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This interview is taken from PN Review 242, Volume 44 Number 6, July - August 2018.

Interview with Loretta Collins Klobah
‘Sentient of how we are related’
Loretta Collins Klobah talks Ricantations
Vahni Capildeo
Still, we feel new incantations of something
primal in us, allied by our hurricane grief,
disordered, but sentient of how we are related, neighbours,
iguanas, honey bees, bats, birds, trees, islands.
What is possible now? Can we do some things
differently now?
                                        — Loretta Collins Klobah, ‘Ricantations’

Your first book, The Twelve-Foot Neon Woman, appeared from Peepal Tree Press (Leeds) in 2011. Can you say something about your beginnings with that book?

The poems based in Puerto Rico take their subjects and energy from Santurce and Barrio Obrero (areas of San Juan), and Old San Juan; the urban forest; bomba dancing, narcoculture, street graffiti; and our history. Other poems range several of the Caribbean islands, Peckham and Notting Hill in London, and a bus terminal in Chicago. They touch on memory, history, social issues, art and the spirit. Music and the carnivalesque, sardonic humour, love and suffering drive the collection.

The book engages with Caribbean literary traditions. Although I had lived in Jamaica, and West Indian communities of London and Toronto, before moving to Puerto Rico, I lived in Puerto Rico for nine years before I felt sufficiently translated, assimilated, conscious and grounded to write the place where I would raise my daughter as Boricua and develop a tentative sense of my own belonging.

Your poems’ multilingualism, blending Puerto Rican Spanish and various Englishes – sometimes in the same line – fascinates me. Were there models for this?

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