Ana is an award-winning poet and has been collaborating with other artists to sell and promote her poems as NFTs. In this interview, we find out more about Ana, her artistic pursuits, her experience with NFTs and what she is excited about.
Ana Maria Caballero was born in Miami but spent most of her childhood in Bogotá, Colombia. Her first nonfiction manuscript “A Petit Mal” was awarded the International Beverly Prize and was a finalist for several literary awards.
Her collection “Entre domingo y domingo” won Colombia’s José Manuel Arango National Poetry Prize. Her works have been published widely, nominated for a Pushcart Prize and been a finalist for the Academy of American Poets Prize. She believes poems should be valued as works of art and co-founded an NFT poetry gallery called theVERSEverse.com.
Parallel to her writing life, she’s worked for a hedge fund in Greenwich, CT, freelanced as a journalist in Manhattan, coordinated international press for a Colombian Vice-President, re-launched then sold a boutique wine distributor in Bogotá, and, most recently, founded a real estate investment company in South Florida. A graduate of Harvard University, she’s currently pursuing an MFA in Poetry at FIU, where she’s the oldest student in her classes and hopes to never graduate.
1. What was the first poem you read that impacted you in some way and why?
I read “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock” by T.S. Eliot for the first time in high school English class, the Norton Anthology of Poetry propped atop my desk.
Meanwhile, my class was reading John Donne, poet of the passionate, metaphysical, near-Enlightened God. I was done with Donne. I was a high schooler bored with God — bored with how Church had become all the history we are taught. History seemed determined by alignment with or opposition to, not human Christ, but sovereign Church, Church of royal, papal, paper God. Spanish conquests, Protestant claims, Enlightened thoughts that, at first, dared not reveal their name.
In Norton, I read ahead to the future, to my century. To a moment I considered beyond God. To grammar I used. I found him there: at the beginning of poems anthologized under the Twentieth Century, at the impulsive pre-war start to a century my high school self considered beyond the confines of history’s God.
My poem gene, of course, was already inside. My poetic DNA replicated, created at birth, now fully expressed. Prufrock is modest, assertive, polite. Of course, he said “hi” back.
Hola, Ana. Hola, poem gene inside Ana.
I read in disbelief that became belief.
I read beyond schedule, beyond the confines of English class. I read and stopped: read and reread. Over and over again. Prufrock became belief. The poem became belief. Prufrock was spark: electrical synapse spark who introduced me to I. I whose whole self began to express, awaken alive, and, so, with written words, I commenced to remark.
O, God. Batter, he did, my person heart.
2. Recently you sold ‘Items I scour the internet to find’ at Madrid’s art week, could you tell the readers more about this piece of work?
Selling “Items I Scour the Internet to Find” at live auction in Duran Subastas, Madrid’s oldest auction house, during this city’s Art Week was incredibly exciting for several reasons. Not only was this artwork the first literary NFT to be sold by this auction house, but this piece, a collaborative artwork created with South Korean AI artist CS Lim, was part of the first sale of AI and generative artworks at auction in Spain, which also included a piece by acclaimed artist Ivona Tau.
Even more significant is the fact that a poem was presented as a work of art in such a traditional setting. Seeing my poem in the printed catalogue of Duran Subastas signals to me a new form of thinking, one in which poems are celebrated as the works of art that they are. I am enthralled by how the blockchain allows us to transact poetry, infusing it with cultural value — and agency — that has been traditionally lacking for poets and their craft.
Last but not least, the subject matter of the piece is one that many of us think about often. This poem explores our complex relationship with virtual and digital realms, where we seek out and often find connections with more ease than in the world of flesh and bone.
Lim’s artwork, which uses artificial intelligence to explore natural and traditional spaces, highlights the increasing complexity of determining what is real. Are our internet friends real? Are AI-generated landscapes a faithful reflection of the real? What new traditions are we creating in our digital lives? These are some of the questions “Items I Scour the Internet to Find” probes.
3. What is your personal experience been like in the NFT scene?
For me, the act of reading is one of the closest forms of communion between two minds — that of author and reader. When individuals converse, there is mediation, interpretation, negotiation. A mind before a sculpture, a canvas, a digital image engages in an inner dialogue of interrogation, comprehension, valuation.
Music gains narrative when lyrics are added. Films start with a script.
But minds deeply engaged with a text allow the language of the text to become their own. Poetry’s power can extend beyond that of the aesthetic because words become indistinguishable from our thoughts, revealing emotions, ideas, beliefs we didn’t even know we shared.
Meanwhile, the life of a published poem is much too short, much too insular. So, I began turning my work into media-rich video poems that I shared on social media. When I read about NFTs, I knew they were the future. Finally, via the blockchain, I’d found a way of making manifest the value of poetry as art.
I purchased the domain for theVERSEverse.com with the idea of creating a gallery devoted to presenting poems as works of art. My plans were accelerated when I was invited to become part of Artchick’s Etherpoems project, a life-changing experience where I learned about NFTs, their culture, Twitter, Discord and community.
Since minting my first poem as part of the Etherpoems collective in July of 2021, I’ve now minted poems in all the major NFT platforms — SuperRare, KnownOrigin, Async, MakersPlace, OBJKT, Versum — and more to come.
My poetic work has been featured in Dreamverse during NFT NYC, received a Sevens Foundation x Playboy Grant, been sold at a live auction in Spain, been featured by MOCDA, OBJKT, TEIA, Async and KO. News outlets like Art News, Entrepreneur and Voyageur have also mentioned my work.
Of course, the NFT space is very much connected to the highly competitive art world. I’ve also had darker encounters, but these experiences have been eye-opening, and thus, in the long run, positive. I’ve learned and am stronger as a result.
In the end, I am deeply grateful to have found such an exciting platform from which to share my art.
4. What are you most excited about this year?
I’m exceedingly excited about exhibiting my works in the real world. I believe that poetry, by virtue of its performative, immersive nature, can serve as a highly effective bridge between the digital and the real. To take a spoken-word digital poem, which already offers such a powerful and personal connection between poet and reader, and present it in a gallery, for example, is to create new forms of poetic interaction.
Poetry, for me, means purpose and pause. Escape and solace. I write in the midst of problems. My poems tend to be straightforward — they say, this is it. As Louise Glück writes, Opacity is fear. I believe that when we over-embellish what we’re feeling, it’s because we’re afraid of feeling it.
Audiences are hungry for poetry. According to a 2018 study by the US-based National Endowment for the Arts, the number of adults reading poetry grew by 76% between 2012 and 2017. What’s more, the percentage of poetry readers in the 18–24 demographic doubled over those same years. But the way poetry is published and distributed is arcane and at times hinders the craft.
I’m also very excited to continue pushing the boundary of what people might consider poetry, from theVERSEverse, which works to onboard traditional poets and pair them with crypto native artists to create truly unique works of poetic art, many of which we plan to exhibit in virtual and IRL exhibitions throughout this year.
5. What book/TV show/ Film would you recommend?
I am currently reading “Dreaming in Cuban” by Christina Garcia, rereading “The House on Mango Street,” by Sandra Cisneros, slow dancing with “Postcolonial Love Poem,” by Natalie Diaz (which won the Pulitzer Prize) and reading a lot of Shakespeare as part of my coursework for my MFA in Poetry.
I would like to thank Ana for such a beautifully written interview and if you would like to find out more you can do so here.