Behind the Scenes of The Midwife/La Partera, with Julieta Corpus
The full transcript of the interview is below. It has been lightly edited for clarity:
Teresa Douglas (host) 0:07
Welcome to Latin x audio lit mag. I’m your host, Teresa Douglas. In today’s episode, we’re going to take a behind the scenes look at ‘The Midwife’ by Julieta Corpus. Julieta is a bilingual poet from Mexico whose work has been included in The Thing Itself and The Texas Poetry Calendar. Her latest literary contribution is a collection with poet Katie Hoerth and visual artist Corrine McCorkmack Whittmore, Borderland Mujeres published by Texas A&M Press, it will be available in the fall of 2021. Julieta Corpus’ first poetry collection Of Love and Departures/ De Amor Y Despedidas was published in June 2021 by E.M. Editoriales and is now available through Amazon. Of Love and Departures/ De Amor Y Despedidas is a bilingual poetry collection about grief and lamentation, after losing a spouse to cancer. Julieta currently works as a bilingual translator, editor, and a South Texas Community College adjunct with the English department.
Thank you for having me. I’m happy to be here.
I’m so happy to talk to you. I will just tell our listeners that when I first read this piece that you sent, it just knocked my socks off. I love the language. I love the wider world that is hinted at, in this piece. And it’s a privilege to get a behind-the-scenes look at how that came to be. But before we dive into that, I would love for our listeners to learn just a little bit more about you. For example, just how long have you been writing?
I have been writing since I was 11 years old in my native Spanish.
That’s amazing. And what did you write at that time?
At that time, I was writing silly, short poems to entertain my siblings. I would also illustrate them. And yeah, and that’s how I would spend my time my summers, in fact, just illustrating and writing.
So you’re a born story maker.
I was surrounded by storytellers. So how could I not?
Yeah. And I feel like that’s actually something. And I say this, knowing that everybody’s situation is different. But I feel that especially those of us who have who’ve grown up in the Latinx diaspora–those stories are just such a central piece of growing up.
So it sounds then that poetry is your first love. Is that exclusively what you write do you write other things? Or is this this where you feel your words really come together?
Well, yes, I can say that poetry was my first love. And it’s only of late that I have been delving into writing short stories. Because like I said, I grew up with storytellers. And my mom was a storyteller. What she talked about, it seemed to me at the time, was very fantastical. However, there were a lot of elements of realness in it. And so I’m trying to capture that in my short stories so that I can have that as my next publication, which will be Las Historias De Mi Madre/My Mother’s Stories.
That’s wonderful. And we can’t wait to see that. I know you have a piece that’s already out Of Love and Departures/De Amor Y Despedidas, a bilingual poetry collection. Why did you choose to do it as a bilingual collection?
I was born in Mexico, and I went to school in Mexico. So I came here in 1978, with my family. And since then, I somewhere along the line, I made a conscious decision to cultivate both languages so that I could have those two wells to draw from. I have been blessed in that sense–I have enriched my vocabulary in Spanish and in English, and have a bilingual brain with poetry. Well, sometimes the points come to me in Spanish, and sometimes they come to me in English. And so I just decided, why not have a bilingual poetry book, not to mention that I live in an area, Rio Grande Valley, Texas, South Texas, where the majority of the population is Latinos. And so I wanted, I wanted them to also read my poetry in my native language, which is Spanish.
And it’s beautiful. You sent some information in before and you said that the man and woman who were talking and laughing and loving in these pages shared poetry with each other.
That is probably the most romantic thing I’ve heard of in a very long time.
It’s very real. And it’s very true. This is a story of my love. This is my love story with my husband who passed away in 2011.
Sorry for his loss. It’s beautiful that you can find beauty even in the pain.
That’s something that is also almost, and I’m just gonna say this is inherently Latino, I believe it’s just part of us.
And I think it’s, it almost you’re forced to be that way just by the language. Just Spanish itself is so very poetic, really. And it lends itself to these kinds of things. So I will be looking for that collection. When is Borderland Mujeres out?
