First Language(s): Portuguese
Second Language(s): English
Isabella Cruz Pantoja is a Brazilian writer who, despite having gone to college for music production, now spends most of her time contemplating new ways to name the world. Her poems have appeared or are forthcoming in Litbop: Art and Literature in the Groove, Plainsongs, and Brave Voices. You can find her on Twitter @isapetal.
What was your favorite book as a child?
I must have read O Livro Mágico da Bruxinha Nicolau (or The Magical Book of the Little Witch Nicolau, if we’re trying our hand at translation now) at least once a month from ages 7–10. It’s about a young witch who hatches from her cocoon after being forgotten for hundreds of years in a cave. It’s the first book I read that I remember relating to — the landscapes were my familiar tropical ones, her history, as convoluted and fantastically written as it was, the history of a lot of people in this country: all of us flung out, through time and various continents. My reading catalog can be divided into two sections: B.N. (Before Nicolau) which would be classic fairy tales and endless Beatrix Potter tales, and A.N. (After Nicolau) which means everything else, in all its wonderful, endless expanse.
What was the original reason or motivation why you started writing creatively?
Boredom and spite. I spent a lot of time alone growing up, and my first creative outlet was the guitar, so I would play that and try to come up with new lyrics to go with the chord progressions of songs I already knew. Later on, I got a lot of discouragement in middle and high school in all my writing assignments, and so I began to write on my own time (mainly in English as a way to protect myself, I realize now) to try and get better at it. I thought I’d really show those teachers! That obviously didn’t really work, but the routine of writing was so enjoyable to me I became fascinated by it, and the craft of it. Once I read a Clarice Lispector quote where she talks about punctuation being the sentence’s breath, and asks not to be corrected since that is the way her sentence in particular breathes, my entire world shifted on its axis. I think that’s when I really started to write with a love of language itself in mind; of what it could possibly do if I was clever and gentle enough with it.
What was the most adventurous or thrilling thing you ever did/experience
I lived in Los Angeles for a very brief time when I was eighteen, and my only friend during that period was another teenager also doing her brief stint in the U.S., so I’m sure you’re not surprised to hear we really didn’t know what was going on at any given moment in time and were surviving on luck and bravado alone. That leads me to my favorite moment that year: spending the entire afternoon at Angeles National Park, wandering a little too far, getting distracted by the sunset and realizing it was a good while after closing. There was no one left except us, and the coyotes a very kind woman wearing athleisure warned us about. We walked in the dark until we got to a fence bordering the freeway, and got an uber from there. Still haven’t forgotten the feeling of the whipping wind from all those cars on my scratched up shins.
Do you listen to music while reading or writing?
I never listen to music when reading or writing, or focusing on anything really, I get too distracted. I have a background in music, that’s what I went to college for, so I’ll completely drift off and start thinking of the weird placement of a bass in the mix or wondering if I can recognize where that synth sound comes from, it seems so familiar...
To the Flung Out
Issue Spring '23