A Conversation With Natalie Scenters-Zapico
Interview conducted by Sebastián Hasani Páramo
Natalie Scenters-Zapico’s debut collection was recently named a top ten debut by Poets and Writers. Before that, her poetry was featured in American Poets, a publication by The Academy of American Poets, and was introduced by Dana Levin. That issue was my first introduction to her work and I eagerly anticipated her book. Many others have since applauded her collection, The Verging Cities. Dana Levin writes that Scenters-Zapico “engages politically and personally charged material…with signature intimacy and fairy-tale strangeness.” In 2015, her book was featured on several top lists and included in Best American Poetry 2015. When I read her collection, I read it eagerly. Her poems in this collection are dark, visceral, haunting, and will echo for days in your mind. Here’s one of the most thought provoking lines in the collection:
I write of the boy I love gone missing, his father found with no teeth
In an abandoned car. Some say you have no right to talk about the dead.
So I talk of them as living, their bodies standing in the street’s bend.
Throughout, she builds and breaks down the boundaries of love, place, identity, and memory in ways that are unexpected and uses them to great effect to write the political and engage us in the surreal violence of our time. I was fortunate to be able to interview her via email.
Natalie Scenters-Zapico is from the sister cities of El Paso, Texas, U.S.A. and Ciudad Juárez, Chihuahua, México. She is the author of The Verging Cities, which won the 2016 Great Lakes Colleges Association’s New Writers Award, the National Association for Chicana and Chicano Studies Tejas FOCO Award, was featured as a top ten debut of 2015 by Poets and Writers, and named a Must-Read Debut by LitHub (Center For Literary Publishing, 2015). A CantoMundo fellow, her poems have appeared in American Poets, The Believer, Prairie Schooner, West Branch, Best American Poetry 2015 and more. Natalie lives with her husband, border rhetorics scholar José Ángel Maldonado, in Salt Lake City.
Sebastián Hasani Páramo: In reading The Verging Cities, I loved this idea of “verging” and the many forms it took. Your use of Oxford English Dictionary as a guide for exploring this idea was very incredible. The relationship you created between the speaker and borders seemed to create much tension and conflict. Can you talk about this idea and how it culminates into the title poem?
Natalie Scenters-Zapico: When I started writing about El Paso-Cd. Juárez just about everyone had a reading list for me to take home. There are so many wonderful writers who have come before me who share the same love affair with the border. And yet, the more I read the more I felt that I had a very different relationship with the border than the ones I saw being described. So, I starte