Natalie Scenters-Zapico is the author of Lima :: Limón (Copper Canyon Press 2019) and The Verging Cities (Center for Literary Publishing 2015). She has won fellowships from the Lannan Foundation, CantoMundo, and was a 2018 Poetry Foundation Ruth Lilly and Dorothy Sargent Rosenberg Fellow. Originally from the sister cities of El Paso, Texas and Ciudad Juárez, Chihuahua, she teaches Latina/o Studies and Creative Writing at the University of Puget Sound in Tacoma Washington.
Find Conference Sessions with Natalie Scenters-Zapico
Everyone’s a critic. In this digital age, criticism can be loud, painful, or downright vicious. It is imperative that writers exercise resilience when taking on critique. How do you know what’s helpful and what’s harmful? What critiques should catch our eyes and ears when it comes to revision of the manuscript, versus those we can cast aside as not helpful? Panelists will talk about how to cut through the noise of trolls and remain centered on genuine improvement in your work.
Framed around three stories of violence and death on the border, we will look at the various ways a story can be told—as a song, a poem, an oral history, a video, or a short story. In this way we will not only question how genre bending can influence how we write violence, but how the modes we choose as writers can serve to ask poignant questions or to fetishize.
Duality will always play a huge role in my work because I grew up on the U.S.-Mexico border in a place where duality is forced on everyone culturally and governmentally. Not just in the sense of gender binaries, but also through language, physical spaces, documentation, etc. As I stated earlier, I believe that these binaries are profoundly toxic, that they are the site of violence at our core, that they are unnatural and learned. And yet, many people fight tooth and nail to remain within those binaries, teach their children those binaries, and face people who question them with impunity. I don’t view the switching between English and Spanish as a play in binaries as much as a play with a spectrum of Spanglish that counters binaries at the linguistic level.
These poems, drawn to the beauty and power of performance, nevertheless deeply mistrust corrupt forms of “simulation,” like staged border crossings billed as fun outings for wealthy young Mexicans, where, “if you are left behind, a pickup truck / will take you back to your hotel.” It’s a simulation that leaves out the essence of the experience; namely, that you might die. Scenters-Zapico’s poems are never simulations in that demeaned sense. Robert Frost called poetry “play for mortal stakes.” The stakes, in Scenters-Zapico’s poems, are that serious: her astonishing verbal crossings reveal a mind as richly self-divided as any you will find.