Saturday, October 2, 2010

Interview With Lorenzo of The Alchemist's Pillow

How do I introduce this fine man, Lorenzo, and do him justice?  It is a difficult task, for when I think of Lorenzo, and his blog The Alchemist's Pillow, I am usually rendered speechless, like a whimpering groupie.  He literally seduces me with his winsome words.  One paragraph or poem and I cannot catch my breath, and my brain, thus deprived of oxygen, goes into incoherent spasms.  Don't laugh ... just see what happens to you when you visit The Alchemist's Pillow and come under the spell of his enchantments!
(The poems and images in this post are the copyrighted property of Lorenzo and The Alchemist's Pillow.)  Now on to our feature interview:

Lorenzo, could you give us a brief overview of who you are, where you live, current interests or preoccupations?

I am a 53 year old American living in Spain, where I work as a translator. I have been married to María for over 20 years now and we have two daughters (19 and 17). My mother was born in Spain one year into the civil war and left the country when she was around 15. My father was born in Brooklyn, a first generation immigrant from Lebanon-Syria. Sadly, the link to Lebanon and Syria was completely lost (or was it?), but the one to Spain remained alive and vibrant and some 25 years ago drew me here to live.

What would this American living in Spain name as his strengths?

I am generous with everything but my time.

Could you name one weakness:

I am stingy with my time. You said one; I could go on and on, but … that would take so much time.

Continuing with some of Marcel Proust' famous questions, what do you consider your greatest achievement?

I am completely stumped. I do take some faint pride in that such a question should stump me. I would probably answer the friends I have made.

What quality do you value most in those friends?

An open heart, in the conviction that an open heart opens the mind, the eyes and most everything else.

If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?

I always have a very tough time with such questions because I tend to think that if I changed myself or my past in any way, the person answering this would not be exactly me so the reply would be different. It is sort of like aspiring to be tall enough to be able to see myself from above. But, I do mean to be a ‘cooperative’ interviewee here, Bonnie, so I will answer by saying, I wish I knew more languages.

You know, a lack of co-operation can make for a very interesting exchange ... maybe next time you will feel comfortable enough to be difficult!  
I have read wonderful essays and poems on your blog. What is your favourite form of expression?

It depends on the moment and mood and on the mysterious alignment of I know not what stars. There is no single form, although I am finding myself increasingly drawn to poetry.

Have you had any of your work published? If not, is it something you aspire to?

Not really, unless you count a review of the Madrid flamenco scene I did for the Time Out City Guide many years ago. I do not submit for publication. I daydream about it, but I feel that blogging, apart from changing my life, is bound to change what we mean by ‘publishing’. Some of the bloggers I read have hundreds or even thousands of followers and are perhaps read by more people than actually read the journals they submit their writings to.

I am very happy writing on The Alchemist’s Pillow and, more than daydream about being published elsewhere, I long to write more and better things there to share with my dear readers. Of course, if this widens my readership, that would be very fantastic. But I only began 10 months ago and I am absolutely delighted with where I am today, with my little circle of readers and friends.

The Portuguese poet Fernando Pessoa wrote that he had no ambitions for or in his poetry, saying that “I write down what I feel to lower the fever of feeling” and “writing poems is my way of being alone”. I share those sentiments and, I would add, the best discovery for me about the blog world is that I am not as alone as I had thought.

If I recall correctly, you were born in the United States. How long have you lived in Spain?

Actually, I was born in Venezuela and lived there until just shy of my 5th birthday. We then moved to the US, to New Jersey specifically, where I lived until the age of 28. I have now been in Spain for over 25 years. I have family here in Spain, in the States and in Venezuela.

You are truly a citizen of the world!  What are the advantages (for you) of living in Spain?

Oh, countless. But I am sure I would say the same about anywhere I lived. I tell myself that there is no spot on this earth that we could not live 1000 lives in without exhausting all of its possibilities. And I sometimes convince myself I mean it. But 25 years is a long time and I have come to love and embrace so much of the culture, the regional diversity, food, poetry and other literature, music, and above all, the people. It is always a bit silly to speak in generalities about such things, but I have to say that Spaniards are very warm and welcoming.

