Poet Emma Trelles Loves Patti Smith, Hates Fascists

Categories: Culture
Emam Trelles
As 2011 comes to an end, we're getting all nostalgic about the great moments in Miami culture that took place over the past year. And we know we're not alone. So we've asked some of Miami's top artists, writers, film producers and other cultural geniuses about their favorite 2011 memories.

Emma Trelles is an award-winning poet and writer based in Miami. This past year, she published her second book, Tropicalia, to warm reviews. Trelles has been writing and publishing in Miami for years, with experience in journalism (she was a Staff writer for the Sun-Sentinel's Arts section) and also academia (she currently teaches at Nova and Barry University). She also writes a column for the Best American Poetry blog. You will be hard pressed to find a scribe with more insight into the contemporary affairs of both literature and poetry, so we caught up with Trelles to get the rundown on all things written in 2011.

New Times: What did you think of publishing in 2011?
Emma Trelles: The same as always -- some pearls, some swine, a lot of lazy journalists still writing about the death of publishing. In May, The Huffington Post reported that Amazon sold 105 e-books for every 100 real books. The American Booksellers Association just posted on its site that Thanksgiving sales by independent bookstores were up by 15 percent from last year. That's an ocean of books people are buying. A story about all the freaking reading people are doing would be good right around now.

Sounds good. What was the best thing written in 2011? Why?
Just Kids, by Patti Smith just came out in paperback. I imagine it's as excellent as it was in hardcover, an exquisitely written account of how an artist became an artist. That book managed to convey all the starry dreaming and sacrifice which accompanies that journey without any self aggrandizing. Just writing about it makes me want to read it again. Also: The Penguin Anthology of 20th Century American Poetry, edited by Rita Dove, who I saw ballroom dance with her husband at a past Miami Book Fair. Finally, Claire DeWitt and the City of the Dead, by Sara Gran, a lyrical, gritty, metaphysical, and delicious detective story set in New Orleans.

Best thing written in Miami in 2011?
Magpies, by Lynne Barrett, an assemblage of delightfully strange stories. She is a master of plot. And also Sinead O'Connor and Her Coat of a Thousand Bluebirds, a collaborative poetry collection by Neil de la Flor and Maureen Seaton. Just the title alone is worth the price of this great little book, and the poems inside it are even better.

Worst thing written in 2011?
All of the political swill penned by Republican fascists. You know who you are.

Ha. What's your favorite place in Miami to read a book?
I just spent a Sunday at Oleta River State Park, where there's plenty of soft grass and shady pines to sprawl beneath and read, doze...
Pretty. How about the best place in Miami to buy a book?
Books and Books, Miami Book Fair International, The Bookstore in Coconut Grove, and University of Wynwood, publisher of the incomparable Jai-Alai Magazine and host to visiting poets from around the country who read, teach, and sell their books to happy visitors.

Other than O, Miami, what was the best reading you attended in 2011?
Hands down, W.S. Merwin at the O, Miami poetry festival. He read so many of his beautiful poems about all manner of people, creatures, and places: Topsy the elephant, a poignant search for a beloved and missing dog, how rain at daybreak illuminates the "washed colors of the afterlife....even though the whole world is burning." He spoke directly about the necessity of compassion for one another and for the planet we share. The spotlight at the New World Center made his white hair shine like a halo.

How about the best writing workshop in Miami?
The Florida Center for the Literary Arts dishes up some pretty nifty creative writing classes year round, taught by local writers, and also at The Writer's Institute, three-day intensive workshops in poetry, fiction, and creative non-fiction. For the latter, instructors include nationally lauded authors such as Ana Menendez, Steve Almond, Robert Pinsky, Li-Young Lee, Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni, Rick Bragg, and Francine Prose. Bonus points for being affordable.

What does the future of publishing in Miami look like??
Promising, rich, startling, prolific, fueled by Cuban coffee and sunlight.

How poetic.

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