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

Your poems often have outdoor settings, frequently featuring animals, and I know that you love animals. I often feel a tension between the natural or pastoral and the constructed in your work — for example, in descriptions of the vegetation of a garden and the wall that holds it in. Do you consider yourself an ecological poet, and/or a person interested in ecology?

I live in an ecological disaster on a daily basis. I’m deeply aware of everything that is dying around me. I know it sounds dramatic and surely I exaggerate, but Mexico is a very serious example of constant ecological crimes. So yes, of course I consider myself interested in ecology, but no, I don’t think of myself as an ecological poet. In a city as huge as mine, nature and non-nature are constantly colliding and overlapping.

I don’t think you sound overly dramatic. We are all struggling. When I read poems from Contracorriente that describe trash clogging up an urban river, I think about the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. I would say that recent scholarship in ecopoetics is concerned with the sites of collision that you describe, and with the way that ecology intersects with culture. But I’m also remembering another poem from Contracorriente: “my false, my melancholy brother, devotee of an unpolluted past, always longing/ for yesterday” — critiquing the idea of seeking purity, whether in “nature” or in memory. Am I right in guessing that the descriptor “ecological poet” brings up for you the associations of over-simplification that you described earlier with regards to politics?

I tend to think that poetry should always be the site of a collision.

Tedi López Mills
PHOTO COURTESY OF THE AUTHOR

The brother in Contracorriente is really my brother. The book begins with him and takes him along through all the poems as a presence and a witness who is in constant danger.

Any message, no matter how truthful or urgent it is, can become an over-simplification in the hands or words of poetry (or politicians). I guess it depends on where the speaker, the self of the poet, places his or her voice. One has to be part of the problem, not part of the solution. That’s where innocence and goodness have to be careful of not becoming a very public and pleasing rhetoric.

Although you travel widely and have lived abroad, you have said that you consider your place of birth, Mexico City, to be your lifelong home. What makes Mexico City your place — for life and for art?

I lived in Paris for many years and even considered the possibility of staying there for good: in that most perfect and beautiful of cities. But becoming a professional foreigner scared me, and being obsessed and out of time with my own country seemed like an undesired fate for me. After all, here in Mexico there is an immediate dialogue or even monologue with one’s literary community. Although that sounds rather pompous. I came back to Mexico so that I could stop talking about Mexico in an almost folkloric way. I remember one night in Paris I found myself crying while listening to Los Panchos — vernacular music — and I told myself: this cannot go on. Time to go home. And so I did.

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