Are there any disadvantages you have encountered?

None that I need to name. In the spirit of my previous reply I would just say that the main disadvantage of being here is that I am not anywhere else. I love to travel and, were it not for how attached I get to people and places, I would have loved to live in many different countries. I do miss the US, my family and friends there, the New York City jazz scene… many, many things.

Who are your favourite writers, poets?

My favorite writers or poets change and evolve constantly. In recent times I am on a Mary Oliver kick. I also get much of late from reading Joseph Campbell, Roberto Calasso, Fernando Pessoa. I have always been a rather voracious reader but over the years have become an incredibly slow reader, mainly because what I read inspires so much that I stop at every paragraph and daydream and fantasize and scribble in the margins and whatever piece of paper is at hand.

What is your favourite cuisine?

I have an adventurous palate and love to try new foods, a wanderlust of the tongue and taste buds. There is almost nothing that I dislike and will not eat. Spanish cuisine is wonderful and highly varied. I am also partial to Japanese food. Italy and France are great for eating. I could go on and on …

What do you consider the most over-rated virtue?

Material wealth and external good looks. I am sure that I, too, over-rate these features.

Which living person do you most admire?

Probably Nelson Mandela in the world of the ‘famous’. There are so many ‘anonymous’ people whose virtues I feel inspired and humbled by that the list would be very lengthy.

 Is there a historical figure, or a figure from literature, you identify with?   Perhaps Don Quixote.

 How does Lorenzo play?

I play with words, love puns to an obnoxious fault. I like to invent words. Also, I am a lifelong runner, but sore knees have made me quit and turn to biking. No matter how often I do it, there is something about getting on a bike that takes me back to being a little boy at play.

How do you attend to your spiritual needs?

Listening to music, visiting certain nature spots that have special meaning to me. Writing. Whatever makes me feel the buzz of connection to nature and other people. Long walks by myself on trails.

Is there one thing you wish you had learned or discovered earlier in your life?

Many, but I would say I wish I had not been as dogmatic and vehement about certain things (politics mainly) and achieved earlier in life the open-mindedness that I now prize.

What do you still want to learn?  

To think with my heart and feel with my mind.

How do you make your life meaningful?  

By opening my eyes.

What is your greatest fear?

My greatest fears are unspeakable and probably not very original at that, so I’ll leave it there.

What sustains you through difficult times?

I think I have a rich inner life I can recede into when the waters about me get too rough.

What two or three pieces of advice would you give to a young person just starting out?

Number one: never play poker with a guy named Doc. Sorry, I’ve been waiting to use that line for years now.

Actually, I have very limited faith in my ability, and the ability of elders in general, to really guide young people in any way other than by example, good and bad. This is probably due to my own thickheadedness when young. I would say travel, travel to new lands, travel in new cultures and travel in new languages. Travel until you richly grasp the wisdom of Proust when he said “the real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes but in having new eyes.”

I'll watch out for that 'guy named Doc' in all my future poker games!  Now, what brought you to blogging?

I needed a vehicle for expressing myself through writing.

How did you decide upon the name "The Alchemist's Pillow"?

It sort of came to me one day while running. As I don’t dream (or remember my dreams), I daydream; ‘directed dreaming’, I call it. Running was a way into that part of me. A pillow is the seat of dreams.

As for the alchemy, I like it as a metaphor for what we need to do with the world around us. Mary Oliver works alchemy in that she turns base materials around us into gold. Art does that in general. Also, alchemy, can be viewed as a failed enterprise, founded on a fallacy. Yet, from alchemy humanity developed much science, philosophy, literature, medicine. Reaping fruits from one failure after another is essential to human progress and individual spiritual development. Churchill said that “success is going from failure to failure without ever losing your enthusiasm”.

What is the significance of the blue elephant as your avatar?

I would like to know that myself. It came to me on one of those daydreaming runs and I feel that the lapis lazuli elephant chose me. One of my goals in starting the blog was to find out why.

What keeps you blogging?

