In Conversation with Multi-Published Poet: Bri Borrego
An interview with the poet, writer, and dear friend of mine.
“If you put yourself in situations where you’re with people who are more ambitious than you, that are more talented than you, that have their own creative engines, you can exceed your own expectations and creative expression. And when that happens, it’s a vivid kind of living — like the world is on fire” - Billy Crudup
I learned the importance of “building a creative team” in my early twenties. And I don’t mean my editor, my publisher, or the corporate coffee machine. Rather, having a support system that amplifies the other's passions and creativity. Poet and writer, Bri Borrego, was a huge part of that revelation.
Bri was on my technology consulting team out of college. I only had a few friends when I moved to Austin, so when she was assigned as my consulting mentor, I reached out quickly. Words quickly became an integral part of our friendship. Finding another writer, my age, in my city, working by day in the same industry - felt like stumbling across a unicorn. Much of our friendship was built at a couch where we’d talk about our life stories, goals, and write our separate pieces whilst together. As I study friendship more and more, I realize now how special and formative that time was for my own creative confidence.
Brianna and I have went through a lot of similar life changes around the same time, as one does in their early twenties. Those changes have bled through to Bri’s work. I’ve been fortunate enough to have a front row seat for this creative blooming process, but today it’s your turn to hear about it.
A poet and writer featured by the Acentos Review, Adanna Poetry, Art Avenue, and more: Join me in conversation with Bri Borrego.
But first, get a taste for her work:
*DESKTOP OR APP VIEW FOR BEST FORMAT*
Purple Strings & Poetry my sweet sugar day it’s counterfeit perfection unravels come evening I take off my sweater it catches an earring purple strings pulled from the seams and I fucking hate the color purple. but an unraveling can be sweet when my words are repetitions of the preceding sentences of others and when my actions are purple strings manipulated by puppeteers who provide my oxygen to inhale a good life. on paper I can be who I want self-indulging oversharing rude hairy crass anything a woman shouldn’t be taking up as much space as I want as i coexist in the extrinsic world, becoming small in body and beliefs. this world where i laugh too hard at jokes and sorry leaves my mouth every 5 minutes. i’m sorry so sosososo sorry. bless me for I have sinned, allow me to recondense and arrest my wrists into those familiar purple strings. i’ll do that for you at least for now. but not on paper not in poetry. here I freely take up space i grow i get bigger. my thoughts make sense to few poetry does lure a small crowd but at any moment I’d barter centuries of time for the sanctity of expression. this space is mine. Cubic Zirconia oh my enchanting cubic zirconia of truth. life changes when it becomes a narrative as to a personal definition a spoken word shouted into existence. there’s no staple truth, no bible of reality to elucidate a situation for a common global interpretation. but this is good news great news! breathing air of uncommon realities creates inhaled flexibility to perceive everything and everyone (
includingespecially yourself) exactly as you sign for since every individual will always see the same instance in deviating colors and shapes.
Thanks so much for joining us today, Bri. Your work simply blows me away every time! I’d like to start the conversation by asking what or whom, inspired you to first begin writing poetry and essays?
Thanks Lindsey, I’m so excited to be speaking to you about our creative processes. We’ve had countless couch conversations on the beauty and challenges of writing and storytelling, so it’s thrilling to see a conversation of ours be transformed onto paper (well, online “paper”).
I started writing poetry and essays when I was really young, maybe around 13 years old. It sounds cliché, but I think Tumblr first introduced me to the world of anonymous poetry- there was something so risky and sexy about being a young girl and spilling your thoughts for the world to see under an anonymous profile. I was fascinated by other’s poetry on this site as well, I had no idea there were people my age all around the world who were equally as moved by the trials of growing up and writing their most vulnerable feelings into online stanzas. Growing up in a digital era can be one of the most challenging aspects for teenage girls, but for some of us, it introduced us to a literary world we would not have known otherwise. After school, I could write and read other people's work for hours. It was intoxicating, it helped me find a sense of direction into who I was and what I resonated with. I never truly realized how much precision and pattern goes into poetry, and how so much can be said with so little. I was entranced, and I still get those initial feelings of outstanding wonder to this day when reading poetry. Kind of like first date butterflies.
