<strong>NEXT:</strong> Carlos, how have the past few years with the pandemic, and our country’s racial and political divide, informed your art?
Carlos Andrés Gómez: As an artist, I have always felt that an urgent responsibility. And all that’s happened in the last two years, from the pandemic to the Movement for Black Lives, has informed my work such that I feel that responsibility even more. But that being said, reckoning with race has always been central to my work, wrestling with urgent social and political ideas has always been central to my work. But I think that being a parent to two small kids and having my time so contested has changed the way I work, where I have to take advantage of little pockets of time wherever I can get them and generate as much as possible.
<strong>NEXT:</strong> You talk about how your role as an artist includes change. What do you want to do? How do you want to effect change?
Carlos Andrés Gómez: More than anything, I want to draw people’s attention to possibility with my art. I hope that my work can inspire people to think and feel in more complex and expansive ways, to slow down and take some time to think about the things that are often overlooked. I’m often telling stories. And I do that because a story is a really powerful vehicle to slow people down and draw attention to something otherwise lost in the shuffle of a day,
<strong>NEXT:</strong> The NEXT Movement is a call for artists to come together to collaborate meaningful ways to bring about change, especially at a moment like this. What makes you want to be part of NEXT?
Carlos Andrés Gómez: Movement is such a part of my work. I’m originally a New Yorker, and so much of my writing and even rehearsing would be on the train. And in a place like New York, you can rehearse and people would kind of glance over for a second, but they’ll leave you alone. So I feel very at home being in a subway car, reading a poem about the urgency of the moment that we’re living in right now. To me, writing and movement — they’re very, very connected.
<strong>NEXT:</strong> These are not easy times to be living through. What do you say to people who feel like there’s no hope, no way out of all this?
Carlos Andrés Gómez: If you look at history, it is a litany of moments that any rational person would look at as a snapshot in time and say, This is completely devoid of hope. What else is here but despair? And in each of those moments, there were changemakers. There were artists. They were revolutionaries who imagined a world that they had not yet seen, and they did the relentless, transformative work of making it possible. So I reject the notion of this moment being without hope. I reject the notion of giving into the despair I know a lot of us carry with us right now. And I commit every single day to that relentless work of transformation and of working toward the world we have yet to see.
<strong>NEXT:</strong> Last question — in the midst of all this movement, all of your work, what was your day-to-day life like during the early days of the pandemic?
Carlos Andrés Gómez: The first year of the pandemic, I was basically in lockdown in my house, with my incredible wife who was working full-time and teaching our daughter in kindergarten, and I was essentially daycare for our son. So we were doing the best we could. Like a lot of parents, it was a full-time job as a daycare facilitator or homeschool teacher, so I would do shows at night. I did 171 virtual gigs this way. It was the most challenging, joyful, terrifying, overwhelming experience I’ve had in my life, and it’s something I will continue to remember and that definitely informs the urgency I feel right now as an artist. I also feel a greater appreciation for when I have time to write or even think, because I didn’t have time to think or dream, which made me realize how much I take for granted as an artist. Because without dreaming, without brainstorming and drafting, writing and revising and failing constantly, none of these poems — none of this work is possible.