“There’s so much in being able to write to and through a place” – Andrés N. Ordorica
Andrés N. Ordorica is a Queer Latinx writer and poet whose debut collection, “At Least This I Know”, came out in January. The collection is an eclectic exploration of ideas around ancestry, belonging, nationhood, activism and queer identity. In an interview with AZ, Andrés speaks of writing as “rooting”, a grounding process of self-actualisation and melding meaning out of an otherwise fragmented existence.
The child of a US Army Airman, he lived a rather “transient life where [they] would move every two or three years.” He recalls becoming “deeply obsessed at a young age” that he might forget things about the places where he had lived so he began writing in his adolescence, to archive his many past homes and to soothe the anxieties of assimilating in each new country he moved to.
Andrés began his academic career in Central School of Speech & Drama, where he studied English and Drama alongside other brilliant minds such as Nia Dacosta (the first Black woman director of a Marvel film). Though forever a “theatre junkie”, he eventually realised that theatre wasn’t for him turned to poetry and prose as a means of “working through a sense of unsettledness.”
Speaking on his first foray into writing, Andrés says:
“I remember at 12 [my dad] gifted me a second hand desktop computer and I attempted to sort of write my autobiography, or what I thought of was an autobiography [laughs]. It was just an attempt to kind of really reflect on what it was like to leave these places that I felt really deeply connected to and to return to the US as an American who’d spent so little time in America; what did that mean for me? It was a really strange time because I’d only been in the US for like two months before 911 happened. And I just moved from Turkey, which is a predominantly Muslim country. America, at the time, was just very strange and very racialized…”
Now in his early thirties, Andrés has long since abandoned his autobiography for poetry and prose writing, while honouring his 12-year-old ambitions through the chronology of the collection, structured loosely like a memoir, the first few poems fall under the heading ‘Where I Begin’. Before this beginning, however, we’re introduced to Andrés’ voice through the poignant yet playful prologue poem, ‘November 16th, 2014’.
Mexican by heritage, Andrés experiences with immigration both in youth and adulthood have developed in him a bittersweet relationship with borders, one that may be familiar to any racialised traveller in this white-supremacist world. “I wanted a poem to open up the collection that offers up the themes that I was going to unpack… What it is to be a migrant from a marginalised background and enter these [sometimes hostile] spaces” he says.
And so ‘November 16th’ speaks directly to this border anxiety, the dysphoria of the intersectionally marginalised and our constant quest for communal representation, with masterful irreverence and wit.
“Love is the most immediate thing I know about life” – Andrés N. Ordorica
The titular poem ‘At Least This I Know’ rounds out the opening section of the collection. Originally “a retirement gift to [his] dad”, the poem stands out for its lyricism, satire and inquisitive compassion. It recognises love and human connection as the most definitive parts of our history, calling into question the malleability of ‘history’ as a whole. It is both personal and political, daring us to confront the fuzzy lines which separate fact from feeling, from lore. Overlining subtle commentary on imperialism is a sense of unshakeable gratitude to his father who Andrés credits as “opening up the world” for him and their family.
Love, in all of its different manifestations, is a continuing theme throughout the collection. In ‘The Sun is the Only Constant’ (a poem that was originally written when Andrés was just 14) his love for nature, colour and queerness unwittingly shines through words dripping with solitude-inuced, asdolescent angst. Looking back at who he was when he wrote it, Andrés says: “Reading [the poem] now, I can apply queer theory and be like, Okay, Andrés this is where you were getting at in that poem, but at that time, I’d be lying if I said 14 year old me was that aware of himself…It is very beautiful, almost like us reaching hands to each other across a timeline.”
In the poem, Hove, Andrés paints a vignette of his love for husband, Kevin Guyan; the teaching and learning involved in a partnership of equally passionate activists; balancing commitment to community organising with commitment to each other; a “quiet love”, that may not show itself through pda but will always show up as a “space for joy”, be it over spirited conversation in a Edinburgh pub or a bad of stodgy chips on Brighton’s pebbled shores.
‘At Least This I Know’ is available for purchase from 404ink . Andrés is currently working on his debut novel, ‘The Places We Will Go’ and you can keep up with his future work via Instagram and Twitter.