Meet the author:
Alejandra Pizarro Choy
In this poem, you draw an analogy between the female body and the land. Can you tell us more about this juxtaposition? What discourses are you speaking to and pushing against?
I wrote this poem after coming across Sofia Zaragocin’s research. At the time I was also thinking about all kinds of gendered labour and what is asked from people understood as women. It took me back to that resistance phrase: “Neither of us, the land nor women, are territories of conquest.” This phrase is difficult to translate, but in Spanish it groups women and land together. It draws a parallel between them, both gendered as feminine, both subjected to conquest. I thought more about other processes of extraction and violence related to bodies and land, as well as my own experiences in Lima, a city that is so violent towards women. Through this poem I am pushing against gendered expectations of doing as we are told and accepting violence quietly, while speaking to the strength in resilience. Continuing to go on despite violence, like the land does.
You have a background in geography. How does your research and academic work inform your poetry?
My research is based on political ecology and most of my work has been carried out in Peru. I think a lot about capitalist processes of violence and dispossession related to space and nature. This allows me to think across scales, from international structures to embodied experiences, so I imagine this has continued through my poetry. My poetry usually focuses on personal experiences, but I can't help but link it to larger structures.
Do you consider yourself a bilingual poet? Can you describe the process of writing and translation for you?
I do consider myself a bilingual poet. I started writing poetry solely in Spanish when I was nine or ten. Much later I moved to the UK and started writing poetry in English as well. It really depends on the piece and what it conveys, but I usually don't translate my poems. This piece was written completely in Spanish and I translated it later for an open mic night at a poetry festival. I wanted the audience to understand what it meant. Some parts of it were hard to translate, especially as some text and experiences are very contextual to Lima.
How do you think your poem speaks to the possibilities of an Otherwise?
I think my poem speaks to an “otherwise” against certain gender expectations and certain forms of violence. However, the resistance I refer to is not new and has been commonplace for as long as people and land have been subjected to violence. The possibilities of an otherwise then would lie in building solidarity through these ongoing efforts of resistance and resilience.
Lele Pizarro Choy (she/her) is Chinese-Peruvian, born and raised in Lima, Peru. She has a deep interest in people’s sense of community and kinship with each other, and with nature in all its forms. Currently, Lele is finishing a PhD in Geography at the University of St Andrews in Scotland. Her work explores how capitalism shapes and is shaped by human-nature relationships, and the potential for radical and decolonial alternatives.
This interview was conducted by Otherwise poetry editor Grace Zhou