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Interview with Miami Poet -
Oscar Fuentes

Today, we are thrilled to have the opportunity to speak with Oscar Fuentes, a distinguished poet known for his evocative and deeply personal work. Born in Manhattan, New York, to immigrant parents from Honduras, Oscar Fuentes is a multidisciplinary artist based in Miami who has been sharing his talents and love of the arts for more than 30 years. Known by his moniker, "The Biscayne Poet," Oscar has captivated audiences with his unique voice and compelling storytelling. His poetry delves into themes of identity, culture, and the human experience, resonating with readers on a profound level.

Oscar has dedicated more than three decades to sharing his talents and passion for the arts. He is the author of nine books of poetry and prose, including "Beautiful Women Will Never Know" (2013), "4 Nights With Betsy" (2014), "Vagabond: Selected Poems, Short Stories, and Plays" (2015), "Welcome Home: Poems inspired by 1Hotel South Beach" (2019), "For the Love of Leotards" (2022), and "Honey & Sting" (2023). Oscar has also been featured in illustrated zine publications such as "Body Furnace" (2021), "The Cock Fight" (2022), and "Oscar The Clown" (2022).

Oscar was recognized by Mayor Daniella Levine Cava with the inaugural Miami-Dade Mayoral Poetry Commendation for his outstanding contributions to the county’s literary art community. He is represented by Indie Earth Books and is known for his unique style, even using typewriter tape for a mustache. Beyond his writing, Oscar is a vibrant figure in the literary community, known for his dynamic readings and performances.

As we delve into this interview, we look forward to exploring the inspirations, experiences, and creative processes that shape his remarkable body of work.

What initially drew you to poetry, and who were your early inspirations in the literary world?
I think the bravery behind the poetic word was what drew me in at first. When my mother first introduced me to the writings of Pablo Neruda and Cesar Vallejo, I fell in love with Neruda’s courage to say such words, beautifully written with no shame whatsoever, not really realizing that bravery and poetic shamelessness comes with age and self-knowledge. And so, for many years through my adolescence I practiced that bravery in poetry, but it lacked life experience. With Vallejo’s poetry I was attracted to the beauty of his poetic vulnerability, by the way he confessed his inner struggles and how he was not afraid to be afraid. These two poets were my early inspirations.

How do you approach your writing process? Do you have any rituals or routines that help you get into the creative flow?
For a couple of hours, After I put my daughters to sleep, I sit down at the dinner table with a notepad and pen and draft out ideas into poems mixed with journaling and some rough fiction writing, and if the writing is good, I can stay up past midnight, but the writing is rarely immediately good, and I’m generally just happy to make time to write. When the weather is not so hot at night, I set up one of my typewriters in my garage where I keep a little shrine with pictures of my family members that have passed on, I can feel their spiritual presence when I type next to them, as if the click-clack drumming of the keys conjures an inspiration from somewhere divine.

Can you share a poem that is particularly meaningful to you and the story behind its creation?

My Biscayne

He was last seen walking,
alone with her, not fearing her danger.
I will sing to you the flesh you don’t have,
your missing eyes, the red lips that used to get kisses.
Today and from here forth,
my sweetness, death of mine.
Oh, how good with you alone, with
these blowing winds of Biscayne, My Biscayne.
I must revisit Manhattan soon,
The Brooklyn Bridge awaits
The sound and smoke of the passing cars below me, under me, I must go.
I love you.
And although I don’t recall ever meeting you
my parents, they swear that
when I was just three, I crawled on over through you
and intro Brooklyn, I went crying-
I must revisit Manhattan soon,
and from Brooklyn to Manhattan,
I’m going to walk on the Brooklyn Bridge
and put all of those myths to a test
and see if it’s true that
whenever you’re walking through the middle towers
something bigger than you takes over your mind,
and you feel like jumping off- the Brooklyn Bridge.
But first, I must walk into Manhattan.
Before I get called into disappearance
I must revisit Manhattan,
and with all my friends I will drink heavily
and head on back to those gothic exits and entrances,
and if it’s true.
And see if it’s true that none lives to tell the story.
Oh, the Brooklyn Bridge, how perfect.

This poem is particularly special to me because I wrote it in the early 2000s. This was a period in my poetry writing when I developed my Biscayne Blues series. A collection of poems and short stories about a poet who falls in love with the shadow of death, a raven-haired beauty that lives beneath the waters of Biscayne Bay. Back in those days my personal life was going through a transition, and I found myself temporarily living in a rundown apartment building of Biscayne and 33rd St. where there was always a faint BBQ smell that circulated the hallways.
One day I noticed from my back window a smaller building with a smoky chimney but didn’t think much of it. It took me a while to realize that the building was a crematorium, and that all the dust on my windowsill was not dust, and the barbecue smell was no BBQ. Soon after that, I followed my father to New Jersey, to get away from Miami for a while and perform in Manhattan at the Bowery Poetry Club. I remember I used to walk all the way to the Brooklyn Bridge and watch the boats and the cars go by. One day a young lady jogging passed me by and said, “don’t jump” with a short giggle and kept running. I would look at the East River and my mind would journey back to Biscayne. The poem celebrates Biscayne Bay and its enchanting panorama. It also celebrates my birth city of Manhattan and the magic of that bridge. Both iconic landmarks of my identity.

