a conversation with Larissa Bernardes

by Eddie Arroyo

She walks in, gives me a small wave and sits across the small café table we both now occupy. I sip my cappuccino. It’s not that bad even though I may have had better. The waitress arrives with my order of tacos, which is perfect for a café in a bookstore. She orders a glass of wine. I invite her to have some of my tacos. We eat and Larissa Bernardes waits for me to ask her some questions about her poetry.

EA
Tell me about this concept of modern mythology? Are you going to do a series of short stories, will it evolve into a novel, or will you keep it in the realm of poetry?

LB
It’s mainly going to be poetry. I do have a couple of pieces that you could describe as poetic prose, where they are poems but could also be considered short stories. It’s always a slippery slope with poetry. For example, just look at ancient epics, when you look at Beowulf for example, it’s a poem but it’s a story at the same time. I mean the whole concept of prose is actually relatively new. Before, all stories were written as poetry because they were passed on orally and it was a good way to remember. So my work is mostly poetry but I think I have a couple of pieces that they are sort of like flash fiction. They are real short pieces that have rhythm to them and they’re very poetic. So I suppose you can say I have a combination of poetry and prose poetry. I wouldn’t venture so far as to say that they’re short stories. Although I have written short stories before and I’m definitely open to them.

EA
I wanted to know your thoughts about this poetry movement that has been going on in Miami with the University of Wynwood?

LB
I haven’t been too involved with it but I do subscribe to their mailing list and, when they had the O Miami festival, I participated in one of their events that was based on the concept of Dérive, which is an unplanned adventure. According to Dérive, because of our modern day lifestyles, we get caught up with our day-to-day routine and become detached to our surroundings. The point of the Dérive that day was to walk in the city and see what happens. So we did that and the O Miami festival choose Wynwood, which was great because of all the murals. But at the same time it’s still the ghetto and that was a nice juxtaposition.

EA
I know you’re interested in European mythology but are there any other cultures that hold your interest?

LB
I love ancient Chinese and Japanese folklore and myth. If you’re not familiar with Japanese folklore, there’s a Japanese film called Dreams, it’s by Kurosawa and it’s a series of segments, literally dream segments. The first two segments are heavily inspired by Japanese folklore. Asian mythologies in general, not just Japanese, have a lot of spirit animals in them. The first segment of the film, the first dream, is a foxes’ wedding. During the wedding, a little boy gets caught in the rain and accidently witnesses a foxes’ wedding, which is a forbidden thing to do. Foxes in Japanese folklore are very mysterious, not good, not bad, they’re…in the between. But, since they are viewed as forest spirits or lower deities, human beings are not usually allowed to watch any of their rituals. So, after the boy sees the wedding, he runs home and tells his mother what happened. His mother basically tells him, “You must then commit suicide.” You see, Japanese society is heavily based on ritual, sacrifice, and about not passing certain boundaries. Well, the little boy accidently opens a Pandora ’s Box, even though he doesn’t completely understand what happened since he’s just a little boy. And so his mother tells him he must travel under a rainbow, where the foxes live, so that he can beg for forgiveness. The segment ends as he is approaching the rainbow in a field of Technicolor flowers.

Another influence in my writing is Santeria but I’m Brazilian so it’s Candomblé for me, most of the same Gods just different names.

EA
Brazilians have Santeria?

LB
Yeah, but it’s called Candomblé, which is almost the literal translation. There are many variations of the religion in Brazil, actually, that involve the same gods but no animal sacrifices, for example. But I do have this one poem that’s directly influenced by one of the Santeria gods, Olokun, who’s chained to the ocean floor. He or she –it’s a God so it transcends gender in this case – is such a destructive God that Olokun can’t be released because chaos will be unleashed on Earth. I have a poem that is inspired by that image; about a sailor being chained to the floor; chaos chained to the floor. That is a direct influence and obviously it’s a very Miami thing.

EA
We discussed that you’re open to writing short stories but is there anything else you would find interesting to do with your work?

LB
I would like to write a novel in the future, without a doubt. I don’t think I’m ready at this point in my life but I have a lot of ideas. I would also like to do movie screen plays. I consider myself a film fanatic.

I like stories that question, why are we conditioned to believe certain things? Who decides what is really right or wrong, especially since it varies greatly from culture to culture.

EA
It’s a moral question.

LB
More ethical because it’s not so much as a religious question for me.

EA
Not for you but as far as society, historically it’s morality and then it evolved into ethics.

LB
It’s more like questioning the things I want to do, without rules and without hurting anybody. I’m interested in a sense of freedom.

The Man Who Stole Laughter

I am a sailor chained to the ocean floor. I call the Darkness and monsters
my home. Blinded I bear this burden alone. But no God or Devil can
imprison my laughter, which causes the winds and ocean to roar! Alone and
chained to the ocean floor, damned to bear my burden alone. Yes, I
murdered her. I took her soft silk skin and allowed my fingers to pierce
her eyes in. But no God or Devil can imprison my laughter, which causes
the winds and ocean to roar! Blinded, I bear the burden of her beauty
alone. Blinded, I chase a phantom of darkness I call my home. I am a
sailor chained to the ocean floor. Both a God and Devil damned to bear the
burden of her beauty alone. Chained to the silk contours of a mythological
face, I murdered her. I took her soft silk skin and allowed my fingers to
whip her face. But no God or Devil can imprison my laughter, which causes
the winds and ocean to roar! Chained to the ocean floor, I bear this
burden alone. My mind chases a phantom, the contours of a soft silk face.
A slave to laughter! I murdered her! The winds and ocean roar. But I no
longer know. I no longer know what causes the winds and ocean to roar.
Alone I am chained to the ocean floor. I am damned to bear the burden of
her beauty alone.

www.twitter.com/LarissainMiami
www.deriveproject.com

written by

Eddie Arroyo | editor
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