Without doubt, the community of blog friends that has developed. This was a rich, amazing, surprising, stimulating and very, very satisfying discovery. A game changer really.

What have you learned from the experience of blogging?

Personally, that I want and need to write poems. Generally, that there are so many fine souls out there aching to engage in the kind of dialogue and multi-throated conversation that blogging allows.

What is one thing about you that would surprise the readers of your blog?

People seem to be surprised when they learn that I have a degree in mathematics or that I worked as a teamster loading and unloading trucks for nine years.

What is your favorite word?

Hhhhmmmm… serendipity and synchronicity. In Spanish, simple rich words like amigo, alma (soul), abuela (grandmother).

What is your least favorite word?   No.

What turns you on creatively, spiritually, or emotionally?

Immersing myself in beauty in all its form; art, poetry, music, mainly jazz, but many others.

What turns you off?   Bigotry, chauvinism.

What sound or noise do you love?

The sound of water … how it babbles in a stream, murmurs in the sea, splashes in a city fountain, gurgles in a water fountain.

What sound or noise do you hate?

The blasted motorcycles ridden by so many kids here in Spain. Urrggghh!

What question have I neglected to ask that would give readers even more insight into who you are?

Have you actually read all those writers that you are continuously citing and quoting?

What is the answer to that question?   No, but I’m getting there.


Thank you Lorenzo.  It's been a delight to work with you on this project and to better know the man behind the blog. 

Do check back after you leave a comment; Lorenzo will be responding to your comments here.  To enjoy Lorenzo's blog, The Alchemist's Pillow click  here.


  1. A truly wonderful interview, Bonnie! I love Lorenzo's blog, and have been reading it for a while now. His poetry is some of the most impressive I've found yet in cyberspace. A modest, generous, creative and extremely likeable man, with a great gift for words.

  2. nice. lorenzo is the bomb. i have an adventurous palate as to try new things...was nice to get a bit more behind the that you dont know about the elephant...smiles. great interview...

  3. bonnie thanks for this excellent interview with someone i'd love to meet one day. lorenzo radiates qualities that i deeply admire! the greatest of which is presence of self. steven

  4. How wonderful, Bonnie, to hear so much about Lorenzo.

    We meet Lorenzo in the blogosphere. Some of this knowledge we pick up in passing, but the fuller story - though of course never complete - comes out here in your interview.

    Thank you.

  5. Thanks, Bonnie, for all the work and enthusiasm you have put into this project, which I have enjoyed very much. Your kind words for me and my blog are really gratifying. I am delighted to see that the first two comments come from blog friends whose own blogs I find so consistently stimulating, Robert of Solitary Walker and Brian of WaystationOne.

    It has been fun to see the other interviews, meet new bloggers and learn more about the people behind the blogs I already follow. And I have enjoyed peeling away a bit of my blog anonymity here as well. In that spirit, I will be very happy to answer any questions your reader care to put to me.

  6. Hi, Steven. I am delighted that you would love to meet someday as I have long felt the same way about the blogger behind the consistently uplifting 'golden fish2, 'gone to earth' and, more recently, 'cycles' blogs. One of my pet daydreams, in fact, is to see you come out here with your wife to get to know Madrid (and me) and then to go out for some bike rides together.

  7. Nice to see you here, Elisabeth. The truth is that it's beautiful to see you anywhere. The writing, feeling and thinking in your 'Sixth in Line' blog is always engaging and compelling and your are a thoughtful commenter on my blog and many others. I wish you much healing as you continue to mend from the horrible accident you had a few (three?) weeks ago.

  8. Bonnie, I absolutely loved your breathless introduction to Lorenzo, because I relate to it completely, ever since I first found him at The Alchemist’s Pillow back in April. Not only has my blogging pleasure expanded by knowing Lorenzo and his pillow, but I feel my own blog writing and posts have improved as a result of knowing him. Also, he is one of the stellar poets I mentioned in my interview (so long ago!) who fired up my own poetry writing engines again.

