We had the good fortune of connecting with Ana María Caballero and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Ana María, we’d love to hear about how you approach risk and risk-taking
Risk is inherent to all artistic practice—there is risk of rejection, risk of disregard, risk of lackluster execution. But I think that the greatest risk of all is that of not creating, of not writing. Personally, rejection hurts less than not making the time to write and share my writing. When I receive a rejection, I feel motivated to write more, write better, and resubmit. Rejections are in effect sources of inspiration.
The greatest risk you can take in terms of artistic creation is delaying it.
Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
My poetry is deeply rooted in the personal details of my day-to-day. Our hopes, desires, regrets, quests for purpose are inseparable from the logistics of living. We boil eggs, answer emails, water plants, rip envelopes, bag groceries, towel children, all while pondering the ultimate meaning of our existence.
To this effect, I’m currently working on a series for the NFT platform Async Art called “Newly Abridged Happiness Manuals,” of which the first volume is published. These conceptual poems are built on the platform’s 24-hour canvas, where a new image is revealed each hour on the hour, cycling around every 24 hours, forever. These poems consist of 24 short verses that play on the tension between time and mind, casting a light on the recursive nature of our thoughts, which are inevitably affected by both the moment of day and by our senses. Our thoughts are the scaffolding that sustain our outward-facing selves, but how can we truly know ourselves when our senses, and thus our thoughts, are constantly under assault? Can our identities exist independently of appetite, temperature, habit? If reason is what separates us from beasts, then what does it mean for our minds to be governed by diurnal and sensorial patterns? These are some of the questions this series probes.
Parallel to these more conceptual works, I’m also creating digital spoken-word video poems that explore the female voice of the home, the voice of the mother who at once yearns for a life beyond the home and for nothing more than moments of connection with her children. The straightforward, oracular voices of Elena Ferrante, Louise Glück, and Wisława Szymborska are deeply inspirational to my verse.
When I applied to my Master’s degree in poetry at Florida International University, I asked if it was possible to complete a joint Master’s in Visual Arts. Several campus meetings later, I realized there was no communication between the graduate Visual Arts and Poetry departments. They didn’t know what to do with me. Though I opted for the poetry track, I felt convinced that, as a poet, I was equally an artist, and I wished for guidance in exploring ways to bring my poems to life beyond the printed page.
As soon as I read about NFTs, I knew that this technology could spark new thinking for digital poems, setting them on the same stage as digital art. For years, I’d shared my published work as spoken-word video poems on social media, hoping they would find a more expressive audience that the one I’d encountered via traditional publishing.
The blockchain has connected my work to new, engaged audiences in ways I could’ve never dreamed possible. In 2022, my digital poems will be shown in Times Square, Brussels, Madrid, Paris, and exhibited widely in both the metaverse and the real world—with more to come. I’m especially excited about a performative installation I am planning at L’Avant Gallerie in Paris in the Fall of 2022 in which I will provide hand-annotated early drafts of my forthcoming book A Petit Mal to visitors. I’ll invite visitors to edit the pages themselves, making their own suggestions. These communal edits will collectively show how the act of writing is in and of itself an artwork, as well as highlight the decisions at stake in the revision process that seeks to generate the elusive final draft.
Perhaps my explorations in Web3 are the Master’s degree in Visual Arts to which I once, unsuccessfully, applied.
Meanwhile, I felt that it wasn’t enough to just transform my own poems into works of art. To contribute to substantial changes in thinking surrounding poetry’s transactability and cultural currency, I thought it necessary to present the works of other poets as artworks as well.
I entered the NFT space with the very definite plan of creating a poetry gallery to onboard traditional poets into the crypto art space. I was lucky to quickly meet two writers in the space, Kalen Iwamoto and Sasha Stiles—together we founded theVERSEverse.com. I feel pure joy on days when it seems we are making lasting strides.
Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
I’d recommend at least half a day at the Norton Museum of Art. The art collection is at once complete and compact—touring its halls is like taking a condensed art history lesson. My favorite works in this museum are Nick Cave’s “Soundsuit,” and Gaugin’s “Christ in the Garden of Olives.’ Another artful afternoon can be spent at the Ann Norton Sculpture Garden, which, though part of the Norton, is its own separate site.
Rohi’s Readery in Rosemary Place is a gorgeous children’s bookstore and has great daily activities for kids. The Society of the Four Arts also has a very dynamic events schedule, including live music and conferences, plus an immaculate outdoor sculpture garden.
Great lunch spots include the Grand View Market food hall, Benny’s on the Beach in Lake Worth or the retro-fantastic Howley’s Diner on Dixie. Head to Carvel, also on Dixie, for desert and to admire an Old Florida gem. To close the afternoon, I’d suggest going for a walk down Flagler in West Palm Beach all the way into downtown and either stopping for coffee at Salento, a Colombian café that serves the best pan de bonos in town, or heading to the lively Rocco’s Tacos on Clematis for some fantastic Mexican food.
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
I am constantly inspired and motivated by my poetic mentors Julie Marie Wade and Denise Duhamel. Pulitzer Prize finalist Campbell McGrath has also been a wonderful guide, spurring me to write braver.
All of them teach in the Poetry MFA program at Florida International University, where I have been a very happy student for several years.
I’d also like to shoutout the O, Miami team, who year after year delivers an incredible poetry festival to our community. This year I was lucky enough to present a panel called ‘Poetry on the Blockchain” with Web3 leader–and Miami local–Breanna Faye.
Andres Hernandez (personal image) John Contreras (blue image, thin lace, names of flowers) Octavio Irving (Mujeres)