Wednesday, November 5, 2014

From Volume 35: A poem by Yulia Issa

Yulia Issa

La Malinche

Without the help of La Malinche we would not have understood the language of New Spain and Mexico.

—Bernal Díaz del Castillo

Historia Verdadera de la Conquista de la Nueva España

On Higuera Street my house stands unmarked,
Stark steps of passersby are hastened
With fear locking their spine, with hatred,
While I stand Janus-like between two worlds.

You wrote me in the history a traitor
Chingada, lover of the foreign men,
Weeping Llorona, Spanish toy,
A ploy of treacherous ambition my survival.

In the Spotlight: Yulia Issa

Yulia Issa is the winner of the Worcester County Poetry Association College Poetry Contest 2014 Manuscript Prize. In her poem, “La Malinche,” which appears in volume XXXV of The Worcester Review, she challenges convention and gives a voice to a woman who is traditionally condemned for having aided the conquistadores. 

Before graduating from Quinsigamond Community College in May 2014, you earned two B.A.s from Lebanese University. Could you discuss any cultural differences or similarities you have encountered in your travels? How has this contributed to your writing?

The subject of cultural differences and multiculturalism is very broad and hot right now. We welcome writers who highlight unusual experiences in exotic locations and the struggles that tag along with them. Coming from a background where I spent my childhood in Ukraine and then teenage years in Lebanon before finally settling in the U.S., I believe multiculturalism lends itself to a deeper understanding of human nature and seeing beyond the superficial. As a writer, it interests me how a character develops and interacts regardless of the regiment of ethnic behavior and how individuality emerges when faced with non-routine problems. The heroine in “La Malinche” does exactly that. She is born into a wealthy Nahua family and is ironically given away into slavery while still a child. Then, she ends up as a gift to the Spaniards who had just begun tackling the American shores. Despite the obvious hardships that Malinche endures and the unique historical situation she is put in, which obviously her cultural background cannot prepare her for, she rises to the challenge and manages to earn the grandiose respect of her contemporaries on both sides of the conflict.

When researching and writing about events that occurred roughly five centuries ago and following the life of a woman about whom relatively little facts were recorded, it takes unbiased imagination and understanding to relate to her experience. I think that my background helps me with this task. With time, Malinche’s character has been misinterpreted and vilified. She has been single-handedly charged with the betrayal of her nation in popular culture. Again, being multicultural makes it relatively easy to see through such constructs and understand the driving forces that generated them.

“La Malinche” is, in part, a poem about language. In addition to speaking English, you speak Russian, Arabic, and French. How do you believe being multilingual has influenced your writing?

I truly believe that proficiency in multiple languages exponentially enhances understanding of different cultures and opens doors to a broader spectrum of writing. Apart from anecdotal language misunderstandings, consider, for example, that you want to know more about an Arab writer. You will probably find that more has been written about him in the Arabic language. However, when you resort to the translations, you might be getting a skewed view of the topic not only because there could be inaccuracies in the translation itself but also because of the translator’s choice of which documents to interpret and which to leave out. On top of that, a different language opens up a different perspective on writing not just with respect to grammar and idioms but also tone and stylistics. Since I am fluent in the languages that I know, it creates an interesting amalgam of thought, which I believe allows me to have different takes on the expression of things like dramatization and humor. To explain it more, let’s say you were to tell a joke in three different languages. You would end up with three different recounts of the same story. However, if you were to only translate the words themselves, it would probably only be funny in the original language.

How did you choose the subject for “La Malinche?”

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Pushcart Prize XL Nominees

Each year, editors of literary magazines are invited to nominate up to six selections published in that calendar year for inclusion in the Pushcart Prize: Best of the Small Presses anthology. This year, the Pushcart Prize celebrates its 40th anniversary.

The Worcester Review has nominated the following pieces from Volume 35 (2014):

"Rules for Telling a Ghost Story" -- Tom Howard
"Cancer" -- Dmitry Berenson
"Verum and Factum" -- Michael Trocchia
"A Hike" -- Shoshana Razel Gordon Guedalia
"The Loneliness of the Heart is Forever" -- Helen Marie Casey
"Two Men and a Gun" -- Frank Scozzari

Congratulations to all nominees and best of luck!