This month, Three by Five is happy to host Dr. Ruben Quesda, Ph.D. He is a Poet as well as an Assistant Professor of English and Creative Writing for the Performing Arts at Eastern Illinois University.
VAH: Ruben, Three by Five always starts with the inquiry why do you write?
RQ: I write because art and poetry are meant to push boundaries and discuss issues in the community that might be uncomfortable or that people might not want to discuss. The goal of my poetry is to cause conversation about race, queerness, death, and our human experience. We deal with big issues everyday, so writing is a way for me to process and try to understand them.
VAH: Some challenging topics to address. What do you do when the blank page stares back at you?
RQ: Art is a big inspiration for me, so when I’m feeling blocked I turn to the works of art that might have inspired others. Usually something new will strike me about the painting and I’ll be able to start working. Music is helpful too. Anything from Mariah Carey to the Beach Boys to Wagner can provide inspiration.
VAH: What inspired you to become a writer?
RQ: I published a poem anonymously in my high school paper during my freshman year and it caused quite a stir. I knew then that there was power in my writing. It was exciting. I continued writing and in my senior I won a high school writing competition sponsored by the Los Angeles Times. And it was that moment that I knew writing was all I wanted to do for a living.
VAH: What is your best advice for emerging writers who are discovering that writing is what they want to do for a living?
RQ: Read. Write. Repeat. It’s common advice, but it’s that way because it’s true. Write as much as you can. Read as much as you can. If you are interested in a particular style read all that you can about it and become an expert on it. I think it’s important to know the history of the style you are writing in, so that you know how you fit into the tradition, but also that you know how you are contributing something new to it as well.
VAH: Knowing and understanding the style of writing a writer is growing into is an important facet of the writer’s education. What are your thoughts on studying writing? You’ve an MFA – has the degree helped your career progress or development?
RQ: I do have an MFA. It was helpful in that it allowed me to explore poetry more closely and see what it excited in me as a writer. The MFA as a studio degree is about the creation of work, which is, of course, very useful. However, it doesn’t usually allow a lot of time for the consideration of theory and how your work fits in among a particular theory or historical moment. My time at Texas Tech for my Ph.D allowed me to make such considerations.