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Valerie Haynes Perry interviews Nina Serrano about Poetry

Literary Dialogs with Nina Serrano Featuring Nina Serrano about Poetry

The shoe is on the other foot

On the day of the zoom interview, I found Valerie Haynes Perry supportive and encouraging. I found my uncut pandemic hair uncooperative and my wrinkles deeper. She formulated probing questions carefully. They were easy to answer.

A Learning Moment

It was a learning moment for me as we talked and I read my poems about how readers/listeners bring their own inner life to my poetry. By the end of the program, I was surprised with the ease I felt as we shifted the reins of the interview for the regular series “outro.”

I didn’t feel as gracious a guest as I usually am as a host. When the program aired on OZCAT, our local station, I was filled with trepidation. But after the show, to my delight I was greeted by praising responses. I went through some attitude adjustment. I realized I have to relearn to like myself and make friends with myself. My appreciation of Valerie Haynes Perry deepens for how she carried me through and for her literary insights and thoughts.

This is my first blog post on the new version of my website. It is about something new in my Literary Dialogs with Nina Serrano series. The tables were turned when, after interviewing writer and writing coach Valerie Haynes Perry, she asked if she could interview me about my poetry and process. Valerie’s idea was surprising, but sensing that something new would be good, I agreed. As a veteran interviewer I am usually excited, confident, and full of curiosity to conduct an interview. But I found, as the person being interviewed, I felt shy.

Zoom interview: Nina Serrano about Poetry

Nina Serrano about poetry
Nina Serrano and Valerie Haynes Perry, December 29, 2020

Valerie asked me to send a group of poems that I would read and we would discuss. I sent her these five poems.


As a child I used to tell time
by the bells ringing from the church
three blocks away
“Hurry get to school they rang” in the early morning
But in the tumult of everyone in the apartment
getting ready for work and school
I didn’t usually hear them
I really only really listened for them
when I stayed home from school
by falsely insisting that I didn’t feel well
My parents were at work
The house was quiet and lonely
at 3 o’clock when school let out
I heard the vibrating song
and again with a variation at 3:15
Now I was totally free
to stop pretending to be sick
I could prepare for wellness
and my parents’ return with the hope of hugs and dinner
and to listen for the chiming chiming chiming
of the evening bells.

© 2021 Nina Serrano

Father’s Day 2020 with Love from Your Daughter

Hey Joe, Whadda ya know?
You were proud to be Joe
like Joe Blow
Just a regular guy who fits right in
Not a shy immigrant whose family called him Hugo
who only had a 8th grade education because he had to work
to support his widowed mother and little sister
shoe shine boy news boy bell boy
who drew cartoons and let other kids read them for a penny
because in those days pennies could buy milk and bread
Hey Joe whadda you know?
You were thinking about metaphysics cosmology
the meaning of life the nature of God
drawing the humors of everyday living into cartoons
You sketched for decades in black ink
as a freelancer
22 weekly rough drafts a batch waiting for the mailman daily
to find their rejection slips or acceptance from the magazines
Born over a hundred years ago
you followed your son into the celebratory nineteen 60’s
shedding the cold war conformity you picked up
in the nineteen 50’s
Then you planted yourself in the Yankee stronghold
where the descendants of the Mayflower prevailed
and you felt lonely
Yet you thought up funny situations all day and drew them
struggling to make ends meet
till the last day of your being
Hey Joe, whadda you know?

© 2021 Nina Serrano

Low Tide River Trail Morning

Low low tide on the pond
Mud islands and narrow water channels
Wading water birds hunting
No jumping fish today
My eyes feast
on the sights of the trail
Hungry for new vistas
after endless shelter in my house
Under a clump of shade I search the broad river
with binoculars for the swan family
That’s them the graceful group of seven
Now all white
Have the spring brown speckled babies
turned white and big
like the parents?
Or is this some other group of swans?
A gray dusty looking egret
makes a breathtaking swooping landing
like the ones I used to watch on Oakland’s Lake Merritt
evoking memories of Susan
reminding me that I miss her
of watching them together
The egrets inhabiting this river
are snowy white
White like the pelicans and swans
I lift and lower my mask when humans pass
The familiar natural land marks
go by faster this morning
The sun burns brightly as it rises
I sink with hot tired pleasure
singing my song
into the white car waiting in the parking lot

© 2021 Nina Serrano

Long Time No See Poets in the Moment.

Welcoming her
I cannot see her glorious smile under the mask
her uncut hair hangs longer
We catch up
She’d written a new book of poems
Gone through the pandemic rollercoaster
Me too!
We sit in the back yard shade drinking in the moment
the right now of it
among hummingbirds finches
and a swaying windchime in the warm breeze
The moment relaxes and stretches
to read eachother our poems
Some uplift Some face the plague and climatic traumas
Then we write new poems in a complicated form
though we are both usually free versers
letting the poem take us where it may
Remembering how we used to sing in her car
on the way to from live poetry readings
We sing the old favorites
The finches sing too. Our duet has a choir
Raising goosebumps on my arms
She leaves promising to return
The songs hang in the air
In the early evening I go to water the yard
The plants sing out:
“It’s the hammer of justice
Its the bell of freedom
Its the love between my brothers and my sisters
all all all over this land.”

© 2021 Nina Serrano

The Two Ninas

Two Nina’s a generation apart
The younger said to the older
“I read in your biography that as a child
you traveled in New York City on subways and buses alone”
The older in response told the younger
how between the ages of ten and twelve
she had seen so many penises
because sometimes
men on the trains exposed themselves
Penis after penis
The younger said “Me too
I traveled on subways and buses at those ages
and taking advantage of crowded conditions
men would rub against me”
Neither of the Nina’s had ever discussed this aloud
They had simply found clever youthful
ways to escape their pursuers
assuming it was part of price of freedom to travel
It took thousands of “me too’s” decades later to mention it
because sexual harassment had been so commonplace
so unspeakably UN-notable that even now
decades later when two accused molesters
sit on the supreme court to pass judgment
determining what civil society allows
the two Nina’s broke their silence
Their misadventures spilled out
Trapped for decades
as the shared “me too” stories movement
begins an unstoppable avalanche
to smash the patriarchy!

© 2021 Nina Serrano

Other Posts

Please subscribe to my blog for notifications of upcoming shows. We are offering a free ebook copy of my novel, Nicaragua Way to new subscribers. I am looking forward to present exciting new interviews including poet Lucy Lang Day‘s moving poetry, Greg Landau and Omar Sosa discussing and describing their musical collaborative creative process, and more. But I promise you will not be flooded.

I close this first post in my new website with the wonderful news from Mother Earth. Spring is coming. She sent up the first daffodil in our front yard!

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