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An Interview with Christian Garduno

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Christian Garduno’s work can be read in over 100 literary magazines. He is the recipient of the 2019 national Willie Morris Award for Southern Poetry, a Finalist in the 2020-2021 Tennessee Williams & New Orleans Writing Contest, and a Finalist in the 2021 Julia Darling Memorial Poetry Prize. He lives and writes along the South Texas coast with his wonderful wife Nahemie and young son Dylan.

What inspired you to start writing this book?

I was inspired to write this poetry chapbook by the years I spent going to U.C. Berkeley in the San Francisco Bay Area. Many years have passed since being handed my diploma, yet I’ve only recently been able to write about these formative times. I needed enough time to pass before I could truly gain perspective on who I was then. College is a time when you are growing in so many directions simultaneously and once you walk away, it’s easy to kind of put all those memories into a shoebox and call it a day. I wanted to dive into the ways that I’ve transformed—and the way the Bay Area has transformed as well.

Tell us the story of your book’s current title. Was it easy to find, or did it take forever?

The current title of my work is Central Richmond. It’s a neighborhood I lived in after graduating college located on the northern edge of the Golden Gate Park. Commonly referred to as Little Russia, it was a part of town that was very unique and inviting. Looking in bakery windows at various Eastern European snacks, wondering where these tasty treats are from and what their histories were. I was looking for a title that referenced the city, but perhaps wasn’t immediately obvious. I’ve written several poems about living in Little Russia that I’ve had published along the way. Sometimes I wonder if those bakeries are still there in Central Richmond.

If your book had a soundtrack, what are some songs that would be on it?

01 Slowdive – “Alison”

There’s a gauzy, cotton-candy-like aura surrounding this song, like you can understand what they’re saying only when you’re only half-listening. It reminds me of waiting for it to kick in, and then waiting for it to wear off. Writing about the past is like that sometimes. I think the video encapsulates this feeling perfectly.

02 Mazzy Star – “Bells Ring”

Over the years, I’ve made up my own lyrics to this song. I suppose I could just look them up on-line, but I know I’ll never do that. It’s true that perfection can ruin a really good thing.

03 Billie Eilish – “Lost Cause”

On a long road trip from Texas to Virginia, my wife (Nahemie) and I ran out of playlists and she suggested Billie Eilish. I had never heard a complete song from her at that point and dismissed her out of hand as being “industry hype.” Was I ever wrong. Once we got back home, I took the deep dive. This song will always remind me of that trip- and also serves to remind me to keep an open mind when you think you’ve heard it all before.

04 The Stone Roses – “Waterfall”

There’s a certain shimmer about The Stone Roses’s debut album and this song in particular. It sounds like everything is possible. I feel a pristine optimism listening to “Waterfall.” I hope readers feel like this when reading my work.

05 Taylor Swift – “Sweet Nothing”

While not a certified Swiftie, I have been a fan for quite some time. I’d play her music and Nahemie would roll her eyes. After a while, I kept my Taylor songs to myself. Then one day, Nahemie was doing a solo job painting a house and had Pandora streaming and this song came on. She didn’t know who it was at the time, she was just like—this is a cool song! And then she found out it was Taylor Swift. It was the song that broke through to her, so it’ll always have a special place in my heart.

Have a listen here:

What books are you reading (for research or comfort) as you continue the writing process?

For about the last 18 months, I’ve been reading Europe Central by William T. Vollmann. It’s a heavy read. It starts with a hand-drawn map and a chart of Patronymics. I know 999 out of 1,000 people who would put a book like this in a box and bury it deep in the Earth and back away slowly, making certain it stayed buried. I can only read about 30 pages at a time because by then, I’ll have 20 pages in my notebook to research and cross-reference. Current events happen in blood-red, but they get written down in history as black and white. Vollman makes this vivid. I have the feeling that when I finish page 811, I’ll turn to page one and start all over again.

Where is your favorite place to write?

I have a pretty simple workstation in my home. I have a clipboard with a standard composition book, my laptop, and my smart phone. So, I kind of have a “triangulation of crossfire” when I get down in my mode. I don’t usually connect my laptop to the internet when I’m writing, but my phone is. I start off writing by hand in my notebook and then take it to the laptop, mainly because I can type faster than I can handwrite. I save all editing for later. If I ever catch a case of writer’s block, I’ll put on a favorite playlist and go through an old notebook to pluck some ideas. That usually gets the creative juices flowing.

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