A conversation with Trinidad Escobar

 

    We spoke with Trinidad Escobar about imperfection as beauty, the concept of “comics magic”, imagining the nonexistence of the body, understanding experience as a living organism and why the Bay Area is the greatest place in the world.

    I think it’s fascinating that comics, historically unappreciated by the mainstream, is now one of the most widely read mediums while poetry is one of the most respected but least read. Merging the two is exciting.

    1

    Morgan Enos

    Besides being a prolific poet and public speaker, I understand you’re an active graphic novelist as well. I never really grew up with comics or graphic novels, so I don’t really have a reference point with the medium. From your experience, what can a graphic novel impart that plain old text can’t?

    Trinidad Escobar

    Well, I would like to respectfully share that the medium is called comics and the term “graphic novel” — although accurate in its description of many books — is a term created by the literary industry to legitimize an art form that was once considered low-brow. Comics can be used to tell any genre of storytelling including memoir, sci-fi, fantasy, etc. It can also tell stories that many book snobs would call “non-genre” fiction. The difference between comics and prose, I believe, is the way in which information is transmitted, the way that the reader experiences the information. In comics, the reader is reading both image and text. The image and sequence of images are sentences that work on their own. The text, juxtaposed or superimposed, works on its own as well. Together they create a dynamic and unique literary experience often described as “comics magic.”

    The best way that I can explain “comics magic” is that intuition and empathy are heightened in a reader. The cartoonist (both illustrator and writer) is fully aware of how to guide or even incite a reader’s empathy as well as work with a reader’s natural intuition. In prose, a reader’s intuition is rarely considered. The author often writes effectively from their own experience and perception of the world, usually only considering the reader’s intelligence or comprehension (if the reader is considered at all). This is not to say, of course, that comics are better! Comics are just incredibly different.

    2

    I’d like to connect comics with your work in poetry. Are there any common themes or intentions that run through both for you? Can you give me an example or two?

    The building block of poetry is the image. A single image or a string of images that are strong (strong nouns, for example). The image serves as the power of a poem. Poetry utilizes economy of words to empower that image. The building block of comics is image as well, but image constructed within a panel, series of panels, and pages. The comic image is concentrated as a symbol — each panel only including symbols that are necessary information.

    Both poetry and comics embrace the image as instantaneous communication of an experience. In poetry, there is enjambment (a thought within a line or a thought that runs into the next line or stanza). In comics, there is a sort of enjambment within panel tiers or page turns. Rhythm plays a huge role in poetry and comics. We hear it in the meter of a poem or in the placement/pattern of alliteration (e.g. plosives for abrupt endings or shock, sibilants for onomatopoeic effects). In comics, it is the construction and composition of the page, the panel transitions, the beats.

    I think it’s fascinating that comics, historically unappreciated by the mainstream, is now one of the most widely read mediums while poetry is one of the most respected but least read. Merging the two is exciting.

    My relationship to the world has changed. I see experience as a living organism, a breathing thing.

    3

    What is your concept of beauty in the world? What touches or moves you on a daily basis?

    Beauty has changed for me over the years. Physical beauty, like that of a painting or a person with symmetrical features, is important in this world but less important in my life these days. Now, an experience of a painting matters more. I guess this has changed for me because my relationship to the world has changed. I see experience as a living organism, a breathing thing. I see the person with a chipped tooth and a wide grin and favor that beauty over prescribed perfection.

    I think beauty is experiencing music instead of just listening to it. What the hell does that mean? My least hippie way of explaining that involves an exercise: the next time you listen to jazz, the rain, a singing bowl, imagine that your body does not exist. Your nervous system is not processing information, you are not a receiver. The sound waves move through the area where your body would be. Now the sound comes from everywhere and isn’t happening to you — it just is.

       

    That’s experience, that’s what moves me. Learning how to remove ego and a sense of Self when in the presence of something that I did not create. All of this might sound confusing. Here’s another exercise: when you read a popular poem online (like the poems that circulate virally on social media), instead of reading for meaning, read for the shape of the words, the way they fill your mouth and manipulate your tongue. That kind of incisive and concentrated experience is what is beautiful to me.

