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The Tufts Daily
Where you read it first | Saturday, April 20, 2024

Tufts alumna Leticia Priebe Rocha navigates heartbreak and healing through poetry

The young poet recently released her debut chapbook, “In Lieu of Heartbreak, This is Like.”

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Leticia Priebe Rocha is pictured.

In the bustling world of poetry, where emotions cascade like rivers and words dance like leaves in the wind, every poet has a unique journey to share. The Daily recently sat down with Tufts alumna Leticia Priebe Rocha (A’20), a talented poet whose debut chapbook, “In Lieu of Heartbreak, This is Like,” explores themes of love, hurt and resilience.

Hailing from São Paulo, Brazil, Leticia immigrated to Miami, Fla. at 9 years old before finding her way to the Greater Boston area to attend Tufts. Reflecting on her journey, she recounts how her love for storytelling blossomed at a young age, nurtured by her mother's efforts to teach her English through captivating tales like “Harry Potter” and “The Chronicles of Narnia.” This early immersion in literature sparked a passion that would shape her future.

While Leticia initially dreamed of becoming a novelist, her path took a poetic turn during her high school years when she discovered the evocative verses of Sylvia Plath. Amid struggles with mental health issues, Leticia found solace in poetry, which laid the foundation for her creative journey. At Tufts, she continued to hone her craft by immersing herself in poetry classes and finding inspiration within a supportive community.

Leticia credits her time at Tufts, particularly her poetry classes with Natalie Shapero, former professor of the practice of poetry, for nurturing her creative journey. She highlights the supportive environment of the Tufts Observer and the validation of winning the prestigious Academy of American Poets Poetry Prize as significant milestones in her development as a writer.

The genesis of her debut poetry chapbook, “In Lieu of Heartbreak, This is Like,” stemmed from a deeply personal experience of heartbreak. Wrestling with the pain and vulnerability of romantic loss, she found herself pouring her emotions onto the page, confronting not only the end of a relationship but also deeper wounds from her past, including her relationship with her father.

I have a complicated relationship with my father. He left my family when I was a teenager, and my parents were already divorced, which in itself also impacts my view of love,” Leticia said. “So I’d never seen or had positive examples of romantic love, and that's another thing that the book delves into.”

Crafting and organizing the poems for her chapbook was an ever-changing process for Leticia. As she continually revisited and revised her manuscript, she found herself delving into themes of self-discovery, resilience and the different aspects of love. The title of her chapbook developed when she started writing and decided she didn’t want to call her experience a heartbreak – she knew that it was just a feeling, and nothing more than that.

“The fact that it is titled “In Lieu of Heartbreak, This is Like” opens up [the idea that] it’s not a full sentiment,” Leticia said. “Every poem in this book is what heartbreak is, essentially, and the different pieces and experiences of it.”

Her chapbook was published by Bottlecap Press, a small publishing company founded in 2014. Leticia reflects on her positive experiences working with the small press, emphasizing the collaborative nature of the publishing process. Despite facing rejection and self-doubt along the way, she encourages emerging poets to persevere, trusting in their voices while remaining open to growth and being in community with other writers. Leticia urges aspiring writers to understand that rejection is simply a natural part of the process.

“If you have something to say and if you feel the urge to write, you have to listen to that,” Leticia said. “You will have many doors slammed in your face before you get the mercy of a door opening, and that’s okay, because there [are] a lot of writers out there, and you just have to keep going and listening to your gut.”

Balancing her artistic pursuits with her day job as a User Experience researcher in the robotics division of the Toyota Research Institute, Leticia finds solace and inspiration in poetry, which she views as a vital part of her identity. She emphasizes the importance of surrounding herself with creativity and pursuing passions outside of work to maintain a sense of fulfillment.

“I have a million other responsibilities, so balancing my creative pursuits is 100% a labor of love,” Leticia said.

In a world where heartbreak and healing often go hand in hand, Leticia reminds us of the power of poetry to navigate life's complexities and find beauty in our most vulnerable moments.

You can purchase Leticia’s chapbook on the Bottlecap Press website or learn more about her work at leticiaprieberocha.com.

Correction: The article has been updated to reflect that Natalie Shapero is a former, not current, professor at Tufts.