Jose Hernandez Diaz on the Surrealism of Prose Poetry
This Week from The Common Podcast
Jose Hernandez Diaz speaks to managing editor Emily Everett about his poem “Ode to a California Neck Tattoo,” which appears in The Common’s spring issue. In this conversation, Jose talks about finding his way to prose poetry, initially drawn in by its casual language and style. He also discusses the process of editing and revising poetry, his interest in the surreal, and what it’s like writing from a first generation point of view.
On writing poetry with surrealist and absurdist elements:
A lot of my work tends to be about my real life experience—growing up in a working class neighborhood, with brothers in gangs. Surrealism and absurdism appeal to me in the sense of an escape. You can use your imagination and write about dreams and horror and fantasy.
On deciding if a poem will be verse or prose:
My linear verse is usually about my life, my family life: a lot of the sacrifices my parents made in immigrating here, and me being a first generation Mexican-American, low-income, working-class. A lot of that goes into my linear verse, the autobiographical work. It’s hard to separate that. The prose poetry is more surreal, more like its own world, its own genre. A bit more imagination goes into that—creating new worlds.
Jose Hernandez Diaz is a 2017 NEA Poetry Fellow. He is the author of the 2020 book The Fire Eater. His work appears in The American Poetry Review, Boulevard, The Cincinnati Review, The Georgia Review, The Iowa Review, The Nation, Poetry, and The Best American Nonrequired Reading 2011. Currently, he is an associate editor at Frontier Poetry and Palette Poetry. He is from Southern California. Follow Jose on Twitter at @JoseHernandezDz.
Emily Everett is managing editor of The Common magazine and host of the magazine’s podcast. Her stories appear in the Kenyon Review, Electric Literature, Tin House Online, and Mississippi Review. Say hello on Twitter @Public_Emily.