Lorna Dee Cervantes
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Lorna Dee Cervantes
In the 1970s Lorna Dee Cervantes
became part of the new Chicano movement, which at the time was largely male.
Interested in the conundrums of race and race relations--in part because her heritage was both Native American and Mexican--Cervantes became a publisher.
In the mid-1970s she founded Mango Publications, a small press designed to publish the work of Chicano and Chicana writers.
One outlet for this work was the little magazineMango.
Receiving grants from the National Endowment for the Arts
publications projects while she
polished the craft of writing poetry.
By the timeEmplumada,her
first collection, appeared in 1981, she
was widely published in little and Chicano magazines
collection won the 1982 American Book award, she
was guaranteed prominence in the increasingly multicultural U.S. arts scene.
After Cervantes graduated from San Jose State University in 1984, she studied for four years as a graduate student in the history of consciousness program at the University of California at Santa Cruz.
Itself a unique contribution to the interdisciplinary movement, this graduate program allowed students to combine specializations in the study of history, culture, literature, art, and politics.
It led Cervantes
into a number of avenues for her
work, including the editing ofRed Dirt,a magazine of multicultural literature, and teaching creative writing at the University of Colorado at Boulder
Often anthologized, the poems of Cervantes
make an explicit statement about race and sexuality.
Many of the themes from her
first book reappear, but the new density of the metaphoric texture shows that Cervantes
is no longer interested in creating too direct, or too simple, a commentary.
Whereas several of theEmplumadapoems-"Beneath the Shadow of the Freeway" and "Poem for the Young White Man Who Asked Me How I, an Intelligent, Well-Read Person Could Believe in the War between Races"--set the tone for the keen expression of the Chicano movement, her
later poetry focuses more intently on male-female relationships.
Sexuality and its various powers seem to have usurped the battlefield of racial conflict.
In "Beneath the Shadow of the Freeway" Cervantes
had prefigured her
Here the "soft" woman laments the loss of her
lover, even as her
magnificently eloquent mother tells her
to live for herself.
The poem pictures the matriarchs of the family, stanza by stanza, voicing their wisdom to the young protagonist.
It is the grandmother who "trusts only what she
builds / with her
also has lived too many years with a man who has been waiting to kill her
Untold, but insistently paralleled, the concluding chapter of the protagonist's life haunts the reader.
Playing against the stereotype of women's need to learn from their female ancestors in order to find wisdom, Cervantes
creates a tapestry of affirmation and denial that shows the complex negotiations necessary for women within a culture on the other side of American prosperity.
"Lorna Dee Cervantes's Dialogic Imagination," inAnnales du Centre de Recherches sur l'Amerique Anglophone(Cedex, France), 18, 1993 , and "Bilingualism and Dialogism: Another Reading of Lorna Dee Cervantes's Poetry," in An Other Tongue: Nation and Ethnicity in the Linguistic Borderlands,edited by Alfred Arteaga, Durham, North Carolina, Duke University Press, 1994 , both by Ada Savin
"Divided Loyalties: Literal and Literary in the Poetry of Lorna Dee Cervantes
, Cathy Song and Rita Dove" by Patricia Wallace, inMELUS(Amherst, Massachusetts),18(3), fall 1993