There might be many definitions of pocho or pocha, but for writer and actress Anna Flores, being pocha is her personal identity.
With that realization, Flores’s debut collection of poems, “Pocha Theory,” was born. With a fresh and unapologetic voice, she addresses and assembles fears, hopes and experiences of mixed-status families in America and the blend of two cultures.
But, what does pocho/pocha mean? Being pochx means to be trapped between languages, between two dimensions that only make sense once you are in it. But again, that’s just one definition. In Flores’s raw and straightforward poetry collection, we get to grasp the context of the theory of being pocha through themes of resilience, immigration, love, loss, deportation, feminism, and death.
This realistic and timely collection is composed of 54 poems that vary in length and language. Some of the poems are translated “Pocha style,” as Flores mentions and most of them were written in English first. The mix of the collection is what makes it unique; some poems are inspired by family and Frida Kahlo, while others inspired by the border, but all under the scope of biculturalism and poverty.
Anna Flores was born in Nogales, Arizona and has been writing since she was five. She graduated from Arizona State University with a BA in English with a focus on American Literature. She has been acting with New Carpa Theater Company for six years and studied neo-classical Ballet with Michelle Ceballos for four years. Flores also teaches Ballet Folklorico at Central High School in the Valley and founded New Carpa Theater Collective this year. The skilled artist is often recognized by her performance last year in the James Garcia’s play SB1070 and her active participation in monthly poetry events around the Valley. Her work has been featured in different magazines and publications.
PHOENIX blogger Ofelia Montelongo chatted with the award-winning writer, Anna Flores, about her recent self-published debut poetry collection and inspirations.*
*Answers have been edited for length and clarity
Tell us about your journey as a poet.
I have always written. I prefer poetry as a medium because I feel it reads most like our natural human way of processing thought and trauma in fragmented imagistic sections. I found it hard to call myself a poet for a long time but with the help of mentors like Rosemarie Dombrowski, I have come to realize that being a poet can sometimes just mean being someone who tells your truth in the most compassionate way.
Can you tell us about the title of your book and what Pocha Theory represents?
The original title for the first version of this collection of poems was called, “Good Girls Don’t Die.” This was a title I came up with when the poems were more centered on the emotional pressure of maintaining a leveled state while facing the sort of adversities explained in the book. Over the course of a year or so I began unpacking the poems and editing them and having conversations about them. Organically, the pieces began to focus on the experience of being a pocha—the language, the themes, the voice… all embraced my personal identity as a pocha.
I was sitting at the downtown ASU campus library brainstorming titles after figuring out the one I had no longer made sense. I first wrote down, “Pocha Thing” then “Pocha Cosa” and then finally “Pocha Theory.” When I made the final decision I realized I was thinking about the ways in which little brown girls everywhere, especially from where I grew up, are thought to be so hell-bent on surviving that they don’t have time or interest in developing their own theories, or concepts of life, or even a self- awareness for betterment. The title is meant to challenge that notion.
What is the background and inspiration behind this collection?
The inspiration, simply put, is my family. The process of immigrating here and the concept of myself and other first-generation individuals as “sacrifices” is something that I have been aware of since I was a small child. I began documenting this experience in some way or other since I was in elementary school. Deportation has been and continues to be a real threat to my friends and family. I have seen families be separated, like my own, and I have said goodbye to friends that have left to Mexico in fear. This economic and social isolation inspires an ethnic solidarity that isn’t always a good thing but seeps into every facet of life. The wall—the border and its legislation has shaped my relationships, my aspirations, my poetry, and this book.
How long did it take you to write it? What was your process?
I would say the process of curating these pieces and publishing, designing has taken me about two years. I first gathered the poems that I felt had some sort of thread tying them together and then I woke up every morning before I had class at ASU to add to them, edit them, or sometimes just read them over and over again. After about a year of this, I decided to self-publish. The work of figuring out how to do this began after that. I spent a lot of time at LUX café (about four hours every morning) obsessing over the collection. I learned a lot about how I felt about my family’s situation and the immigration legislation and social landscape as a whole. I began constructing my own theories about Pochx-ism. I started to gain radical confidence in my book and felt ready to publish it.
Some of your poems are translated into Spanish and some others not. How did you make that selection?
I wanted to make sure I translated the poems that I wanted my family to connect with. Although my parents have been here for decades, they feel more comfortable consuming literature in Spanish and I wanted to honor them by low-key dedicating the Spanish poems to them.
If you had to pick one of the poems as your favorite, which one would it be? And why?
Oooh, that is a hard one. I have several and all for different reasons. “We’re All We Got” (below) is the one that almost didn’t make it to the final manuscript so it’s special to me because it still makes me kind of nervous to read and it’s the one that I spent the least amount of time technically tweaking because it is just so confessional. Mexicans Are Such Hard Workers is the last one I wrote and I cried the whole time I was writing it, it also seems to be the public’s favorite so I also really appreciate that one. La Big Bang is a poem about love and I don’t usually write about love so this one is also really special to me and makes me smile every time I perform it. So, if I had to choose it would be those 3. Sorry! I really cannot choose just one!
Pocha Theory comes at the right moment with our current political climate. What is your expected reaction or takeaways from your readers?
I wanted to challenge people to see these political issues in a human way and I have witnessed audiences and readers be moved to tears at the reality of that.
You can purchase Anna's book at Amazon, Barnes & Noble online, and at the Arizona Latino Arts and Cultural Center (ALAC) at 147 East Adams St. Phoenix
For more information about the poet, please visit http://annafloresula.com/
“We’re all we got!”
We made it out, didn’t we?
Read chain-linked fences with our fingertips.
You taught me how to ride a bus, remember?
I never asked why you stole that red truck
or how you almost drowned drunk in a river
because I knew
theft and death were taught to you.
They were taught to my brothers as well.
We were good at surviving, huh?
Thought love was a thing we deserved after war...
Hell, we even wore the same uniform but sometimes,
I role-played as enemy. I let you beat me down.
I let you kick me out. I let you tear me to shreds
so you would feel some power
in a world that didn’t respect you.
“We’re all we got,” you’d say and I believed you.
I had faith in the fruit of that wilted garden,
from which we both grew,
even after my head sunk to the floor, even after all that.
I understood that your hate came from the pain
of you owning nothing and I understood that your pain
came from the hate of nothing owning you
and I don’t really know if the hypnotherapy worked
but I do forget what you looked like high off x
on a staircase slurring about the father who left you.
I do forget if you smiled ever, but I don’t forget
the time the alcohol had left you hollow of pride.
You looked at my face almost near guilt and said:
It looks like God took his time with you, babygirl.
I laughed ‘cause really I took my time with God
but you never believed— in either of us.
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