Ask a Poet: Eduardo C. Corral

This fall, we’re hosting a High School Regional Mini-Festival at the Paul Robeson Center in Newark. Through readings and performances, Q&As and discussions, a group of poets will engage with hundreds of Newark high school students over the course of one school day in October.

For the next several weeks, we will be featuring short Q&As with some of the participating poets on the Dodge Blog each Friday. This week, we’re talking to Eduardo C. Corral. 

Eduardo C. Corral is the son of Mexican immigrants. His debut collection of poetry, Slow Lightning, won the Yale Younger Poets Prize in 2011. He has received numerous honors and awards, including the “Discovery”/The Nation Award, the J. Howard and Barbara M.J. Wood Prize from Poetry Magazine, a Whiting Writers’ Award, the Holmes National Poetry Prize from Princeton University, and a fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts. He teaches in the MFA program at North Carolina State University. During the 2017-18 academic year, he’ll be a Hodder Fellow at Princeton University.

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Corral_Eduardo(c-Matt Valentine)What is something you have recently discovered about poetry?

I keep forgetting that poetry can tell lies. Poems don’t have to stick to what actually happened. Poetry can reveal and illuminate personal experience and memory, but I often find my poems are a mixture of both the actual and the imagined.

What is the funniest/strangest response you’ve ever gotten to telling someone you are a poet?

Once, on a flight to Los Angeles, after I told the business man sitting next to me that I was a poet, he asked me to write a poem about unicorns for his young daughter. He added that he would pay me five dollars for the poem.

Have you ever written anything you were afraid to share?

Yes. I’ve trained myself to follow my imagination on the page. Sometimes I arrive at places I don’t want to explore, but I continue writing until I’ve explored every nook and cranny of that specific place. Why do I continue if it makes me uncomfortable? Because I know I don’t have to show the poem to anyone. I can write it. Then delete it. Or save it in a file for a long time. I give myself the freedom to explore my imagination and the freedom to decide when the work is ready for publication.

What was your experience with poetry in high school? If you wrote poetry as a teenager, who were your influences then and what did you write about?

I didn’t write poetry in high school. But I did write outside of high school. I wrote lots of song lyrics in the privacy of my bedroom—I never shared them with anyone. The song lyrics were usually about loneliness and broken hearts. I’d often imitate my favorite song lyricists. Musicians like Morrissey, Madonna, Michael Stipe, and Juan Gabriel.

What are you currently reading?

I’m currently reading two books of poems. Calling a Wolf a Wolf by Kaveh Akbar and Lessons on Expulsion by Erika L. Sanchez.

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