Poet Spotlight: Regina YC Garcia
Regina YC Garcia is an award-winning Poet, Language Artist, and English Professor. She received a BA from UNC-CH with a BA in Speech Communication with a Concentration in the Oral Interpretation of Literature and ECU, where she received an MAEd and Graduate Certificate in Multicultural and Transnational Literature. Her work appears in the South Florida Poetry Journal, Up the Staircase Quarterly, The AutoEthnographer, The Amistad, Main Street Rag, New Note Poetry, and others. Her work has also been featured in an Emmy-winning episode of Muse, as well as in the 2022 Sacred 9 Project of Tulane University.
Her poem "Afrofutures Haiku in Multiverse-Brown Girl Surfs the Continuum" was in New Note Poetry's Summer 2022 issue. We sat down with Regina to talk about her forthcoming book, The Firetalker’s Daughter, from Finishing Line Press.
What inspired this new book?
That's a really great question. During the period of time of the Covid Quarantine, I began to feel a bit restless, maybe because I had time to address where I am in my life. This caused me to stop and consider this concept of not just life but also legacy. This desire to connect personal legacy to the continuum of legacies that created space for me to move, grow, multiply, and live really began to direct me towards establishing a collection of writings that, in years to come, my generation can look back on and sense the urgency of what I was trying to say and do. The inspiration to write a book of poems that honors the legacy of my mother who has meant so much to my sisters, me, and so many others, not just through her nurture and teaching, but also her service, her way of living, her unyielding love, just grew in me until I could not ignore it. This inspiration just bloomed, and ultimately the book began to take shape.
What was the writing process for the book like?
The book began writing itself even before I decided that I wanted to write it. This idea of fire-physical, spiritual, and metaphorical- almost imperceptibly began to weave its way through various poems that I was writing. I descend from a line of healers, and in my direct line, there has been, from generation to generation, these healers called "Firetalkers," people who could "talk" the pain from burns and speed the healing. My mother is a Firetalker, as was her father, as is my son. So, when I came across a contest through Finishing Line Press that called for manuscripts that were theme-based, this theme that had been presenting itself burst forth. Ironically, the last poem that I wrote before submission was entitled "The Firetalker’s Daughter." It perfectly encapsulated what I was feeling about who I was and am, having been raised by a woman so full of strength, will, persistence, a woman who exudes divinity, even now as she struggles through the rigors of Alzheimer’s. That's really how The Firetalker’s Daughter was born.
The Firetalker's Daughter has beautiful gospel-like writing throughout. One of the poems, "On Mountains and Mothers," reads like a sermon, while "I Call Fire" evokes choir music. Any comments on spirituality in your writing?
Aye! You picked up on that. So, yes…I grew up in a Missionary Baptist Church, and I was very involved. I began singing at a very young age and continued that well into adulthood. I still sing in a variety of venues, even when I perform poetry. In truth, sometimes the poetry rides or flies in on a song. Additionally, as I did grow up in a predominantly Black church, this tradition of "call and response" is embedded in the worship like that which you hear in "I Call Fire." The leader talks, preaches, sings…and the congregation responds. It creates an invitation to joint participation in prayer and praise and music. The irony is that even though this is a way of communication frequently seen in houses of worship, it is equally seen in the daily coming and goings, the interactions and communications of modern-day Black lives. I would even venture to say that the ancestors brought in these proactive ways of interaction in order to connect to a god that would hear their petitions in an often hostile land. I've said all of this to say that the ways of this spiritual communication seeps into my writing, even as my writing takes on topics to sometimes challenge varying concepts of an organized religious doctrine that I often find problematic. I guess I believe in the importance of physical temples (people) that carry hope, healing, and pure love. This is why "On Mountains and Mothers" is part praise, part prayer, part plea, part presentation…in my mind, like a holy sacrifice.
Your poem "Afrofutures Haiku in Multiverse-Brown Girl Surfs the Continuum" was in our Summer 2022 issue. How do you feel about that poem now?
It remains one of my favorites, and in truth, I believe that it has more to say, so stay tuned! It was inspired by my excitement regarding the concept/genre/framework of Afrofuturism. This really exploded in my mind as I watched Lovecraft Country on HBO Max. In one episode, some of the characters go back in time to The Tulsa Massacre. As people are literally fighting, burning alive, trying to escape…we hear the voice of the great poet, Sonia Sanchez, floating over the music, the epic poem "Catch the Fire." I was just undone with sadness and awe. Since that time, I have tried to envision ways to engage with that concept poetically. I've begun to play with poetic form to see what genres could carry the heft of Black history and culture through a sci-fi lens. It absolutely excites me to think of being able to connect with readers in this way.
How do you feel about New Note Poetry as a whole now?
Well, I love New Note Poetry! The honest engagement with the writers, the opportunity for presentation of literary art in a variety of venues, and of course, the accessibility of communication with the great people who work with the publication is refreshing. I also adore the openness and how the magazine is not stuck on stodginess. I feel this as a writer, and if I feel this way, I am positively certain the readers do as well.
What do you want readers to gain or walk away with from your new book?
The knowledge that we all are so multilayered. In this book is a fire theme, but it burns through more than the physical, and while it can be all-encompassing and destructive, it can also absolutely beautify and purify. An examination of family, history, introspection, inter- and intra-connectedness, legacy, owning history, and remembering history can bring us all to a place where fear fails and truth reigns.
Any final things to share?
I just want to thank you for this opportunity, and I look forward to contributing again and getting to know the readers in this "New Note" family.