Interview with Laura Cesarco Eglin: “I focus more on allowing myself free time.”

Laura Cesarco Eglin is a poet and translator from Uruguay. She is the author of three collections of poetry and four chapbooks, including Time/Tempo: The Idea of Breath, Life, One Not Attached to Conditionals and Reborn in Ink, translated by Catherine Jagoe and Jesse Lee Kercheval.

Cesarco Eglin translates from the Spanish, Portuguese, Portuñol, and Galician. She is the translator of claus and the scorpion by the Galician author Lara Dopazo Ruibal (co•im•press, 2022). She co-translated from the Portuñol Fabián Severo’s Night in the North (Eulalia Books, 2020). She is the co-founding editor and publisher of Veliz Books and teaches creative writing at the University of Houston-Downtown.

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Hi Laura, thank you for being here today. We’re really excited to talk to you about your writing routine and process. For those who may not know, can you please tell us a little bit about yourself?

I’m a poet and literary translator from Uruguay. I write poetry in Spanish and in English. I translate from Spanish, Portuguese, Portuñol, and Galician into English or Spanish. And from English into Spanish. I also speak Hebrew because I lived in Israel for 9 years.

I’m the granddaughter of immigrants, who spoke different languages, who learned Spanish as a second, third, or fourth language. Language and Languages and accents and details and translation are my veins. There is also a lot of movement, across cultures, across borders, across lines, the eyes as they move across a page, etc. But reading and writing, translating, and moving also involve slowing down, feeling, thinking, paying attention, questioning, engaging deeply with the word, with oneself, with others.

That’s a modus vivendi and a modus operandi. Community and the collective as another essential component. For this reason, I co-founded the literary press Veliz Books in 2015. Aside from being a poet, translator, publisher, and editor, I also teach creative writing at the University of Houston-Downtown.

Can you take us behind the creative process for your latest book, Time / Tempo: The Idea of Breath?

I’ve been thinking about time for a few years now. (It’s all over these answers!) Writing is part of thinking. Time is seeped into how we inhabit this world: Time as breathing, time as pause, time as memory, and how the present is part of the past, death as part of being alive, time as important, time as a factor in relationships, time as a partner, time as language, and time as part and parcel of who we are.

What does a typical writing day look like for you?

Writing is a continuum. It happens even when you don’t have pen to paper. Writing happens in thinking, in reading, in observing, in feeling, in living, in what seems like doing nothing. It is hard to separate writing into days (here again, how we perceive and live time). But I understand what the questions point to: no, I don’t have a typical writing day.

I focus more on allowing myself free time. It’s like an act of resistance in a world that has co-opted free time as the opportunity to be “productive” instead of as time to rest, to reflect, to shift the direction of the gaze. Writing happens when I respect my time; when I push aside demands from capitalist culture. 

Do you have a target word count or a certain amount of hours you like to hit each day? 

I don’t measure my poetry or translation time like that.

Can you talk about some of your must-have writing tools?

Mostly, I need mental space, quiet hours, free time. Having this, I can use whatever writing tools. I do carry a pen and notepad, or even scrap paper, everywhere I go.

Whenever you hit a roadblock during a writing session, what are some of the methods you use to get back into the flow of things? 

Reading, first and foremost—regardless of whether there is a roadblock or not. Knowing that letting go is also a possibility. That is, walking away from the pen and paper or computer. “Roadblocks” are part of writing.

Writing is a process that can look different for different people and can look different for one same writer each time they write something. 

Can you describe what your writing workspace looks like? 

I sometimes work on my couch, sometimes on my bed, and sometimes sitting at the desk. There is always a pen, scrap paper, and candle nearby. I listen to music when I’m writing or editing. 

Before you go…

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