March 22, 2002

Border Poetry

By Pablo De Sainz

Juan Reyna is a 21-year-old guy from Tijuana who writes poetry.

"I believe that poetry is the most elevated form of language," he said. "It's also the way, the expression, in my case, of understanding myself."

It's clear that Reyna is learning to understand himself.

Born in Tijuana in 1980, he is a member of the new generation of poets and writers that is changing the literature being made in the border region.

"My literature could be considered from the border, but it doesn't represent the folklore of the border," Reyna said. "When I talk about the border, I talk about crossing from one genre to the other; it's being on the edge of something, being on tension.

"La muerte en un temblor contagia su impaciencia a los recuerdos.
separa en brincos que desesperan
el cuerpo de sus pasos
la silueta de su sombra
las sombras de su suelo
lentamente
nos vamos apartando"

"I think that the border is just that. That's why I say that my literature is in a border, just like Tijuana: it's a point of conflict, of tension, where one or more people are in conflict, in constant movement."

Reyna also said that there are several generations of writers in Baja California.

"The first one, born before the sixties, is a group of writers who were born in the border region but decided to go to Mexico City and start their literary careers overthere.

"Then there's the generation that's more recognized, the one that created a literature full of border folklore. I'm thinking of writers like Luis Humberto Crosthwaite, Roberto Castillo Udiarte, and Francisco Morales.

"Another generation of writers is the one before my own, the one born around 1974. Poets like Carlos Gutierrez Vidal, Heriberto Yepez, and Jorge Ortega. These writers tend to write about more universal themes, not focusing on Tijuana or the border."

Reyna tries to experiment with his poetry. His two collections of poetry, "Vuelta al agua" (Lobos de mar, 2001) and "Proximo estoy a descubrir un tumor en la lengua de los hombres" (ICBC, 2001), are his contributions to experimental literature.

"Perhaps my familiarity with other media, such as theatre and film, help me create poetry that's somewhat avant-garde."

Before publishing his two books, Reyna did performance pieces, video poetry, and electronic poetry.

"La garganta de Dios en realidad
es quien habla por nosotros.
En puntos suspensivos
eterniza nuestras lenguas."

"I'm a product of the mass media," he said. "I grew up watching cartoons and tele-novelas. In my literature I make many references to all of that, and it works for me to have all that context because I move from serious literature to popular literature, like the stuff they make on television."

Currently, Reyna is working on a novel and an epic poem. The novel, titled "El derecho de nacer" in allusion to a popular Mexican soap opera, is his first try at fiction.

"I'm working on a novel because it's time to move on," he said. "I've worked for a few years in poetry, and now I'm looking for a new form of finding myself."

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