Borderland Mujeres has been pushed back because of the pandemic since this spring of 2021. And so right now we are given the October date as the month to see this book, to have this book in our hands. So we’re hoping that this happens.
Well, hopefully our listeners will find it soon. Let’s switch to talking about the piece that you actually sent in. And, and I wanted to just ask, can you walk us through the process that you went through for writing this? Was this something that just sort of showed up? Did you plan it? How did it come to be?
If I remember, or if I recall correctly, I believe my birthday was coming up just like it is now–I’m in my September birthday month. And so I grew up listening to the story about how I came into this world. And it was during the hurricane Beulah so my mom had stories, my dad had stories. And I wanted once again, going back to what I said earlier, I want to preserve these stories because I want to pass them on to my nieces and my nephews. That’s my wish for, you know, for this poetry for the short stories that I write. But yeah, I was just sitting around thinking about my birth and what my mom went through. And, yes, my mom did have a midwife, and her name was Daniela Lupita. I got this name from my dad because I, of course, I don’t think I ever asked my mom. But yeah, I just thought, not a short story, I thought I need to put this in a poem, poetry form. And so I sat down to write it. And it had to be from the midwife’s point of view.
And it’s, it’s funny you say it had to be a poem, because it’s also very much a story. It isn’t only images, although images can be very powerful. It’s, it’s this wider world, it’s this midwife who has things that she does, outside of birthing, babies. A life she is looking to rest from because it’s been hard at the beginning of this poem. She’s assisted in the passing of a life. And it is just so much there in such a short piece of work, that you can almost feel the community that is there, that this midwife is a part of. And I loved the way for example, we talk about traces of dried sage still emanate from skin and clothes. There’s the tequila shot. There, are all these things that happen in the story. But they don’t bog it down at all. We get we get to the birth, we get to this idea that the name of the child is not going to be Beula. And we’re left with hope. Even though the midwife is tired, and she’s weighed down by her responsibilities, this is a very hopeful story.
Yes. And I drew for this story. I drew from my own family’s background and the way I grew up, I grew up surrounded by healers. And so for me, it was a familiar sight, the sage, the candles, the holy water, the images of the saints on the altar. And I wanted to incorporate that into the form. Because this is what I had seen growing up. This is where the hilanderas lived, this is where the midwives lived, this is what they were surrounded by.
And so what, if any impression were you thinking of that you wanted the reader to have when they hear this story–and I keep calling it a story when it’s actually a poem—when they listen to it? What’s the image you want them to take away from it?
I would like for them to think of this as, like a cultural snapshot of what giving birth was like for low income–for the majority of the low-income women living in Mexico in the 1960s. That’s what I want them to, to come away with. Because there is a little bit of history there–Beulah is there. And again, back to the culture, we’re talking about the midwife and everything she was surrounded by. These are women that are not written about, you know, and yet they are such a huge part of a lot of our lives. Those of us who grew in Mexico.
And a silent part, if you look at culture and what’s written about.
it’s wonderful to see the humanity, their community.
You hit it on the nail when you talk to when you mentioned community, because this was one of the many colorful, and very much sought after characters in the barrio. You know, the midwife we knew her by name, her name was passed around to pregnant women, “-and so and so will be your midwife. Whenever you’re ready we’re gonna call so and so.” It was, it was a community. She was part of the family. In essence, she was my godmother.
Yeah, I mean, literally, they’re at the moment of your births.
Well, this is this is amazing. I thank you again for sharing, sharing this work, sharing the culture that is attached to this work. I do want to just ask, because you do have things coming out. Are there ways for people to keep track of your publications? Do you have Twitter or social anything that someone can check to see when your work comes out?
I’m more active in Facebook. They can find me on Facebook. That’s where I talk about my poetry events. That’s where I talk about publications workshops. Yeah, that’s the best place to find me.
Okay, so look up Julieta Corpus on Facebook. And you can see what else she has coming out. So listeners that’s where you go–that’s where I’m going after this episode. Thank you so much for coming and we really appreciated getting a little peek behind the curtain of your piece.
Thank you for the opportunity. It’s been delightful.