Glenda Galán (Dominicana en Miami) shares interviews with artists and writers in these days of confinement. Here, Galán speaks to Dominican writer Ángela Hernández. [Excerpts below translated by Ivette Romero. See the original, full interview in Spanish at Dominicana en Miami.]
I met Angela at the Dominican Book Fair in New York about four years ago. At that time, she was participating in a reading by women poets that I really enjoyed. We saw each other again at the Madrid Book Fair, where she, among her various presentations, had a roundtable with Martha Rivera-Garrido and Emilia Pereyra. At the end, we all headed towards Casa de Vacas, to a presentation by writer Rita Indiana and Anthony Ocaña, only that Martha and I went one way and she and Emilia the other. The most striking memory of that scene were Angela’s heels, who, despite the distance we had to travel, did not sacrifice glamor. Although she “had low-heeled shoes in her purse,” I never knew if she ever wore them. Today, we walk again through words, this time together, in a dialogue that brings to my mind Saint Francis of Assisi, for that expression, “sister poet.”
- How have you gone through this time at home?
In general, in a “sonorous solitude,” not at all oppressive. I just had to give more space to my inner life. Courage and imagination in command, I told myself. I imagined my house as “a sanctuary of whispers.” I felt imbued with the silence and the uniqueness of this time, terrifying and unifying. I perceived that the global awareness of fragility would give rise to a powerful lucidity, to successive waves of solidarity and empathy throughout the world. I always prefer to wager on hope.
- What have been your biggest concerns/challenges, apart from health?
First, to discern possible truths regarding the virus. To disseminate those scientific, health and political information that I deemed credible. In the first weeks, I spent two or three hours a day researching and establishing my own criteria.
On the other hand, I saw misfortune as a threshold, an opportunity, for a radical change of consciousness about ourselves and our domestic and planetary relationships. Poetry would display its catalytic powers, with all the fantastic challenge that this entails. (The memory of the last few decades forces us to rethink everything.)
- These days, you have invested most of your time in…?
All my life I have been chockfull of work and commitments. Having time has been the luminous part of the dense shadow that we are now crossing. I have used it to meditate, to write, to exercise, to study, to collaborate. Or rather, I have been carried away by my inclinations, devoting myself to understanding the flowers and the birds, knowing more about my neighbors, communicating with the people I love, perceiving the evanescent thickness of silence, sunbathing at dawn, practicing Tai Chi, learning something new.
I have stopped to reflect, with prudent lightness, on death, and, with fraternal reverence, on the desolation of those who are dying in isolation and the anguish of millions of people who have suddenly lost their means of subsistence and are quarantined in tight quarters.
- Have you been able to create at this time? If so, can you tell me about what you’ve been working on?
After four years working on prose, I have returned to poetry, to experience its encouraging force.
- What comes to mind when I say “indoors”?
The urge for a hug, for effusions. Desires for dives into the sea and trips to high valleys, popular markets, distant cities, border towns, natural reserves of the world… [. . .]
Ángela Hernández Núñez, Buena Vista, Jarabacoa, Dominican Republic, May 6, 1954. Her writing has been translated into English, French, Italian, Icelandic, Bengali, and Norwegian; including in important anthologies. Among her awards are the Cole Prize for short novel, for her novel Mudanza de los sentidos in 2001; the 1997 Annual Short Story Prize, granted by the Secretary of State for Education and Culture for the book Piedra de sacrificio; the 2005 Annual Poetry Prize, awarded by the Ministry of Culture for the book Alicornio; and the 2012 Annual Short Story Prize, from the Ministry of Culture for the book La secta del crisantemo. She was editor of the literary magazine Xinesquema. She is a Corresponding Member of the Dominican Academy of Language. Member of the National Council of Culture from 2004 to 2010. Included in the book Notable Twentieth-Century Latin American Women (A Biographical Dictionary), edited by Cynthia Tompkins and David William Foster (Greenwood Press, 2001). She received the 2009 PEN Excellence Award, Logomarca; the 2011 Círculo Supremo de Plata Award, Jaycces 72; the 2011 Caonabo de Oro Award, conferred by the Dominican Association of Journalists and Writers. Her photographs have been exhibited in Santo Domingo and Santiago (2007), in Pavullo nel Frignano, and in Rome (2008) in the “Poetics of the Minimal” exhibition, together with Italian photographer Attilio Aleotti. In 2006, she coordinated the photography contest “La pobreza no cae del cielo” [Poverty does not fall from the sky] sponsored by Oxfam International. In May 2012, the Central Bank of the Dominican Republic published her book of poetry and paintings, Oniria.
Excerpts translated by Ivette Romero. For full interview (in Spanish), see https://dominicanaenmiami.com/?p=21867&