Words from Ana Maria Caballero

I knew I was a poet when, at twelve, I had to bike to the drugstore to purchase new notebooks for school halfway through the year, having filled mine up with poems. Years later, I created a blog called The Drugstore Notebook, where I shared my writing and book thoughts, in honor of the composition notebooks I so often had to purchase growing up. 

I signed up for my first creative writing class in high school. From there, I never stopped writing, furiously, in both Spanish and English, gathering my poems into files that filled my computer drives. 

It wasn’t until my son was born, and I paused working for a bit, that I had the mental space to cull my poems into a book, Entre domingo y domingo, thanks to which I became the first woman to win Colombia’s Jose Manuel Arango National Poetry Prize. Soon after, I published two chapbooks in English and was runner-up for the Academy of American Poets Prize.

Feeling that the life of a published poem was too short, too quiet, too insular, I turned my work into spoken-word videos that I shared on social media. Meanwhile, growing up in Miami, I saw how Art Basel helped transform the city and wondered why poetry, which I considered to be art, wasn’t part of the celebration.


My work is intensely connected to the moments of my life in which it’s produced. Entre domingo y domingo documents my twenties, most of which I spent in Bogotá’s urban sprawl. My two chapbooks, Reverse Commute and mid-life, explore what it means to suddenly become the caretaker to young children and aging, ill parents.  


In 2019, my son began having seizures. In an effort to heal him, our family explored every alternative and traditional treatment we could find, eventually marrying the worlds of alternative and traditional medicine to cure him. I furiously recorded this experience into a book called, A Petit Mal. This manuscript won the Beverly International Prize in Literature and was a finalist for five other prizes. It will be published in 2023 by UK-based press, The Black Spring Press Group.


When I read about Web3, I felt very strongly that blockchain provenance would prove revolutionary in expressing the value of a poem as a work of art, and I began creating a literary gallery. This vision became theVERSEverse.com. 


I believe Web3, which gives us the ability to transact digital poems in a way that adequately reflects their contribution to culture for what may be the first time in history, will reassert poetry’s agency and expand the way we experience verse, opening the door for poetry to be curated, exhibited, and collected as art. 


Poems are art, and I am committed to making this truth a tangible reality via the preverbal power of words and via technology.  

About My Practice

My poetry is rooted in the deeply intimate details of my day. Our desires, regrets, quests for purpose are inseparable from the logistics of living. We rip envelopes, answer emails, towel children, boil eggs, all while pondering the ultimate meaning of our existence. 

I tend to be very direct in my writing. When we over embellish what we’re feeling, it’s because we’re afraid of feeling it. I believe that only brutally honest and personal writing can be relatable–much less universal. Language doesn’t need to adorn itself to be powerful or beautiful.   

Much of my work explores how biology determines heteronormative societal rites, ripping the veil off romanticized motherhood—particularly notions that package female sacrifice as virtue. My poems are moments of observation, but also resistance.

I like to employ rhyme, which, in conversational texts, becomes a marked departure from our normal speech patterns and adds intention, play, and subversion to a text.

I believe the act of reading is the closest form of communion between two minds. When individuals converse, there is mediation, interpretation, negotiation. A mind before an image engages in an inner dialogue of interrogation, comprehension, valuation. But a mind deeply engaged with a text allows the language of the text to become its own. Thus, poetry’s power can extend beyond that of the aesthetic because words enter our mind to become indistinguishable from our thoughts, revealing emotions, ideas, beliefs we didn’t know we shared.

I'm heavily influenced by poets such as T.S. Eliot, Lucille Clifton, Louise Glück, and Sharon Olds—authors with unmistakable poetic voices. Beyond the form and diction of a poem, the soul of the poet must be palpable in order for the poem to communicate emotion. I seek to drench my verse with my soul. To this effect, and believing that few things are as intimate as the sound of our voice, my digital poems include a spoken-word component, combining poetic and physical voice to create a highly immersive experience.

My work fits within a long trajectory of text-based art, much of which could be considered performative--as the use of language implies an active rather than passive exchange with the work’s audience. From Ed Ruscha, to John Baldessari, to Tracey Emin, text in art overtly presents words as vessels of meaning. In doing so, such works touch upon the instability of language itself as a mechanism of storing and transmitting meaning. Words mean different things to each of us; meaning can evolve over time.

It is precisely this vulnerability that draws me to words. To borrow Derridean sentence structure: within the limitation lies the limitless. I believe words and their intended/unintended evocations remain the best tools we have to voice our private worlds.

As an artist plumbing the frontline of blockchain poetics, technology informs every decision I make related to my work's presentation and publication. I now imagine how my poems will occupy analog and digital spaces, searching for ways that they may thrive in both. I'm also interested in connecting poetry to creative coding and AI, not to illustrate verse, but to bring it into reciprocal dialogue with these technologies.

Via technology, poems can be exhibited, curated, and collected in the same way as digital art. I believe this will provoke a revolutionary shift in the way poetry engages with and seduces audiences, sparking long overdue conversations about poetry's cultural agency. To this effect, I recently published an article in Right Click Save in which I posit that to curate poetry as art is to disrupt, inviting readers and lovers of poetry to participate in this disruption by collecting it. Via my work at theVERSEverse.com, where texts by traditional poets are paired with crypto native artists, I’m working very hard to help create genre-defying, poetic works of art. 

Beyond notions of value, I am very much inspired by how technology can connect people around poetry. Spoken-word art, by virtue of its immersive nature, is a powerful bridge between our offline and networked selves. I'm committed to solidifying this bridge, to making it wider. 

I also believe that digital ownership via blockchain provenance will spark long overdue conversations about poetry's cultural & economic agency. I'm honored to be actively participating in such discussions.




With the forthcoming publication of a volume of poetry in Spanish & a nonfiction book in English, as well as several exhibitions of my digital poems taking place in the next twelve months, I’m at the point in my practice where I'm envisioning how best to merge my digital & analog poetics. I’m currently exploring how to transform my physical books into immersive exhibitions, both digital & physical. 


Additionally, I am also committed to leaning into my traditional writing practice and, via technology, sharing it with people who may not have the chance to interact with poetry in their daily lives. To this effect, I created a collection of works specially for GAZELL.iO called WAYS TO MISSPELL OBSIDIAN. This collection of three spoken-word artworks investigates and celebrates the storytelling potential of the long form poem. 


Following the passing of a very close friend, I composed “Juan,” a eulogy-in-verse. This text serves as both precursor and companion to “Ways to Misspell Obsidian,” a lyric essay written many years later in which details of Juan’s passing are braided into the story of the intoxication of my young son with nail polish remover. 


During my residency, I plan to cull from the many pages of my lyric essay to create two additional poetic artworks.


Together, these three texts–“Fathomless,” “Once,” and “Juan”–will form a triptych of shared signification, recursion, imagery, and vocabulary. 


I can’t wait to share them with the world and am so grateful to GAZELL.iO for believing in my vision, for believing that poems are works of art.

September 12, 2022