How did you find the right form for “Certainty”?
I wrote the first paragraph like a poem but it didn’t work, so I wrote it as prose afterwards. I wrote a chapbook during my university years and 4-5 of the poems in there, I suppose, was the impetus to “Certainty”. I wrote about leaving a neighborhood, a community, a set of friends, but my memories were too hazy or too muddled for me to recreate as non-fiction. Luis and Rowena gave me a way into understanding everything that happened to me.
Growing up I lived near the dike that Rowena lives behind. That dike was the inspiration for how I wanted to open up about the community I grew up in. Any conflict derives from that setting—be it the typhoons, the derelict squatter houses behind it, the abject poverty of the people living there and the disparity of those who live inland.
How long did it take you to write “Certainty”? What questions, interests, or decisions were you guided by?
A long time. “Certainty” is the first chapter of a novel I’ve been writing for over 10 years. I left Cebu, my home city, when I was 15, with no idea why we were leaving. It was sprung on me and my siblings. I suppose this story is my way of understanding that.
“Luis and Rowena gave me a way into understanding everything that happened to me.”
Are there genres or structures you’ve tended to avoid? Are there new ones you’re currently exploring?
I tried fantasy and science fiction before but I wasn’t very successful. I know now that the fantasy and imagined future I was writing about wasn’t in the stories of my heritage or the imagined future that encompasses my identity and politics. I’d like to try again when I can carve out time. I’m also trying out creative non-fiction. With fiction, there is embellishments and that’s the fun of creating stories. With non-fiction, I grapple with the idea of authenticity, which I don’t really believe in. Memory is never accurate and the history I’m writing about come from sources that are either biased or perhaps also embellished. I’m still thinking about it.
Carousel Calvo, a Filipinx-Canadian writer, has been published in Malahat Review, Prairie Fire, filling station, and Ricepaper. She received her MA in English with Creative Thesis at Concordia University.