Jessica Giannone, General Assignment Reporter-
Luisa Caycedo-Kimura is an English major at Southern, currently applying to MFA programs in poetry. Along with four other undergraduates, she has been selected as a 2011 Connecticut Student Poet by the Connecticut Poetry Circuit, and her poems have been included in writing curricula. Luisa’s work has been published or is upcoming in Connecticut Review, San Pedro River Review and Folio. She has received First Place in the 2010 SCSU Poetry Contest and Honorable Mention in the 2010 Folio Poetry Contest. Luisa hopes to teach at the university level.
1) What sparked your interest for poetry, and when?
Answer: I’ve always loved the way words sound when put together properly. I also love the effective use of imagery and the nuances in meanings that writers can create. However, I never really thought I could be a poet. I started attending SCSU in the fall of 2009 because I wanted to write fiction. That fall I took a poetry writing class with Professor Will Hochman, because the fiction classes were all closed. I think I fell in love with poetry that first week.
2) How long have you been writing?
Answer: I’ve probably done some sort of writing on and off throughout my life, but I had never taken a creative writing class until the fall of 2009 when I took that first poetry class at SCSU.
3) What are your long-term goals?
Answer: My primary goal is to impact people’s lives through writing and teaching. I hope to write for the rest of my life, and to teach at the university level.
4) How do you plan to achieve those goals?
Answer: I applied to various MFA programs. Right now I’m waiting to hear from them. Several people have recently suggested that I consider getting a PhD, but whether I get an MFA or a PhD, my aim is to continue to grow as a writer and a teacher, to learn as much as I can, and be the best writer and professor that I can be.
5) What have been some challenges, and how did you overcome them?
Answer: The 2009-2010 school year was a very difficult year for me emotionally. The most difficult [event] for me, though, was the death of my mother, who was, and continues to be, the most important person in my life. To make matters worse, I had to fly down to Florida to make arrangements and attend her funeral that fall during the week when I had to take midterms. What I found was that professors can be very accommodating if you act responsibly. I kept in touch with them by e-mail while I was in Florida, and tried to make up the work as soon as I could when I got back. As far as the emotional challenges are concerned, that’s one of the advantages of being a writer. I can take all these adversities and turn them into art. My mother has shown up in a lot of my writing, and will likely continue to do so. I guess you can either wallow in your sorrow and let it interfere with your life, or you can write about it. I recommend the latter, even if at times wallowing may seem very tempting.
6) How do you juggle school life with your goals as a poet?
Answer: At SCSU I have taken courses for the specific purpose of growing as a writer. So it really hasn’t been a matter of juggling school life and my goals as a poet, but rather, my schooling has helped me grow as a poet and as a writer in general.
7) How do you think your words impact people?
Answer: I think different people are impacted differently, depending on who they are, what their experiences are and whether they just hear the poems once, or read them several times on the page. It’s easy to miss many of the subtle nuances and deeper meanings that may be available when one reads it several times. What I hope to do, however, is to touch people’s lives and maybe open up their worlds to new thoughts and new experiences.
8) Are there any poets you are inspired by?
Answer: There are many poets who inspire me—male and female, American and foreign. If I had to single out some poets as inspiration, I would say that the poets that I covered in that independent study are the ones who perhaps inspire me most, especially Federico Garcia Lorca and Pablo Neruda, although my writing is different from theirs. I am, however, greatly influenced by Colombian folk music. So much of the language is very poetic and absolutely beautiful, and sends me right to the page.
9) What have you learned from your experiences in college and participating in poetry contests?
Answer: One great thing that I have learned at SCSU is how encouraging and helpful professors can be. It is amazing how much a professor who cares about teaching will go out of his or her way to help a student who wants to learn. Of course, as a student, you also need to be willing to work hard. I enter [contests] because I believe they help me achieve my ultimate goal. But whether I win or lose, I try not to let that affect me. Yes, it does feel good to win, but I can’t let my writing be affected by contests. I just need to be true to myself.
10) What would your advice be to other writers?
Answer: My advice to other writers would be to enter contests, with the caveat that they should not be discouraged if they lose, especially if it is just one person who is judging. It’s the same as with publication. There are a number of reasons why you could get rejected. But it is still important to try.
11) Looking back on your accomplishments, what advice would you give for students aspiring for personal achievements?
Answer: Follow your passion and go after it full-force. Everyone always has an opinion about what one should be or do, but you can only be truly successful if you are true to yourself.