That’s a great way to describe it. So, how has your upbringing as a Latinx-American has impacted your portfolio of work?
My upbringing as a Lantix-American greatly inspires a lot of my work, intentionally and unintentionally. A recurring theme that prevails in many pieces of mine is that girl-to-woman transformation, specifically the comparison of how I felt about myself and about the world from that time to now. As a teenager, I was really confused why I didn’t look like some of my friends or the girls on TV. My hair was thicker and frizzier, my body never stick-thin, it was beyond frustrating for me since I wasn’t meeting the typical beauty standard. Now that I’m older, I’m thankful for my background and heritage, but it definitely took a long time to get here. A lot of my work falls into feminist categories, so I write a lot about my experiences with racism and unmet beauty standards from when I was a young girl (and, of course, the ones that tragically still linger today).
I know that you’re working on developing a debut collection. Can you tell us a bit about the overarching themes there and the process behind constructing a cohesive anthology?
The collection I am working on now was significantly inspired by my own experiences as a woman and the way women have been portrayed in art, ranging all the way back from the 1400’s to modern art today. Catherine McCormac’s Women in the Picture was a great inspiration as she outlines the exhausting stereotypes women have been cast as, i.e. the Medusa, femme fatale, tired mother, etc. There’s a specific, sexist image of women that is so ingrained into society that it often goes unnoticed, and Catherine’s book was one of the first novels that introduced me to this issue. From statues from the 1400’s to song lyrics from today’s hit singers, sexism still lingers. It continues to live both at the societal and individual level. As I’m sure other women can relate, I see and face sexism on a daily basis. Writing about this prejudice from a historical and personal level helps my poetry feel its most authentic - my overall goal is for other women to read and relate to it, and for everyone to learn a bit more about the historical context of misogyny as well.
When constructing a cohesive anthology, one of my editors once told me that like a novel, it needs to have a beginning, middle, and end. This linearity of an anthology needs to tell a story, the poems need to flow together and be pieced together with precision. As of now, my poems are published individually as stand-alones for certain literary magazines, but eventually, I do want to piece them together and add more to the collection to create a story. It could be in one year or in three, but right now, I’m having so much fun writing and hearing feedback from writers that I don’t mind the journey getting there.
Speaking of the journey, your style has transformed beautifully since I’ve known you. I feel as if the reader is a participant in your work. Can you speak to the transition you took towards a new voice and the literary movements and authors that inspired that change?
I love this question. My work has done a complete 180 over the past year.
When I first dove into poetry after college, the trendiest type of poetry was being produced by poets such as Rupi Kaur and R.H. Sin. Their work is motivating and very aesthetically pleasing, you’ll most likely see their work shared on Instagram stories or labeled as self-help poetry. While my style now greatly differs from their work, I probably wouldn’t have found that initial interest in the poetry world without extensively reading their’s. Rupi, especially, is such an icon for women- her work is phenomenal and she’s downright badass.
After attending writing conferences, hiring an editor, joining poetry groups, and reading countless anthologies, I learned that poetry is very different from the kind we are used to seeing on social media. And this is when my style took a sharp shift.
Poets like Jamie Hood, Kendra Allen, and Dorothea Lasky have showed me how raw, colorful, complex, crafty, humorous, witchy, and broken poetry could be- the type of poetry that could make me laugh out loud or feel like I’ve been punched in the gut. Their stories were told so vulnerably and unapologetically that I sometimes felt guilty for thinking that I misstepped and accidentally entered into their most secretive thoughts. I learned how multi-faceted poetry could be, and almost immediately, I began experimenting with a new style to resemble certain elements of theirs. One of the most fun aspects of being a writer is taking inspiration from those you admire, and combining all of these tiny pieces to create your own unique voice in the writing community. A little Jamie here, a sprinkle of Dorothea here, a large dash my own experiences and voila! My own voice.
One of the hardest parts of being a writer of any kind, is publishing. First there is just getting published. Then there is getting over the fear of sharing your deep and personal work. Can you talk about what you’ve done to overcome these challenges?