    4

    Have you lived in other parts of the country or world besides the Bay Area? Regardless if you have or haven’t, how would you compare Oakland to other places? What do you love about that region of California and what would you change about it?

    Oakland is the best place in the world. I have lived in Milpitas and San Jose, California. I have lived in Japan and Texas, and shortly lived in other cities including LA and NYC. I have visited about seven other states and three other countries as an adult. I can definitely say that I will never leave California again. Oakland’s diversity and inclusion, general politics and political atmosphere, artist communities, music scenes, small business, vegan food, etc are all right up my alley. It is home for me. I hope I can continue to live here. Tech companies and other people have been gentrifying many neighborhoods. This makes it difficult for my family to survive here as well as many other families who have been here for generations. Hundreds of people are being displaced. Gentrification is what I would change about it.

    5

    Can you tell me about three of the most influential people in your life, whether or not you know them, living or dead? Why would you choose each one?

    My adoptive father (alive): He is kind, generous, and innovative. Everything that is good about me that was learned comes from him. I value goodness as a human and artist. He also never starts something he doesn’t intend to finish.

    Frida Kahlo (dead): Like many artists, she is a Saint. I don’t mean saint as in a pure person, I mean as a tortured woman who gave her life to the world. While she didn’t intend to become a martyr or any sort of person of praise, she searched for authentic Self when women weren’t even allowed to consider themselves as human. Everything about her rebellious spirit has inspired me since childhood. I first read a book about her diary entries when I was in middle school and never let go of those images of her spirit.

    Wasfia Nazreen (alive): She is a Seven Summits climber. She came from nothing, as a girl, and climbed mountains to literally climb mountains. She traveled the world when most girls never left her village. She survived endless catastrophes after willingly placing herself in those conditions. Her story has helped me push through my graphic novel, CRUSHED — the biggest artistic mountain that I have ever willingly placed myself in front of.

    I have witnessed hundreds of students pour their hearts into social, political, and environmental change. I just wish they weren’t so outnumbered by assholes.

    6

    I tend to ask many of my subjects on North of the Internet about what direction they see the planet going in. But to me, one tiny bright spot in all the madness has been a change in attitude in our youth. It seems many kids are being raised more tolerant and understanding of others’ experiences, especially of the disadvantaged. Do you have any thoughts on this?

    The youth have been bright and brilliant for so long! I am incredibly happy that they now get credit for their genius and open hearts. As an educator, I have witnessed hundreds of students pour their hearts into social, political, and environmental change. It makes me incredibly hopeful. I just wish they weren’t so outnumbered by assholes. Of course, the normalization of change (or progress) as a discussion point for young people didn’t just come out of nowhere.

    Magazines like Teen Vogue have given these young writers a chance to speak, to be multidimensional. Literary agencies have started searching for diverse books because of the tremendous demand spearheaded by queer communities and people of color. We have some goodness from our generation and beyond as well, and now we can to see all that work come to life in these young people’s hearts.

    7

    Finally, can you describe your office or workspace? What are you currently working on?

    I am working on CRUSHED, a graphic novel/comics memoir. It is a biomythography about my adoption and trauma experiences. I started working on it in 2016 and I am in the final stage now. It will be available at comic book shops, Comixology, Barnes & Noble, and indie bookstores. It is currently available for pre-order on Amazon.

    I am also working on a story for a fantasy graphic novel/long-form comic that dips into colonization, matriarchal societies, and women headhunters from the South Pacific.

    Thank you.

    Data


    Conversation: 53
    Curated by: Morgan Enos
    Conducted by: Email
    Published: October 26, 2017
    Total questions: 7
    Word count: 1558
    Reading time: Six minutes
    Hyperlinks: 9
    “Comics magic”: Yes
    Life: Given
    Crushed: Yes
    Body: Cancelled
    Poetry: Image

    Relation



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