eating Bird has a section all about houses. What inspired you to write about the concept of houses?

KN I think the actual thing, house, was probably a product of my reading House on Mango Street. Author Sandra Cisneros told me this story, one about class discrimination, and how she had a strong reaction to Bachelard’s A Poetics of Space in MFA workshop. In all the lyrical, theoretical meditation in Poetics of Space she said, Bachelard left out the rats. I wanted to borrow from both traditions, to write about growing up around a blue-collar town, that doesn’t exist anymore: Arlington, Virginia. The Arlington I knew was erased. What’s there now is a monument to disparity, in comparison. Because no issue is more ubiquitous than class difference in the U.S., nothing is more deliberate, poetic, and political than the ways in which we do and don’t talk about class. Class and colors were my ways I hoped to talk about space. My background in linguistics, too, heavily influenced my meditations on the letter ‘h.’

SD You teach Latino and Asian American Poetics at Macalester College. Who is one Latino writer many people have not been exposed to that you would recommend and why?

KN Generally, I like to encourage readers to check out what’s current. Paul Martínez Pompa’sMy Kill Adore Him is the most recent Letras Latinas Andrés Montoya prize-winner. Two forthcoming collections, Francisco Aragón’s Glow of Our Sweat and Carmen Gimenez-Smith’sOdalisque in Pieces, are great examples of current evolutions in Latina/o poetics. Looking at two to three collections is a reliable way to approach the conversation taking place, in particular the complex modes of identity and edgy poetics that these poets interject.

SD Who is one Asian American writer many people have not been exposed to that you would recommend and why?

KN I’ll stick with Filipino poets: Vince Gotera, Luisa Igloria, Nick Carbó, and Eileen Tabios. Gotera and Igloria write poems that thoroughly, brazenly complicate who we are as a nation and as an empire. I also recommend people read Carbó’s blog for poems that celebrate the every-day with depth and compassion, and Tabios’ blog for up to the minute conversations about poetics.

SD What are you working on now?

KN I’m working on two, sort-of historical projects. One is a poem collection in various traditional forms. A prophesy is all I can say about it. Second is translations of a border poet, whose existence was left to the dust, literally. A friend found a heaping pile of their uncle’s manuscripts in his mother’s attic. This poet had a sixth-grade education, at best. His poetics strike me as elaborate and contemporary, though he was writing in the ’50s.

From Bomb Magazine. Read more at:

A "Bird" in the Hand, SA CURRENT

posted Sep 28, 2016, 11:59 AM by kristin naca   [ updated Oct 11, 2016, 4:12 PM ]


Two weeks ago, the National Poetry Series announced that a manuscript by San Antonio-based poet and Macondo Workshop alum Kristin Naca would be one of five books the organization publishes annually through its Open Competition series. Selected by Pulitzer Prize-winning poet Yusef Komunyakaa, Bird Eating Bird will appear in fall ’09 under the HarperCollins imprint. Naca also was awarded the inaugural mtvU prize, granting her the opportunity to interview Komunyakaa on MTV. Naca heads to Macalester College in Minneapolis this fall to teach poetry. She spoke with the Current about her writing process and how her bird-watching father inspired her in an unlikely way.

Can you tell me about your manuscript Bird Eating Bird?

It’s a collection of works of different things that people want, and the metaphor symbolizes certain kinds of desires or different kinds of personality traits. The other thing the metaphor means is that in British, or English, bird is a term for girl. And so I wanted to evoke, or at least introduce, sensuality to the work.

As a person of Filipina, Puerto Rican, and American decent, when you were younger did you find yourself interested in feminist studies, Chicano/a, or Asian-American literature?

What I found is, or at the very least, the way that I started writing poems is when I started out it was during the feminist, culturist era. I would go to the library and read lots of anthologies of colored women poets, Native American poets, and others. I was introduced to poets like Eugene Gloria, Joy Harjo, Marilyn Chin, and I also read a lot of poetry in Spanish, including the works of Lucha Corpi.

Tell me the story behind one of your more personal poems, “Catching Cardinals.”

It’s a story about me as a young person watching my father. He was sort of a bird enthusiast. `Laughs.` What I noticed was that he had a cage, a booby trap, and … there he would catch wild cardinals. And as a child you’re judging this experience with the thought of, “Of course, we’re going to make a wild animal out of a pet.” And it was intensely violent when it actually happened. In fact, I think I remember him actually having bloody arms when he was attempting to catch the birds. But it was really worth it to him, and when it happened I couldn’t believe how violent the whole process was and how uneasily domesticated the bird was. My father had to let them out pretty quickly.

It’s kind of like, different kinds of cultures trying to assimilate other cultures, sort of the violent overtones of those acts. This was one poem about one person’s desire being very large. He had a hobby, which meant trying to domesticate these birds. The poem encompasses violence and it steers towards desire and culture.

You’re a fan of Sandra Cisneros `founder of the Macondo Workshop`, who tends to be very personal with her works; do you find yourself writing from personal experience or do you blend personal stories with hints of exaggeration?

I had a professor at the University of Nebraska, Hilda Raz, and she was somebody that was committed to publishing feminist writers and women of color. She would say, “All good art is fiction,” which means that there is a level at which all kinds of representation is a series of choices. I think that creates a texture in terms of doing some things that are considered to be true. And the better that you can tell it, even if you lie a little, is a better experience of reading it because it is truer. To me, I want the experience of reading it to be very true, so I try to stay a little bit faithful to what really happens.

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