    To Lorenzo, one of the things I love about you is your sense of humor, just as it comes through in this interview. I like what you say about blogging coming into its own as an important avenue for readership. Your answers show your quick turn of mind, and yes, I’ve witnessed some of those puns in comments here and there, with a smile (and sometimes a groan). By the way, we just watched “Invictus” and if you haven’t seen it yet (I bet you have), it’s quite wonderful. Finding your life meaningful by “opening my eyes” is a terrific response. OK, I won’t go on and on the way I’d like.

    Bonnie, thank you, once again, with all my heart, for this vast project of love.

  9. Lorenzo: Like Bonnie, you are a treasure. And the act of discovering you and your work is like finding one. Sort of that sense of surprise, shock, and immediate connectivity - all to the positive, of course. It was a pleasure to read about you, and then to read your work. In so many ways, my new friend, I am in. EFH

  10. Lorenzo has been reading me for a while but, I'm sorry to say, I've only been following him for a short time. Thanks for helping me catch up, so to speak, with this lovely interview. All these wonderful and interesting lives, these well traveled folk make me feel quite ordinary though I find things in common with them all, most recently Lorenzo.

  11. This was a terrific interview, Bonnie and Lorenzo, and I was thrilled to see it pop up on my screen, just as I am thrilled every time I see a new posting on "The Alchemist's Pillow." I absolutely love Lorenzo's poetry, which is sometimes playful, sometimes deeply moving, sometimes deeply evocative, but always beautifully and thoughtfully rendered. One cannot read Lorenzo's words, including not only his poetry, but his prose as well, without wanting to return for more.

    I must, however, take issue with Lorenzo's suggestion that he is not generous with his time. I don't believe you could find a single member of the blogging community who would agree with that. When I began my blog about five or six months ago, Lorenzo was one of the first to offer heartfelt support for my new adventure, and it has continued with every passing week. My experience, moreover is not unique. I have seen Lorenzo's support for myriad others in the blogging community. He is an open heart which is always opening the hearts of others.

    All of this is to say that I regard Lorenzo as not only a fine writer, but also a fine friend. Thanks so much for this wonderful interview that provides new perspectives on a man whom I both respect and admire.

  12. Bonnie,

    this is just entirely too incredible.

    Lorenzo has enriched my life . Truly. His soul seems to sing a music through his posts and comments to me ( and others ) . A music that always makes me feel like late night extended dinners and conversations and good food and drink and the moments when we transcend to the joy and beauty of life . I appreciate that his knowledge and genius feels completely accessible. I am humbled and yet inspired , and that is the glory of a good artist .

  13. Oh I'm heading over there RIGHT now. Thanks again, Bonnie!

    Aloha from Honolulu

    Comfort Spiral

  14. Bonnie, thank you for this series on your favorite bloggers. It's a great guide to the best of the best, and I'm grateful to you for pointing out some new voices in the lovezone.

  15. Hi Bonnie! Nice interview and I learned much about Lorenzo. I thought he was a native Spaniard or Italian with perfect English (I don't always read the profiles). His poetry is descriptive, romantic and somewhat 19th century, which I love. I've always thought him highly intelligent. Now I know why...all that math. LOL!

  16. Hi Bonnie, this yet another stunning interview.
    Lorenzo - getting to know a little more about the hand that wealds the pen is fascinating and a truly enjoyable read

  17. Ruth, the writing on your blog is really like music to me, so to hear you say that my own blog has contributed to yours and helped fire up your poetry engines is really the highest praise.

    I did see 'Invictus' recently with my oldest daugther and thoroughly enjoyed it, especially the glimpse it gave her on who Mandela is and the road he travelled. I remember years ago when he was in prison, every year loads of people would write birthday letters (long before email) to him as a sign of support. I sent a few myself. Though he probably neve saw them, they were a message to the apartheid regime. I wonder what ever happened to those letters?

    Yes, 'opening my eyes' is enough to make life meaningful; life seems to take care of the rest. I do have to add that it has taken me most of my life to learn this simple lesson and that when I say "my eyes", I do feel in some real way that they are actually collective eyes gifted to me by many friends and bloggers and writers like you.

