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Catching Up with Dr. Angela Acosta

Angela returns to detail her postdoctoral Iberian Studies experience, teaching at Davidson College, the ongoing Latinx debate, her latest spec poetry chapbook, and an inside look into her latest Radon poem.

Catching Up with Dr. Angela Acosta

Dr. Angela Acosta is a bilingual Latina poet currently teaching at Davidson College as a Visiting Assistant Professor of Hispanic Studies. Her Rhysling-nominated poetry has appeared in Shoreline of Infinity, Apparition Lit, Radon Journal, and Space & Time. She is a 2022 Dream Foundry Contest for Emerging Writers Finalist, 2022 Somos en Escrito Extra-Fiction Contest Honorable Mention, and 2023 Utopia Awards Nominee for Poetry. She is author of the Elgin-nominated collection Summoning Space Travelers (Hiraeth Publishing, 2022) and A Belief in Cosmic Dailiness: Poems of a Fabled Universe (Red Ogre Review, 2023).


Dr. Acosta is the author of “La (Mal)inche” from Radon Issue 6, and “Regarding the Memory of Earth” and “Jumping Through Spacetime” from Radon Issue 1.


Read Dr. Acosta's first Radon interview by clicking here.


Q: Congratulations on finishing the grueling road to your doctorate. Are you enjoying the postdoc life, or did you enjoy the initial PhD work the most?


There’s nothing like seeing the honorific “Dr.” in front of your name! I completed a PhD in Iberian Studies, specializing in 20th century Spanish literature and culture, from the Department of Spanish and Portuguese at The Ohio State University. Each step of the process is thrilling, from the first glimpses of what life was like for modern Spanish women like Carmen Conde and María Teresa León during coursework to conducting archival research at the Residencia de Señoritas (where students from Smith College, my alma mater, stayed in 1920s Madrid!) and drafting the dissertation prospectus. 


Now that I’m a professor, I’ve enjoyed introducing my students to the awe-inspiring, surrealist, and sometimes speculative worlds of twentieth century Spain, as well as how women and LGBTQ+ writers survived years of an authoritarian dictatorship.


Q: What has your experience teaching at Davidson College been like?


It has truly been a joy and a pleasure teaching Spanish at Davidson College. I’ve had the opportunity to design upper-level courses based on my research along with teaching Spanish language courses. In fall 2023, I taught a course on Spanish women writers and their life writing. We did some creative writing activities to complement the themes and genres we were studying, and the class included a visit to the Davidson Arts & Creative Engagement studio to work on an “exquisite cadaver” write around exercise and have fun imagining avant-garde poetry with markers and colored pencils. 


This spring 2024 semester, I’m teaching “Spanish Culture during the Franco Dictatorship (1939-1975)”. The course spans the Spanish Civil War (1936-1939), Franco dictatorship, and transition to democracy. It’s been a rewarding experience to bring the history of this period together with literary and cultural texts that I’ve been teaching and researching these past few years. My students make such great observations and I’ve been taking everything in—from games and activities in Spanish 2, to discussions about gender and nationalism in upper-level courses.


Q: How does being an author help you in the teaching realm, and vice versa?


Writing poetry and short fiction gives me a different perspective about analyzing and writing about literature because I’m more familiar with the publication process. While I was working on my dissertation, I was both researching literary history and the prestige of canonical Spanish writers while also becoming immersed in speculative worlds and communities through literary magazines. As a professor, I bring together close reading with an understanding of the writer’s biography, related historical and cultural background, and publication history to tell a larger story about modern and contemporary Spanish literature and culture.


Q: In academic and university circles, the gender-neutral term "Latinx" is a popular language tool of respect. However, the term faces an uphill battle in the general population, with some positing that the -x suffix may not fit the Spanish language's default structure. Surprisingly, Spain in 2022 banned "Latinx" due their claim that it violated the rules of their language. Where do you fall in the ongoing debate?


There’s a lot packed into this question and debate. Unlike English, there is a Royal Spanish Academy based in Madrid, Spain that provides guidance on language use and regularly updates its dictionary and style guide. While one can argue that the -x suffix does not come from Spanish, a word like “Xicanx” uses “x” precisely to decolonize the term “Chicano/a” and use sounds that come from indigenous languages like Mayan and Nahuatl. I’m all for language inclusivity, and there has been a push for using “Latine” and adding an “e” suffix to end otherwise gendered words like “niñe” (instead of “niño” or “niña”) and “Bienvenides” (instead of “Bienvenido/a”).


I’ve been including these words more and more in my own speech, especially when teaching these words to students. “Latinx” is complicated for several reasons that have to do with the racialization of people of Latin American descent in the United States and Canada as well as the fact that people in Latin America aren’t necessarily using the term. Instead, people in las Américas may identify with a national origin, ethnic group, and/or indigenous community rather than a word that refers to people from across las Américas. (And why is it even called “Latin America” to begin with?) 


