By Julia Stewart
Jack Little has worn more hats in the first two decades of his life than most do in ten. He is an intriguing mix of sportsman and poet, social activist and school teacher.
Jack came to the attention of the editor of In Other Words: Merida, Cher Bibler, because he is likewise editor of an online literary magazine functioning out of Mexico City called The Ofi Press.
Jack’s poetry has been published in 3:AM Magazine (UK), In Other Words: Merida (Mexico), Scissors and Spackle (USA), Bakwa Magazine (Cameroon), Ink, Sweat and Tears (UK) The Barehands Anthology (Ireland) and Wasafiri (UK), among others. His poems have featured on the Young Poets Network website and he writes a regular column for The Bubble online magazine.
Here we take a look inside the life of a young man rising.
Q: Let’s start with what drew you from your home in England to Mexico at such an early age?
A: I graduated from university in 2009 with a Political Science degree and I was looking for work and a new adventure. I always wanted to live abroad, and on a trip to Cuba in 2009 for the 50th anniversary of the revolution, I met several new friends from Latin America. One was Mexican and he invited me to visit, which prompted me to quit my teaching job in the north east of England and a few months later I arrived in Mexico with only £300 and a bag of clothes. I haven’t looked back since! I’ve worked as a textbook proof reader, as a translator, and now I am a primary school teacher. I’ve learnt Spanish and had many wonderful opportunities…I’ve worked hard, but no doubt I’ve been lucky too.
Q: You manage the Mexican cricket team. Tell us more about the team and how you landed this job.
A: It’s all about timing. I had never even played cricket in the UK, but when I arrived in Mexico, I befriended a young British cricketer and teacher called Yasir Patel who, at the time, was the captain of the Mexico team. I was also friends with Jon Bonfiglio, a poet, dramatist and explorer with the Clipperton Project who also happened to be the national cricket association’s chairman at the time. When the then manager resigned, Yasir asked me to step in as manager for Mexico at the ICC Division 4 Tournament in San José, Costa Rica where Mexico played against Belize, the Falkland Islands, Chile, and Peru, as well as the host country. Despite Mexico being a strong team, we finished fourth in the tournament.
We at the Mexican Cricket Association are pushing to get more Mexicans interested in the sport. I conduct cricket training sessions twice a week at the school where I work. In May I’ll host a cricket camp for kids in Mexico City and from Queretaro State and I’m really excited about that. In August, I’ll step down as secretary at the Mexican Cricket Association, but will continue in my role as a club captain of the Mexico City Cricket Club 2nd team and also as a youth coach.
Q: In Mexican cricket, do they maintain the traditional tea-breaks, and how do they differ from in England?
A: Here in Mexico, the focus is less on tea drinking and more on beer. There is a bar close to the pitch, so many players enjoy a beer or two before the game starts. I guess that has something to do with the blazing heat! Each team has a real mix of nationalities – British, Australians, South Africans, Argentinians, Mexicans, Indians and others. Each brings their own little bit of culture with them to the cricket ground.
Q: Cricket is said to have inspired much poetry: i.e. Francis Thompson’s ‘At Lord’s’ (“the field is full of shades”). Does cricket make an appearance in your poetry?
A: Cricket hasn’t been a theme in my poetry yet, but why not in the future! I am very interested in how we as people use our space around us, in the British colonial past, and the use of dialects and accents.
Q: Are cricket-playing poets very common where you come from, or are you a rare bird?
A: There is one excellent poet called S.J. Litherland who comes from the north east of England and she wrote an excellent collection of poetry as an homage to the ex-captain of the English team, Nasser Hussain. She travels all over the world to see England play!
Q: Are there other sports you are involved in?
A: I am developing the Mexico Darts Association – of which I’m one of the founders – and am organising a Mexico team for the 2014 Darts World Cup, as well as formal leagues here in Mexico City.
Q: Mexico City, with 20 million people in the metropolitan area, is one of the world’s largest cities. Does this have any effect on your creativity, your poetry and your state of mind?
A: I love Mexico City; the chaos, the bustle, the beauty of the place and it impacts heavily on my work. The sounds, smells and sites are very different indeed to the north of England and I often compare and contrast these two markers of my own identity. I think that for any poet or writer, the area they occupy in place and time will always have a vital impact upon one’s work.
Q: What is your role in the 2013 collaborative poetry project Enemigos and why is it titled so?
A: The Enemigos project reflects the possibilities of poetry in collaboration. Enemigos is a special link between London-based and Mexico City-based poets, all of which are of an extremely high caliber. I had collaborated with organsiers Rocío Cerón and SJ Fowler in the past through The Ofi Press. My role, as a London-born poet now living in Mexico City, was initially to place the poets together by reading their work and looking for signs that they would be able to work together. Collaborative writing can be quite a conflictive process at times!
Once the book is ready, I shall write a short foreword for the book which will be published in May of this year by EBL Cielo Abierto.
Q: Your regular columns in Bubble magazine offer up slices of Mexican culture. What type of feedback have you received on these stories?
A: To be quite honest, I’m not really quite sure if anyone at all reads my column! It does provide me with a good excuse to research my new home country though and I have written several pieces on the Day of the Dead, environmental degradation, narco corridos, Mexican food, pulque and many other topics. I love to write and discover new things so I find the process to be really quite rewarding, even if not many people read the articles.
Q: In one of your bios, you mention that you enjoy “sleeping on park benches”; does that mean you hit the bars too hard or that you can’t pay rent at times?
A: Haha! Not quite. I rarely drink to be honest and I have never had too much trouble with paying the rent. My nickname is “The Granddad” because of my old soul.
Having said that, when I first arrived in Mexico, I used to enjoy finding new parks in the city, watching people pass by, doing some writing and then falling asleep for an hour or so in the sun. Now with a full time job as a primary school teacher as well as my other projects, I find that I have a lot less time to indulge my hobby of park bench sleeping. The Easter holidays are coming up though, so I’ll probably take an afternoon off for this.
Q: Are you by any chance related to the famous British-born American composer and singer “Little” Jack Little?
A: No, but my mum is an established poet in the UK and my father has just finished his fourth in a series of detective novels based in the north east of England. Before you know it, the Littles might just have made a reputation for themselves!
Q: If a poet or writer had 24 hours in Mexico City and wanted to be inspired, where would you send them?
A: I would send them for a long walk in order to get lost in the city. You only really get to know a place by getting lost there. You also find out a lot about yourself too! On my first morning in Mexico, I woke up at 6 am and walked through the small villages on the outskirts of DF where I was staying. I passed pig skins hanging in shop windows, loud music playing, brightly coloured market stalls and exotic fruits…I have to say, I was hooked.
Q: You originally came to Mexico for a finite period of time (six months), but have stayed well beyond that. Do you see your future here? Are there other countries in the world that you would like live in as well, and why?
A: I’ve been lucky to have visited many countries so far in my life, like Tanzania, China, Cuba, Thailand and many European countries. I have never felt quite so at home in any of those places as I have done here. I will be getting married in July to a lovely lady whom I met here three years ago and I plan to take dual Mexican-UK nationality. Mexico is home for me now but I would never say never to leaving for another country. The world is a very big place with much to offer.
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