Proust Questionnaire: Lupe Gómez

Original in Galician on Ramón Nicolás’s highly respected literary blog, Caderno da Crítica [Critical Notebook]. Translated by Erín Moure.

1. What is your most obvious character trait?

I’m very steadfast. I have a great capacity for concentration. Never do I abandon words. Words never abandon me. I always seek Silence, spaces of calm. I’m continually inspired. Every night, inspiration goes to sleep on the roof of my house.

2. What quality do you most appreciate in a person?

Loyalty. I really appreciate people who are straightforward, real and true as bread fresh out of the oven. Without masks or tricks. Waters that run clear in the channels. It makes it easier to understand each other and create lasting relationships.

3. What do you most value in your friends?

That they are loyal and understand me even when I vanish or don’t wish to laugh, dance, be very social. I love mailing or emailing my writings to my friends and am delighted when they read me with excited complicity, in that impulse and euphoria that brings us close and yet lets us fly, break free…

4. What is the trait you most deplore in yourself?

I admit that I’m fairly vulnerable, very demanding of myself, of writing, and also of those who surround and love me. My family and friends are aware of this and take it into account. I try to be more flexible, more understanding of imperfection, try to accept life as it is, love myself and let the winds blow where they will, in the secret freedom of the human condition.

5. What is your favourite activity?

Writing letters with all the passion in the world. Let my poetic secrets flow onto the page whether white or multi-coloured. Wrapping the letter in gift paper, writing addresses on envelopes, sticking stamps on the envelopes as if they were honeyed kisses. Heading to the post office on my blue bicycle; it’s my way of travelling the world, full as a bird with surprises.

6. What makes you most happy?

Writing and receiving letters. I love revitalizing the old custom of letter-writing, so noble, exceptional, and right. The epistolary genre is my favourite of all. One day my letters will appear as a book with Alvarellos. Normally publishers are only interested in volumes of letters by people who are dead, but I’m still alive, and have blood, words and frank feelings to share.

7. What is your greatest regret?

That there is no longer any bus to my village, Fisteus. Having to close up the family home, our nest of music, forever, as a result. Not being able to easily visit my parents in their graves. Not being able to share beautiful words with the village world that feeds me so much electricity and makes me who I am.

8. If you were return after death as someone or something, what would it be?

Back in high school at the Instituto Zalaesta, far off in the city of A Coruña, I read One Million Cowsby Manuel Rivas on the sly. My dream was to become a writer and journalist. To join that “world” in which Rivas was a teacher and towering example. Today, he is my mentor and friend. And I still feel as I did when I was fifteen years old, avid to learn . . .

9. Where would you most like to live?

I’ve been on the Rúa Basquiños in Santiago de Compostela for almost twenty years. A whole lifetime, really. In that time, I’ve written twenty books. I’d like to live here another twenty years; with my house and garden, I’m firmly rooted in the cartography of this place.

10. Your favourite colour?

Blue. To me every day is the colour blue.

11. The flower you love best?

The camelia, because it’s tough and embattled, but also very delicate. There’s a camelia tree in my garden, and its flowers are with me from December to March. They don’t realize it but they take part in all my paintings and calligraphy.

12. The bird you are most fond of?

Blackbirds. I adore wrens too, and all tiny birds. The smaller they are, the more I love them. I always draw birds. I find it easy to talk to them, and to understand their language. As a child, I listened to the cuckoo in the distance, and it made me dream and imagine, for it’s a furtive bird, mysterious. Always hidden and camouflaged. I never managed to see it. I would have liked to play with it . . .

13. The prose that most attracts you?

I’m fascinated with the Bible, with its clean, clear, terrible, fantastic, brilliant literature. The Old Testament is amazing. I am especially attracted to the Epistles of Saint Paul, the book of Genesis, the Apocalypse. As a lector at the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela, I use my voice to add a poetic touch to the reading of the Scriptures; it’s like entering “another dimension.” It’s wonderful, a real privilege, an adventure.

14. And in poetry?

There are two books that are cornerstones in a river of joy, patience, and commitment. Do Courel a Compostela [From the Courel to Compostela] by Uxío Novoneyra and Cantares gallegos [Galician Songs] by Rosalía de Castro. For some unknown reason, they travel together with me. They cross paths and constantly jostle each other, giving rise to a strange beauty; it’s a very intimate relation.

