Disclaimer: We love to profile Felicia Zamora here on the blog. She’s always doing something interesting and noteworthy, is a genuinely wonderful human, and we like to keep in touch with her. If you’d like to read some previous stories, you could check out the first alumni profile we wrote about her, or that time we featured her during National Poetry Month, or the time she came back to CSU to read for our Creative Writing Reading Series.
MFA Creative Writing (Poetry), May 2012
Education Programs Manager for the Virginia G. Piper Center for Creative Writing at Arizona State University
Author Bio: Felicia Zamora’s poetry books include: Body of Render, winner of the 2018 Benjamin Saltman Award from Red Hen Press (2020), Of Form & Gather, winner of the 2016 Andrés Montoya Poetry Prize (University of Notre Dame Press 2017), & in Open, Marvel (Parlor Press 2018), and Instrument of Gaps (Slope Editions 2018). She won the 2015 Tomaž Šalamun Prize from Verse, authored two chapbooks, and was the 2017 Poet Laureate for Fort Collins, CO. Her published works are found or forthcoming in Academy of American Poets Poem-A-Day, Alaska Quarterly Review, Crazyhorse, North American Review, Poetry Daily, Prairie Schooner, The Georgia Review, The Nation, West Branch, and others. She teaches creative writing online for Colorado State University, is associate poetry editor for the Colorado Review, and is education programs manager for the Virginia G. Piper Center for Creative Writing at Arizona State University.
You recently started a position at Arizona State University as the education programs manager for the Piper Center. Tell us more about that.
In August 2017, I moved to Arizona to take the education programs coordinator role at the Virginia G. Piper Center for Creative Writing. Currently, I am the education programs manager and lead the programs team. I manage our Piper Writers Studio which consists of both in-person and online courses in creative writing to community members and our Desert Nights, Rising Stars Writers Conference. It’s a real privilege to work directly in the field of creative writing and academia every day. The work we do at the Center allows others to find and hone their voices and skills in writing. Not everyone gets to do that and I try to remember that every day.
Do you miss anything about CSU?
A laundry list worth…especially the people. I was a professional and a student at CSU, and in twelve years, so many people believed in me and helped shape me and make Fort Collins my home. I’ll always think of Fort Collins as home—whether it’s visiting my family who all now live in Fort Collins (and we weren’t from Colorado), or talking to my mentors and friends, John Calderazzo, Stephanie G’Schwind, Dan Beachy-Quick, or following Wolverine Farm on social media (as they believed in me as one of Fort Collins’ poet laureates), I will always feel connected to the space and place that is CSU and Fort Collins. Some places, you truly take with you, because they helped make you who are: Fort Collins is that to me.
One of your newest manuscripts, Body of Render, just won the Benjamin Saltman Award with Red Hen Press. What’s that book about? What was the writing process like? Was it the same or different from your other work?
In January, I learned my manuscript had won the Benjamin Saltman Award…I am still flabbergasted. Red Hen Press is one of my dream presses, so I am so honored to be part of the Red Hen family and to have Marilyn Nelson select my manuscript. Nelson is a poet who I admire so much, and to have her believe in my work feels unfathomable in itself.
Body of Render explores the internal and external impacts on our humanity from political, national, and societal decisions that strip away our basic human rights. The voice documents a journey before and after the 2016 presidential election. This collection calls into question broken systems and carves at the physical, the intimate, the political, and the structural with poems that simultaneously create voice and encourage voice to seek a path toward collective mending.
The process for this manuscript was feverish and unrelenting. I wrote this manuscript in less than nine months, because the words and work wouldn’t stop pouring out of me. Inequity’s trend in our country is not a new history, but the shift in an entire climate of a country, as if being given permission to spit on basic humanity was more than I could and can stand for. This book is a product of contemplation on our current states of being as a nation.
Why does poetry matter? Why does writing matter? What does it mean to you personally?
In 2018, The Nation posted an article, “Poetry Is Everywhere,” with the subheading, “Far from “going extinct,” as it was once predicted, poems are viral, vital—and invincible.” The reading of poetry in this country is at an all-time high. Is this simply a trend? I doubt it. People turn to art in times of social change, social upheaval, to gain strength, to help understand, and look for voices of those who are interpreting the world around them in a way that connects and makes sense to them. Poetry matters. It’s an artistic medium that creates voice and creates an experience that spans time and space. Poetry speaks to our humanity and conveys our humanity in unique and complex ways. Poetry becomes a conversation; one in which our shared experiences meet on the page. Poetry has been a life-line in difficult times, a way to question the world and hold ourselves up into transparency to see if we can stomach what we see inside, and hope when the world seems too heavy.
How do you see yourself evolving as a writer? What have you learned? How have you changed?
I keep learning that I know nothing—and that keeps me hungry, keeps me fueled that the work of learning is never done, nor do I want it to be. One thing I have learned is that the hearts of others are vast and I am made silent by the ability of some to hold me there and treat me with such love. I keep challenging myself to say what needs to be said; it’s a mantra in my head but also on my lips so others may find safe passage through language right now.
What advice do you have for other writers?
Your words matter. Believe they do and let them be part of the conversation.
What are you working on now?
I’m in the middle of my newest manuscript which continues to explore access relative to equity and racial and socioeconomic history, but also an exploration of hard memory, of how a voice and human evolve and become. I still continue to be haunted by the body and our connectivity in the loveliest of ways.