Luisa Caycedo-Kimura was the 2014 John K. Walsh Residency Fellow at the Anderson Center at Tower View, the 2014 Adrienne Reiner Hochstadt Fellow at Ragdale, and a 2013 Robert Pinsky Global Fellow in Poetry. She holds an MFA from Boston University. Born in Colombia and raised in New York City, Luisa, a former attorney, left the legal profession to pursue her passion for writing. Her poems appear or are forthcoming in Nashville Review, Jelly Bucket, FRIGG, PALABRA, Sunken Garden Poetry 1992-201 and elsewhere. She’s here today to discuss her poem, “Un Jardín en Tolima,” which appears in MAR 35.1, as well as regrets, insects, and more.
What was your reaction upon receiving your MAR acceptance?
I was thrilled that MAR had chosen this specific poem. No other poem I’ve written takes me back to my childhood in Colombia quite as vividly as this one. I wanted to make sure that it found a great home.
What was the best feedback you received on this poem?
I wrote this poem while doing my MFA at Boston University. It was one of those poems that didn’t require many drafts. I gave the first two drafts to Louise Glück (one of my professors at the time) to review prior to our scheduled meeting. After reading them, she called and left a voicemail telling me how pleased she was. She thought both drafts were great. I can’t think of better praise than that.
Your biggest writing-related regret?
I wish I had allowed myself to focus on my writing sooner. As a Colombian-born immigrant and the seventh child of a poor family, I felt I had no business majoring in or writing English language literature. Things were different then. There was no Julia Alvarez or Sandra Cisneros to serve as role models. Also, studying literature and writing seemed like frivolous pursuits, so I went to law school. Of course, the problem is that I’m not conventional. I don’t belong to the tribe of lawyers or business people. Although lawyering was something I could do it well, I always felt like an outsider and an impostor. I am a creative writer. I breathe best among creative types.
Your biggest non-writing-related regret?
I had several law schools offer me full scholarships, but I turned them down and went to the school I liked best. While I don’t regret my education, I regret not having gotten it for free. I still owe on my student loans, and I’m not even practicing law.
Tell us one strange thing about yourself that does not involve writing.
I love insects. Well, I don’t care for roaches, mosquitos, or flies. But praying mantises, cicadas, beetles, fireflies, etc. fascinate me. In fact, because of my fascination, my artist husband made for me a pendant with a fig beetle painted on it. It was a heart-felt birthday gift, and I wear it proudly.
Can you show us a photo of you holding your MAR contributor’s copy?