15. Your favourite book?

Dos soños teimosos [Of Stubborn Dreams] by Uxío Novoneyra, in which the poet responds to the questions of his friend, the polymath and philosopher Emilio Araúxo. These conversations are a poetic manifesto that kindles and rekindles my life and thinking. I practically know the whole book by heart. I’ve read it so many times that it inhabits me.

16. Who is your favourite fictional hero?

In my creative memory, my grandfather Antonio, who died when I was eleven, passed into the life of fiction and became my hero. A role model I will never forget. We were close friends and he’d secretly give me sips of beer. I called him “my godfather.” Together, we tended the cows in the spaces where they were pastured.

17. Your heroine?

Heidi. She was a cartoon character with whom I identified very strongly when I was a mountain child, and she always made me laugh and cry. To watch her on television was to imbibe the rich and moist soil of the earth itself.

18. What is your favourite music?

Over the last four or five years, my entire literary work is born from, resonates with, and grazes on the music of my dear friend Amancio Prada. It’s one of my great loves, and enchants me with its life-giving, fresh, new waters. I let myself be carried away every evening by his voice I have just finished a new book of poems, entitled No encanto do aire [Entranced by the Air]. All the poems were written in the cathedral in Santiago, inspired by Amancio Prado’s concert in that amazing space in October, 2017.

19. What is your favourite visual artwork?

The painting of Antón Lamazares. I’ve been lucky to meet him and delight in his rich rural language, his elegance, his wild energy and his poetry. I also love Chagall, Luís Seoane, Velázquez, and many others. To me, calligraphy is a form of painting, very basic, rudimentary even, very simple but also a great luxury within reach of our hands, a physical act of unsurmountable love.

20. Who is your real-life hero?

My aunt Lucita. She’s been in a wheelchair since she was 18. She’s now 80 and still savours life as if it were an aria of roses. She’s never given up. Always has smiles and wise life advice. She’s just finished writing her impressive memoirs, Nubes Bordadas [Embroidered Clouds]. She’s very intelligent, and taught me to read very young. She’s a seamstress of deep affects.

21. What is your favorite name?

Loaira. A name out of Novoneyra’s poetry. I’ve always loved its sonority. To me, it’s a dreamy name, very feminine and elegant.

22. What is the trait you most deplore in others?

I’m a person of few words. I express myself with silences and gestures. Because of this, I can’t stand charlatanism, constant blabbing, talk for the sake of talking, verborrhea. In my mind, people, politicans, priests, journalists, women, youtubers, and everyone, really, talks too much. It is as if words spill out in a rush and lose their original meaning, their weight, their importance and value.

23. What is it that you most dislike?

The sheer noisiness of the society in which we live. Sometimes it makes it impossible to stop and reflect. It torments the ears and causes damage to the heart.

24. Which historical figure do you most despise?

No one in particular. I figure that all historical figures are necessary parts of the incomplete puzzle that is injustice, discord, and wars. I despise people who put themselves above others, those who are corrupt, those who steal, those who cause this world to be less than the clean ring of a guitar.

25. A military feat/deed you admire?

I’m not of a military bent. I don’t know how to explain it. I admire art, invention, popular cultures, but military feats are not part of my imaginary. I admire the Galician women who have laboured non-stop since forever so that History is not just a wreck beached on the sands.

26. What talent would you most like to have?

The gift of laughter. Of graceful wit. A childlike innocence. The capacity to see and feel all the absurd threads that make life move. The subversion of language.

27. How would you like to die?

Peacefully. Very softly and quietly. Writing surrealist poetry so as to understand and embrace my own death, and embark on it.

28. What is your most usual state of mind?

I always feel full of life, with tons of energy, and in good physical shape. When I go out and walk, I feel animated and content. I forget all the pain, the disappointments, the dramatic shocks of the television news.

29. What faults are you most willing to tolerate in others?

I believe I’m very indulgent, compassionate. Compassion is a tenderness that I learned long ago from gazing into the eyes of cows. Those animals are my goddesses, my Buddhist teachers.

30. Do you have a proverb or motto that guides you?

There’s always another poem to write. A new day always brings us new words.

(June 2018, translated August 2018. Used with the permission of Ramón Nicolás.)

Lupe Gómez & Erín MoureFebruary 15, 2019