The Writer’s Desk features the desks and writing practices of Gemini Ink faculty, visiting authors, teaching artists, volunteers, students, interns, staff, partners and more. Receive new posts in your inbox by subscribing to our newsletter at bit.ly/geminiinknewsletter.
August 26, 2022
Join us in welcoming Princeso Santamaría, our new Partner Classes Program Coordinator! Princeso is a queer, xicanx poet dedicated to documenting and uplifting queer peoples of color. They can be found dancing over dimly lit dancefloors or reading about temporal-space travel. Their work has been hosted by El Comalito Collective, Ofrenda Magazine, the Gender Equity Resource Center at UC Berkeley, California Youth Connection, the Puente Program at Laney College, the Ethnic Studies Department at Cal State Fullerton, and foolsFURY SF Theatre.
Photo by Canelo Cabrera
Hi Princeso! Of course, we’re curious…who are your favorite writers? Do you have a favorite hero/heroine in fiction?
There are some classics I love for forever like Maya Angelou and I’m excited about writers like Raquel Salas Rivera, Josiah Luis Alderete, and Elisabet Velasquez. Elisabet Velasquez has this amazing book I am always hyping up, When We Make It. The main character, Saraí, sees how the adults around her aren’t the most reliable or supportive and she holds so many of their complexities without being overcome with how it affects her. She turns to her friends and her sister– even making the space within her own self to contain her truth. Maybe her sister Estrella is a heroine and maybe she’s not, but I admire her me vale madre attitude. Estrella rebels against her mother’s restrictive fears, following her own wild inclinations instead a lo “Yo hago lo que me da la gana!” She’s gonna do things her way, a su manera! Two heroines in one book, I mean qué más quieres. It’s also an entire novel in poetic verse, which is a feat in and of itself! I’ve always wanted to do that pero me he inhibido. I’ve often heard warnings and critiques dissuading me from carrying poems along multiple pages, but this book is like “is there even a better way to tell a story?” And you know when you read it that no, there isn’t a better way to experience a story.
Who are your heroes in real life? What do you admire most about them?
My heroes IRL are definitely my two youngest siblings and my most intimate femmetor and advisor, Nadine. What I admire most in all of them is their ability to maintain a purity of heart regardless of the obstacles and sufferings of life. They have so much hope and optimism for the future, for me, and for their own lives. They are so deeply loving and supportive that it’s tempting to believe life has been a sparkling lake of ease for them.
My youngest sibling, Delilah, is a very down-to-earth person and I always feel I can be my most authentic self around them. The best person you’ll ever meet, Delilah exudes an open acceptance that you don’t feel around most people. It’s always a relief to be around Realer Than Real Delilah. The world is full of people that poke and test and demand us to “prove” ourselves, so I feel being around such a genuine presence like Delilah’s is a lungful of fresh air. With all the pressures of our society to be different from who we are, I admire the persistence required to stay authentic.
My youngest brother, David, has managed to maintain a transparent heart. This is a rare and highly valuable quality to have yet we don’t make it easy to have hearts in our society. He has a way of telling you your truths that makes you receptive and compels you to listen because it’s clear he’s speaking straight from the heart. I aspire to create a clear and direct connection from my heart to my expressions because of his inspiration. When he speaks up, I can see his quiet influence at work on others and I know they feel as moved as I do. Where others boast an exuberant charm, he exudes a subtle enchantment over others. He’s got many admirable qualities like all my heroes– including dedication, perseverance, and hard work.
When I met Nadine Gallego, I noticed she was oblivious to my rough edges. She didn’t harden towards me when my rigid defenses came rushing out. She maintained a tender, loving attitude and insisted on helping me achieve my higher education goals. While others shut me out with protocols and dismissive excuses, Nadine was someone I could rely on for support. She invited me in with her own vulnerability, sharing her personal journey in higher education and motivating me in the process. Nadine is joyful in going above and beyond to help others achieve their goals. Her love and mentorship has nurtured my own heart, softened and opened me up to life and its limitless possibilities.
My heroes changed me. They all watered me when I didn’t even know what water was. Their love sets the golden standard for me when I think of who I want to be and who I want around me.
You’re also a writer — what are some misconceptions about being a writer that you can discredit?
I didn’t think of myself as a writer for a long time because I thought my journal entries didn’t count. Then I thought I wasn’t sharing my poems so it “didn’t count.” I was always finding excuses whether it was because I like talking to people and didn’t fit an anti-social writer stereotype or I felt self-conscious about my English, or I just felt like I was always working two or three jobs that weren’t in creative writing. Eventually, I just kept getting recognized as a poet and writer until I finally accepted it.
As soon as I started claiming it, I was sure someone was going to call me out and revoke my poet-writer title. It seems silly to me now, but there’s a part of me that still feels like it’s just me and my poems sitting in the dark. In reality, I know my writing is an urge that walks with me everywhere and I can’t really help it. It’s that shadow that’s always ready to dance with me, always ready to laugh with me when I tell a joke to my friends, always listening to the fake conversations playing out in my head. Maybe that’s what makes me a writer more than the leather-bound books I want to write in or the other quirks and accessories we associate with stereotypical writer archetypes. Maybe I am agile; I love dancing, being active and socializing– and none of that makes me less of a writer.