If you’re puzzling over the word “Latinx,” I’d invite you to continue learning about the Latine communities in your region and how people are using inclusive language in English, Spanish, and other languages you know.


Q: Congratulations on being labeled a "Super Publishy Person" on Chill Subs for adding almost seven dozen publication successes. As your profile is quite detailed, would you suggest to authors to use their public Chill Subs space as their pseudo writing website?


Thanks! Having the Chill Subs profile has been very handy because I don’t have a separate personal website yet. Since I’ve just changed institutional affiliations after completing the PhD, I’m not yet ready to create a website with my academic and creative work that is tied to my department profile. I made my Chill Subs profile pretty soon after the website went online, and I’m able to quickly post new work. Bonus: When you post your work, Chill Subs syncs it with the journal’s page on their website!


Q: How did your latest chapbook, A Belief in Cosmic Dailiness, come about? And how was your experience working with Red Ogre Review?


I published my book with Red Ogre Review and Liquid Raven Media with a grant from the SFWA. Red Ogre Review opened up their first call for speculative chapbooks in spring 2023 and I was excited to put together a collection of poems about the dailiness of life across the universe. The first poem I wrote in this vein was “For You, Fellow Galactic Denizen,” in which the poetic “I” tells a story to a molty multispecies group around a campfire. This evocation of comfort amidst long voyages and other marvels related to science fiction futures lead me to envision similar poems of small, quotidian comforts and human care that often feature Latine characters and cultural perspectives.


I really enjoyed working with Red Ogre Review during the revision process and love how the book turned out.  They encouraged me to add more Spanish translations of the poems in the collection, which include a few little added details for bilingual readers (check out “Andromeda’s First Quinceañera” / “La primera quinceañera de Andrómeda”). Janis Butler Holm did the cover art, and I think the character has a certain Day of the Dead feel that goes well with the poems in the chapbook. Red Ogre Review, and especially Janis, went above and beyond in placing this book in science fiction and Latine library collections, include Cal State Fullerton’s inaugural US Latinx Science Fiction Collection at Pollak Library.


Q: Can you tell us a bit about your first poetry collection, Summoning Space Travelers?


Ah yes, the poetry collection where I assumed I’d be writing about alien encounters but instead found something more surprising—humans! Summoning Space Travelers represents a good portion of the first speculative poetry I ever wrote. The poetic subjects speak to future human space travelers, imploring them to stay on Earth, reach the limits of the Solar System, or even travel to other galaxies. But most of all, the poetic subjects hope their distant descendants still feel the human emotions and sense of sacrifice and triumph that connect each passing generation. Through this collection, I began the sort of imagining of Latine futures that I explore in more depth in A Belief in Cosmic Dailiness.


Q: Do you have a preference between writing horror or sci-fi within the speculative genre?


The speculative worlds I most often inhabit through reading and writing would best be described as sci-fi. I love imagining off Earth environments and write stories and poems with different planets and star systems in mind. Some of my poems have taken more of a horror approach in tone when reflecting on historical events, but lately I’ve enjoyed writing cozy sci-fi poems and pieces that attend to significant cultural and historical events and people from Spain and the Americas.


Q: Your poem "La (Mal)inche" is packed with captivating imagery and historical references. Which poetic image and which reference are you most proud of connecting into your poem's central conceit?


The image I’m drawn to the most is the reference to Bernardino de Sahagún’s sixteenth century Florentine Codex because it holds a special meaning for me. I took a course on pre-independence Latin American literature at Smith College, and we did a project on the Florentine Codex in relation to the colonial history of botanical gardens. While the Codex (now available digitized online!) contains so many insights into the Mexica (Aztec) culture, one also has to grapple with the colonization of the Americas and all the stories that haven’t been preserved in print or through oral storytelling. The reference to the codex in the poem represents the complicated feelings and intertwined histories that Malinche herself would have experienced firsthand as an interpreter.


Q: Has your writing process changed at all since being published with us in Radon Issue 1?


My two poems in Radon Issue 1 were my fifth speculative poetry publication ever! Back when I first started writing speculative poetry in 2020, I felt as though I were writing in a vacuum chamber. At the time, the idea of bringing science fiction tropes and themes into poetry felt so novel to me, and these poems and many others from Summoning Space Travelers have a more philosophical tone. So much and so little has changed since then as I’ve become an active member of the SFPA, joined Discord servers like Radon and The Rusty Bucket, and started reading more speculative work in earnest. When I first started writing speculative poetry, I focused primarily on scientific and philosophical questions. Now, I bring those same queries and thought experiments together with characters and settings that resonate with my own cultural experiences and knowledge of Hispanic and Lusophone worlds.

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