Elizabeth M Castillo is a British-Mauritian poet, writer, indie-press promoter. She lives in Paris with her family and two cats, where she writes a variety of different things under a variety of pen names. In her writing, Elizabeth explores themes of race & ethnicity, motherhood, womanhood, language, love, loss and grief, and a touch of magical realism. She has words in, or upcoming in Selcouth Station Press, Pollux Journal, Revista Purgante, Lanke Review, Streetcake Magazine, Fevers of the Mind Press, Melbourne Culture Corner, Epoch Press, among others. Her bilingual, debut collection “Cajoncito: Poems on Love, Loss, y Otras Locuras” is out 2021. You can connect with her on Twitter and IG at @EMCWritesPoetry. Her piece can be found in EPOCH Issue 03: Roots, available to purchase here.
Why do you write Poetry, and do you explore other genres in your work?
That’s a really interesting question, and a hard one to answer without sounding too pretentious, but I’ll try my best! Poetry has always been a sort of therapy for me, ever since I was a child I would write my frustrations, hurts, questions for the universe out, usually in rhyming form. I left poetry for a while, focused on writing children’s lit and fiction, but it came crashing back into my life just over a year ago. I went through some heavy things and the only way to exorcise them from my system was to get them out in verse.
During the pandemic, I also discovered the online poetry community and began consuming more of the work that was out there. I discovered all sorts of writing, some in genres I had honestly never heard of, and it’s been such a delicious experience! I feel that my own poetry has grown and matured for it, as I now find myself writing further beyond myself, about tensions and battles that I have experienced, but are not solely mine. It’s a gratifying feeling, knowing that my words are stretching out further as I grow as a writer.
I also write fiction, non-fiction, interviews, and memoir, and I hope to try my hand at essays soon. I have two other pen-names under which I write romance and period retellings, and children’s literature respectively.
Did you have a piece already written when you learned about Epoch’s theme, or did you write a new piece? If so, how did you approach the theme of Roots in the creation of your work?
I didn’t actually, and I don’t often like writing to a prompt or theme. It just so happened that I kept seeing a submissions call for roots-themed work from Epoch and another, very well-known publication and I thought “why not?”
The idea for my poem “Dig” was clear from the beginning- I wanted to take the reader on a journey with me to explore my background. Originally I had thought to make it more about my Mauritian ancestry, but the poem had other ideas and ended up coming out as more of an intimate, personal excavation of the past than I expected.
Visually I knew I wanted the piece to be burrowing downwards, as we travelled deeper and deeper into the earth; into the past, and seeing it in print I think it worked out quite well!
What is the biggest challenge when writing Poetry?
I find writing formally structured poetry challenging, mostly because I know nothing about it. I do think it would be beneficial to study and experiment with more different genres of poetry, but I always find there are so many pressing things I need to write about, so formalist poetry always gets pushed to the back burner!
Otherwise, I don’t find writing poetry particularly challenging, probably because it still feels like a personal exercise to me. Anything can be a poem. Poetry is everywhere. Writing a good poem, that says something to, and about the world… now that’s another matter altogether!
What’s your favourite piece of art in your home?
Can I say my entire home? My husband and I were fortunate enough to be in a position to buy our house two years ago, and completely gutted and redid the interiors. We bought the house with very specific life goals in mind- a desire to homeschool, to entertain, to offer a safe and relaxing place for all those who come to stay. We’ve filled it with things we love- plants, cats, bits, and pieces we’ve picked up over the years. There’s part of the hull of a 747 hanging in my entrance, several repurposed lamps, and lots of textiles from central and east Africa, India, and Latin America. Our home evolves as we do, and that’s exactly as it should be.