Oof- so far, it is still annoyingly challenging. One of the most difficult aspects of publishing your poetry is the vulnerability. I will have a poem published and be excited about it, then be hit with an “Oh shit, what if my parents read this? What will my friends think?” It feels as if your high school diary was sent as a corporate-wide email at your company, it can feel nauseating. Feeling braver about your poetry takes time, I don’t think it will never not feel terrifying. I am still learning how to be a more courageous writer to this day.
Once at a writing conference, a poet I highly admire said her family back in India stopped communication with her after she released her first anthology, one that did not align with her culture. I was shocked and saddened for her, and couldn’t help but wonder how she was able to overcome such a tragedy. After speaking with her, she taught me that an anthology isn’t a standalone one-hit-wonder. It’s a true mirror for your innermost thoughts. So her family didn’t reject her poetry, they rejected her passions and beliefs and virtues. With or without the publication, this excommunication would have happened regardless at some point. I’ll never forget this conversation, and I still think about it when doubt and fear begin to trinkle in. I know those who love me won’t reject me for what I write, and my goal for my work is to connect with other woman and introduce the literature community to a new perspective on love, liberation, and art. I know I couldn’t achieve this without raw vulnerability, and this helps me get over the intimidation of publication.
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You’ve recently moved to London so my next question is simply, when are you coming back? Just kidding. However, has the act of moving countries impacted you as a lifelong writer?
I’m actually currently scheming to get you and Phil (your little dog I adore) over the pond as quickly as possible.
My move has shifted every sphere of my life professionally, socially, mentally, and creatively. Back in Texas, I always saw myself as this ultra-modernist progressive- it was something that I cherished myself on. While I was fighting the good fight, I thought I was blessing my community with my self-perceived “global” views. Oh these Texans, how they are so uncultured!
Officially moving to London took me right off my high horse and introduced me to a deeper, more authentic global perspective. It showed me that I can still be close minded to some degree, and that I still have so much to learn.
London is by far the most diverse city I have ever lived in, I hear an average of four different languages just while sitting on the tube commuting to work. My high street has shop owners from all around the world, all of whom moved to the UK or whose parents or grandparents moved in order to begin a new life. Learning about the rich histories of immigrants in the UK is fascinating, and London offers multiple outlets for underrepresented voices in poetry, art, short films, and fashion. Obtaining this experience is something I am eternally grateful for. It gives me an opportunity to open myself up to the world and hopefully create more inclusive works that resonate with those who have been marginalized or discriminated against.
That’s incredible perspective that only immersion can give you. To finish out our conversation today, can you leave us with the best creative advice you’ve ever gotten?
There is one quote from Richard Price that sticks with me: "The bigger the issue, the smaller you write. Remember that. You don't write about the horrors of war. No. You write about a kid's burnt socks lying on the road. You pick the smallest manageable part of the big thing, and you work off the resonance.”
Price hits the nail right on the head. I used to write in this very vague and preachy voice in my initial works of poetry, and then I realized I sounded like a cheesy Pinterest board of motivational quotes. While some works of poetry can be both broad and well-written, the most beautiful works of poetry tell a story. They are dauntingly specific. They are what make a writer unique, and uniqueness is what I most admire in anyone or anything.
No one wants to hear about a one-size-fits-all “boyfriend” or “ex-friend.” I want to hear about they boy who in tenth grade met you in the school parking lot on a Tuesday afternoon and sipped Diet Coke with you while you played him your favorite Paramore songs. I want to hear about your friendship that showed you what true heartbreak can feel like, all because you had a falling out over who came to a roommate’s 24th birthday party and who didn’t. A story with clarity, emotion, and purpose is what we survive on. It’s how we learn, grow, fuck up, and learn again. It’s how we eventually (hopefully) become better humans.
What a conversation! Thanks again Bri for letting us borrow your time and your mind. If you want more of Bri and her work you can find her published contests and social medias below:
Vote for Bri in the Little Infinite Poetry Contest: Click here
Follow Bri On Instagram: @Words.ByBri
Thanks for joining in today, reader! Some cool stuff is coming up in February and I can’t wait to share it with you. Have a great weekend.