Last Thursday, April 6, author Natalie Scenters-Zapico paid a visit to Albion College as a part of the Great Lakes College Association Poetry Reading event. In addition to reading from her Pen/Joyce Osterweil Award-winning debut poetry collection The Verging Cities, Scenters-Zapico also met with many students and faculty members. The Albion Pleiad was able catch up with Natalie prior to her reading.
Andrew Wittland: For those that are not familiar with your work, how would you describe yourself as an author?
Natalie Scenters-Zapico: I’m originally from the sister cities of El Paso, Texas and Ciudad Juárez, Chihuahua, Mexico, and so Verging Cities is specifically about borders and undocumented life along the United States/Mexico border.
AW: What kind of place do you think Verging Cities has in society, given that immigration is such a hot topic in society today?
NSZ: I can’t really answer to how it’s received, but since I’m actually from the area in which it takes place, I hope it provides an alternative view to a space that I think often exists only in popular imagination.
AW: Given the heated political climate in the United States currently, do you feel as though writing poems like these serves as a tool to help better understand the overall topic of immigration?
NSZ: I do. There was an article recently that talked about why more and more people are turning to poetry at this time more than ever, and I think part of it is because poetry provides a voice that people can latch onto.
AW: Looking at your work holistically, where do you find a lot of your inspiration?
NSZ: So this collection [Verging Cities] stemmed a lot out of homesickness, and I was really interested in what it means to give into your longing. What I mean by that is there are a lot of things about El Paso-Juárez that I miss, and if I were to describe them to someone else, they would think ‘that doesn’t seem like a beautiful feature of a city,’ but I would still miss those things. The things you miss at home sometimes are even the ugly things.
AW: You’ve visited a lot of liberal arts colleges before, how important do you think this kind of education is, specifically for prospective writers?
NSZ: That’s such an interesting question, because I actually didn’t go to a small liberal arts school myself, and therefore, never had that educational experience. However, I’ve absolutely loved visiting them, and I feel as though if I had to opportunity to come to a liberal arts school, I would have. It feels like a much more intimate environment where people get a lot more one-on-one attention from professors and you can express yourself and explore who you want to be in a way that you probably can’t do at a larger school.
Photo via nataliescenterszapico.com