Coming into Play: An Interview with Gloria Anzaldua

Article excerpt

Contemporary Chicana poet, writer, and theorist, Gloria E. Anzaldua, was born in Texas in 1942. She is coeditor, with prominent Chicana feminist Cherrie Moraga, of the groundbreaking anthology This Bridge Called My Back: Writings by Radical Women of Color (1981) and editor of Making Face, Making Soul: Haciendo Caras (1990). A published author of poetry and prose, a university instructor of Chicano studies, feminist studies, and creative writing, and a political activist, Anzaldua is an important voice in the literary world today. Her best known collection of writings is Borderlands/La Frontera: The New Mestiza (1987), which was chosen as one of the 38 Best Books of 1987 by Library Journal. In 1986 This Bridge Called My Back received the Before Columbus Foundation American Book Award. In 1991 Anzaldua received a National Endowment for the Arts award for fiction. She currently lives in Santa Cruz, where she is working on several projects, including a collection of theoretical essays, a manuscript of fiction, a children's book, and a novel. This interview is an edited transcription of a telephone interview conducted on February 17, 1995.

Interviewer: Looking at Borderlands/La Frontera nearly ten years after its publication, is there anything you view differently? Were you to revise and republish it today, is there anything you would change?

Anzaldua: Well, first of all, I think I would get a reader to proof the Spanish because at the time Aunt Lute didn't have the staff that could deal with the code-switching. So every time I read passages from Borderlands I see typos and spelling mistakes. My other concern was that Chapter Six, on writing and art, was put together really fast. In fact, all of the seven chapters were written after the book had already gone into production and I was trying to write an introduction. They were already typesetting the poetry, and the introduction became the seven essays. And [Chapters] Five and Six, the one on language and the one on art and writing, were the last to go in, and they were the roughest. And especially Chapter Six I felt like I was still regurgitating and sitting on some of the ideas and I hadn't done enough revisions and I didn't have enough time to unravel the ideas fully. I think that Chapter Six especially is an extension of "Speaking in Tongues" in This Bridge, and that what I'm writing now in Lloronas, some of the concepts that I'm working with of which one is nepantla, is kind of a continuation of these other two. I think my writing is always in revision, so that Borderlands built on "La Prieta" and some aspects of "Speaking in Tongues"; and the other theoretical work, Lloronas, is building on all of those that came before.

If I had to do it differently, I think that I would distinguish a little bit more between the kind of historical, rational language of high theory and another kind of language which is the poetic language of myths and of collective self-expression. And maybe unravel some of the spirituality aspects in my work a little bit more. I think that between the times when you conceive of work and you have a deadline and before it gets too unwieldy you have to cut it off. And in terms of this historical, rational, logical, argumentative writing that is what is privileged right now in the academy, there is this other non-rational identity that I dwell in about three-quarters of the time. Three-quarters of the time I'm asleep, dreaming. Another eight hours I'm probably working in my head with words and images, and writing and making fiction, and kind of dreaming the stories into being. And then the rest of the time--I guess, what is left? Another eight hours?--probably out of that, half of the time I'm dealing with this historical, everyday life. And the other, I'm still in my thoughts, like I might be driving along and I might be thinking about other.... So it's like the `T' that I didn't deal with as much in these earlier works would come into prominence a little bit more in the subsequent work. …