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Reina María Rodríguez Interview

Cuban poet Reina María Rodríguez sits down with Charles Bernstein to discuss the poetry scene in her native country over the past forty years. Rodríguez describes her focus on personal and subjective aesthetics and how this exists in juxtaposition to the often imposed, bureaucratic public voice of the state. As a parallel to this, Rodríguez is an advocate for alternative cultural spaces, seeking to provide creative environments free of the government’s dominance. The poet has used her rooftop home, nicknamed la azotea de Reina, as an intellectual salon in Cuba for the past three decades. Rodríguez also speaks about bending genres in her work, as well as her connections to American poetry. Kris Dykstra, a Distinguished Scholar in residence at Saint Michael’s college in Vermont, translates the bilingual conversation and addresses her collaborations with Rodríguez. In 2013, Rodríguez won the National Literature Prize, Cuba's most prestigious literary prize, as well as the Pablo Neruda Award. English translations of her work include Violet Island and Other Poems, tr. Kristin Dykstra and Nancy Gates Madsen (Green Integer., 2004), La detención del tiempo / Time's Arrest, tr. Dykstra (Factory School, 2005), and Otras cartas a Milena / Other Letters to Milena, tr. Dykstra (University of Alabama Press, 2014).


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Conversations and readings with poets and artists, produced in cooperation with PennSound and hosted by Charles Bernstein, the American poet, theorist, editor, and literary scholar. Bernstein was born in New York City in 1950. He is a foundational member and leading practitioner of Language poetry. Bernstein was educated at the Bronx High School of Science and at Harvard University, where he studied philosophy with Stanley Cavell and wrote his final thesis on Gertrude Stein and Ludwig Wittgenstein.

In the mid-1970s Bernstein became active in the experimental poetry scenes in New York and San Francisco, not only as a poet, but also as an editor, publisher, and theorist. With visual artist and wife Susan Bee, Bernstein published several now well-known poets whose work is associated with Language writing.