Poetry as the Site of a Collision — Mexican Poet Tedi López Mills

Tedi López Mills
PHOTO COURTESY OF THE AUTHOR

TEDI LÓPEZ MILLS was born in Mexico City in 1959. She has published ten books of poetry, several of which have received national prizes in Mexico: Cinco estaciones, Un lugar ajeno, Segunda persona (Premio Nacional de Poesía Efraín Huerta), Glosas, Horas, Luz por aire y agua, Un jardín, cinco noches (y otros poemas), Contracorriente (Premio Nacional de Literatura José Fuentes Mares), Parafrasear, and Muerte en la rúa Augusta (Premio Xavier Villaurrutia). Her most recent book is a collection of essays, Libro de las explicaciones (Editorial Almadía, 2012).

López Mills’ other honors include a 1994 Young Artists grant from the Fondo Nacional para las Culturas y las Artes, a 1996 fellowship from the U.S./Mexico Fund for Culture to translate Gustaf Sobin, and the inaugural poetry grant awarded by the Octavio Paz Foundation in 1998. She has translated into Spanish the work of numerous American, English, and French poets, and most recently, Anne Carson’s Autobiography of Red. López Mills has been a member of the Sistema Nacional de Creadores de Arte since 2009.

What attracted you to philosophy as a student? What are the philosophical questions that you return to in your own writing?

I studied philosophy so as not to study literature. I think that was my primary reason. When I was going over career possibilities (obviously not many in my case), the idea of interpreting, analyzing, classifying, and taking apart books that I had read and would read with absolute pleasure and intensity frightened me and made me get away from literary studies.

In a strange way the abstraction one comes up against in philosophy seems to lead me towards imagination and poetical paradox.

Philosophy taught me more about questions than about answers. In that sense, there was nothing literary about it, although it had everything to do with books and reading. Nietzsche had already been an important author for me in my adolescence and, naively enough, I had the impression that all philosophy would be like his: passionate, angry and almost poetical. That, of course, is not true. It can be arid, self-obsessed, complicated to the point of being almost an insane use or rather misuse of language.

As to philosophical questions, they’re not a specialty of philosophy, but questions that I’m sure everyone asks oneself frequently: about nature, self, time, reality, subjectivity, goodness, badness, mortality, immortality. In a way philosophy gets rid of the neurotic edge that many of these questions may acquire and gives them a tradition, a form.

I suppose philosophy crops up in my poetry, I hope ironically, and is of course a deliberate presence and influence when I write essays. In a strange way the abstraction one comes up against in philosophy seems to lead me towards imagination and poetical paradox. But maybe that means that I’ve merely corrupted its whole purpose.

Are there philosophers or theorists writing today whose work especially interests you?

I’ve read Clement Rosset recently, but I tend to go back to the original authors. Not frequently, though. I now read more history than philosophy. I’m terrified by all the things, mere facts that I don’t know, and I’m trying to catch up. Also, I prefer reading poetry, essays, novels. Once you lose the habit of philosophy, it’s difficult to re-adapt yourself to its procedures; they seem useless or desperate, then you remember that they’re exactly that, and an anguished boredom begins to threaten you. So you (I) close the book.


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