Author Spotlight: Dimitri Reyes
Get Fresh Books Publishing
| July 2023 | $18
What’s your favorite line(s) from your book?
I have several! I believe different lines will serve different people so…
For those who need to hold vigil and have an affinity for Charlie Brown:
“To draw in the keys, Linus and Lucy. / Their song covering the deceased / with a single blue blanket.”
For the old school hip-hop heads holding it down in Nueva York, Jersey, & beyond:
“where you knew water // to be water when this / was still planet rock.”
For the brujas and the salsa fans:
“Walk into me son, / I am her agua, / Nile-River rich.”
And lastly, for the love of Waltercito, a reminder. His words, not mine:
“We are stars until we become constellations.”
What is your current obsession? Short lines, slant rhymes, couplets, trees, etc.
I moved to a rural part of New Jersey last year after growing up around street corners, buses, car mufflers, and storefront speakers that made up my first 29 years of life. After the move, I was anticipating the quiet— and yes, there are many hushes of quiet— but I’m still drawn to loudness, and the wildlife fills that space. Wildlife out here is LOUD and perhaps louder than what I’m used to. As someone who is still a foreigner in this type of environment, noise creates such a lush and vibrant ecosystem and I can’t help but draw comparisons when thinking about city living. I’m fascinated by the variety of birds that chirp right outside my home-office window where I draw comparisons to the many vernaculars and languages one runs into in urban spaces. I’m definitely living in my reading-on-the-porch-with-my-5-cats-while-minding-my-plants-and-sipping-on-tea era and I appreciate every moment of it.
How did writing this book transform you?
This was an emotional book to complete. Before the second section was added, this collection was a chapbook that was a finalist for the Omnidawn Chapbook Prize. Between more submissions and tooling with the narrative arc, I had recently experienced the deaths of my grandparents who primarily raised me. To say the least, my relationship with my family was frayed and it wasn’t until my estrangement that I was able to take a step back and use this book as an opportunity to cope and heal.
What was missing was a varying perspective— what came before me, not on the broader sense of patria and culture, but a generational thread that brought me to where I am. Blending their narratives with my own and seeing them through a different lens allowed me to love them while challenging them. I used the page to reconcile our differences. When I got my first physical copy of the book, I read it entirely in one sitting. I laughed, smiled, cried, and felt icky-yet-lighter after I finished the last poem. In a way, I think this book helped me work through a different grieving process. I’m aware there’s still more work to be done and feelings to be resolved. I’m sure this won’t be the last time that I write towards these particular energies.
Outside of writing, what are some of your passions or hobbies?
Teaching is the love that comes second only to my wife. I relish in the interaction and exchange of knowledge rather than any other pedagogical framework that goes into the process of learning a skill. This is what also led me into arts administration.
When I don’t have the occasional University gig or I’m not hosting my monthly workshops, I still get my “teacher kick” from content creating on TikTok, Instagram, and YouTube. This way, I’m able to offer a free service to a wider community of writers and readers from all over the world through short form tip videos and micro-reviews.
Recently I’ve really been getting into fitness as well. It’s been doing great things for me; mind, body, and spirit. I’ve also been using these meditative moments to discover different ways to push myself physically through circuit or interval training, or mentally by continuing to memorize and recite my performance poems while exercising.
Do you have any advice for new and emerging writers? Is there anything you wish you knew?
Best advice is to not “poet” alone. Community is where one finds the most improvement and discovers more about themselves. I’ve known authors who’ve written books, made lifelong friends, and had artistic shifts in their focus by participating in writing groups and 30x30’s. In New Jersey, there are some institutions like The Red Wheelbarrow Poets, Arts By The People, Murphy Writing, and The Poetry Center at Passaic County Community College that host workshops on a running basis and that’s how authors meet other authors, form friendships, and help build each other up. A lot of these organizations even offer these opportunities online to expand their reach.
I love the “what did you wish you knew?” question! The thing I wish I knew earlier was that you can listen to several ways on how to become a “successful writer,” but at the end of the day, you must carve your own path. You need to do what feels right and feels good because if you're not loving what you're doing, you run the risk of dropping this thing we do completely. I struggled early on with having a foot in the street poetics model and a foot in the MFA model, and when I found my happy medium in both, my passion for the work really took off.
William Carlos Williams is synonymous with plums. If you had to choose one fruit and one animal/plant/celestial body that would forever remind people of you, what would you choose and why?
Well, when thinking of an animal, I’ve already been lovingly called Papi Pichón by a close group of colleagues who are aware that I’ve been working on these poems for years. I appreciate it, as I’d like to think pigeons are very synonymous with our human condition of adapting to different environments though they get a bad rap as “flying rats.”
As for a fruit, I’m not sure, maybe a mango? I can also default to a plant. I love the pothos because it’s so resilient and can thrive almost anywhere. It also propagates like mad and there’s a metaphor in that I’m sure. 😆
Do you have a new project that you’re working on? Could you tell us a bit about it?
I have 3 pending projects. For sure, I have one more Newark poetry book in me which is an extension of my chapbook, Every First and Fifteenth. I have a collection that is exploring my adolescence and those magical glimpses and situations — sometimes situations that I put myself in that weren’t the best — that led me to knowing I was going to be a poet. But talking about obsessions, I’ve been recently obsessed with the idea of long form storytelling that’s not quite memoir-in-verse or a play, but an amalgamation that would most likely just be classified as creative nonfiction. This is the project I’m most excited about!
Dimitri Reyes is a Boricua multidisciplinary artist, content creator, and educator from Newark, New Jersey. Dimitri's most recent book, Papi Pichón (Get Fresh Books, 2023) was a finalist for the Omnidawn chapbook contest and the Andrés Montoya Poetry Prize. His other books include Every First and Fifteenth, the winner of the Digging Press 2020 Chapbook Award, and the poetry journal Shadow Work for Poets, now available on Amazon. Dimitri's work has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize and Best of the Net and you can find more of his writing in Poem-a-Day, Vinyl, Kweli, & Acentos. In 2023, he was a part of the inaugural poetry cohort for the Poets & Writers Get The Word Out publishing incubator. Dimitri is also the Marketing & Communications Director at CavanKerry Press.
Learn more about Dimitri by visiting his website at https://www.dimitrireyespoet.com/