Joseph A. W. Quintela: Special Feature & Interview
Even a Minotaur Can Learn How to Write
What is going on behind the reader?
A dead man is shedding his leaves.
The white shirt of the story is
becoming aware of the long tunnel
where we are going. I saw
the readers open and enter, they come to
read the book in the museum, they
are reading in the hallway, they are
so big and shadowy,
they look like they are prepared
to know my tragic mouth,
they look like they are prepared
to give the book a lobotomy and
the book bore that
and I was happy. Are you happy?
Suddenly, I am the keeper of the voice,
the voice that you have
Is the voice the voice of the dead
limping up and down like your
dead voice, limping? No. The voice
is the corridor of the book.
The long tunnel of the book
is where we are going.
What is a door?
A door is a road in the world of the
hallway. The word was standing in the
big, shadowy night,
it looked like he was wandering into
my head. I have been wandering
into trouble. You
have tried with the lobotomy and what we
have here is a man
told a happy story many times.
A voice said suddenly, what is your story?
Insofar as that is you in here,
I understand there
is a voice speaking of the dead.
You are my voice,
I say, and the voice is limping
down the long corridor of truth.
I call the long tunnel me
and the dead call
everyone a door, forgetting that
when a door is opened, I come in,
standing with the word in the hallway.
May I come in? It is dark and
big and shadowy in the valley of
In my mouth, your voice is a tragic
lobotomy written for the sake of writing
a tourniquet. A tourniquet is written
in a lonely place, is said to be
a voice suddenly left behind,
is said to be what you oppose when
you stand there clothed in
the voice of the dead. You
use your fingers to designate my
house. You let the cold voice limp
down the long corridor of my page.
So I will live in the tunnel.
So I will call back the dead.
//written entirely with words excerpted from “Persona” by Lynn Emanuel and “At the Threshold of the Book” by Edmond Jabes//
The Thousand Throated Third
I remember when I lost my roof,
something was pleasant about my
eyes, my eyes had an echo, my
eyes listened in the space
of ears. When you’re so pleasant,
without care or thought,
without the touch of
a father–because I didn’t know
my mother, I knew I had no friend–
you begin to make a friend.
Does that make me my friend
or does that make me my enemy?
My friend, I think twice
and I hope that you are my voice
but I know that my voice is
no choir. So who do you think
you are? Who do you think I mean?
Who do you think is in control?
You’re my death.
I court me as a lover, just like
I do when I lose my roof,
my roof, I remember thinking,
was little fun and my eyes listened
by no coincidence,
and when my eyes quieted, I thought:
I can die, maybe.
And maybe, I had no father.
Maybe, I made my father.
I just made a quiet friend
to court and embrace my tongue.
//written entirely with words from “Samurai Song” by Robert Pinsky and “Crazy” by Gnarles Barkley//
Sometimes the Voice Escapes
You, my scaling voice,
are dead and your hands
are lost like the body
flecked with otherworldly dreams. Sometimes
you mine. Sometimes the mind hears
a sound perched on the high branch of
a mango tree. A glimmer
of scale that dies. The blade of music.
Ideal and repeated.
Graceful, like those who flow
through your veins. The strand of the dead
speaks in sweat. Sometimes they dance across your forehead.
Sometimes the mind hears the trickle-down
sound. Your breast like a twin of
sound. I hear the
distant glistening. Naked, night
voices. Beloved escape.
Are those who are dead chosen
by the dead? Are the lost entangled
in fresh dreams? Sometimes you beckon with
sliced eyes. Sometimes you hear the
sweet blade twisting with the
sound of scooped out life.
Music dies in the pulled out heart. That
beloved voice. Underneath
the dead, I tree. Those
who are breathing like the lost.
Sometime they crouch beside the
mind. Sometimes your mind arms the
sound. For a moment you cradle the
sound of blood
streaming onto the earth. The scales that die.
Didn’t you hear the voice
of the dead? The spy
on the tree like fruit?
Sometimes I hope
for the verses. Sometimes
a voice returns and
sounds across the ocean of night,
as if the reverberated
voice loves the future of voices.
//written entirely with word excepted from “Voices” by Constantine P. Cavafi and “Imagined Love Poem to My Mother from My Father” by Joseph O. Legaspi//
Q & A with Joseph Quintela and editor Joanna C. Valente
JV: When did you come to New York City? Why?
