Claire Ibarra has two poems in the recently published America Is Not The World. We were wondering, where in the world she was?
Who are you? I am a perpetual student and an occasional teacher.
And where in the world are you? I am currently residing in Denver, Colorado. My family owns a small hostel in the Andes of Peru, so we travel there often. I lived in Peru at one time in my life, and much of my writing is inspired by that experience.
What is the best thing about Peru? The food! That’s no joke. Peruvian food is absolutely delicious. I love the use of spicy chili and lime. In general, Peruvians have a wonderful sense of humor. The nature is impressive, and though the Andes Mountains are rugged, it is a sustainable way of life with a strong sense of community.
And the worst? There is still a lot to be done in terms of alleviating poverty. Some villages are very remote, and it’s a challenge for families who want their children to receive a good education and have access to health care. Despite the abundant natural resources in Peru, many people live in abject poverty. There tends to be a lot of political corruption.
How has Peru shaped you? Peru feels expansive, and I try to live and think with a sort of expansiveness. The warmth and friendliness of Peruvians has taught me to be more compassionate and open to people. Peruvians tend to live fully in the moment, maybe because of so much economic hardships. I try to live in the present moment, as well.
Tell us about your favorite place in the world. I feel very fortunate to have traveled so much. I am always amazed at the breathtaking beauty in each place I visit. I am constantly reminded that this is an incredibly beautiful planet! That makes it hard to choose one favorite place. Wherever I am at the moment seems to be my favorite place.
Tell us about your poems in America Is Not the World. The matriarchs in our Peruvian family inspired my poem Grief with Joy. The old woman represents the collective experiences of raising a family–the joys and pains of motherhood. I was able to pull imagery from our neighborhood in Lima, as well as from the ubiquitous presence of Catholicism in the culture. My poem For Yoshi is homage to a childhood friend.
Tell us about a Peruvian writer we should know about. Mario Vargas Llosa is the most renowned Peruvian author, and he received the Nobel Prize in 2010. His work reflects Peruvian life, politics, and culture.
What else is going on? I continue to write poems and short stories, and practice my photography. This seems to keep me busy enough.
What is next for you? I just finished writing a magical realist novel set in Peru. It is a story spanning three generations and has plenty of mischievous spirits and a mystery. It is my master’s thesis for Florida International University, and my goal now is to get it published.
Tell us a secret. Hmmm…. Not having a secret makes me feel rather dull.
Give us a song.
Claire is currently in the MFA creative writing program at Florida International University. Her poetry has appeared in many fine journals and anthologies, including The Midwest Quarterly, Pirene’s Fountain, Literary Orphans, and Thrush Poetry Journal. Claire has worked with nonprofits, teaching creative writing to incarcerated women in Florida.