Elvira Sastre: "Sharing poems on the networks is revolutionary"

nearly a decade ago, Elvira Tailor (Segovia, 1992) was planted in Madrid with the excuse of studying English Studies at the university and the secret desire not to stop writing. If there were never good times for the lyric, those of now seem to run in the antipodes. However, in these years has managed to revitalize poetry to the point of turning it into an article of mass consumption, especially among the younger public.

His half a million followers on Instagram (on Twitter he accumulates another 220,000) comment and share with devotion each poem he publishes, his recitals gather audiences typical of a rock star and on his website he sells records and t-shirts with his verses set to music and printed. The six collections of poems that she has published indicate her as the great white hope of a genre that was reviled until recently, but she declares herself amazed by everything she has experienced in these years. She explains it in 'Madrid kills me' (Seix Barral), a first-person account of the birth of a literary star.

She has a lot of fans and readers, but a lot of other people don't know her. How would she introduce herself?

I am a poet, and with great pride. Poet, not poetess, please. That word makes me very angry because it has served to discriminate against women who write poetry. I also translate books, publish press articles and have published a novel. I do everything they let you do with words.

Are you clear why you write?

Because I'd drown if I didn't. I need to make sense of everything I feel, whether it's fear, joy, anger or the most absolute pain. And that meaning is given to me by words. When I experience something that I cannot understand, I put it on paper and only then can I face it, overcome it or accept it.

Is it like a therapy?

Poetry has been my therapy for years. Later I have experienced things that I have not been able to resolve with writing and I have had to take them to the psychologist's office. But that feeling of being knackered and being able to express it in a few verses has helped me a lot. Seeing yourself recognized in a poem is healing, even if writing it is sometimes painful.

"Seeing yourself recognized in a poem is healing, even if writing it is sometimes painful", Elvira Sastre


Do you suffer writing?

Sometimes yes, but it is a beautiful suffering, because it is real. I don't make poems to be happy, but to feel alive, and that includes having to cry sometimes while I write or reading my verses in public in tears. It's part of the deal to be alive.

Defending poetry in these times sounds counterintuitive.

Precisely because we live in this broken world, poetry is more necessary than ever. For this reason, more and more poetry books are being sold and the recitals are more crowded. In a time marked by haste, where everything is fast food and superficiality, poetry allows you to connect with your interior without noise or contamination. People need to stop and poetry helps to achieve it.

He came to gather 4,000 spectators in a poetry recital at the Wizink Center in Madrid. What were these people looking for?

Understanding, feeling that someone feels what you feel and that they have known how to put words to what you have inside. They also seek security. They know that in that place they can turn off their minds, let themselves go on an emotional journey and leave the recital having cried everything and in peace.

Mass recital of the poet in Buenos Aires, in 2019. VALERIA TRIAS

Was that need not being met?

Poetry was locked up in drawers and we had been told that only a few could understand it. It was a lie. You just had to get her out of there and bring her closer to the general public. My goal is to make it reach a lot of people. That's why, apart from writing books, I give recitals on big stages, release poetry albums, sell t-shirts with my verses or share them on my social networks.

Are networks suitable for poetry?

They are perfect. In fact, they are very responsible for the 'boom' that poetry is experiencing at the moment. They have given it visibility and have brought it closer to an audience that, without looking for it, has found verses with which it has connected. Sharing poems on networks is revolutionary.

Does having half a million followers on Instagram give you responsibility?

It does not overwhelm me, because my growth in the networks has been progressive and they treat me with great affection. I have fans in countries where my books have not been published who send me exciting messages after reading the poems I post. I don't have 'haters', although I have suffered the occasional stoning on Twitter.

"Perhaps I have connected with young readers because they have looked at me with less prejudice than others who thought when they saw me: is a young woman going to tell me something about life that I don't know?", Elvira Sastre


You too?

One day I posted a tweet about a homophobic attack, a far-right politician shared it and an avalanche of extremist profiles wished me dead. That catches you on a normal day and doesn't affect you, but my grandmother had just been admitted to the hospital, she was weak and I felt very bad. I wanted to run away and never give my opinion in public again. Things happen on social media that shouldn't be allowed.

Any explanation for the hatred that circulates in them?

Whoever makes this toxic use has problems, not with the one who receives their insults, but with themselves. There are many people with an anger that is not treated and that turns to the first person they meet with ideas different from theirs. There should be more measures against digital bullying, because the pain it causes sometimes ends in the form of suicide.

How have you managed to get thousands of young people who had never read a poem interested in poetry today?

I have connected with them. Perhaps because they looked at me with less prejudice than other older readers who thought when they saw me: is a young woman going to tell me something about life that I don't know?

Have you felt that condescension?

And I still feel it. As a young man and, above all, as a woman. The world of literature, and poetry in particular, is very sexist. Much more has been demanded of me than other fellow male poets and I have been despised for being a woman.

In her book, she says that feminism is one of the phenomena that has had the most impact on her life. How do you see this movement today?

We have come a long way, but as long as there is still a murdered woman or wage inequality, or any type of aggression against women, we cannot lower our hands. Let us not take our rights for granted, because at any moment we can lose those we have conquered.

They present her as a millennial poet. How does she see those of her generation?

Regular. We grew up in a glass bubble, they sold us that we had to go to university to be someone in life and they guided our steps only towards work. And it turns out that today we are all lost, suffering from anxiety and depression, with precarious jobs and going to our parents' house to fill the Tupperware with food. Nobody prepared us to manage something like this.

Can you think of what can be done?

For now, offer better access to mental health services. I've been in therapy for two years, but I know a lot of people my age who need it and can't afford it. Something as simple as this could ease a lot of pain.

In his book he recounts his last 10 years. Can you imagine his life in another 10?

I have never had ambitions or dreams to fulfill. I don't know if I will continue living off literature, but I do know that I will continue writing and that I will do so surrounded by adopted dogs. It's the only clear thing in my life.

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