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Ones to Watch: Leticia Sala

Leticia Sala is reinventing what it means to be a power woman. As a Spanish law graduate previously working for the UN, the Barcelona-based poet has fully shifted towards the arts and expression. From contributing to Vogue to writing songs for internationally renowned Spanish singers like Rosalía and Aitana, Sala has worked across the map. Last year, she was featured in Mango’s international campaign that featured six trailblazing women who have changed their roles; she also published her first book, Scrolling After Sex, which truthfully conveys her experience as a woman in Barcelona through fiction. Milk spoke with the writer about the empowering creatives she surrounds herself with (see: Carlota Guerrero + Paloma Lanna), her personal growth as an artist, and what we should expect from her upcoming book.

What’s on your bookshelf, bedside, and what’s in your bag?

On my bookshelf, there is a very bizarre mix of photography and art books, such as Deanna Templeton or Harmony Korine, and then some classics and contemporary books. I like to see this mix as a reflection of my work: working on the timeless issues from a contemporary perspective and giving a lot of importance to the images created by words. 

On my night table there is always the book that I am reading now, and two books adrift, lost in silence. Then a lamp, and water. 

My bag is always a mess. You could find anything there.

What poetry do you know by heart? Which poem do you hold closest to your heart? Why?

The poetry of Mary Oliver is what penetrates resounds most in me. To me her work is the perfect example that writing about the things we experience in our daily lives – dogs, a walk in the country, flowers – can be the most luminous things in the world.

If you are holding this book, by Mary Oliver:

You may not agree, you may not care, but

if you are holding this book you should know

that of all the sights I love in this world

— and there are plenty — very near the top of

the list is this one: dogs without leashes.”

“All important ideas must include the trees, the mountains, and the rivers.” Also, something said by Mary Oliver.

How does your poetry connect to music? You’ve worked with Rosalía – what was that process like?

I think that there is a lot of imagery in my poetry. It is something that I didn’t realize myself, but was pointed out by my friend Pablo, El Guincho. I am very sensitive to rhythm and the cadence of the lines I write. I think that in order to shape lovely lines you have to listen to their musicality. All lines contain sound that I think that can be borne easily into song. I always joke that all the rhythm I lack when I dance has gone into looking for it in writing.

Working with Rosalía and El Guincho has been one of the most stimulating things that has happened to me since I decided to commit to words. The process of composing a song with someone is a lot of fun; thinking of the story for each song, and finding the right words, together.

You come from such a creative and empowering group of friends from Barcelona – are there any newcomers that we should keep an eye out for?

They are not newcomers, but definitely keep an eye on Camila Falquez and Olga de la Iglesia – two photographers from Barcelona who now live in Nueva York.

Can you tell us about your second book?

My second book is going to focus on poetry. It will be bilingual; the poems will be in Spanish and English. I refuse to believe that poetry cannot be translated; it shouldn’t be enclosed in only one language. For now I cannot say any more, but I feel tremendously moved by this second book; in getting to know myself better as a poet, and because of the chance that my words could reach more people.

From Nike to Gucci, what’s been your favorite campaign to work on so far? Why?

Perhaps my favorite campaign has been Mango. Last year I was selected for Mango’s international campaign as one of six game-changing women who have reinvented their roles. I was thrilled that the campaign focused on celebrating women who have changed their careers utterly. I’m pleased that this effort and the difficulties involved have been recognized.

In what ways have you personally seen/felt growth in the past year?

This past year will always be the year that I published my first book. What has changed is my commitment to writing: the will to want to continue publishing in spite of the challenges involved, to improve my technique, and to be sensitive to the influence that my words might have on the people who read me.

The most revealing conclusion I’ve drawn has been that no matter how much success or failure is going on in my professional life, there is a deeper life that is not affected by any of it, which doesn’t walk away but demands different forms of nourishment (nature, honesty, movement and meditation).

In transitioning from a lawyer to a full-time poet/writer – what moments were the most difficult? Which moments gave you hope?

The most difficult moments in the transition from lawyer to writer were managing to monetize my work fairly, while doing away with the economic security being a lawyer provided. There was a leap of faith.

Being an intangible art, poetry is often not given its due I think it deserves. But, luckily, it is being considered more and more as an art form that can become a service, such as photography, for example. Poetry is being integrated into the market on par with the other arts.

The truth is that the times that gave me hope when I began to publish my writing were those when I could see that I was stirring emotions in my readers. I received beautiful messages from people who told me what they felt when reading my work. And that gave me a clue of where my place in life could be.  We write to be loved.

You also worked at the UN in New York – do you find yourself tapping into the global knowledge you collected in your current writing?

Yes. Working at the UN gave me a very clear sense of the global, and made me feel in a sincere way how very real we were all equal when it came to emotions. That is why I like poetry; it is a channel which, since it focuses on the essence of ideas, connects all of us.

What do your notes look like? 

I have 4,000 notes in my mobile phone. If I look at them in a row it makes me laugh how things like “half a watermelon” from my shopping list can be mixed with “the words that grow old with you,” an idea that I jotted down in the middle of a conversation during supper in Menorca with a good friend of mine. My phone notes are a good place where almost all my poems have germinated.

What advice would you give to someone trying to become a better writer?

I would tell them to base themselves on the reactions of their own body in order to write. If while they write or re-read, they cry, or feel pain or excitement, then this is the text that is worth it: whatever they say, whether it is published or not. I think that in order to be a better writer, emotional commitment to the piece must be absolute. That is not always easy. As Salinger would say: ask yourself if all your stars light up.

Images courtesy of Paloma Lanna.

Photo collages courtesy of Julia Rutzen

Stay tuned to Milk for more Ones to Watch.

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