"Egress: how does it work with the Virgin? Can we ask her for anything? Must we be on our knees? What must we say and how many times? For how much time must we stay? Should we look at her directly? Does it not work if we ask before we thank? Does she work with the faithless and the wavering? Is there a limit to the span of the miracle? Can bodies be transformed? Can a thought be transfixed?" — from "Pilgrimage," Fall 2017 (Volume 58, Issue 3)
Tell us about one of the first pieces you wrote.
I started writing very young. In fact, I had one of my first poems published when I was eight years old in an anthology of childrens’ poetry. Honestly, it was not a good poem. I started taking writing more seriously in high school, and I’ve never looked back. I was about fifteen when I started to try to unpack poems and see how they were made. And, I’d never liked doing anything else more. Since then, poetry has been the primary focus of my studies, work, and reading.
What other professions have you worked in?
Questions about profession are always tricky for me to answer. Writing, translation, and the other work I do to contribute to my writing community constitute what I consider my “profession.” The jobs that I’ve held have only ever been to earn enough money to stay afloat, and I’ve worked in everything from retail to human resources to teaching English as a Second Language.
What did you want to be when you were young?
An architect. I used to take out books of architectural plans from the library, study them, and try to draw my own.
What inspired you to write this piece?
I almost exclusively write about the quotidian. This piece, “Pilgrimage,” comes from a larger manuscript entitled Ordinary Chaos, and observing “ordinary chaos” is almost always the reason I sit down to write something. Chaos is inevitable and in everything, but I think “chaos” is often talked about in reference to extraordinary events. I prefer to think about it in the context of the ordinary and see where that gets me.
This poem happened like that. I went to a part of Guadalajara where there is a famous basilica to which many people make pilgrimages, whether on a daily basis or once a year on the saint´s day. In Mexico, there are several famous statues of the Virgin Mary and they are simply called “Virgins.” This church has one of those, and she is said to be miraculous. I go there regularly; I am fascinated by this place. I could say that it is even ordinary for me to go there. But on one particular occasion the chaos of the place was on full display: the construction of the city’s new elevated metro line snaking through everything, an hours-long line of pilgrims, a yearning for the miraculous everywhere—including, perhaps, in me. The poem started from there.
Is there a city or place, real or imagined, that influences your writing?
Oh, yes. Guadalajara, where I live. And, ironically, I often write about whether Guadalajara is real or imagined—that is, how much of it I’ve imagined into being and how much of that everyone else sees. That kind of thinking runs deep here—a kind of magical realism, I suppose. One of the most beloved Mexican novels, Pedro Páramo, which was written in this region, addresses exactly this kind of thing: where and how and to what extent do we exist in the landscape that is Jalisco, Mexico (the state of which Guadalajara is the capital).
Is there any specific music that aids you through the writing or editing process?
I love music, but I can’t have any on when I write. If I am trying to access a memory, let’s say, as narrative material for a poem, I might turn on music that will aid me in getting back there, but that would be before writing.
Do you have any rituals or traditions that you do in order to write?
Not really. I’ve been known to write anywhere, whether in my car on the back of an envelope I found in my bag or a storeroom at work. Some days I write; some days I can’t. Then, the only thing to do is read (well, it’s always a good idea to read).
Who typically gets the first read of your work?
My husband or one of two good friends, one of whom is also a writer and another who is a visual artist. The visual artist and I even text each other our work. She’ll send me a photo of a painting she’s just made, and I’ll send her a poem I have yet to show anyone.
If you could work in another art form what would it be?
Hard to say. I’m such a diehard poet. I’ve always liked taking photos, though, and there was a time when I developed my own. Perhaps photography, then.
What are you working on currently?
I've just finished a manuscript, and I am working on finding a home for it. Sending out work takes a lot of time and all kinds of energy. I am also writing poems that I think will be part of a new collection that I am starting to form.
KIMBERLY KRUGE is a poet and translator based in Mexico. Her recent and forthcoming publications include poems in Ploughshares, Iowa Review, Copper Nickel, Missouri Review, and others.