I want everyone who writes to recognize themselves as a writer. If you write with bic pens and composition notebooks or you only write on loose pages with wooden pencils, or you never used a typewriter in your life, or you only write on your phone. You’re still a writer.
Has your preferred place to write changed over the years?
The anchoring part of writing for me has always been the pen-to-paper connection. Growing up I dealt with managing a lot of sudden displacements and no privacy– constant surveillance. Finding something to write with became that sanctuary space for me that I could readily find anywhere. There were precious few moments of peace and privacy outside of the loose papers and borrowed pencils I could get my hands on.
There were times I wrote in bed late at night and I got good at tracking my place on the page in the dark. I also had a few issues with my journals being confiscated so I memorized a code I adapted when I was 12. I got clowned on a lot for constantly reading and writing– people saw it as an issue. Now, I’ve taken my obsession to beautiful bistros and cafés all over the world, so I’m not mad about it.
In my hometown, Santa Ana, California, I often wrote while riding the bus. There was an artistic community where people could share their work at Open Mics and Art Walks. I started doing poetry pop-ups in the basement of one of the artist buildings before they put floodlights in the alley and evicted many of the artists. At first, I didn’t want to do it and I wasn’t even sure I could. Then, I felt a rush when people would give me a prompt and I had so much fun that I started doing poetry pop-ups more intentionally.
There’s something stimulating about not knowing what poem I’m going to write next. I’ve done poetry pop-ups in Berkeley by Sather Gate and at Lake Merritt in Oakland. I still remember the Berkeley writing professor that bought three queer love poems and the Oakland locals and old timers that stopped by to show me love. Lake Merritt is one of my favorite places to be, to write, to gather the muses and bathe in the radiant ambiance. The Town knows how to have a good time, always!
When I lived in Mexico City, my favorite places to write included a bookstore-café by the water in Chapultepec and of course la biblioteca central by filos (the central library). In Paris, I would go to my favorite spot overlooking the Seine after class. Shakespeare & Company not only provided iced non-dairy lattes, but they also have a room on the second floor where the books are not for sale. I would charge my phone and read Anaïs Nin’s journals while making my own chaotic journal entries in Spanish-Franglais.
There are so many beautiful, lush places here in San Antonio and I’m giddy with the anticipation of knowing I have much to discover here. Finding a nice terrace with a view or a comfy chair by the river would be deeply satisfying. I’m even down to try a pickle latte.
We’re curious, what have you been listening to lately? Are there any interesting podcasts or music we should know about?
Motivational videos are part of my daily audio consumption. I definitely spend hours listening to soul and I was proud to be in Ari Lennox’ top 1% of Spotify listeners in 2019. I love watching outdoor parties in Mexico and watching cumbierxs dancing over dirt floors with old Mexican DJs cracking jokes on the mic and hyping up the lady in the red dress. I’m a little shy to admit there was a season I would make breakfast and watch Raquel Salas Rivera make breakfast to share with his mom. I think I just spent so much time watching all of these poets performing and I was intrigued because I had maintained a similar morning routine at the time. It was nice sharing some of those pandemmy mornings with their boricua vibes.
Other poets I have on repeat include my favorite pocho poet Josiah Luis Alderete and hector son of hector. Josiah makes me feel a lot and he makes me laugh like carcajadas to the winds. “Tenochtitlan en Technicolor” makes me cry lost Xicanx tears and his “Elote Lady” performances always coax my Tía’s embarrassing laughter out of me. hector son of hector reminds me why I first became obsessed with poetry– his precision inspires admiration in me. The relationship between each carefully placed word creates an irresistible vertical rhythm that gets me carried away.
Tell us a little about the routines and habits that you apply to your life. Are there any habits you wish you started sooner?
I used to fill every hour with work and activities. I was always doing something to get somewhere, to make money, to help others, to fight for good causes, to have fun, etc., etc.. Everything I did was driven by compelling motivations, but I didn’t realize how exhausted I was all the time. I had started doing yoga and visualization meditations, but I was treating this practice as an activity for “fixing” my health without letting myself just observe and experience the practice without judgment.
It wasn’t enough that I was doing the poses; I was also constantly analyzing what I needed to improve. I had a partner close enough to see I was working 18-hour days and there was this concern: “you can’t just stop working and go straight to bed. You have to wind down.” I never even knew that.
I started with giving myself time in the evenings before bed. I would still do things like read or journal. Then I started giving myself Sundays. I call it Sacred Sundays and it includes elaborate bath rituals. Later, I started Sensual Lounging in my sunny apartment in Berkeley and I’d also spend one to two hours on the rooftop doing yoga, listening to jazz, and drinking cafecito. Now, I need two hours every morning and one to two hours every evening to myself. I will wake up two and a half or three hours before leaving for the day so that I can just exist. I would have avoided a lot of severe burnout and been a lot happier if I would have given myself the structure to do nothing and just be with myself every day.
If people want to learn more about your work, where should they go?
Most of my updates and events are on Instagram @_flordenopal. My Patreon subscribers get more intimate updates and they hear everything before anyone else does. I also have some writing published in Ofrenda Magazine.