Ricardo Alberto Maldonado was born and raised in Puerto Rico. He is the translator of Dinapiera Di Donato’s Colaterales / Collateral (National Poetry Series) and the recipient of poetry fellowships from Cantomundo, Queer|Arts|Mentorship and the New York Foundation for the Arts. A graduate of Tufts University and Columbia University’s School of the Arts, he serves on the poetry committee for the Brooklyn Book Festival and the Board of Trustees of The Poetry Project. He is managing director at 92Y’s Unterberg Poetry Center, co-editor of A New Colossus, with Sophie Herron, and Puerto Rico en mi corazón, with Erica Mena, Raquel Salas Rivera and Carina del Valle Schorske, and co-hosts Empire Reads with Hafizah Geter. He lives in Bedford–Stuyvesant, Brooklyn with his boss’s cat, Marcus.
Here’s Quick Temper with Ricardo Maldonado—
Why do you write?
I’ll let García Lorca’s “El Niño Stanton” answer that: “vete para aprender celestiales palabras / que duermen en los troncos, en nubes, en tortugas […] para que aprendas, hijo, lo que tu pueblo olvida.” In Greg Simon and Steven F. White’s translation: “go to learn celestial words / that sleep in tree trunks, clouds, and turtles […] Go learn, my son, what your people forget.”
Who do you hope reads your work?
Because I want always to privilege them: my mother, my sister, my two brothers, my nephews—my family on the island (Puerto Rico). And also, The Poets, especially a group of them whose work has proven indispensable to me in the past couple of months: Raquel Salas Rivera, Denice Frohman, Malcolm Friend, Carina del Valle Schorske, Erica Mena, Marwa Helal, Lynn Melnick and Wendy Xu, I.S. Jones, Hafizah Geter and Camille Rankine … and …. this list is interminable. One day, I’ll get to thank each and every one of them in person.
Where does the anger in your work come from? How does it manifest?
Because my family was without power after María, but also before; because the image of Puerto Rico’s poverty and powerlessness emerged on the national stage, after the storm, not only as symptom of colonial history but also as prophecy; because in the recovery, the federal body re-enacted our Most Perfect Union’s barbarous first act: that original sin of racial injustice and decimation; because the phenomenology of colonialism, at recovery, made this clear to me: that our catastrophes, we visit them often; we will visit them often, throughout history. Every future act of reparation is already compromised—that is our patrimony. I recently wrote that a part of me believes the days of writing solely in English were over, after María, and that at no time, would concessions be made to the langue of the Empire. That’s how my anger has manifested itself.
Angry book recommendations for angry readers?
Raquel Salas Rivera’s Lo terciario/The Tertiary, Solmaz Sharif’s LOOK, Rickey Laurentiis’ Boy with Thorns, Diana Khoi Nguyen’s Ghost Of, Aracelis Girmay’s The Black Maria, Marwa Helal’s Invasive Species and Andrés Cerpa’s Bicycle in a Ransacked City: An Elegy.