Being Found by Isabel Quintero

Gabi, A Girl in Pieces

Pablo Neruda writes, “And it was at that age.../poetry arrived in search of me,” and I think that’s how I felt back in 2007-poetry had arrived, finally finding me after I had been dodging it for so long. No, I hadn’t refused to write, but I had refused to accept that I was a writer. I had refused to name myself poet because I didn’t see myself as one. A poet, I thought, was an older white man or woman who sat outside their New York apartment looking at the moon, or on their rural farm in Illinois admiring the infinite horizon. Someone whose existence and situation was far removed from mine; a Mexican American, lower middle class (on good days), woman, inhabitant of the Inland Empire, whose parents never made it past the third grade. Then I read Michele Serros (who we, sadly, recently lost to cancer). And, I began to write a little more. It was as though she was giving me permission to write in all my languages, English, Spanish, Splanglish-it was an awakening. But, I still didn’t think that I was a writer. I was just writing.

I had been writing poems since tenth grade, when I was introduced to e.e. cummings, so I knew I liked it. I knew it gave me freedom to express myself, but I didn’t realize that it also empowered me and gave me the opportunity to connect with other people. When I failed, miserably, horribly, at being a high school English teacher, I felt awful; like a total failure. I didn’t know what to do, but I did know I had to do something because the government would want their money back soon if I wasn’t in school. So, I enrolled in my first creative writing class. The professor, the poet Julie Paegle, really encouraged me and was the first person who made me look at myself as a Writer, as having a voice, as having something to contribute and worth sharing with the world. That year I started writing Diary of a Fat Girl, which later became, Snapshots of a Gordita in Pieces, and which is now, Gabi, A Girl in Pieces.

While the book has gone through a lot of changes-novel in verse to a diary-it has kept the essence of what I wanted it to be; the story of a young Latina living in two cultures, who has big dreams of going to college, of being a writer, with friends and a family much like mine, and maybe much like yours. See, I didn’t see myself as a Writer, as having a voice, until I read someone with a voice like mine. My favorite poem of Michele Serros is, “Dead Pig’s Revenge,” a poem about a little girl who loves chicharrones and has a near death experience. I remember reading it and thinking, “You can write a poem about chicharrones?” Something I eat on a regular basis? Something so everyday and so...Mexican? Realizing that I could; that poetry and writing, isn’t only about lofty ideas, far away places, and the unknown, but more about connecting with others, questioning your self, exploring your culture, looking at the everyday in new ways, well, that was liberating. My hope is that in reading Gabi, A Girl in Pieces, readers will see themselves in someway, and that like Gabi, and like this writer, realize that they don’t have to be an older white man or older white woman, and that they too have voice and something important to say.