  18. George: Lest people think this is just one big mutual admiration society, I will be brief. Thanks, as always for your generous words. The most generous word of all that you use is "friend" and this does warm my heart, as I, too, consider you to be good friend. The best thing is that all of this is just beginning ...

  19. Hi, Deb. Such beautiful words for me! I am touched. I especially love hearing you liken my blog offerings to late night after-dinner conversations, as it dovetails so nicely with what I have just posted about the post-meal tertulias here in Spain. Also, considering that your wonderful blog is called Talk at the Table, your words seem especially warm to me. And by the way, about that title, Talk at the Table, when I read your blog, I imagine we are chatting at the kitchen table not in a fancing dining room or restaurant. Though some may consider the kitchen table to be 'beneath' certain guests, I think you will agree with me in my belief that a seat for conversation at the kitchen table is a genuine place of honor only offered to and occupied by true friends.

  20. Hola to the aloha girl, Claudia. Nice to see you here and on my blog.

  21. Hello, Dan. I don't believe we've been 'formally' introduced, but it's great to meet up here at Bonnie's place. I agree with you on how valuable these interviews have been and echo the gratitude you express.

  22. Oops, Kent (of Expat From Hell), I meant to take this in order but somehow skipped by you and Ellen. I know what you mean by that senation of instant connectivity. Goes both ways, my new friends. You have a unique and rich blog voice and I look forward to further connections.

  23. Hi, Ellen. Great to see you here. Yes, you are right, I have been enjoying your blog since shortly after I began blogging and am heartened to see you following mine.

  24. California Girl, delighted to see you here. I really enjoyed doing the interview with Bonnie and revealing a bit more about myself. So what makes you think it is the math, and not the unloading trucks, behind all those alleged smarts of mine? ;)

  25. Thanks, Gwei, you are always a kind and thoughtful commenter.

  26. Lorenzo's poet heart welcomed me immediately, months ago, which already feels like years. His nature is one so generous, so genuine, I wish he were my neighbor or brother, to draw him closer, learn more of him. In Lorenzo, through him, in so many ways, I have seen the world. And it is beautiful.

  27. Terresa,I am very touched and moved by your heartfelt words, for they chime so well with the sustenance and inspiration I find in your writing and blog. Truly, your eyes help open my eyes to so much of the beauty all around us.

  28. Dear Lorenzo,

    I was happy to read Bonnie's interview - as only a few days prior I'd been directed to your blog via one of this great blogger-group's recommendations and had found it full of thought provoking, well-considered posts. As has been noted by others, I also appreciate that you share your poetry with us (No Milk, No Poem was a great entry into your writings on the day I first arrived!!). What you mention in this interview about not feeling a need to seek publication was also interesting to me as that's something I waver with.

    Anyway, I'd been shy in commenting on your blog but now that we've "met" I'll speak up sometime soon :-)


  29. Hey there, neighbor. I am glad you have put aside that shyness and commented here at Bonnie's. I'll be looking forward to seeing you on the alchemist's pillow and will now dash off to your blog ...

  30. Lorenzo....
    our kitchen table is our home. breaking bread with friends . I chose that name for a variety of reasons... but yes this is the essence of coming together. something I didn't have until later in life, but will never take for granted.

  31. Thank you for an awesome interview, Bonnie. Lorenzo is another person I admire very much. He goes beyond being a blogger and turns it into an art. Lorenzo welcomes the reader into his world and is a teacher of many things. I love the poems and pictures you have added. The questions and answers are excellent. This is a wonderful glimpse into Lorenzo's life and thoughts.

  32. Thanks for this great interview. I have been following Lorenzo for about a year and find him to be such a creative, supportive, good-spirited soul. It was great to learn more about his "back story".

  33. Wow, that was a fun interview. I feel like I have the type of sense of this gentleman that would make me feel like I knew him in the important ways should we ever meet on a park bench.

    Nice job.

  34. This is a crazy-good interview. I'm so jealous of these questions. Would I like to ask them? Yes. Would I like to answer them? Uh-huh.


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