A Conversation with Angela Trudel Vasquez


Angela Trudell Vasquez is an author of poems about heritage, love, loss, and everything else that life has to offer. She chooses to write poetry because before her gender, ethnicity, being a wife, sister, or a daughter, she’s a poet– a person of sound, energy, and imagery. “Poetry is bread and wine, tortillas, and beans– it is oxygen and water, it is my dreams and aspirations,” Vasquez said. ” A good poem can knock the wind out of me, bring me to tears, and send me thinking for days.”

Vasquez saw her first college visit as an author at SMSU in the Whipple Gallery on Nov. 6th. There, she read her poems to students and professors before answering questions asked by the audience. The audience was introduced to Vasquez’s favorite part of poetry– the sound. Vasquez read her poems aloud, not only engaging the audience but also brought peaceful energy to the room.

The rhythm of poetry has always mattered to her. “Everything has music; even our names have music,” she said. ” My first name has two beats, Angie.” Vasquez credits her knowledge and ear for poetic devices to her education at the Institute of American Indian Arts (IAIA).

The remainder of this article will be a conversation with Vasquez about her inspiration, technique, and style.

Q: One of the poems you read for the audience on Wednesday was Sea Burial. To me, it was showing vulnerability in the sense that you let the audience into your personal life while dealing with a miscarriage. how did you get the strength to put it on paper?

A: I tried writing about this experience many times. I wrote it because the poem and my experience needed to be honored. Rock Island is a special place to me and the fact that I miscarried in this holy space required poem to honor the massing of our zygote. I am a poet of witness. Without pain, there is no joy. You cannot have a life without death.

Q:  Do you include all parts of yourself in your work? How do you address the “self” in your poems?

A: I am always present in my poems. My whole life and my literary ancestors and every book I have ever read or movie I saw comes through in my work. I like to bring my whole authentic self to the page, and that is how I came to you at SMSU. I brought my whole self and shared it with you. I am at a certain age that I’m comfortable in my skin, and not afraid to be real.

Q: How did you embark on the journey of finding your true self as a Mexican American who was raised in a predominately white community? In what ways, if any, has that influenced your writing?

A: I grew up in “Caucasian corn country;” this is a line from a poem. I learned early on to not listen to others in how I perceived myself or to limit myself. My parents told me I could do anything I really put my mind to, and they were supportive. I became strong in body and mind. I did try hard to assimilate, but I have this great strong family of all socio-economic classes, education, and culture, and I began to embrace my uniqueness. I had my sisters, and they are both brilliantly intelligent and strong women. We went to Mexico as a family growing up in Iowa, and we would drive all the way. I remember being 12 years old and being blown away by all the people who look like me.