Felino A. Soriano is the author of a number of poetry collections, and the editor of Counterexample Poetics. Interviewed by Lynn Alexander.
LA: You say that ‘philosophy’s vast history and rich language enhances the mind’s ability to articulate and think critically’. You connect this to your practice of writing poetry. Do you mean in the sense of process, or the ways by which elements are incorporated into the construction of the poem?
FAS: The construction of a poem I am writing is never predetermined in the facet of existential idea, nor from the vantage point of isolated symmetry, meaning the connected balance between idea and language. Philosophically, my endeavor is to examine surroundings, objects, colors, sounds, etc., through the metaphysical aspirations of ascertaining what is not readily seen. This practice is performed through a conscious and concentrated effort into writing without the use of cliché. When approaching a poem as I do life [existentially], the philosophy of the self is determined to promote the poem through critically thinking about what is in direct line with natural observation. Observation is imperative; as is interpretation. These realities must be in abundance when writing a poem, but too, can predict one’s life within the spectrum of success, when implementing these skills within a practical method. Beyond the multitude of poetic metaphors available for say, a cliché subject as the sun, the authentic poet can write about this cliché, but unveil it to a reader as if it is a neoteric idea. This is my intention, my scheme while writing a poem regardless of subject matter.
Vis-à-vis attempting this intention with my painters’ poems, the interpretation is the basis for needing to find life which parallels but also differs from the painters’ naturalized objective. This is actually quite simple, for although a painting may be easy to describe through its various tones and shapes, and also through factoring in its title, I do not have an idea of the artists’ intent or burgeoning idea into why the painting began and ended as it did. I find this intriguing regardless of the paintings’ posit of subject. A person leaning can be defined quite easily in a painting. But, I can also see a person leaning within an abstract painting, one without the tangible lean of the body’s perfect stillness.
LA: Can you give an example of a poem and share how the writing of it seems reflective of this belief?
FAS: The belief or, much better a description, the methodology of writing in this fashion is my intent with each created piece of writing. The function of writing a poem includes discovery of what is here, the evident, though not readily seen without appropriate investigation. An example is any poem from the painters’ series, in that what is seen is obvious, but the unseen, the alive beneath structured color collocated with visual intent is another attribute of understanding found when the study of the painting exposes the interpretational device.
LA: Jazz presents complexity by way of the vernacular. Does poetry?
FAS: Answering this question is dependent upon the definitional differences in describing ‘complexity’. Definitions such as these are personal affirmations which create a language of dispositional beliefs. Complexity in a poem deals with function of the language, —how does the image shape itself within the scope of the language being used? Complexity can be understood and misunderstood. The poet though, should not write their poem in wanting to create a definition of complexity in accordance with how they feel a reader will perceive their language. A poet should examine the purpose of the poem. In this examination of multiple exertions, the task, ideas, images—within this all the poem will be a natural designation of how the mind designs an esoteric belief delivered within the outcome of the poem’s conclusion.
LA:You are often inspired directly by visual art, by images that you observe. Your poems often provide a narrative that includes part perception, part conjecture. You are both sharing aspects of the work, but combining it with your subjective experience.
When did you start writing poetry inspired by art, and what were some of the first pieces in that vein?
FAS: I will begin with poems prior to my current state of interpreting paintings, which were poems written after jazz recordings with trumpeters as the group leaders, or recordings including trumpet solos that I admired greatly. This series of poems were entitled “Trumpet’s Many Tongues” which included 32 poems. The poems were based on interpretation of language I ascertained through listening to the dialogical components of the various recordings.
The trumpet poems were inspired after attending a concert featuring Poncho Sanchez. His trumpeter played marvelously, and while listening to one of his solos during the show, the thought burgeoned to write poetry after various trumpeter-lead recordings.
Following the trumpet poems, I focused solely on writing after an entire album, which was Miles Davis’ “Kind of Blue”. The poem finished itself as an eleven page suite of poems, which each section written after each track from that marvelous album.
Regarding my writing after paintings, this process began on 1/9/09. Since a child, I’ve enjoyed looking at paintings, and enjoyed from an early age, the transformation of myself after viewing a particular piece of art. I wrote the first poem in January for my “Painters’ Exhalations” series, and thus far have completed 509 poems.
LA: I have had similar jobs in the past, working with adults with physical and psychiatric disabilities. These were jobs that I loved, but often my work took place in systems that were dysfunctional, or disjointed. Do you succumb to cynicism?
FAS: Cynicism is an important part of my daily existence. Philosophy has birthed this important trait within me, and I now am able to follow patterns of independent thought, instead of being lead by another’s function of positing truth of the unexamined proclamation. Within our culture of commonalities revolving around ‘of one mind’ an imperative lies within my wish to think beyond topographical layers about what is presented before me. Ideology shapes thought, shapes personal worth, shapes the purpose and directional desires of one’s life. I disagree with this manifestation of being lead by a personal degree of limitation. This focus of ideology has shown ineffective and dangerous within the realm of political divergence. As the large spectrum of thought drives a person to deliver ideas that do not fit with another’s definition, need or want, it has become evident that power augmenting thought will survive most and yell loudest, which through influence plays a role in forming the like-mindedness found most prevalent today.
Regarding cynicism in the field of which I work, this lies solely through finding solutions to services being found again, after they have been cut. Monetary abandonment for appropriate causes has become the focal point for my state of residence, California. I have great passion for those I work with and for, and I have a passion for the population of persons that have been affected through negligent spending of causational calamities that are evident at this time. A grander system of support needs to be implemented.
LA: Do you see areas where some changes are needed, where the systems are failing?
FAS: As I posited earlier, the state is failing its residents whom need adequate assistance. As a case manager, I see directly the hardships being experienced at this time. Those that I work with and for have abilities to offer towards what is not sufficiently respected, and have a myriad of wonderful gifts that are not being experienced on a much larger scale.
LA: Some people would consider the study of philosophy to be impractical, indulgent, disconnected from task and vocationally oriented “training” that matches people with income. I suspect that we both think there is more to study, beyond education as some means to an end. What factored into your decision to make that choice, to commit those resources?
FAS: Regardless of an esoteric belief regarding the study of philosophy, my own engagement with this vast subject has improved my life radically. My poetry has become enhanced since first delving into metaphysics, and applying my learning to what I interpret and suggest within my writings. Observational abilities have improved; too has my ability to think through various impositions given through the dialectic of associational constructs that disallow camaraderie.
Regarding philosophical attributes involved in my current employment, I am able to think about what is presented from multiple angles. This allows better support, as I am functioning through comprehending a specific need, and assisting in ways to meet that need on the basis of importance though understanding why I am so passionate about my work.