Using any language other than Spanish to write something as intimate and profound as poetry depends on how the writer feels about his own perception as a writer. It also depends on the reality he pretends to reflect in his work as well as his relationship to the language in which he creates his literature. In my case, arriving in New York in the 70s, after finishing High School in Arecibo, Puerto Rico, and with a poor command of the English language, it never occurred to me to write in any language other than Spanish. I never felt the need to write in a language that I consider as something added as a means of survival in a country whose history, cultural traditions and language itself is the opposite of my own. But to respond to a question such as why you write in Spanish, there is only one simple answer: It is my native tongue. The tongue in which I perceive myself in relation to my identity and understanding of my cultural background as well as the Spanish and Latin American literary traditions I belong to. I don’t believe that being a Puerto Rican poet who writes in Spanish might say something to the common readers of English literature; nor have I any knowledge that the intellectual Latino community living in New York pays much attention to poets like myself who use the Spanish language to create their poetry. It seems to me that this matter has nothing to do with poetry itself, but with the perception and lack of knowledge that people have about our work. I also believe that the appreciation of a good piece of literature has to do more with the quality of the work than with the language. It is wrong to believe that a poet will have a large audience and will be better understood and estimated because of a reader’s preference of language. I think the importance of poetry for the common reader and literary critics of a particular community should not be defined by the language it is written in. A poet, any poet, it does not matter where he/she lives or comes from, writes in a language of his/her preferences not to please the reader but to accomplish a work of art.
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© David Cortés. Published by permission in Centro Voices on 14 January 2015.