Firsts: An Interview with Akiko Busch

The Firsts column features Windmill writers talking about their own firsts in both writing and life. Interview conducted by Theresa Pham.

Akiko Busch is the author of How to Disappear: Notes on Invisibility in a Time of Transparency, published by Penguin Press in spring 2019. Her previous books include Geography of Home, The Uncommon Life of Common Objects, Nine Ways to Cross a River, and The Incidental Steward. She was a contributing editor at Metropolis Magazine for twenty years, and her essays about design, culture, and nature have appeared in numerous national magazines, newspapers, and exhibition catalogues. She has taught at the University of Hartford and Bennington College and currently teaches at Bennington College and the School of Visual Arts. Her work has been recognized by grants from the Furthermore Foundation, NYFA, and Civitella Ranieri. She lives in the Hudson Valley.

Q: What was the first book you ever loved?

A: A book called Mei Li about a young Chinese girl and her encounter with the Kitchen God.

Q: What was the first thing you remember writing?

A: I sat at my father’s desk in Bangkok and pecked out random letters indiscriminately on his typewriter. I don’t know if this counts as writing, but at the time I believed it did.

Q: When was the first time you knew you wanted to be a writer?

A: Always.

Q: When was the first time you felt successful/like a real writer?

A: When I was twenty-three and published a poem titled “An Item of Glass” in a literary quarterly.

Q: What is the first book that made you cry?

A: Portrait of a Lady by Henry James.

Q: How did your first book change your process of writing?

A: I learned to trust the associative process, the way that one thing leads unpredictably to another.

Q: When did you write your first book and how old were you?

A. Geography of Home, a collection of essays I had written for Metropolis magazine, was published in 1999 when I was 45.

Q: What is the first word that pops into your head to describe yourself and why?

A: I would like to think I know myself well enough to know this word, but it seems I do not.

Q: What was your first dream job?

A: Quitting my full-time magazine job.

Q: How did you celebrate your first book?

A: By having dinner with my husband, my two sons, and the Kitchen God.

Akiko Busch’s essay The Geography of Invisibility is forthcoming in the 2019 edition of Windmill.

Poet | Translator Raquel Lanseros

Raquel Lanseros among the olive trees.

The Windmill Profile: Raquel Lanseros

By Ashrena Ali

Hofstra’s MFA in Creative Writing now offers a concentration in Spanish, underscoring the program’s focus on the writer in the world and fusing literary scholarship and intensive instruction in various genres: fiction, poetry, and creative non-fiction.

MFA Director Miguel-Angel Zapata recently invited poet and translator Raquel Lanseros to his class, where she illuminated the importance of reading different authors from varying countries. Lanseros is one of Spain’s most significant voices in contemporary Spanish poetry. Her own work has been translated into numerous languages and she is recognized by nearly 200 critics from more than 100 universities as the most relevant poet in the Spanish language born after 1970. Ms. Lanseros demonstrates that a well-cultivated acquaintance and foundation of languages paired with writing is important in establishing yourself as a recognized voice. Some important awards include the Antonio Machado prize in Baeza, the Prize of the Train, as well as the Unicaja Poetry Prize. She obtained her PhD in Language and Literature Didactics, Master in Social Communication, and BA in English Philology. She’s also published many books, including Diary of a Flash, The Eyes of the Fog, and The Small Spines Are Small.

Currently, Raquel Lanseros is the official translator into Spanish for the European project Pop Science, and a permanent member of the literary-theatrical project Children of Mary Shelley, which brings together poets, novelists, musicians, and playwrights.

Take a look at one of her poems, first in Spanish and then in English!

2059

He imaginado siempre el día de mi muerte.

Incluso en la niñez, cuando no existe.

Soñaba un fin heroico de planetas en línea.

Cambiar por Rick mi puesto, quedarme en Casablanca

sumergirme en un lago junto a mi amante enfermo

caer como miliciana en una guerra

cuyo idioma no hablo.

Siempre quise una muerte a la altura de la vida.

Dos mil cincuenta y nueve.

Las flores nacen con la mitad de pétalos

ejércitos de zombis ocupan las aceras.

Los viejos somos muchos

somos tantos

que nuestro peso arquea la palabra futuro.

Cuentan que olemos mal, que somos egoístas

que abrazamos

con la presión exacta de un grillete.

Estoy sola en el cuarto.

Tengo ojos sepultados y movimientos lentos

como una tarde fría de domingo.

Dientes muy blancos adornan a estos hombres.

No sonríen ni amenazan: son estatuas.

Aprisionan mis húmeros quebradizos de anciana.

No va a doler, tranquila.

Igual que un animal acorralado

muerdo el aire, me opongo, forcejeo,

grito mil veces el nombre de mi madre.

Mi resistencia choca contra un silencio higiénico.

Hay excesiva luz y una jeringa llena.

Tenéis suerte, -mi extenuación aúlla-,

si estuviera mi madre

jamás permitiría que me hicierais esto.

2059

I have always imagined the day of my death.

Even in childhood, when it does not exist.

I dreamed a heroic end of planets online.

To change my position for Rick, to stay in Casablanca to

submerge myself in a lake with my sick lover to

fall as a militiaman in a war

whose language I do not speak.

I always wanted a death at the height of life.

Two thousand and fifty-nine.

The flowers are born with half petals

armies of zombies occupy the sidewalks.

The old are many

we are so many

that our weight arches the future word.

They say that we smell bad, that we are selfish, that we

embrace

with the exact pressure of a shackle.

I’m alone in the room.

I have buried eyes and slow movements

like a cold Sunday afternoon.

Very white teeth adorn these men.

They do not smile or threaten: they are statues.

They snap my brittle old folks.

It will not hurt, calm.

Just as a cornered animal

bites the air, I oppose, struggle,

cry a thousand times the name of my mother.

My resistance collides against a hygienic silence.

There is excessive light and a full syringe.

You’re lucky, “my exhaustion howls,”

if my mother were, she would

never allow you to do this to me.