What challenges have you faced as a poet, and how have you overcome them?
There was a moment when I thought that the only challenge I found for me as a self-made poet was the lack of opportunities in my local community for writers like me. But I was wrong because that same year I was invited by the Betsy Hotel to stay in their Writer’s Room and that invitation inspired something beautiful inside of me. I self-published a little poetry book inspired by the residency at The Betsy, and right after it was when I decided to write myself a poet-in-residence program. Something I could pitch to different hotels and create for myself a kind of a poetry retreat of sorts where I would offer to write poems inspired by the natural beauty, the amenities of the hotels, by the atmosphere in their lobbies, and by the very energy hotel guests bring to boutique buildings. In doing so, crafting a hotel inspired poetry book project. So, I pitched the program to The Vagabond and then again to 1 Hotel South Beach, and both accepted my proposal. That is how I was able to change the course of my poetry journey in my beloved Magic City, where challenges are turned into life altering, artistic opportunities.

How was the experience of publishing your first collection of poems? What did you learn from that process?
My first collection of poems was a self-published book titled, “Beautiful Women Will Never Know”. A combination of poems, short stories and stage plays. Putting out this first book was almost like an experiment, I approached self-publishing the way an independent musician produces their first album from the comfort of their home, or the way a dancer creates and produces their first original choreography. With this first book project I was able to dive headfirst into writing and editing, into graphic design and learned how to use various publishing platforms, as well as project management, marketing and promotion. Through it all a personal growth experience that tested my resilience and perseverance and my self-confidence.

How do you handle feedback and criticism of your work?
I view feedback as a learning opportunity and understand, even negative feedback can lead me to positive changes in my writing. But in my imperfection, I try my best to stay calm, to separate personal from professional, to be open-minded and listen from a place of love and self-care. Of course, we always must consider who is the one giving the feedback.

How has your writing style evolved over the years?
I would say the wisdom that comes with aging, with parenting and maneuvering the care for my aging parents, has made my writing a bit more interesting and personal than before, when my writing was more about anxiously questioning my journey and the way the universe was responding to my poetic conjuring. Today I feel my writing comes from a calm perspective, from a happier place in my life where I am surrounded by love and support.

What role do you believe poetry plays in contemporary society?
In contemporary society, poetry remains a powerful, adaptable and accessible form of expression that addresses personal and current issues and manages to stay fresh in many ways. Poetry will continue to be a bridge between generations, if we continue to allow multidisciplinary influences to flow into its own reinvention. Poetry, like playwriting, is a powerful tool for social and cultural change, where the listener becomes reflected on stage and is invited to internalize and personally interpret for, he/her/they/themselves the call to actions that may be taken intimately or even globally.

What advice would you give to aspiring poets who are just starting out on their literary journey?
Aspiring poets should read different poets, create a writing schedule and aim to have discipline, share your work with your family and friends and seek feedback, revise their work and share it again, find your voice, engage with local poetry communities, persist through challenges, embrace digital platforms, read aloud, and continuously learn to unlearn what if is to follow what you’re truly passionate about.

Are there any resources or communities you recommend for new poets to explore and connect with?
Get to know the folks at Miami Poetry Club, they are a supportive growing community of poets that will make you feel welcome and inspired. Get involved with O, Miami Poetry Festival and see for yourself how poetically talented Miami is.

What projects are you currently working on? Can you give us a sneak peek into what we can expect from you in the near future?
I am currently working on my new book project titled “Relics of the Heart”, a book of stories dedicated to my father who suffers from severe Alzheimer’s. With this new project. I do my best to reclaim all the memories my father has now forgotten. The book is scheduled to come out sometime before this August.
This fall I’m hoping to start a new poet-in-residence partnership at a new hotel. I cannot give too many details, but I’m very excited. I also invite everyone to join me every Saturday afternoon in the lobby of 1 Hotel South Beach where I write personalized typewritten poetry from one of my vintage typewriters. I also do a monthly poetry presentation every third Thursday at Books & Books in Coconut Grove, where I get to perform with my musicians and host an Open Mic.

Are there any collaborations or new ventures you are particularly excited about?
I’m working on a Tango Poetry Project where I am collaborating with a group of talented Tango musicians to record one of my poems and create a music video project. I’m Really excited about this project.
I’ve been working on a new poetry animated film in collaboration with artist Karla Caprali and string quartet Baby B Strings.

How do you balance your personal life with your creative endeavors?
I can’t really turn off my creative thinking, but I am very lucky to have figured out a harmonious routine between my creative work and my personal life. I make sure to be home by 6pm every day for dinner with my family, I try my hardest to schedule my poetry events in the evenings and on the weekends and I manage to call my parents every afternoon for a quick hello.

Who has been your best supporter throughout your journey as a poet, and how have they influenced your work and life?
My family and friends have given me unconditional support. They have allowed me to make my own mistakes and they have always trusted my vision and believed in me even when they couldn't see ahead in the path, I was making for myself. Today we can celebrate together all my accomplishments in poetry.

Connect with Oscar on Social: Instagram and Website

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Article's Author: Olga K.
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