Fran Fernández Arce is a Chilean poet currently living in Suffolk, England. She enjoys writing about art, language, and the weather outside her window. Her piece, ‘The word you once knew’, can be found in EPOCH Issue 03: Roots, available to purchase here.
Why do you write CNF, and do you explore other genres in your work?
As cliche as it might sound, the most appropriate answer has been said long before I even began considering the idea of writing poetry, before my parents had even been born. When asked by a reporter as to why one would want to climb Mount Everest, George Mallory is said to have replied: “Because it’s there”. Like most apocryphal quotes, it is not so much about its authenticity or accuracy but the intention behind the saying that matters. Regardless of how cheesy it might be to include it here. Why write poetry? the question goes. Because it is there, here, everywhere.
Of course, like many people before me, I spent many years of my youth trying to write the Next Big Novel. I could carpet a one-bedroom flat with all the scattered pages and unsuccessful attempts that populated my desk growing up. Each installment, I should also add, would also be embarrassingly infected by whatever books or authors I would have been reading at the time. The notion of a fifteen-year old Chilean girl attempting to recreate the next Mrs Dalloway is simply risible to me now. However, I still have those passing moments of weakness where I see myself approaching those old, dusty notebooks with my drafts and ideas, thinking it might be the time to write a novel. Perhaps not the Next Big one but One Novel on its own. Who is to say if one of these days I may surrender to the temptation.
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?
Yes, I did have something written and how fitting it was to have stumbled over Epoch’s submission window at the time. I had just participated in my first ever poetry reading, celebrating the inaugural issue of my first proper acceptance where I decided to share one temptative piece on oranges and lemons. An issue pal, Elizabeth M. Castillo, who is also part of the same issue here at Epoch, recommended sending my piece over. I’m always very thankful for the sense of support and community that can emerge from readings and other poets alike.
The theme of Roots, in that sense, occurred almost accidentally. One of the best methods I have discovered recently to help me sort out the words inside my head has been looking at their etymological definitions. I am always intrigued by how language evolves and the shades in meaning which can get lost in translation or time. As a bilingual poet, I have come to see words more as things than concepts, second-hand objects really, which one can borrow or change from one tongue to another. The idea of words having roots felt like a natural progression of those notions.
What is the biggest challenge when writing CNF?
I like thinking of poetry in the same way as one might think about feelings or emotions in Spanish. While in English you are sad or happy, in Spanish you have sadness or happiness. Seen that way, what you feel is less about a state of mind and more of a possession which, in turn, supposes the possibility of discarding those feelings or emotions when they are no longer useful or appropriate. Poetry, to me, appears the same way. My poems are simply things I have within me and the act of writing allows me to place them on the outside of the page. Of course, this can be both liberating and excruciating. However, at the same time, that very struggle can also be the clearest sign of having a poem not ready to come out yet. Learning how and when to identify those moments is one of the greatest struggles I face with my writing just because it requires an admission of failure, momentary as it can be. It requires me to look at the scribbles and random sentences on the page and say to myself, not yet.
What’s your favourite piece of art in your home?
At the moment, a bright purple Tudor rose treated by the florists to last for months without withering. It rests on my desk inside a glass vault, surrounded by pebbles and its own twig curled around it. To have the skill to treat flowers with such care and with such purpose is nothing but an act of artistic creation in my book.