JQ: I came to New York City in the fall of 2007 to escape a thriving but suffocating career in restaurant management. I was managing a group of four restaurants in St. Paul/Minneapolis and working 70-80 hour a week. I was burnt out and exhausted and knew I needed a change. This is probably not the city for someone to move to if they are feeling burnt out and exhausted, but somehow it worked for me and within the first year I felt completely re-invigorated. I decided to go back to school for poetry, a lifelong love I had let lapse. Having nose-dived out of UW-Madison my first time around, I began to rebuild my academic CV at Borough of Manhattan Community College, an experience I can’t say enough good things about. I’m still in regular correspondence with many of the professors there. After that, I was blessed with two delightful years at Sarah Lawrence College, where my interest in post-productive forms of poetry blossomed after Suzanne Gardinier encouraged me to stop taking poetry workshops and study art theory instead. It’s always a bit strange how we get where we are, isn’t it? But as for New York City, I imagine I’ll be here a while, I am quite smitten.
Who was the first poet you read?
Dr. Seuss. That much should be obvious in my work. But the first poet I memorized was Lynn Emanuel, who’s poem Persona is used as material in one of the poems accompanying this interview. It also happens to be the one I first memorized and memorization is arguably a higher form of reading. In reference to St. Augustine, Paul Ricoeur reminds us (in Time and Narrative) that the recitation of memorized verse is one of the few times that we can directly engage all three temporal modes in a simultaneous fashion. The past is engages as the mind is constantly reaching back into itself, remembering the lines of memorized verse, but even as this is occurring, the present is engaged through the words being uttered, meanwhile, the future is accessed through anticipation, through the constant expectation of the mind of the word that must follow the word in the mouth. I have always found this to be an interesting observation.
What are you obsessed with right now?
The same thing that I am always obsessed with: water, which is to say desire, which is to say blood, which is to say language. I am not a particularly zealous follower of astrology, however I do maintain that, like any mythological sign systems, it is a way of interpreting an otherwise inexplicable phenomena (in this case: the strange pulls that that the celestial sky exerts upon our bodies). If it is the pull of the moon that organizes the tides that created the very possibility of life on Earth, I imagine it would be rather arrogant of us to think that the pull of other celestial bodies has no effect on these lives. This is a long preface to justify by Zodiac-based explanation of why I am obsessed with water. My sun sign is Virgo (earth), my moon sign is Aries (fire), my ascendant is Libra (air). In these first three signs I lack a water sign. And so it is water that I am destined to seek.
Do you still hand write?
Yes. The flow of ink to page is always a different experience than the drum of fingers on keys. Neither is necessarily superior. but with my aforementioned water obsession, the flow of ink to page is very important to me.
Favorite book store?
The vain answer is The Strand. I am very honored to have one of my book sculptures permanently installed in the Rare Books Room there. Go find it. It’s eight feet tall, so it’s pretty hard to miss. And the Rare Books Room is a delight in-and-of itself. The other answer is Mellow Pages, which is not a book store, properly, but rather an amazing little book exchange based in Bushwick. One of the best parts of Mellow Pages is that they specifically seek out small press poetry and chapbooks, so you can find amazing little gems there. You join by donating 20 books to the exchange and then you can borrow from their collection like any other library. I’ve also lived by Blue Stockings for almost the entire time I’ve been in New York and it’s another gem.
Editor's Note: These poems originally appeared on our old site in our fall 2013 issue.
Joseph A. W. Quintela writes poems. On Post-its. Walls. Envelopes. Cocktail napkins. Twitter. YouTube. Clothing. Anything he gets his hands on, really. If you’re lucky, he might write on you. His first full-length collection (BlackMarket; 2013) was released by Publication Studio Malmo as the inaugural title in their Plagiarism Series. Other work has appeared in The Collagist, ABJECTIVE, GUD, Bartleby Snopes, and Existere. As the senior editor at Deadly Chaps Press, he publishes both an annual series of chapbooks and the quarterly review, Short, Fast, and Deadly. He is the creator of the #Bookdress project, a collection of living poems that have appeared in galleries, bookstores, and museums across New York City. (www.josephquintela.com)